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Engaging with Cultural Ecosystem Services Across the National Estuarine Research Reserve System

Cultural ecosystem services (CES), one of four main categories of ecosystem services, are often described as the non-material benefits that humans receive from their interactions with the environment. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is actively seeking ways to incorporate Human Dimensions and CES into their work, characterizing CES not just as a one-way benefit to humans from their land, but their experiences, connections and relationships to place. Such interactions may be responsible for supporting and maintaining place-based values, worldviews, cultural identity, and wellbeing.

Across the NERRS, identifying and assessing CES are crucial for broadly understanding relationships between humans and estuaries, informing visioning/planning, ensuring conservation and restoration projects support human wellbeing, and monitoring and evaluating project/program success, among others. To provide inspiration and guidance to those who are interested in incorporating CES and thereby Human Dimensions into their efforts, this NERRS Science Collaborative Science Transfer project team organized two webinars showcasing different ways in which Reserves engage with CES. The summaries of topics are discussed below.

Celebrations (Part 1) | August 22, 2023

Celebrations are ideal opportunities to build and/or strengthen relationships with surrounding communities, while learning about the connections people have to estuaries. In this webinar we will describe celebratory events from Heʻeia, Kachemak Bay, Tijuana River, and Wells Reserves. In sharing the intent, activities, and outcomes of these celebrations, we hope that attendees can identify similar events in which they are already involved, in order to point to potential opportunities for CES engagement.

Session Recording (YouTube) | Slide Deck (PDF)

Volunteer Activities (Part 2) | September 19, 2023

Across the NERRS, Reserves engage with community members through hosting different community volunteer activities, including monitoring, citizen science, stewardship opportunities, and volunteer-led education programs. We will share examples of volunteer activities, highlighting the motivations of volunteers, how these experiences impact and enrich their lives, and how this type of engagement with the community can help Reserves to identify and assess CES while building capacity.

Session Recording (YouTube) | Slide Deck (PDF)