The Great Marsh is of great interest to scientists, resource managers, land owners, and others due to its size and significant resources. The State of Massachusetts designated the Great Marsh in 1979 as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern for its significant resources: barrier beach system, salt marsh, dunes, beach, shellfish, estuaries and embayments, anadromous fish runs, floodplains, erosion and accretion areas, areas used for coastal recreation, salt ponds, historic sites, significant wildlife habitat, and scenic habitat.

Much in the way of monitoring has been carried out in line with resource management, permitting, and other regulatory frameworks; also significant monitoring is done by watershed organization volunteers and scientists.

Several GMC members conduct and collaborate on research at the Great Marsh, on a broad range of topics concerned with understanding, managing, and preserving the marsh and surrounding waters, particularly in the face of sea-level rise and other stressors. These include studies of marsh erosion and sediment accumulation, carbon storage, habitat restoration and preservation, invasive species, and endangered species. 

By way of long-term research and experimental science, the numerous partners of the Plum Island Estuary Long Term Ecological Research project remain engaged in studying a variety of parameters largely related to ecosystem function.

In tandem with the “professional” science being gathered by the PIE-LTER researchers, Mass Audubon’s salt marsh science program has been running since the early 2000s, and has involved the study of plant diversity, distribution, and soil quality at well over a dozen sites across the Great Marsh. These efforts have engaged thousands of school children over time, and many environmental educators and teachers as well.

GMC Member Researchers

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission/MassBay National Estuary Partnership/Eight Towns and the Great Marsh The Great Marsh Partnership, the Eight Towns and the Great Marsh Committee is solely focused in the Great Marsh. Our efforts include estuarine outreach and education and project research and implementation for a multitude of topics ranging from native vegetation restoration, invasive green crab management, marsh edge erosion, living shorelines to microplastics assessment.    

Ipswich River Watershed Association conducts science and monitoring programs to assess the health of the Ipswich River and drive their Restoration & Resiliency work. With the help of program volunteers and partnerships we collect data related to water quality, water conservation, and barriers.

Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center: Through their bird banding program, staff and volunteers monitor trends in bird populations to understand the relationships between the individual bird species and the habitats in which they are captured, developing a database of bird species by location to inform management strategies.

Mass Audubon Endicott Sanctuary:  In the Salt Marsh Science project students in grades 5-12 work with Mass Audubon scientists to learn about salt marshes, monitor invasives common reed (Phragmites australis) and pepperweed, and study salinity effects on salt marsh plants due to tidal restrictions and climate change. 

MA Office of Coastal Zone Management,  through its coastal habitat program, strives to better understand coastal habitats, including saltmarsh and eelgrass, and the complex interactions that sustain them.  They work to protect and restore these valuable resources that also have important functions for people, from providing recreational and economic resources to filtering pollutants and reducing storm damage.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) / National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) New England/Mid-Atlantic Region is “dedicated to conserving, protecting, and rebuilding endangered and threatened marine and anadromous species in rivers, bays, estuaries, and marine waters off New England and the Mid-Atlantic”  This includes river restoration, fish ladder maintenance, and dam removal to restore habitat for herring, Sea lamprey, and American eel in watersheds of the Great Marsh . (searchable)

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (PRNWR) scientists work to remove non-native plants and protect the biodiversity of refuge habitats, manage and protect piping plover, conduct long term monitoring and research of saltmarsh sparrows, and are participating in a study to determine the characteristics of a healthy salt marsh.  They are also engaged in marsh restoration projects 0ditch remediation, runnelling). 

Plum Island Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research (PIE-LTER) is an integrated research, education, and outreach program. Its goal is to be able to predict the long-term effects of sea level rise, climate change, and human activities on land on the health of estuaries, using PIE as a model for what is happening in estuaries worldwide.  (searchable) 

The Trustees has been protecting the Massachusetts shores for over 100 years. Beloved beaches, shorebirds, and historic oceanfront estates are all under our care, and we see thousands of visitors each year. In total we own and protect over 120 miles of coastline in Massachusetts with 35 properties including 75 miles of coastline located in 25 different communities, representing 16% of all protected coastline in MA, and more than any other single private landowner in the state.

Additional GMC Research Partners

Army Corps of Engineers 

Boston University, Earth and Environment 

Essex Natural Heritage Area 

Governor’s Academy

Great Marsh Partnership

Green Crab Research & Development

Gulf of Maine Institute 

MA Division of Ecological Restoration

MA Dept. of Fish and Game 

MA Division of Marine Fisheries 

Mass Oyster Project

Mass Bays National Estuary Partnership

Merrimack River District Commission

Merrimack River Watershed Council

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission

Metropolitan Area Planning Council 

Parker River Clean Water Association – 

PIE-Rivers Partnership

Salisbury Beach Betterment Association 

Seaside Sustainability 

Storm Surge 

Town of Essex

Town of Ipswich 

Town of Newbury, MVP University of New Hampshire, Jackson Laboratory