Tag Archives: rachel carson

50 years later, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge still does its namesake proud

Kim Snyder is a writer by trade and a biologist at heart. She is currently working as an Outreach Intern at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Today’s blog is from Kim Snyder. Kim is a writer by trade and a biologist at heart. She is currently working as an Outreach Intern at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

“The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Portrait of Rachel Louise Carson, environmentalist and author of Silent Spring. Credit: Smithsonian Institutional Archives. Retrieved from Wikicommons

Portrait of Rachel Louise Carson, environmentalist and author of Silent Spring. Credit: Smithsonian Institutional Archives. Retrieved from Wikicommons

This year, 2016, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, named for that champion of conservation, public outreach, and careful scientific reasoning strives to uphold the ideals Rachel put forth in her classic, Silent Spring as well as her many other publications.

In 1969, our refuge was dedicated posthumously to Rachel, a mere 5 years after her death from heart disease and breast cancer. Rachel may have never set foot on the land that bears her name, but her influence can be felt everywhere.

Since our inception, chemical pesticides have been extremely limited in our management repertoire. Our invasive species populations have instead been managed by labor-intensive, long-term projects that are beginning to yield victories over problem species. This year saw a significant reduction in our yellow-flag iris population, turning the fight against its spread into a hunt for its hiding places. After years of steady pulling, garlic mustard and glossy buckthorn populations were also in decline, making way for native milkweed and asters. Just as Rachel’s book, Silent Spring called not for a complete moratorium on pesticides but rather careful application and knowledge of their impacts, the Refuge strives to find the perfect balance between chemical and biological control.

“If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals — eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones — we had better know something about their nature and their power.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

After 30 years of careful work to protect them, piping plovers continue to breed on refuge beaches and are showing signs of recovering from the wide-spread habitat destruction that threatened them in the 1970’s. Least terns are also faring well on the refuge, diving headfirst into tidal waters to snatch up sandlances and glass eels to feed to their young. Endangered roseate terns frequent refuge waters as well, banded birds being spotted by our biologists and reported to ornithologists tracking their populations. Birds of all shapes and sizes visit the refuge or call it home and continue the great migrations that were so fascinating to Rachel.

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” -Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea

Salt marsh channel on the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Harrington/USFWS

Salt marsh channel on the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Harrington/USFWS

On the dynamic shores of the refuge, change is constant, but one certainty remains — tidepools continue to pull people to the Refuge and the edge of the sea. The tiny and diverse creatures in these shoreline habitats capture the interest of visitors in the sea around us; just as they did to Rachel for most of her professional life.

Thanks for 50 great years as another piece of Rachel Carson’s great legacy!

Dedication stone. Photo by Kim Snyder/USFWS

Dedication stone. Photo by Kim Snyder/USFWS

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Wednesday Wisdom – Happy Birthday, Rachel

rachel carson birthday

Posting our #WednesdayWisdom on this Friday, May 27, so we can say, “Happy Birthday, Rachel Carson!” May 27, 2016 marks the 109th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, one of the world’s foremost leaders in conservation and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee. Her work as an educator, scientist and writer revolutionized America’s interest in environmental issues. Whether it was her passion for the oceans and coasts, her inspiration as one of the first female scientists and government leaders, or her overall footprint on the history of conservation, her legacy is certainly one to be honored and celebrated.

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge , headquartered in Wells, Maine, protects various kinds of habitat, including barrier beach, tidal estuary, dune, salt marsh and rocky coastline.  The piping plover, an endangered species, nests on refuge land.  The refuge was established in 1966 and was first known as the Coastal Maine National Wildlife Refuge, was renamed in honor of Rachel Carson in 1968, five years after her passing.

Go here for more Wednesday Wisdom!

Tiny Technology That’s Making a Big Difference

Technology is amazing. Here in the Northeast Region, new advances in technology are allowing us to find out so much more about animal behavior than we have ever known before. Armed with this knowledge, we are able to make much better choices about how to protect these animals. One example of an animal that is benefiting from these technological advances is the saltmarsh sparrow.

JuvenileSparrow - Copy

Credit: Katrina Amaral

These are tough times for the tiny saltmarsh sparrow. Their only home, the saltmarshes along the Atlantic coast of the United States, are becoming increasingly scarce due to development and rising sea levels. With fewer places to live, saltmarsh sparrow populations are decreasing as well.

In order to determine the best way to help the sparrows, researchers need to know more about their behavior, how they are using the marshes, and which locations are most important to their survival.

Saltmarsh Sparrow

Credit: Bri Benvenuti

Because these birds are so small, only weighing about as much as 8 pennies, individual birds have been difficult to track with traditional tracking devices, which were much too large and heavy for them. However, researchers from several of our region’s National Wildlife Refuges, along with other partners, are using today’s tiny tagging technology to find out exactly what these birds are up to!


The MOTUS tracking system uses nano-tags, miniature radio transmitters that are extremely lightweight. All nano-tags transmit at the same frequency, but each tag has its own identifiable pulse rate.


Credit: Bri Benvenuti

Receiving towers pick up these pulses when a tagged bird flies within a radius of 12 kilometers. Researchers have installed these towers in an expansive network up and down the eastern coast of North America, among other areas. The yellow dots in the map below represent current tower locations.


Credit: Bird Studies Canada- Motus Wildlife Tracking System, http://www.motus-wts.org


Credit: Kate O’Brien


One of the most exciting things about this system is the collaboration between researchers and organizations, all working together to collect and share data in an effort to conserve wildlife. The data that they are collecting is not restricted to saltmarsh sparrows. Researchers are studying bats, butterflies, and various other bird species using the nano-tag system as well. Data from the network of towers is downloaded and shared with researchers, providing a service to conservationists everywhere.

So what does this mean for our little saltmarsh sparrow?


Credit: Brian C. Harris

Actually, we aren’t sure yet. This system is so new that data is just beginning to come in. However, we are already discovering some amazing things!


Credit: Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program

For example, preliminary data shows that a few saltmarsh sparrows flew from the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, ME to the Connecticut coastline, a distance of over 150 miles, in just one day!


Migratory route of three saltmarsh sparrows. Credit: Saltmarsh Habitat & Avian Research Program

As we learn more about the behavior of these tiny birds, we will begin to answer many questions that we could only guess at before. This knowledge will guide us as we work to conserve their most important habitats in an effort to ensure their survival for generations to come.

This saltmarsh sparrow project is a collaboration of several partners, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Connecticut, and the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program.

For more information, please explore the following links:

Past blog posts about the Region’s nanotag programs

Saltmarsh Habitat & Avian Research Program

Motus Wildlife Tracking System

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook

Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex on Facebook

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook

Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook