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Collaborative Science for Estuaries Webinar Series

Join us for monthly webinars featuring project teams supported by the NERRS Science Collaborative. Speakers share their unique approaches to addressing current coastal and estuarine management issues. Learn about new methods to integrate technical experts and users of project outputs into the research process, and how their research results and products might inform your work.

Be sure to check back periodically for session recordings and other relevant products, or sign up (Mailing List | RSS) to receive notifications about new resources and upcoming webinars.

Upcoming Webinars

Past Webinars

Tue 10/20/2020, 3 - 4pm EDT
Beth Darrow, Martin Posey, and Doug Bell

North Carolina’s shellfish aquaculture industry has been small but stable for over 30 years. The southern portion of the North Carolina coast has consistently provided more than 50 percent of the wild harvest in the state, which has been driving interest in creating new oyster farms throughout the region. Simultaneously, increased interest in shellfish aquaculture has placed pressure on resource managers making siting decisions. New farms provide an opportunity to assess conditions after farm installation, making North Carolina estuaries an ideal place to explore the ecosystem services of shellfish farming. This project aimed to link small-scale changes around oyster farms with larger-scale ecosystem-level alterations, and provide local assessment of ecosystem services to be considered by decision-makers.

In this webinar, project team members described how two years of intensive sampling in and adjacent to oyster farms and ongoing collaboration with oyster farms and the policy community has resulted in the production of visualization tools and models that will allow resource managers, shellfish growers, and other end users to make better decisions when determining the locations and scales of shellfish farming operations. The team found that environmental impacts of these farms were minimal, but that policy decisions were more complex. This finding led to an additional project examining the extent of shellfish aquaculture within the nationwide Reserve system.

Learn more about speakers:

Beth Darrow, Senior Scientist, Bald Head Island Conservancy, NC

Beth Darrow has over 10 years’ scientific experience working with shellfish ecology, aquaculture, and estuarine ecology and biogeochemistry in Virginia and the Gulf of Mexico. As project lead, she focused on quantifying the environmental effects of oyster farms and oversaw data collection from the field and lab that drove the development of the oyster farm model, and coordinated connections with end users.

Martin Posey, Professor, Department of Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington

>Martin Posey is a benthic ecologist with many years’ experience in research and advisory roles on ecosystem services of shellfish populations. He has worked extensively with resource and user advisory groups at the regional, state and national level, and has worked on a number of restoration efforts. Martin served as the collaboration lead for the project, and supervised a graduate student who conducted experiments on the habitat use of oyster aquaculture as well as several undergraduates involved with reef and nekton sampling.

Doug Bell, Data and Budget Coordinator, National Sea Grant Program, NOAA

Doug Bell is an aquatic ecologist by training, receiving his Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina and his B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan. Doug’s research has focused on nutrient biogeochemistry and phytoplankton ecology in freshwater, estuarine, and open ocean systems. Doug joined and led a spin-off project inspired by this Science Collaborative study, which assessed the current activities, approaches, and relevant policy to shellfish aquaculture across the Reserve System.

Learn more about project

Thu 9/24/2020, 3:30 - 4:30pm EDT
Sarah Fernald and Brian Yellen

Hundreds of dams built on tributaries of the Hudson River estuary have outlived their usefulness. Removing these relic dams is a priority for the state of New York in order to improve aquatic habitat connectivity, restore fish spawning grounds, and reduce the risk of dam failure. To better understand how sediment released by dam removals in the Lower Hudson River watershed will affect the 240 km-long estuary, including the potential for dam-derived sediments to help build tidal wetland resilience in the face of sea level rise, the Dams and Sediment in the Hudson (DaSH) project brought together a collaborative team of scientists and stakeholders to research key questions and provide practical tools to regulators and practitioners.

In this webinar, project team members shared how their multidisciplinary approach - which combined field observations with analyses of sediment transport, and integrated feedback from a broad coalition of stakeholders - allowed them to answer questions about how dam removal will impact conditions in the estuary. They presented key findings about marsh accretion and introduced a tool they developed that allows engineers and regulators to estimate the amount of sediment stored behind a dam and assess preliminary impacts of sediment release following dam removal. To learn about their findings and tools visit the DasH project page.

Learn more about speakers:

Cressman Cumulative ChangeSarah Fernald is a marine scientist and is responsible for managing long term monitoring and research at the Hudson River NERR (See: program
Burdick Site 4 MapsBrian Yellen is a geologist that specializes in watershed processes and the movement of water and sediment (See: bio). For this project, Brian led the sediment core sampling behind dams and in tidal marshes. He found that sediment supply to marshes in the Hudson River is high enough to keep pace with sea level rise, and human-made structures accelerate marsh formation. Brian also led the development of the dam sediment estimation tool.
Tue 7/28/2020, 3 - 4pm EDT
Julie Binz, Elizabeth Edmondson, Joan Muller, and Sarah Nuss

Engaging youth and K-12 teachers can expand the broader impact of research and advance coastal stewardship goals. But what are the best strategies for effectively reaching this unique audience and what innovative techniques are being tested?

This panel discussion webinar featured three panelists with experience leading innovative projects that connect K-12 teachers and students with the important research and stewardship activities happening in and around National Estuarine Research Reserves. After providing a brief glimpse into their recent projects, panelists discussed lessons learned and ideas for next steps. Sarah Nuss, an experienced reserve educator, moderated a lively discussion about timely topics, including the partnerships and creative process that spark new projects, broader impacts observed, adaptations to support social distancing, and ideas for research about student and teacher learning.

Learn more about speakers:

Cressman Cumulative ChangeJulie Binz is the education coordinator at ACE Basin Reserve in South Carolina where she leads boat- and field-based experiences for a range of school and community groups. Julie has been working for many years on a unique program that helps classes grow marsh grasses in school greenhouses and transplant the grasses into local shoreline restoration sites. Learn about her recent projects: Spreading the Seeds of Estuary Health and From Seeds to Shoreline.
Burdick Site 4 MapsElizabeth Edmondson helps train pre-service teachers and leads a number of research projects as part of the School of Education at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Elizabeth will be part of a multi-university team working with the Chesapeake Bay NERR to train pre-service science teachers on how to incorporate environmental education into their classroom curriculum. To learn more, read Elizabeth’s bio.
Joan Muller is the education coordinator at Waquoit Bay Reserve in Massachusetts where she provides professional development for teachers and organizes programs for community members. Joan has partnered with a number of researchers and found creative ways to integrate blue carbon and oyster ecology into middle and high school curriculums. She’s also been customizing programs for hard to reach audiences through initiatives such as Deaf Students on the Estuary.


Sarah Nuss has been the education coordinator at the Chesapeake Bay Reserve in Virginia since 2005. In addition to pursuing a PhD in Curriculum Learning Design, Sarah develops education, interpretation and outreach programs for a range of audiences, and one current area of interest is professional development for graduate students and pre-service teachers. She has led several Science Collaborative projects, including: Climate Education for a Changing Bay Expansion and Creating an Alliance of Scientists and Educators in Virginia.

Wed 6/17/2020, 3 - 4pm EDT
Cory Riley, Dolores Leonard, and James Houle

Creating vegetated buffers along rivers and bays is a widely recognized strategy to protect water quality while providing other services that benefit ecosystems and communities. However, until recently there was no way to quantify the ability of restored or constructed buffers to reduce pollution, or for communities to receive credit for using buffers under regulatory permits in New England.

Through an expert panel process first modeled in Chesapeake Bay, the Credit for Going Green project team worked with experts to generate science-based recommendations to calculate the pollutant removal rate of buffers in development, redevelopment, restoration, or other land use change projects. Communities can use this information to receive pollutant removal credits for restored or constructed buffers under permits issued by stormwater permit programs. The project has provided municipal staff and boards with the information and tools to better promote buffers as a way to protect water quality, while also enhancing habitat and protecting communities from flooding. Decision makers in New Hampshire plan to apply the expert panel process to other stormwater BMPs in 2021.

In this webinar, members of the project team shared technical findings and lessons learned that could help others apply their methods to generate science-based recommendations for other policy questions. To learn more, download their facilitation guide and tool for calculating pollutant removal rates.

