Last week, GBNERR staff got a change in scenery; showing up to work at another beautiful New England estuary, Waquoit Bay, on Cape Cod.  Educators, scientists, training professionals, and natural resource managers from the four National Estuarine Research Reserves in New England came together for two and a half days to share information and best practices, participate in joint training, and get to know our neighbor reserve a little bit better.

Waquoit Bay is stunning- the Reserve headquarters is a historic summer estate that sits on a bluff at the top of a picturesque bay. We started our meeting with lunch in their meeting room, a converted boathouse that sits right on the water’s edge. The unseasonably warm day and the brilliant sunshine bouncing off the bay made it difficult to buckle down and get to business. Not only is it beautiful, but Waquoit Bay is one of the most studied estuaries in New England, thanks to the proximity to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and it’s designation as a NERR. The regional group spent time talking about different ways New England Reserves are monitoring estuarine conditions- using areal imagery to track saltmarsh changes, assessing the health of the trees that ring the saltmarsh, and learning from our NOAA partners about new trends in water level data. One particularly fascinating effort has been happening at Waquoit Bay and Wells NERRs- capturing changes in their “soundscape”.  Reserves have been recording and analyzing the acoustic environment to create a baseline and look for changes through time. Great Bay is excited to explore if we can learn from our partner reserves and give this a try in New Hampshire in the coming year.

Staff shared highlights from interesting projects or challenges in a speed round of presentations, compared tips and techniques with like-minded colleagues, discussed how we are preparing for disasters, and spent a morning doing service projects around the Waquoit Bay NERR.  The meeting included meaty discussions on how to advance our science and education but also stretched participants to think about how to be more mindful and inclusive in everything we do. We started the meeting with a training on how to hold difficult discussions and each day started with a brief mindfulness exercise led by our own Steve Miller. The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to discussion of how each reserve and each person could more intentionally seek or invite diversity and inclusion in our Reserve activities.

These professional exchanges are a big part of what makes the collection of 29 Reserves around the country a system. By definition, a system is a group of regularly interacting and interdependent entities that form a unified whole. Having a network of people who share a mission and passion, work toward collective and distributed goals to advance coastal integrity, and get a chance to commiserate and celebrate together each year breeds a special bond. I know that without the engagement, advice, moral support and wisdom of our colleagues from other Reserves, we simply would not be the Great Bay NERR that we are today.