The Jersey Shore is endeared in our minds as a mystical convergence of beach, ocean, boardwalk and amusements—punctuated with sounds of seagulls and crashing waves—and seasoned with smells of salty air and clams.
Growing up at the beach provides a year-round, behind-the-scenes perspective of the Shore that summer visitors rarely see. For Hailey Conrad, growing up in Ortley Beach, NJ was a window into the interface of humans and nature, and its impact on plant and animal life. “Ortley Beach is a little beach town on a barrier island that has been ravaged by acts of environmental destruction for decades, from pollution, to overfishing, to coastline erosion and now, climate change,” said Conrad. The proximity to Island Beach State Park–New Jersey’s only undeveloped preserved barrier island that hosts a number of natural shoreline and nearshore habitats provided Conrad with a stark contrast to her developed beach town. But her firsthand lessons came from the year-round residents of Ortley Beach—the one’s whose livelihoods depended on the sustainability of that environment. From an early age, Conrad learned things in school like, “eutrophication,” “overfishing,” and “ocean acidification.”