Learn more about speakers:

Cressman Cumulative ChangeCory Riley oversees the Great Bay Reserve’s education, research, stewardship, and coastal training programs. She works closely with partners to promote clean water and healthy coastal habitats in the region. As project lead for Credit for Going Green, Cory provided overall coordination and helped ensure the process remained focused on stakeholder needs and results were transferred to other reserves.
Burdick Site 4 MapsDolores Leonard is a communications and group process professional with 25 years of experience working with nonprofits and research programs to deliver communications strategies, products, and co-learning experiences. For this project, she designed and facilitated the expert panel process and developed a set of outreach products, including technical summaries and a guide to the panel process, which have been shared with a range of stakeholders.
James Houle is the Program Director for the Stormwater Center at University of New Hampshire. His responsibilities include directing and managing the Stormwater Center's growing body of research projects. Areas of expertise include diffusion of innovative stormwater management solutions, the design and implementation of innovative stormwater control measures including green infrastructure, and low impact development strategies, planning and implementation, operation and maintenance, and water resource monitoring.

Learn more about project: Credit for Going Green: Transfer of an Expert Panel Process Model

Thu 5/28/2020, 3 - 4pm EDT
Kristen Goodrich, Shannan Lewinski, Julia Wondolleck, and James Arnott

Collaborative science involves working closely with partners at every stage - from conceptualizing a new project, to conducting the research, to refining tools to best meet a management need. As a result, it’s challenging to imagine how to adapt our collaborative science practices to our new, socially-distanced reality.

This panel discussion explored some of the implications of planning and conducting collaborative science virtually. Our three panelists have expertise in collaborative processes, stakeholder engagement, and virtual meeting design and, like all of us, are learning more about the challenges and opportunities of virtual engagement.

The discussion built on needs and strategies identified by participants and kicked off what we hope will be an ongoing dialogue about virtual engagement for collaborative science. While no one has all the answers, we are eager to learn together.

Learn more about speakers:

Cressman Cumulative ChangeKristen Goodrich is the Coastal Training Program Coordinator at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. There, she provides training and technical assistance to coastal decision-makers in Southern and Baja California. Working on the U.S.-Mexico border has provided her with a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities for collaboration and boundary spanning and inspires her research on psychosocial resilience.
Burdick Site 4 MapsShannan Lewinski is an instructional designer and learning specialist with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. In this role she helps design training and offers guidance and production support for a range of virtual meetings and workshops. 
Julia Wondolleck has spent the past 30 years researching and writing about collaborative processes in the management of natural resources. She is a professor at the University of Michigan where she teaches courses in collaborative resource management, alternative dispute resolution, and integrative negotiation and mediation. 


James Arnott is the Executive Director of the Aspen Global Change Institute. James’ research seeks to understand how to better link scientific knowledge with decision-making through research on collaborative science and science funding. James is also a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute.
Tue 4/21/2020, 3 - 4pm EDT
Kerstin Wasson and April Ridlon

Conservation and restoration of coastal foundation species has become a global priority, to protect and enhance the habitats and services they provide. The oyster native to the west coast of North America between Baja California and British Columbia is Ostrea lurida, the Olympia oyster, a species quite unfamiliar to many people, even those that live in the region. Unlike oysters in other regions, this one is quite small, and does not form high profile reefs. Nevertheless, it is a vital part of bays and estuaries along the Pacific coast, providing food for humans and other species and enriching diversity. Recently, a community of practice has formed to rebuild populations of Olympia oysters to maintain their legacy for future generations.

The Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative (NOOC) was supported in the past year by funding from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative. NOOC created a website ( to serve as a portal for resources about native oyster science, restoration, and education. NOOC also compiled the first comprehensive archive of Olympia oyster restoration projects, creating an ARC GIS Story Map ( to highlight them, and conducting a synthesis of approaches and lessons learned.

This webinar introduced the unique ecology of the Olympia oyster, the challenges it faces, and approaches taken to restoration. The webinar also highlighted NOOC’s accomplishments to date, including the development of the web portal and story map. Finally, presenters shared lessons learned from the synthesis of twenty years of restoration projects conducted along over 2000 km of coast line. These lessons apply to restoration of any coastal foundation species anywhere: the importance of a structured decision-framework to match goals to approaches, the opportunities for community engagement, the need to consider ecosystem processes, and the value of a regional network for strategic planning.

Learn more about speakers

Cressman Cumulative ChangeKerstin Wasson has served as Research Coordinator of the Elkhorn Slough NERR for the past 20 years, publishing about 40 papers on a variety of topics in estuarine science during this period, from sea otters to water quality. Her passion is restoration science of native oysters and salt marshes. While she is dedicated to place-based research, she also has led various collaborative endeavors across a network of oyster and marsh restoration sites, scaling up to seek generality in estuarine ecology.
Burdick Site 4 MapsApril Ridlon is an applied marine ecologist interested in the effects of human impacts including fishing and harvesting, recreational activities, and biological invasions. She is currently the Collaborative Lead for the Native Olympia Oyster Collaborative (NOOC), and a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP). In these roles, she engages in and coordinates research on the native Olympia oyster, and is assessing aquaculture as a conservation intervention for this oyster, and for marine foundation species broadly. She has also been known to study the behavior of coral reef fish, Northern Elephant Seals, and neotropical bat species.

