by Dr. Lenore Tedesco, Executive Director
As the seasons change, all of us at The Wetlands Institute welcome the changing energy and opportunity to shift focus. Make no mistake, education programs connect kids with nature throughout the fall; our research teams continue monitoring and assessments; and we commit extra time to analyzing data, planning programs, writing reports, and presenting our work at conferences. Importantly, now is the time when we can devote much-needed focus to planning for our future.
Foremost on our minds is planning for resiliency – for The Wetlands Institute and the marshes that are our laboratory, classroom, and sanctuary. When the Institute was established more than 50 years ago, our founders placed the Institute in the marsh so that we could study it and share the knowledge we gained with the public. Our founder designed a building that was welcoming and created a gateway to the marshes. The Institute was not a destination but an invitation to get out and learn, explore, and connect.
Today, the Institute faces increasing risk, and our resiliency is no longer as strong as it once was. Rising seas threaten the marshes that protect us, and our building has aged. We are at, and beyond, capacity in many of the functional spaces that we use for public programs, education, research, and administration. Some functions can no longer be served here.
It’s not in our nature to sit idly by; instead, we are working diligently to enhance our resiliency. We have taken several initial steps. Last year, we purchased a property in Middle Township that we expect to seasonally house interns and provide added administrative support; efforts continue to secure needed permits. We are working with the US Army Corps of Engineers on a significant marsh restoration project to save drowning marshes, bolster wildlife habitat, and strengthen infrastructure protections (see Around the Marsh). We have turned our attention to our beloved building, too. This year, we engaged architectural planners to evaluate our programmatic needs and the ability of our building to accommodate those needs, and make recommendations for the best next steps.
Our sense of place is strong, and this place is our home. The Wetlands Institute will always be based in the marshes working to preserve, protect, and steward them. We face important decisions on how to strengthen our resilience, continue to welcome people to these marshes through our gateway, and ensure the Institute and these marshes are here for generations to come. We will be true to our mission as we make No Small Plans.