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Diving Deeper Shorts: Episode 5 (November 18, 2010) - Estuaries

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we will revisit our previous interview with Bart Merrick and Sarah McGuire on estuaries.

Let’s listen in.

HOST: Sarah, first, where are estuaries located?

SARAH MCGUIRE: Well, estuaries can be found all over the world. As you said, estuaries are typically where freshwater and saltwater mix together such as a bay or a lagoon. In the United States they’re found all across the board. And, usually you find larger cities are located near estuaries. For example, New York City is located on an estuary and that’s just because historically major cities were built where the mouth of a river would be. The largest estuary in North America is actually right here in the Chesapeake Bay. 

HOST: Bart, can you tell us why are estuaries important?

BART MERRICK: They’re important for all kinds of reasons. Some of the biggest reasons why estuaries are important is that, most of the population of the world actually lives right on the edge of an estuary. And so, whether you’re getting your food from estuaries or you’re getting recreational benefit from estuaries, it’s all there. Some of the things particularly for me that I’m concerned about and why I think estuaries are important are that they provide very vital nesting and feeding habitats for tons of aquatic plants and animals.

So, estuaries also, and this is particularly important, they actually help maintain a pretty healthy ocean. They’re like the pre-treatment for our oceans. And so, as the water flows out of the watersheds around estuaries, it flows through wetlands through the actual estuary itself and a lot of times that will filter out a lot of the pollutants or contaminants that might be within the water and it filters it all out before it gets to the ocean.

HOST: Bart, what is the role of the National Ocean Service in studying and protecting our nation’s estuaries?

BART MERRICK: The National Ocean Service is home to the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and they basically oversee the National Estuarine Research Reserve System that Sarah and I both work with. The key thing here is that it’s also the NOAA group and the state partners that manage the estuarine reserves. So, the Reserve System was created by the Coastal Zone Management Act in 1972 and the Reserve System is a national network of coastal reserves established as living laboratories for long-term research and education. These reserves monitor the health of estuaries, educate the public about these ecosystems, and help communities manage their coastal resources better.

That’s all for today’s Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to and select the April 2009 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Bart Merrick and Sarah McGuire on estuaries.

You can catch the next episode of Diving Deeper in December.