Learn more about project: Building a Coastwide Olympia Oyster Network to Improve Restoration Outcomes

Tue 3/17/2020, 3 - 4pm EDT
Craig Cornu, Tonna-Marie Surgeon-Rogers, Coowe Walker, and Stefanie Simpson

Coastal wetlands capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and permanently store carbon in wetland soils. This “blue carbon” service can be used to inform and incentivize wetland restoration; however, the science behind blue carbon and the role of carbon finance in support of coastal restoration and conservation are still emerging.

Since 2010, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and its partners have been filling key information gaps and fostering collaborations to advance understanding and application of blue carbon for the management of coastal wetlands. Projects have helped to quantify the carbon storage potential of coastal wetlands, predict greenhouse gas fluxes, and assess the market feasibility of using carbon offsets to support wetland restoration.

In this webinar, panelists representing four regions across the United States shared lessons learned from their work leading blue carbon projects, and offered ideas for advancing the use of blue carbon for coastal wetland management.

Learn more about speakers:

Cressman Cumulative ChangeCraig Cornu, Project Manager, Estuary Technical Group, Institute for Applied Ecology, OR 
As stewardship coordinator with the South Slough NERR for many years, Craig led the Reserve’s estuarine wetland restoration project design, management and effectiveness monitoring projects. In 2014 Craig helped regional scientists found the Pacific Northwest Blue Carbon Working Group and currently manages projects to help fill key blue carbon data gaps and assess the feasibility of blue carbon projects for the region working with the Institute for Applied Ecology. Learn more about the PNW Blue Carbon Working Group and their projects assessing PNW blue carbon stocks and carbon finance feasibility.
Burdick Site 4 MapsCoowe Walker, Reserve Manager, Kachemak Bay NERR, AK 
Coowe has worked at the Kachemak Bay NERR as a watershed ecologist since the Reserve was designated in 1999, and has served as the reserve manager for the past two years. She has been leading efforts to understand ecosystem service values of coastal peatlands in the Kachemak Bay area that are important for salmon streams, and also represent potentially large stores of carbon. Learn more about a project she led that assessed Kachemak Bay’s blue carbon resources.
Tonna-Marie Surgeon Rogers, Manager & Coastal Training Program Coordinator, Waquoit Bay NERR, MA 
Tonna-Marie Surgeon-Rogers has over 15 years of experience connecting science with management and engaging stakeholders in research and planning processes. Tonna-Marie co-led two iterations of the Bringing Wetlands to Market project which provided cutting edge science and tools to help coastal managers and policy makers leverage blue carbon to achieve broader wetlands management, restoration, and conservation goals. Learn more about Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Bringing Wetlands to Market project.


Stefanie Simpson, Coastal Wetland Program Manager, The Nature Conservancy 
Stefanie Simpson is the Coastal Wetland Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Teams. She supports TNC’s regional programs to develop climate finance market mechanisms and support coastal wetland restoration and conservation project development. Stefanie works to develop blue carbon market tools and projects, and advocates for the inclusion of coastal wetlands into climate policies and greenhouse gas inventories. Learn more about a project she led that established a blue carbon network for the Gulf Coast.
Wed 3/11/2020, 3:30 - 4:30pm EDT
Kristi Arend, Emily Kuzmick, and Song Qian

Just how much phosphorus can a wetland absorb and retain over the long run? That’s the question that researchers spent two years investigating as part of an effort to reduce the phosphorus loading that is fueling algal blooms in Lake Erie. A research team from Old Woman Creek Reserve and the University of Toledo developed a Bayesian hierarchical modeling approach to calculate the phosphorus retention capacity of wetlands with limited datasets.

In this webinar, the team shared some of their key findings and the management implications, and explained how other practitioners could use their monitoring guide and statistical codes to calculate the nutrient retention capacity of their wetlands. In addition to taking audience questions, the team offered some ideas about how their work informed an ambitious water quality initiative in Ohio. To learn more, visit the team’s project page.

