3rd Annual Fall Migration Festival at The Wetlands Institute

_MG_9320Stone Harbor, NJ
–The Wetlands Institute proudly presents its 3rd Annual Fall Migration Festival, Saturday and Sunday, September 19 and 20, 2015, from 9:30am to 4:30pm.  Join the Institute’s staff, community partners and volunteers as we highlight the amazing diversity of wildlife passing through the Cape May Peninsula during their migration.
Learn about the Institute’s expanded bird research and conservation efforts. Join a naturalist on a guided walk and watch as an amazing array of migratory birds and butterflies fly overhead.  In a single day one can go from spotting a Peregrine Falcon flying low along the salt marsh to watching flocks of White-winged Scoters migrate along the ocean front.

“The sheer abundance and diversity of species migrating through the Cape May Peninsula is an amazing sight to see.” states Dr. Lisa Ferguson, Director of Research and Conservation at The Wetlands Institute. “This combination makes it among the top birding destinations in the world and a top birding destination in North America. At The Wetlands Institute, fall is an especially good time to experience the changing of seasons and the spectacle of migration of raptors, warblers, waterfowl, and more.”

Garden-tour-FMF_MG_9361Executive Director, Dr. Lenore Tedesco, explains that the purpose of this festival is to highlight what The Wetlands Institute strives to accomplish. “This event is a great opportunity to showcase the incredible diversity of wildlife in Cape May County and our role in preserving and protecting these amazing animals on their remarkable journeys. It’s easy to miss it and our goal is to bring the migration to life and share how special it is.” says Tedesco. “The Fall Migration Festival  features engaging educational activities designed to help the public better understand the importance of wetlands and coastal ecosystems.”

Festival visitors of all ages will get to enjoy and learn about the abundance of wildlife that relies on our coastal ecosystem for survival.  Here is a preview of some of the festival activities:

  • Live Butterfly Presentations and Tagging
  • Guided Nature Walks at Stone Harbor Point and at the Institute Focusing on Birds, Butterflies,Dragonflies, and Bees
  • Guided Back-Bay Boat and Kayak Tours
  • Fish, Sea Turtle, Butterfly and Bird Crafts, Migration Themed Games and Activities
  • Special Autumn Terrapin Release
  • Live Animal Presentations by Community Partners
  • Garden Tours and Information on Native Plants and Pollinators
  • And more!

Be sure to visit wetlandsinstitute.org for more details and a schedule of activities. Tickets are available for purchase online.  All proceeds from this event support The Wetlands Institute’s research, conservation and education programs.

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2015 Citizen Conservation Award


Donna receives her award from Brooke Knapick.

It is with great pleasure that we present the 2015 Citizen Conservation Award to Donna Rothman – a year-round volunteer at The Wetland Institute (TWI) and a true voice for conservation in her community.

For over ten years, Donna has served as a Wetlands Institute Summer Docent and Aquarium Care Volunteer. Every Thursday from May-September, Donna dedicates her time to leading Salt Marsh Safari tours at 10:00am and 12:00pm. She is informative, passionate and committed to educating the public about the diversity or plants and animals in the salt marsh, while instilling in them the need for environmental stewardship and conservation. As summer transitions into fall, Donna shifts her focus from Wetlands Institute Summer Docent to Aquarium Care Volunteer. It is here that she oversees and cares for the animals in our aquariums and provides a much needed area of support to TWI. In just 10 months, she has volunteered more than 125 hours of service to TWI and we see no signs of slowing down!

2013ScholarhsipProgram_KidsDonna’s focus on conservation education transcends the boundaries of TWI and extends into her local community. Most recently, Donna spearheaded and oversaw the creation, installation and opening of the Avalon Dune and Beach Trail, while serving as volunteer chair for The Avalon Environmental Commission subcommittee dedicated to the project. This unique interpretive trail is located between 48th and 44th Street along Dune Drive in Avalon and features 10 signs that educate visitors about the importance of this rare maritime forest ecosystem. Her passion and enthusiasm for the project, coupled with her innate ability to attract others towards her work, was a driving force to the completion and success of the trail.

