The goal of the Reserve research program is to improve the understanding of Texas coastal zone ecosystems structure and function.

National Research Objectives

The primary research objective for the Reserve System is to determine the causes and effects of natural and anthropogenic-induced change in estuarine ecosystems. The research policies at the Mission-Aransas Reserve align with the Reserve System goals. These research and monitoring goals are to:

  • Address information needs of significant coastal management issues through coordinated estuarine research;
  • Promote estuarine research by federal, state, public, and private organizations at one or more reserves within the System;
  • Conduct and coordinate estuarine research within the System, which includes gathering and making information available for management purposes. 

Research and Monitoring Programs

The Reserve operates several research and monitoring programs to understand the structure and function of the Mission-Aransas Estuary. The System-Wide Monitoring Program (or SWMP) is a core component of every reserve. The Mission-Aransas Reserve SWMP currently includes three major components:

(1) monitoring of water quality and weather indicators,

(2) biological monitoring, and

(3) mapping of Reserve habitats and watersheds.

The Reserve also operates a zooplankton monitoring program to measure changes in community composition, and is currently conducting a research project to characterize the nutrient dynamics of the system. As part of a nationally standardized network, the Reserve’s long-term data collection efforts will facilitate a better understanding of basic estuarine conditions and will allow the Reserve to serve as a sentinel for detecting change.

Resources for Researchers

The Reserve boundary is a 185,708 acre contiguous complex of wetland, terrestrial, and marine environments. The Reserve research and monitoring programs provide a tremendous amount of information on the Mission-Aransas Estuary and make this system an ideal location to conduct estuarine research.

Resources for Students

The Reserve offers several opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. National fellowships and paid internships are available on a competitive basis for students interested in estuarine science.

Water Quality, Weather, and Other Data

The Reserve offers water quality and weather data in real-time and water quality, weather, nutrient, and geospatial data that has been tested for quality assurance. 

The Reserve System Wide Monitoring Program Stations collect water quality and weather information.

Researchers collect data in the field as part of an effort to map Reserve habitats.

Researchers monitor changes in marsh plant communities on a yearly basis within the Reserve.