Learn more about speakers

Cressman Cumulative ChangeKristi Arend, PhD is the Research Coordinator at Old Woman Creek Reserve, where she has overseen the implementation and onsite expansion of the System-wide Monitoring Program and has collaborated on projects related to wetland nutrient dynamics, shoreline development, and the impacts of Lake Erie water level change on wetland ecosystem indicators. As lead for this Science Collaborative project, Kristi coordinated the research team, helped analyze a long term record of TP flowing into and out of her reserve’s wetlands, and led the development of monitoring protocols. 
Burdick Site 4 MapsEmily Kuzmick is the Coastal Training Program Coordinator at the Old Woman Creek Reserve, where she works with environmental professionals to provide training and technical assistance relating to stormwater and nutrient management, land-use practices, species and habitat monitoring, shoreline erosion control solutions, and other identified Great Lakes coastal issues. As Collaborative Lead for this project, Emily facilitated Project Team meetings and a Collaborative Learning Group composed of wetland management professionals to provide feedback on the project methods, results, and communication products. 
Burdick Site 4 MapsSong Qian, PhD is an Associate Professor in University of Toledo’s Department of Environmental Sciences. He is an expert in environmental and ecological statistics, particularly the applications of Bayesian statistics which he has applied to a range of issues including phosphorus retention in the Everglades wetlands. As part of this project, Song led the statistical analyses of wetland datasets, assisted in creating the monitoring guidelines and protocol, and recruited and supervised students.

Learn more about related project: Quantifying Nutrient Retention by Lake Erie Coastal Wetlands

Tue 2/25/2020, 3:30 - 4:30pm EST
Christine Feurt

Resilience dialogues are conversations that occur among people with diverse perspectives who have agreed to work together to increase community and ecological resilience. Planning and facilitating resilience dialogues requires skills in collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and conflict management.

The Resilience Dialogues project looked across a decade of collaborative science projects to distill key lessons learned and best practices used to build resilience. This webinar shared successful collaborative techniques that worked to engage the diverse expertise of stakeholders, develop a shared language around commonly held values, and craft solutions-based science that respected local knowledge and the concerns of vulnerable communities. Results of the project have been used to develop training and resources for facilitators of collaborative processes and to guide the transfer of collaborative science projects to new audiences.

About the speaker:

cfeurtChristine Feurt is the director of the Coastal Training Program at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Maine. Dr. Feurt integrates natural and social science into stakeholder processes using the Collaborative Learning approach in order to sustain ecosystem services and build resilient coastal communities.

Learn more about related project: Resilience Dialogues: Strategies for Conflict Management in Collaborative Science

Thu 1/23/2020, 3:30 - 4:30pm EST
Maeve Snyder and Annie Cox

Coastal communities face tough decisions about how to manage flooding risks associated with rising seas and extreme rain events. Two project teams have developed an innovative planning tool that allows community leaders and residents to make sense of local climate projections and experiment with collaborative decision making in a safe environment.

The New England Climate Adaptation Project tested the use of role-play simulations, or “games,” to engage community members in climate adaptation planning. In a structured workshop setting, participants receive background information describing a fictional place - typically with a striking resemblance to their own - and must assume a fictional role in which they work collaboratively to prioritize actions that help the community manage climate risks. Following the framework developed in New England, the Georgetown Climate Adaptation Project produced a customized set of local climate projections and role playing materials for the coastal southeast. In this webinar, presenters discussed lessons learned from planning and leading simulation workshops in two different coastal regions.

Learn more about presenters

Cressman Cumulative ChangeMaeve Snyder is the Coastal Training Program Coordinator at the North Inlet - Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. In this role, she supports science-based decision making through tools, skills, information, and partnerships. Maeve earned a M.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of South Carolina and a B.S. in Biology from Coastal Carolina University. Maeve has experience in ecological research, including a thesis on climate - driven range shifts of marine organisms. She has also worked in science communication and education throughout the coastal southeast.
Burdick Site 4 MapsAnnie Cox is the Coastal Training Coordinator at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. She develops and organizes workshops and trainings for professionals working with and making decisions that affect our natural resources. Annie holds a masters in Ecological Design from the Conway School. She became interested in land use planning issues during her Peace Corps service teaching sustainable agriculture and aquaculture in rural Zambia, where she served for two years. Annie's undergraduate degree is in Biology from the University of Maine at Farmington.