Donna is a wonderful collaborator, mentor and educator and we truly appreciate her commitment and dedication to her community and The Wetlands Institute. We are proud to include her as a Citizen Conservation Award recipient and look forward to all that she will accomplish in the future.

Honoring our Donors

The Wetlands Institute invites you to join the Herbert Mills Legacy Society! Named after our founder, the Herbert Mills Legacy Society honors people who have left The Wetlands Institute in their will. If you have already done so, please let us know so that we can welcome you as our newest member! If you have any questions or need additional information or sample language, please contact Heather Gee at 609-368-1211. Thanks to all of our current members! A simple bequests can be a very powerful way to invest in the future of the Institute!

In June, we created two additional ways of honoring people who support the Institute. The Loyalty Society was created to honor those individuals who have made contributions to the Institute for the last ten consecutive years. We thank these loyal supporters!

In addition, we have a new Lifetime Membership level. The Board of Trustees voted to give Lifetime Memberships to a group of people who have given their time, talent and treasure to the Institute for many, many years. We are grateful to each of you!

“After my first year of high school, I volunteered with the Summer Nature Program. The amazing experiences I have had at The Wetlands Institute as both a camper and a volunteer have influenced me to consider a career as a marine biologist. The Wetlands Institute is truly an extraordinary place of great value and I hope it continues to inspire young people like me for years to come. “


“It’s institutes like The Wetlands which not only continue to make groundbreaking strides forward to help our earth but also instill these values in the children, who will inherit it. Thank you so much for what you do!”



2015 Summer Internships Overview

Coastal Conservation Research Program

CCRP Interns

(back) Lauryn Freedman, Cate O’Neill, Lindsay Diehl, Shane McFoy, (front) Jennifer Terry, Matthew Sehrsweeney.

Environmental Education


(from left) Jacob Lipton, Hannah Sinclair, Mary Birrer and Joseph Seebode.

25 Years of Terrapin Patrols

jen-lauryn-terrapinThis year marked our 25th year of conducting patrols to save nesting terrapins and document their use of our local roads during the busy nesting and summer tourism seasons. Over these years, we’ve documented roughly 500 terrapins (an average of 492 to be exact) killed annually on our road patrols.

We also save, on average, roughly 275 terrapins from harm on the roads, help numerous injured terrapins, and release over 150 head-started terrapins back to the marsh each year of late. It is incredible to think of where the state the local population would be in without our terrapin conservation program in place.

As a result of construction along our well-worn road patrol route, many aspects of our road patrols changed. Due to the extended closure of the Townsends Inlet Bridge, as well as the construction project along Sea Isle Boulevard, we were forced to alter our route. To help us continue to monitor roads in Sea Isle frequently despite the changes, we had the help of several devoted volunteers.

Collectively, our terrapin team, comprised of staff, interns, volunteers and community friends, tallied 736 terrapin encounters along our local coastal roads during the 2015 nesting season. Over 322 were live animals helped out of harm’s way, and 414 were nesting females killed by vehicles. In addition, we encountered 67 injured females that were either rehabilitated or euthanized, 23 of which have been successfully treated and released. Believe it or not, we saw a lower than average number of road-killed terrapins this year and saved an above average number of turtles from roads.

cate_matt_turtleOn our property, we tracked terrapin nesting activity by conducting 5 patrols per day, starting in late May. We had assistance from a small troupe of junior volunteers who helped keep a look out for nesting terrapins, and of course visitors, school groups, and summer nature program participants that were fortunate enough to spot nesting terrapins during their tours. Some days there were not enough of us to keep pace with the terrapins.

This year we captured terrapins nesting on our property over 170 times! These included 96 females previously marked with microchips for identification (5 of which were released as headstarters after being incubated and reared in our program) and 77 new (to us) nesting females that we microchipped. We also protected 89 nests with exclosures to keep them safe from predators. Be sure to check them out the next time you visit!

