In November 2016, 140 students, teachers, and professional scientists gathered for the annual Coastal Science Conference at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport to share the latest findings from Mass Audubon’s Salt Marsh Science Project, and to celebrate the project’s important work over the past 20 years. The annual conference, organized by Education Coordinator, Liz Duff, of Mass Audubon, serves as the culmination of a season of student work. Students learn important science concepts while contributing to the conservation of important local ecosystems. The focus of students’ research is on the invasive reed, Phragmites.
Twenty years has accumulated some amazing tallies. Nearly 20,000 students and more than 200 teachers from 30 communities have participated in this project. Each school has monitored its own study site in towns from the Merrimack Valley to Cape Cod. In that time, tidal flow has been restored to 12 of the 23 sites, improving the health of more than 50 acres of salt marsh.
Students shared the results of this year’s field experiences with presentations and poster displays. For students who have dedicated their efforts to studying their local marsh, this conference is an opportunity to see how their efforts are connected to the work of other students and other sites, and the larger context of efforts to protect and restore Massachusetts’ salt marshes.
“It’s exciting to see this project in its 20th year. It has become an integral part of local schools’ curriculum as new teachers pick up where retiring teachers have left off,” said Mass Audubon’s Liz Duff, coordinator of the Salt Marsh Science Project and conference organizer. “There is a lot of excitement generated among the students when they meet their peers and professional scientists and learn from their work at this conference.”