The third week of September is National Estuaries Week, a time set aside to commemorate the remarkably productive estuaries found throughout the nation. This year the recreational and aesthetic benefits seem particularly important, as so many of us have a renewed need for the natural environment to help sharpen our minds and nourish our souls. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and bird-watching are great ways to alleviate stress and provide a much-needed breath of fresh air.
NOAA manages an incredible program that focuses on the mighty estuary. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 sites across the U.S. and territories that protect 1.3 million acres of estuary habitat for long-term research, education, and stewardship. Research reserves also provide recreational and learning opportunities for children, teachers, and communities. Dedicated staff have found creative ways to keep their programs running during this unprecedented time, including increased virtual programming and reliance on social media.
Also something to celebrate: the first class of the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship is beginning this month with 29 masters and doctoral students. The fellowship honors the legacy of my colleague, mentor, and friend, Margaret A. Davidson, a true visionary in the world of coastal resource management. With this two-year fellowship program, we are building the next generation of coastal leaders. We wish these fellows well as they begin this exciting journey.
But getting back to National Estuaries Week — let’s celebrate! This year we need your help celebrating those who contribute to keep estuaries beautiful and thriving. We’re calling them “estuary heroes.” Post a photo of your estuary heroes on social media using the hashtag #EstuaryHeroes.
I hope you can explore a research reserve near you, either in person or virtually. Take some time to enjoy the calming presence of nature and reflect upon the benefits and the ties to the important work we do.
Dr. Jeff Payne
Director, Office for Coastal Management