The Return of The Osprey

P6260222This summer, we are excited that a young osprey pair has taken up residence on the Institute’s Osprey platform that has the nest cam. We have all been monitoring the daily nest activities and chick rearing, both day and night, from our live osprey feed.

The Osprey nest platform had not been used since the summer of 2011, when the nest material was blown out of the nest platform by Hurricane Irene after the chicks had fledged. In 2012, and the subsequent years, the camera platform was not utilized, but surrounding platforms were.

The return of the Osprey is an amazing story and remains one of the great conservation stories of our time. Ospreys, Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and many other top predators fell victim to the effects of DDT. DDT was being used to manage insects but had a catastrophic effect on the reproductive success of these majestic birds. Historically, before the effects of DDT caused the state’s osprey population to decline, there were more than 500 osprey nests in NJ. The combination of habitat loss caused by extensive coastal development and reproductive failure due to food chain poisoning, caused osprey populations to plummet. By 1974, only 50 nests remained in NJ, and the osprey was listed as endangered in the State of NJ. Similar declines were being reported throughout their North American range.

P6260220Thanks to work by dedicated conservationists, researchers, and attorneys, armed with public awareness sparked by Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, DDT was banned in 1972. The Institute has a long and proud history of research and conservation related to osprey. Joseph Jacobs, a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute, worked tirelessly on osprey conservation. An article in the Seven Mile Beach Reporter dated July 10, 1964; entitled “Bands 35 Ospreys in Avalon Section” highlights some of Joe’s work banding nestlings at various Stone Harbor sites and on Cedar Island in Avalon. He was licensed for bird banding by the US Dept. of the Interior and banded birds in the area from more than 2 decades. Joe believed that the local area was the last strong nesting site for osprey because it gave the bird easy access to waters where the fish on which they feed are plentiful and the effects of DDT were not as severe as in more populated areas.

Joe Jacobs pioneered the use of nesting platforms. Prior to the nesting platforms, osprey were nesting on the tops of the telephone poles along Stone Harbor Blvd and with the increase in traffic and the DDT problems, the nests numbers were declining. One day in the early 1970’s, Joe, who was a builder by trade, took the materials for a platform into the marsh and erected what he felt would be a site attractive to a nesting pair, and walked back to his car. When he reached the road, he turned back to look at the platform and was thrilled to see that an osprey had already found it. The rest is history —since the first one was a success, he continued to erect others, both in the Stone Harbor and Avalon areas where he had usually banded the nestlings. Artificial nest platforms are now the predominant conservation measure to encourage and aid osprey nesting throughout their range.

Historical banded osprey resightings from 1926 – 2013. Data from Bird Banding Lab.

Joe and Herbert Mills, founder of the Institute, both conducted research on osprey populations in NJ and contributed significantly to their recovery. By 1986, the osprey population had surpassed 100 pairs and their status was upgraded to threatened in the state. By 2006, the state’s osprey population hit a new post-DDT record of more than 400 active nests and by 2009, osprey numbers in the state were close to historic populations of osprey.

There are 5 Osprey nest locations within view of the Institute and the Osprey Learning Station at the Institute provides lots of great information collected by the state’s osprey banding programs. Since 1926, 279 of the 358 osprey banded near Cape May County have been sighted in 18 different countries. The oldest osprey on local record was banded in 1957, encountered and released alive in 1979 at a nest in the same vicinity, and lived at least 22 years.

We are watching the chick in the osprey nest behind the Institute. The chick is growing rapidly and we have hopes for a successful fledging in a few weeks – perhaps by the time this newsletter reaches you.

The osprey recovery in NJ – and especially in the marshes in Cape May – is one of the great conservation stories of our lifetime. Next time you see these majestic birds, or hear their chirps, remember that it was active conservation that has returned them to their former glory. They are a great example of how we can coexist with wildlife and how the work of a few can be a sea change.

