Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia

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Designated in 1991, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia (CBNERR-VA) is one of 30 protected areas that make up the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS). Established to promote informed management of the nation's estuaries and coastal habitats, national estuarine research reserves inspire solutions for healthy coasts and maintain strong local economies, effectively functioning as America’s bridge between freshwater and salt.

Located in the southern subregion of the Chesapeake Bay, CBNERR-VA is a steward of four unique reserves that protect a diversity of estuarine habitat: Sweet Hall Marsh, Taskinas Creek, Catlett Islands, and the Goodwin Islands. This multi-component system is situated along the York River's salinity gradient, making CBNERR-VA a foremost authority on York River estuarine habitat and water quality.

CBNERR-VA is administered as a partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while managed on a daily basis by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). As such, its research informs local, state and national policy. As a leader in regional estuarine coastal education, CBNERR-VA builds capacity among current and future decision makers, resource stewards, and voters.


The mission of CBNERR-VA is to exhibit leadership in coastal zone management through innovative estuarine and coastal watershed science and education programs that promote natural-resource stewardship and science-based solutions to complex socioecological challenges.

To fulfill its mission, CBNERR-VA actively uses its Management Plan to guide reserve programs, and focuses its efforts and investments in a collaborative manner that addresses place-based needs while providing regional and national impact. Functional areas include:

  • Enhancing and inspiring stewardship, protection, and management of estuaries, their watersheds and cultural connections through place-based approaches;
  • Generation, application and transfer of scientific knowledge with respect to estuarine and coastal watershed resources to increase understanding, appreciation and betterment of coastal communities; and
  • Advancement of environmental literacy and appreciation, allowing for better resource stewardship and science-based decisions that positively affect estuaries, their watersheds and communities.

Underlying these functional areas, are CBNERR-VA’s core values and orienting principles, represented by its five Pillars of Operations: 

  • Responsible Conduct of Research;
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice;
  • Communications;
  • Advisory Service and Technical Assistance; and 
  • Five Programmatic Veins. 

These pillars are the bedrock of the reserve’s program development, and the lens through which the reserve approaches its roadmap toward vision achievement.

With respect to the latter pillar, Five Programmatic Veins, CBNERR-VA promotes cross-program integration, which, in turn, facilitates success, broader impacts, and applicability. Classified by primary function, Reserve programs include Administration, Research & Monitoring, Education & Outreach, Coastal Training, and Resource Management & Stewardship.

The reserve's mission complements the three-part mission of VIMS to conduct interdisciplinary research in coastal ocean and estuarine science, educate students and citizens, and provide advisory service to policy makers, industry, and the public.