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Join us for a Reserve Celebration!

Reserve Celebration: A day of fun at Bluff Point State Park
Sat Sept 30th, activities offered from 8:30-4:00
Bluff State Park State, 55 Depot Rd, Groton, CT 06340

Come celebrate the newly established Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve as we spend the day fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and exploring. This family-friendly day will have activities for all ages and skill level. Learn more at:

Meet our Summer Team!

Meet our Summer Team!

This summer, we are fortunate to have a group of passionate undergraduates working with us. Here’s a little bit more on each of them:

Dylan Antonucci
Senior, majoring in Marine ScienceSince I am a marine science major, I am excited to get to know how marine scientists conduct experiments and how they collect data. There is no one particular project I am favoring over the other currently – I am just seeing how I like the work. I like being outside near the ocean and how I am able to work in that environment. I also like to explore new things and I am curious to learn new things as I go along in this field of work.
Evan Childs
SophomoreI am most excited about the snorkeling we are going to be doing in the Sound. I’m excited to be in the field but also because I get to also help with the research. One of my favorite memories so far this summer is putting reef balls on the Connecticut College waterfront. It was really fun and rewarding! I got to meet new people and the project will have a positive impact on the area itself.
Angelo DeMata
Senior, majoring in Marine Science with a focus in biologyThis summer, I’m excited to learn more about the science that is involved in a local area and how the public will interact with this science. I’m also excited to find a better path for what I want to continue studying related to Reserve science. My favorite memory comes from spending a week on a sailboat with a crew of other students sailing through the Long Island Sound. Learning how to sail and work together helped me see a different view of the Sound.
Sadie Garfinkel
Senior, majoring in Biological Sciences with minor in Marine BiologyThis summer I am looking forward to completing important research that helps to improve the coastal environment in CT. I am also excited to work for such a new organization like CT NERR and help build it from the ground up alongside the other interns and managers. I think that CT NERR is going to be such an amazing organization for the State of Connecticut and I can’t wait to see how far it goes over the next few years! I was born and raised in CT so I have been going to the Sound my entire life with my family and friends. It has always been a happy place for me and seeing the improvements organizations like “Save the Sound” have made just over my lifetime is truly amazing. My favorite memory would have to be growing up and walking to a small island off of Westbrook during low tide. I used to walk there when I was really little with my dad and look at crabs and snails under rocks and in high school I would go there with friends and jump off the rocks into the water. Now I love to paddle board out there (and still look for crabs too!)
Kieran Garrity
Junior, majoring in Marine SciencesI’m excited to explore our beautiful sites by helping in research, then taking action to protect them. Our work will directly address issues like erosion, invasive species, and habitat loss, so being able to directly help with those issues is a big plus for me. My favorite experience so far is installing reef balls at the Connecticut College shoreline. Though brutally difficult, the work was extremely fun and rewarding, with an immediate and relevant impact. Even as we were putting more in the water, fish were already checking them out!
Mary Gonzalez
Junior, majoring in BiologyI’m most excited to be able to work on my own research project which observes the population of invasive species, Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides and Botrylloides violaceusin, in eelgrass habitats. Additionally, I’m excited at the prospect of also being able to join the various projects that the Reserve is overseeing. My favorite memory so far is going out into the field and tagging horseshoe crabs on the beach! Coming from Kentucky, there aren’t many opportunities to do fieldwork on the beach or anything related to marine sciences. As a result, this is one of hopefully many more memories that I will have while being at the Reserve!  
Kelly Jiang
Junior, majoring in Marine ScienceI’m excited to learn more about scientific work both in the field and in lab this summer! I love learning and creating new experiences! My favorite memory at the Reserve so far was looking for horseshoe crabs around beaches and we only found only one! It was a fun and memorable memory.
Jill Pasquino
Class of 2025, majoring in Marine SciencesThis summer I am looking forward to experiencing fieldwork and developing valuable skills. The project I am most excited about is macrophyte sampling. One of my favorite memories of the Reserve is hiking Bluff Point with friends. The beaches were stunning and I loved seeing all the different habitats on the hike.
Elijah Saine
Junior, majoring in Marine Sciences with a minor in Marine BiologyI’m excited to work as a research assistant with CT NERR this summer and have the ability to be directly involved in so many different fascinating research projects during my time here. My dream is to pursue a career in marine research, and I am so excited to begin my career path by working on such a diverse array of projects with an important organization like the Reserve. My favorite memory at a Reserve site was my first day at the UConn Avery Point campus working for the Reserve. For my first two years at UConn, I attended the main campus at Storrs where I fully committed to following my passion for marine life and decided to major in marine sciences. For me, this meant an inevitable transition to the Avery Point campus for my junior year. When I arrived at Avery Point on my first day working with the Reserve, I was thrilled to see my new campus be such a beautiful place with such a wonderful community. Later that day, I was blown away when I was taken on a campus tour and saw the full scope of the facilities within the Department of Marine Sciences that were unknown to me at Storrs. For the first ever time I truly felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.
Meg Shah
4th year student, majoring in Marine SciencesI’m excited to sample and survey eelgrass in the field! Not only will I be getting some sun, but I will also experience firsthand what it means to monitor and restore these critical habitats. It’s one thing to crunch numbers and analyze trends behind a computer, but it’s a whole different experience to see the real-world implications of that work. My favorite memory of the Sound comes from when I was in 5th grade and our class went on a field trip to Hammonasset Beach. We overturned rocks to look for crabs and recorded data on their sex, size, and abundance. It was my first “field work” experience in marine science, and I still retain the knowledge on how to tell the difference between male and female crabs.
Celia “Katiebelle” Thompson
Class of 2025, majoring in Environmental Science and EnglishI am very excited to see the habitats within the Reserve. I’m fascinated by the natural world, and I want to experience it in as pristine a state as possible. I also know that the reserve is home to many threatened species, which I may not have a chance to see anywhere else; I cannot wait to observe them! My favorite memory at a Reserve site so far has definitely been tagging horseshoe crabs with the NERR team. I loved wading through the water and looking for crabs, and I was incredibly excited to actually implant a tag on one. I have never been part of a tagging operation before this, but I know how important the work is, and I am so blessed to have been able to help. I also loved getting to know the other undergraduates and researchers on the team – it was so great to bond with everyone over such an amazing experience.

