Giving Thanks for our Estuary Heroes

By Arielle Ostry

Thanksgiving is a time for gratefulness and reflection, and we are beyond thankful to all those dedicated to restoring and preserving our nation’s estuaries. 

During this year’s Estuaries Week, we partnered with our friends at NERRA and ANEP to celebrate our Estuary Heroes. These are people who go above and beyond in advocating for our estuaries and bays and educating others on the beauty and purpose of these delicate yet versatile ecosystems.  

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, we would like to introduce some, but certainly not all, of our Estuary Heroes and give thanks for all the good they do in their communities! 

Christy South – Maryland 

Christy is an elementary school teacher based in Maryland. The pandemic has posed extreme challenges for all educators, especially those who work with younger children. Kids who are elementary school age require a lot of attention, and it takes even more effort to make virtual learning fun for them. Christy developed a virtual field experience to engage her fourth graders and teach them about their local estuary. Thanks to her innovation, no one had to miss Wetlands & Wildlife Field Day, a school trip that students in her state have been attending for over 27 years! 

Aiden Mabey – New York 

Aiden started out in environmental education when she was just a high schoolerShe has a particular soft spot for the American eel, and has been working to protect the species for over 13 years! Now, Aiden works for the Hudson River Estuary Program, teaching local students about fish populations native to the Hudson River. Her work is geared towards inspiring students of all ages to be citizen scientists – to explore their environment with curiosity and advocate for the species that call the Hudson River Valley home.  

George Matz – Alaska

George has forged ahead as a true leader in environmental education and stewardship in his community. As chair of the Kachemak Bay Community Council, he works with scientists looking to make breakthroughs in the field of blue carbon and biofilms. He has also been a strong advocate for salmon populations in Alaska, protecting the freshwater streams where they spawn. In addition to his experience in both government and the non-profit sector, Matz teaches a birding course at Kenai Peninsula College, encouraging students to appreciate flying creatures in the great outdoors 

Todd Selig – New Hampshire

Todd has been advocating for estuaries for over two decades. He has served as the Administrator for the Town of Durham since 2001, protecting buffers, improving wastewater treatment, and encouraging environmental stewardship in the Great Bay. His influence has had a meaningful impact in both New Hampshire and Maine, and his leadership at the local level is a testament to how important the actions of local municipalities are to the overall health and potential renewal of estuary systems 

Sarah Norris – Florida

While we are calling her an Estuary Hero, Sarah is a real-life hero for countless sea turtles during Florida’s nesting season. All she is missing are tights and a cape! In her role at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Sarah is out on the water every day protecting turtle nests, helping wounded animals, collecting data, and educating the public.  

We have Estuary Heroes all over the country, promoting enthusiasm in environmental stewardship and spearheading projects to preserve estuaries everywhere. We are thankful for their dedication, and know that with heroes like these, our estuaries are in good hands. 

Arielle Ostry is a student at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and a Fall intern for Restore America’s Estuaries. Originally from northern New Jersey, she is studying journalism and plans to pursue a career in conservation.