Made up of over 6,000 acres along the coast of Alabama, the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research is one of 28 sites around the country that are “protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship.”
During my visit to the reserve, I was able to see the staff’s mission in action. For example, they protect wetland bogs that harbor rare orchids and carnivorous pitcher plants. One bog is open for the public to observe and learn, protected from treading feet by a network of wooden boardwalks. Others are even more protected, and their biodiversity is both measured and restored by volunteers from the reserve as well as the Weeks Bay Foundation.
In addition to their stewardship and research, the reserve staff is dedicated to the education not only of K-12 students, but also adults. While on-site, I took a boat ride around the bay and one of its tributaries with an adult education group. A staff member answered their questions about the species they encountered, water quality monitoring, and ways to help restore the bay during our two-hour journey, and it was obvious from the get-go that everyone was having a wonderful time and truly learning something about the bay itself.
Of course, the best aspect of the reserve is simply that its beautiful ecosystems remain. Waving reeds glow in the sunlight, osprey and brown pelicans dive for food among the waves, and the bright red blossoms of pitcher plants dot the bogs like crimson suns. Learn more about this precious reserve system and Weeks Bay here.