Needs Assessment: Estuarine-focused learning in your classroom

Attention, educators!

Please consider taking this online survey so we can better meet your needs in the classroom and in the field. The results will be used by the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve and other local environmental organizations to develop training, workshops, and educational programming for educators and students in Connecticut and surrounding states.

This survey will take approximately 15 minutes to fill out. Three participants will be randomly chosen to win one of the following prizes: 1. Two tickets to a Project Oceanology public cruise, 2. Four tickets to the Mystic Aquarium, 3. Four tickets to the Mystic Seaport. Winners will be notified on May 31, 2023. We appreciate your feedback and time. Please contact the CT Reserve’s Educator Coordinator, Larissa ( with any questions.

Link to survey:

Letter from the Manager

George McManus, CT Reserve’s Interim Manager 

Greetings! And welcome to the website of the brand-new Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve. Ours is the newest of the thirty reserves in the system, and represents a partnership among UConn, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The reserve includes significant brackish and freshwater marsh habitats on the Connecticut River and stretches all the way from there to Bluff Point and Haley Farms state parks in the southeastern corner of the state, with subtidal and pelagic habitats of Long Island Sound connecting these upland sites.

Our first year of operation will conclude at the end of June and we have much activity to report. We are fully staffed with the coordinators who will manage the four key elements of the reserve – stewardship, education, research, and coastal training. In coming weeks we will be hiring a technician to help with our environmental monitoring program and we have plans to purchase a boat and some kayaks for our research and education programs, along with an array of environmental sampling gear. Several staff members attended the national meeting for the reserve system in Seattle last Fall, where we learned about all the exciting things going on at our fellow reserves.

It is important to note that designation of these properties as part of the reserve does not impose new regulations or limits on the activities that can occur there. Fishing, hiking, swimming and other activities allowed before the Reserve was created will still be allowed. Having these areas designated as a reserve does, however, make us eligible to apply for funding for research, education, stewardship, and training in the Reserve and sets up a system of environmental monitoring that will allow us to assess the health and functioning of these areas in the coming years.

Please join us in this exciting new venture by visiting the Reserve, getting involved as a volunteer, or just continuing to peruse the website to learn about our programs!

Meet our staff

The CT Reserve was established in January 2022 and, over the past year, we've been building our Team. Our staff share some of their favorite memories of the Sound and Reserve sites below. If you'd like to learn more about their roles and their previous experience, visit our Contact page.

George McManus
CT Reserve Manager (Interim) and UConn’s Center Director (Interim)

George has been instrumental in helping to move the Reserve forward and is currently serving as the Interim Reserve Manager and UConn Center Director before enters retirement later this year. He received his PhD from Stony Brook University and worked at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, the University of Maryland, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab before coming to UConn, where he has taught for 28 years. His research is focused on microbial plankton, including bacteria, phytoplankton, and ciliated protozoa, documenting their diversity and distributions in the coastal ocean.

