Infographic: Hands-on learning fosters human connection to estuaries

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 30 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuary systems and how they respond to human influence and environmental change. These sites are outdoor living classrooms that help build knowledge of the critical role estuaries play in our lives — from providing recreational opportunities to protecting our coastal communities. Explore the impact of these special places through this series of infographics. 

PDF titled, "National Estuarine Research Reserve Education is Change on the Ground in 2022."
Infographic: National Estuarine Research Reserve Education 2022. (Image credit: NOAA)

Infographic transcript

National Estuarine Research Reserve Education: Change on the Ground in 2022

Connects people to estuaries

  • 1 million acres+ of natural classrooms and living laboratories with 26 interpretive centers. 
  • 30 research reserves located in the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. Hello to the Connecticut Reserve, designated in 2022!
  • 296,131 visitors learn about estuarine through Research Reserve outreach and education. 

Prepares the next generation

  • Provides opportunities for: estuary science, local data, lab work, and field investigation.
  • 4,347 teachers are trained in the estuary and supported in the classroom.
  • 54,773 students take learning out of the abstract and into the outdoors. 
  • Skills built: Observation, asking research questions, problem solving, data-driven decision making.

Improves the environment

  • Improves the environment
  • 30 Research Reserve educators lead programs that foster coastal stewardship in communities in 25 states. 
  • 10,570 citizens are trained and inspired to protect their coasts and estuaries. 
  • Volunteer actions: Protect wildlife, monitor water quality, plant native species, clean up the coasts. 
  • Creating value through education. 37,371 volunteer hours = $1,119,261 (Value of a volunteer hour is calculated at $29.95 based on data from the Independent Sector).

Preparing the next generation

Educating teachers and students on the value of estuary ecosystems helps safeguard these resources for future generations. The popular Teachers on the Estuary program provides field-based training to improve teachers’ understanding of the environment using local research. Subsequently, teachers bring this newfound knowledge to their students and colleagues, often inspiring positive environmental change. Through these activities, students and teachers build their knowledge of estuary science through local data, lab work, and field investigation. 

Improving the environment 

Research Reserve educators lead programs that engage citizens and foster coastal stewardship. Through these programs, reserve staff trained 10,570 citizens in 2022 inspiring them to protect their coasts and estuaries. Reserves rely on citizens to become volunteers who take ownership in protecting wildlife, monitoring water quality, planting native species, and cleaning up the coasts. Volunteer contributions are an integral piece of the daily operations within the reserves. 

Explore how reserve education is creating change on the ground around the country and in your state. Find estuary educational resources and learn more about all sites at