Wells N.E.R.R.

wells national estuarine research reserve


The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve works to expand knowledge about coasts and estuaries, engage people in environmental learning, and involve communities in conserving natural resources, all with a goal of protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems around the Gulf of Maine.


The Wells Reserve is overseen by the Wells Reserve Management Authority (RMA), which was established in 1990 by the Maine legislature. Represented on the RMA are the Maine Department of Conservation, the Maine State Planning Office, the Town of Wells, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Laudholm Trust. A Governor-appointed scientist also serves on the RMA.

Wells Reserve Management Authority, Board

  • Nik Charov, Laudholm Trust — Chair
  • Daniel Belknap, Ph.D., University of Maine
  • Karl Ekstedt, Town of Wells
  • Ward Feurt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Ron Hunt, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
  • Kathleen Leyden, Maine Coastal Program (ex officio)
  • Erica Seiden, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (ex officio)

Additional Resources

What is a National Estuarine Research Reserve?

Protecting estuaries was a key motivation for the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, which outlined the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. This network of protected areas is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and coastal states.


The Wells Reserve is part of a system of 28 Reserves around the country — from Maine to Puerto Rico and from California to Alaska. All the Reserves contribute to, and benefit from, nationwide initiatives that advance knowledge and stewardship of coasts and estuaries.


Where rivers meet the sea, salt water mixes with fresh water to form estuaries, one of the most dynamic and productive ecosystems on earth. Estuaries provide essential habitat for plant and animal life, shelter human communities from flooding, act as buffers against coastal storms, and remove pollutants from water passing from land to sea. The Wells Reserve encompasses three estuaries: Little River, Webhannet River, and Ogunquit River.


Staff scientists and visiting investigators study and monitor change in Gulf of Maine estuaries, coastal habitats, and adjacent coastal watersheds. Staff educators teach people about these natural resources and the role that individuals and communities play in protecting and sustaining them.


The Wells Reserve protects 2,250 acres of salt marsh, freshwater wetland, beach, dune, forest, and field. The Laudholm Farm campus serves as headquarters. Its historic buildings have been renovated and restored to serve the 21st century research, education, and stewardship goals of the Wells Reserve.

Protected marshlands of the Little River estuary at the Wells Reserve.


Wells Reserve funding partners are Laudholm Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.