National Geographic Ocean Views | December 12, 2016 | Erika Zambello |

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-6-25-43-amThe Reserve

The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) was designated in 1984 and encompasses 1,600 acres of coastal Maine. I had once visited the reserve on a birding trip and was happy to return in September 2016 for a full tour.

The Wells NERR campus is a mix of history and ecology. As I strode up to the main buildings, including an enormous barn, the pale yellow structures were shrouded in dense, coastal fog. I made my way up the path to a renovated farmhouse that housed the visitor center and staff offices, mentally crossing my fingers, hoping that the sky would soon clear for photographs.

The director of this reserve, Paul Dest, showed me around the grounds. Old bedrooms serve as offices and the communal area has a relaxed, familial vibe, even in the midst of busy preparations for their annual craft fair.

“What you see when you arrive here is this 19th century campus of buildings that was once a farm. And we’ve taken all of these buildings, beautiful farm buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places, and we’ve restored them and converted them to our 21st century use for science education and conservation. So, essentially, we breathe new life into old buildings to meet a science-based mission,” explains Dest.

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