Graham Sustainability Institute

Spreading the Seeds of Estuary Health

August 2017

Salt marshes and tidal creeks maintain healthy water, protect coastal communities from flooding and erosion, provide nursery and essential habitat for commercial and recreational fisheries, and support recreational activities that are a part of the coastal lifestyle. This project seeks to educate K-12 students on the importance of restoring these ecosystems, using approaches that also meet current science curriculum standards. The Guana Tolomato Matanzas, ACE Basin, North Inlet, North Carolina, and Sapelo Island reserves will create a region-wide student-driven program for teachers that will further the understanding of restoring degraded or lost estuary habitats.

This project will build upon the successes of previous efforts to teach the importance of the salt marsh habitat through cultivating and transplanting smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, the dominant plant in this region’s salt marshes. The project team will transfer information on successful growing techniques for smooth cordgrass among the southeast region reserves. Using existing data on smooth cordgrass cultivation and experiences from past and current efforts, reserve staff, in partnership with the Sea Grant Consortium, will create an online, interactive resource center with a topic-based elementary-targeted curriculum. Teachers will be trained to use these products through four professional development opportunities, one in each of the southeastern states. Ultimately, this will increase the community of practice among participating schools and teachers, increase the use of standards-based curriculum, increase plant growth success, and increase the project’s overall long-term success.


The University of Michigan Water Center and partners are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to implement the NERRS Science Collaborative, by coordinating regular funding opportunities and supporting user-driven collaborative research, assessment and transfer activities that address critical coastal management needs identified by reserves.

See: National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative