Volunteers like these provide crucial support to the Research & Stewardship staff at Great Bay NERR—while they themselves learn more about and spend time in our incredible estuary ecosystems!

When you think of volunteers at the Great Bay NERR, do you picture school field trips and Discovery Tank visits? Our exhibit room and education volunteers support school programs and help visitors learn and have fun, and we could not reach so many students and families without their help! But, did you know that volunteers also help with field research, land stewardship, and citizen science?

So far this season, volunteers have donated almost 150 hours of their time to our research and stewardship programs! But what do these volunteers do? Well, they contribute in several ways that make it possible for the Reserve to get important tasks done that otherwise would be difficult or expensive to complete.  

Research volunteers help with saltmarsh biomonitoring at several sites around the bay. These volunteers go out in the marsh with our Research Staff to monitor certain saltmarsh plant communities and measure ground water at three separate marshesSandy Point (the marsh around the Discovery Center), Great Bay Farms in Newington, and Bunker Creek in Durham. Having volunteers participate is crucial to gathering data efficiently to help us monitor the long term health of the marshes around Great Bay! It is also a fun way for volunteers to become more knowledgeable about estuary ecosystems.

The Stewardship Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator manage over 3,000 acres of land around Great Bay, and volunteers help to close the gap between management needs and staff resources. Sometimes volunteers come in the form of corporate workdays, and sometimes they come in the form of outdoor enthusiasts who simply love the walk in the woods! Workdays have included shoreland restoration at Adams Point and helping to create the Wildlife Garden next to Chapman’s Landing in Stratham.

Our citizen scientists help us collect phenology data at our waterfront and along our boardwalk. Have you ever wondered when the spice bush starts blooming? Or when the osprey return? Or if we see wintering bald eagles on the bay? Phenology is the study of cyclical seasonal changes, which are particularly important to track in relation to the impacts of climate change. Our volunteers help us collect data by completing phenology walks on the Discovery Center property. This program is a great way to collect important data while also educating volunteers about important species and climate change.  

Whatever a volunteer’s role might be, each hour that they donate helps support the Reserve. With a small staff of 12 employees, six of whom are part time, we could not promote long-term research, stewardship, and education around Great Bay without the help of our incredible volunteers!