Water Awareness Day

rain-barrelJoin The Wetlands Institute and the Cape May County Watershed Ambassadors for Water Awareness Day! Activities will include a water conservation and rain barrel presentation followed by a rain barrel building demonstration.  Included in the price of general admission, we will also be having special activities including stewardship pledges, marine debris activities and plankton science features!

9:30 AM
Water Conservation and Rain Barrel Presentation by Watershed Ambassador Jeff Brennan

10:00 AM
Rain Barrel Building Demonstration
You can buy, build and take home your own rain barrel for $25. Cash only payment will be made directly to the Cape May County Watershed Ambassadors on the day of the program. Please reserve your barrel building materials in advance by emailing education@wetlandsinstitute.org or calling 609-368-1211 by Wednesday, August 5th.

Download the event flyer

From Russia – With Curiosity and Collaboration

2015-04_975The Wetlands Institute (TWI), Wetland Link International (based in the UK) and Wetlands International Russia (based in Moscow) teamed up to generate a beneficial international dialogue between wetland centers in the US and Russia. This project, Russia-USA Wetland Center Exchange Program: Linking People and Wetlands is funded by a grant from the US State Department and will share best practices in environmental education and support the development of effective outreach and education activities among centers in both countries.

Program need stems from a desire to directly link peers to foster great cultural understanding, while exploring the different historical context and approaches to environmental education utilized in each country. The US has a long history of making natural areas accessible to people and embedding environmental education and outreach in to visitor programs. US wetland education centers are widespread and utilize a variety of innovative approaches to teaching in and about wetlands. In Russia, for most of their recent history, natural areas have been strictly protected and largely off limits to the public. In recent years, this has changed and new wetland education visitor centers are being opened and new programming is being developed encouraging outdoor and environmental education. The exchange program is designed to have paired centers work together and learn from each other.

The Wetlands Institute is partnering with the Smolensk Lakeland National Park, located in Russia, near the Belarus border about 7 hours west of Moscow. In April, Wetlands Institute Executive Director, Lenore Tedesco, and Director of Education, Brooke Knapick spent 10 days in Russia visiting project partners from Smolensk Lakeland National Park. The park has a newly opened visitor center and shares some interesting similarities with TWI. The park is located in an area with numerous beautiful lakes and has a visitorship that is heavily seasonal. The park is vast and has a strong focus on interpretive signage and self-guided educational programs. Their mission also includes preservation and education about cultural resources in addition to natural resources. While in Russia, Wetlands Institute staff visited many areas of the park, visited the local middle school, participated in a regional overnight environmental education and service project, and worked with park naturalists, foresters, and research scientists to get a greater understanding of the educational initiatives being offered by the Park. Full immersion into the Park’s programs allowed us to explore commonalities between the two centers and share ideas for new programs and initiatives, exhibits and signage and community involvement. Extending our education programs to an international level such as this is an important next step in the Institute’s development.

2015-04_397This exchange visit was the first in a series of wetland center exchange visits planned for this project. The six wetland centers participating in the program are divided equally between the US and Russia and include a diverse array of centers from different geographic regions and with different areas of expertise and educational focus. Together we are exploring approaches for using social media in environmental education, sharing data and program materials, and will produce a bilingual manual for wetland centers in both countries. The Khakassky State Nature Reserve, located in the Steppe zone of Khakassia, is working with the Driftless Area Wetlands Center in Marquette, Iowa. The Baltic Fund for Nature, located in St. Petersburg is an NGO focused on environmental education in the Baltic Sea basin. The Baltic Fund for Nature is paired with John Bunker Sands Wetland Center located in Seagoville, Texas. The first phase of the exchanges is now complete with each of the US teams visiting Russia. The Russian teams will visit their partners in the US in October. The teams will all come to The Wetlands Institute in mid-October for an international conference on wetland education. The conference will include an evening program that will be open to the public.

