Designating an Estuary: Behind The Scenes

By Bailey Kestell, Elsie McElroy & Peyton Hilbert


The University of Wisconsin Green Bay is creating another path to keep pollution at bay. The university has taken another step in environmental preservation by designating an estuary.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve, otherwise known as a NERR, is designed to be a sanctuary for educational and conservational purposes for coastal/bay regions. Currently, there are 30 different sites across the nation, according to UW-Green Bay’s webpage about the topic.

The University of Wisconsin Green Bay has been leading the campaign for the development of an Estuary in Green Bay. According to the website, the bay of Green Bay NERR would strive to be “a coordinating force to manage, restore, and protect the Green Bay ecosystem, with a programmatic focus on four sectors: research, education, stewardship, and training.”

Emily Tyner, the UW-Green Bay Director of Freshwater Strategy, has been spearheading the designation of the Bay of Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) and has been eager to spread the news of the designation. The NERR has many eyes on it because it will represent all of Lake Michigan. Also, the bay of Green Bay is the largest freshwater estuary in the United States. There is also something called the 30 by 30 plan that has been enacted by the Biden administration and is a conservation effort to have 30% of U.S. land become protected by 2030, this makes the NERR’s designation that much more important. Many people will be brought together because the NERR must be on public land, meaning there is a need for many partnerships to allow the land to be protected and used, one possible partnership being with Oneida Nation.

A picture of Green Bays waters on Fox River Expressway Bridge on Highway 172 at Fox River. Photo taken by Bailey Kestell.

The main goals of the NERR are preservation, restoration, and education; preservation goals will vary with the partnerships the NERR develops because they will need to follow the goals of the partnerships they have as well. Some things that Emily Tyner has mentioned that they will look at possibly doing are removing invasive species, reducing harmful algae bloom, removing harmful chemicals, and looking at erosion damage, though there is more. Education is another factor. Emily Tyner stated that all four UWGB campuses are on the water, which is a unique opportunity for the students. This allows students to participate in fieldwork and fosters interactive learning while also helping with preservation and restoration.

Another goal is to just get people to visit the estuary to engage in hands-on learning about the waters in general. The NERR would also allow recreational activities that people may not have had available to them before, such as kayaking, fishing, and birdwatching.

As of December 2022, according to a newsletter published in January 2023, a Site Nomination with several locations for the NERR was submitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is currently under review for the next 3-4 months. Should the site nomination be accepted, it would jumpstart the next phase of the project: the development of a “draft and final Management Plan and an Environmental Impact Statement.” According to the newsletter, the Management Plan will be created with the help of the local community’s input and start directing “the reserve’s future operation.” Those hearings are estimated to occur in late spring to summer of 2023.

In the meantime, there are other avenues that UW-Green Bay has been using to spearhead the development of the NERR, including, unexpectedly, design courses.

Professor Abby Kleinert, a UW-Green Bay Design Professor, has been hosting a class that focuses on creating a new logo for the Green Bay Estuarine. “This offers students a more professional mentorship than a traditional class setting would,” Kleinert said. Kleinert had heard about the Estuarine project during her interviews and onboarding and decided to reach out to Emily Tyner, the UW-Green Bay Director of Freshwater Strategy, to collaborate.

The Graphic Design students are researching Green Bay’s history, past illustrations, typeface, maps, and logos in the UW-Green Bay Archives. Photo by Bailey Kestell

The class, Graphic Design Studio III, has been hard at work researching and developing “a visual identity style guide for the NERR,” according to Kleinert. An anonymous student from the class reflected on this opportunity, “It’s really unique and gives a great view for what I should expect in the future in a career in Design Arts.” Kleinert remarked that she hopes that the relationship between the Estuary and the school will continue in the future. “Whether this is in a class, as a research assistant on a scholarly design project, or a future internship is still up in the air,” Kleinert said.

For more information or to participate in the development of the NERR, one can contact Emily Tyner

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