George loves to NERR’d out looking for seals and sea birds at Hammonasset State Park. He also has a lot of memories from time on the Sound. “One time I was fishing with my son and a seal popped up next to the boat with a fish in his mouth.  We just stood there watching and marveling at this bit of the food chain taking place before our eyes.”

Jamie Vaudrey
CT Reserve Research Coordinator

Jamie was the UConn lead for shepherding the establishment of a NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve in Connecticut and is now serving as the Research Coordinator for the Reserve. Jamie is a marine ecosystems ecologist and modeler, interested in the impacts of humans on coastal waters.  Jamie is also involved with EPA’s National Estuary Program, local community-based monitoring groups, and works as the science co-advisor for Save the Sound’s Unified Water Study and Long Island Sound Report Card effort.

Jamie’s favorite Reserve site is Mumford Cove. “I first “met” Mumford Cove as a graduate student, 24 years ago – the study location of my dissertation. In 1999, eelgrass was just starting to recolonize the Cove and I had the opportunity to document the progress of its’ return, working with a team of fellow grad students and undergrads who are still some of my best friends today. I also studied total ecosystem metabolism in this system, advised a student studying the heat budget in the Cove, and with another student evaluating the ecosystem services in a restored marsh located in the Cove. I’ve met and worked with people who worked in that Cove in the seventies and eighties, and follow ongoing work in the Cove, such as Hannes’ work with silversides and water quality along the beach. Amazing how much a small Cove has to teach, and how many opportunities it provides. Next up (new skills, new challenge)… searching for beetles, bats, and invasive plants!”


Sam Stadnick
CT Reserve Fiscal Officer

Sam joined the Reserve Team in Aug 2021 as its Fiscal Officer. He previously worked in the Connecticut House of Representatives where he assisted elected officials with their constituent service and legislative responsibilities. He is thrilled to use his experience in public affairs to protect the natural areas of Eastern Long Island Sound and the Lower Connecticut River Valley where he has been a longtime hiker and boater.

One of Sam’s first memories of the Sound is fishing near Millstone Point with his father. “We would often catch Tautog or blackfish – one of the most beautiful (and delicious) fin fish in Long Island Sound. The rocky outcroppings that lie off of Millstone Point provide great habitat for the fish and great recreational fishing opportunities for generations of resident in Southeastern Connecticut.”

Larissa Graham
CT Reserve Education Coordinator

Larissa joined the Reserve Team in Oct 2022 as its Education Coordinator. Larissa has worked in the environmental field for nearly 15 years, sharing science-based information with a variety of coastal audiences. After finishing graduate school, Larissa served with New York Sea Grant as the Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator. In 2013, Larissa moved to the Gulf coast where she worked for Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and, most recently, the Student Conservation Association as the Alabama and Mississippi State Director. In this role, she mentored and managed young adults as they conducted habitat restoration projects along the Gulf coast.

As a kid, she would spend a lot of time fishing and boating on the Sound. She shares, “One weekend, we switched things up and I went with my aunt and uncle to the beach. We caught crabs with clothespins and pieces of hot dogs, looked for razor crabs in the sand, and played in the sun all day. I remember asking so many questions about all of the critters we came across – it was like a whole new world and made my love for the Sound even that much stronger!”

Katie Lund
CT Reserve Coastal Training Program Coordinator

Katie joined the Reserve Team in Jan 2023 as its Coastal Training Program Coordinator. Katie joins the Reserve from her previous position at UConn’s Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation where she led engagement activities and managed municipal and research grant projects to increase resilience of Connecticut’s communities to the growing impacts of climate change. Katie has worked for over 20 years on a variety of coastal management topics – including the Northeast Regional Ocean Council and Long Island Sound’s marine spatial plan and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s special area management.

One of Katie’s favorite memories of the Reserve is the first walk she did on Bluff Point with her kids when they were very young. She shares, “I had heard about this state park after moving to CT, but had no idea how big it was. I kept pushing our little kids to walk to a point on the trail where we could get wide views of Long Island Sound, which was farther than I thought! After we’d gone a couple miles and they were ready to turn around (before the Sound views), I saw a small side trail to the right and convinced them to try it. After only a few meters, we popped out onto a beautiful beach…such a surprise – I had no idea there was such a BIG and quiet and beautiful beach as part of Bluff Point. It was completely worth the effort (and whining) to get there. Over ten years later, I now work for the NERR and this beach is part of our new reserve!”