To learn more about the program, or follow the travels of the participating wetland centers, please visit http://wetlandsinstitute.org/education/russia-usa-wetland-center-exchange-program. You can also find us on Facebook.

Volunteers Needed to Plant Butterfly Gardens

Volunteers Needed to Help Plant Butterfly Gardens at Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary

SHBS-signFriday, May 22  from 9am – 12pm

Meet at the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary Pump house on 3rd ave and 114th St.

Be prepared for sun and potentially bugs.  Please wear close toe shoes.  Equipment will be supplied, but if you have a favorite pair of garden gloves, please bring them.

Please RSVP your interest to cfaulk@wetlandsinstitute.org

The Wetlands Institute and Burke Subaru teamed up to Share the Love

2015-05-03 Volunteers-repairing-fence-2Stone Harbor, NJ, Monday May 4, 2015 – The employees of Burke Subaru and their families were up early with their gloves on and sleeves rolled up to help protect the beloved Terrapin turtles at their Subaru Share the Love event on Sunday, May 3rd.  Ray Burke, President of Burke Motor Group and Chairman of the Board of The Wetlands Institute said, “We wanted to give back to this community we love so we enlisted the help of The Wetlands Institute knowing that they could lead a volunteer project that would have real impact.”

2015-05-03 Volunteers-repairing-fenceThe Wetlands Institute has been working to protect and conserve diamondback terrapins for more than 20 years.  A key component is the installation and maintenance of barrier fencing throughout local salt marsh roads. From mid-May through July, female terrapins leave the marsh in search of higher ground to nest and lay eggs.  This puts them in harm’s way as they cross roadways. Burke Subaru and Subaru America donated more than $4,000 to The Wetlands Institute as part of the Subaru Share the Love program.  The program also included a volunteer event to help The Wetlands Institute repair barrier fencing to prepare for the upcoming nesting season. For several hours, volunteers worked hard repairing the barrier fencing along Stone Harbor Boulevard. Volunteers from both Burke Motor Group and the Rotary Club of Mid Jersey Cape repaired fencing and did a trash cleanup. A bike patrol and roadside assistance helped make the event run smoothly. “Barrier fencing has been shown to be highly effective at reducing mortality of adult terrapins.  Diamondback terrapins are a keystone species in the marsh that provide critical services to help protect and sustain a healthy marsh ecosystem.  Their populations are in decline throughout their range, and this work is critical to helping reduce their mortality”, says Executive 2015-05-03 volunteers-picking-up-trashDirector Lenore Tedesco, Ph.D. “Last year we had more than 500 nesting terrapins killed along local roadways, so it’s critical that everyone do their part and slow down and be aware.” The Wetlands Institute conducts road patrols to rescue terrapins on roadways, help injured terrapins, and for those that are killed, eggs are retrieved, incubated and hatched.  Hatchlings are fostered for their first year of life and then released back into the marsh to try to help offset the losses on roadways.  After such a harsh winter, the fencing was in need of repair and the Burke Subaru volunteers got the job done and even cleaned up the litter along the way.

2015-05-03 Burke-Subaru-Share-the-Love-check-1The Burke Family has owned and operated in Cape May County since Raymond Burke, Sr. opened the original Wildwood location in 1912.  Spanning four generations, the Burke Dealerships have grown and expanded to meet the changing automotive needs of the Jersey Cape area. For more than 100 years, the four generations of Burkes have shown their commitment to the community. “Creating and participating in community projects is a Burke family tradition. We all felt great about actually doing something to preserve and protect these beautiful native creatures”, says Burke.  Event coordination was by Francey Burke.

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About The Wetlands Institute:

The Wetlands Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting appreciation, understanding and stewardship of wetlands and coastal ecosystems through our programs in research, conservation and education. We inspire visitors of all ages to appreciate and steward wetlands and coastal ecosystems by teaching them the importance of those systems and how they relate to their own lives. Visit our website at wetlandsinstitute.org to find out more about our programs and mission.

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