Jason Krumholz
CT Reserve Stewardship Coordinator

Jason joined the Reserve Team in Feb 2023 as its Stewardship Coordinator for the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve. While Pursuing his Ph.D. at the Graduate School of Oceanography, Jason was a National Science Foundation IGERT fellow. He subsequently served with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center as the Liaison Ecologist to the Long Island Sound Study, where he worked with a wide range of partner organization at the interface of science and policy on several efforts to improve the transmission of scientific data into management, and with McLaughlin Research Corporation, where he served as a subject matter expert for the United States Navy’s Mission Environmental Planning Program.

We asked Jason to share his favorite memory of the Reserve. “Once I got roped into diving off of Pine Island to collect green crabs in the middle of the winter for a colleague who was doing his Ph.D. at UCONN. It was so cold that ice was literally forming on our gear, on the deck of the boat, pretty much everywhere. It was one of those moments that was pretty miserable at the time, but the memory of it is somehow very positive… one of those moments where you realize that if you like what you do enough to do THIS, then you’re probably going to really enjoy doing it for the rest of your career.”

Ashley Hamilton
CT Reserve Research Assistant – System Wide Monitoring Program

Ashley joined the Reserve Team in April 2023 as its System Wide Monitoring Program lead. Ashley graduated from the Uconn Avery Point community with a B.S. in marine sciences. After undergrad, she completed a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island, where her research focused on the impacts of anthropogenic stressors to commercially important bivalve species. Since 2016 she has worn various hats in the shellfish and seaweed aquaculture industry, including farm hand, hatchery production and researcher.

We asked Ashley to tell us about the NERRdiest thing she does in her spare time. “The NERRidest habit that I have is getting tattoos of the organisms that I work with or study. During grad school, I got a (scientifically accurate!) anatomical eastern oyster and after my fifth season working in a seaweed hatchery, I got a reproductive sugar kelp blade. Next on my wish list is a blue mussel shell in celebration of finishing my thesis, and I can see some marsh plants and critters in my future as I venture into the CT NERR monitoring program!”

CT NERR nears official designation

By Judy Benson, CT Sea Grant

This story was originally featured in Wracklines Volume 21, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2021-22 (full issue here).

Kayaks, waders and seine nets will be the equipment of choice for experiences in what is set to become the nation’s 30th federally designated estuarine research reserve. Estuaries are the rich zones where rivers meet the sea. Hiking boots, snowshoes and bicycles will have their place there, too. But the area marked for the 50,000-acre CT NERR—Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve—is a mostly watery world. “The majority of our Reserve is aquatic,” said Jamie Vaudrey, assistant research professor of marine science at UConn and one of the leaders of the CT NERR project. “The land components of the reserve are all connected to each other by the waters of Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound.”

A collection of state lands and surrounding submerged areas of the lower Thames and Connecticut rivers will comprise the CT NERR. These two rivers supply most of the fresh water that mixes with the salty Atlantic Ocean in Long Island Sound. Now, after a years-long process, the groups leading the CT NERR project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are approaching the finish line. An announcement that the CT NERR will join the national network of NERRs could come early in 2022.

“We’re much closer to the end than we are to the beginning,” said Kevin O’Brien, supervising environmental analyst leading the project for DEEP. “It’s been a long time coming, and it’s something that other states have received a lot of benefit from.”

The CT NERR footprint extends from Bluff Point and Haley Farm state parks in the east, to the Lord Cove and Roger Tory Peterson Natural Area Preserves (previously known as Great Island) in the Connecticut River some 23
miles to the west, with the lower Tames River in between. The variety of habitats throughout the reserve includes salt marshes, brackish coves, eelgrass and shellfish beds, two river mouths, sandy beaches, coastal forest, upland woods, fields and rocky islands. There are also sharp contrasts. The Connecticut River portions are sparsely populated areas favored by fishermen and waterfowl hunters, with limited access by boat. The lower Tames is heavily  developed and busy with commercial and recreational boat traffic. Bluff Point and Haley Farm are visited by thousands of hikers, bikers, recreational clammers and birders annually. But none of the uses currently enjoyed by the public in these places will change with the NERR designation. Like all NERRs nationwide, the CT NERR will follow existing state rules and regulations for management of the lands, waters and how they are used.

“There is lots of habitat diversity, and that provides a lot of different opportunities for outdoor education, research and monitoring,” O’Brien said.

CT DEEP, UConn Marine Sciences, Connecticut Sea Grant and the Connecticut Audubon Society led the CT NERR designation, and UConn’s Avery Point campus in Groton is slated to house its headquarters. Once established, the CT NERR will receive federal dollars and matching state resources to support staf, research, conservation, monitoring, education and volunteer opportunities, and connect with the other NERRs to share data and resources.

“This will be a very interesting place for people of all ages, including scientists and lay persons, to come and learn in a beautiful outdoor setting,” said Sylvain De Guise, director for Connecticut Sea Grant.