Open House at Horn Point Laboratory October 14

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory invites the public to a free Open House on Saturday, October 14, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Located along the banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the laboratory is renowned for its study of marine ecosystems.

The theme for this year’s event is “Bay Strong – fighting for a clean environment.” It features exhibits by the laboratory’s scientists of their investigations in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal areas along the Atlantic Coast. This year’s theme will introduce our visitors to the super heroes fighting for a healthier Chesapeake Bay. All Community Open House activities are free and open to the public, and children will receive a free t-shirt.

“This is the best day of the year for the community to learn about the science of the Bay. Everyone at the lab is on deck to explain their research with activities and displays that make it easy to understand,” said Horn Point Laboratory Director Mike Roman.
– Build a healthy marsh and learn who are our best partners in this effort.
– See an animation of the travels of oyster larvae as they move from the reef where they spawned to their new, permanent home reef.
– Match up a DNA sequence to microscopic creatures important to the food chain.
– Touch a sturgeon whose ancestors date to the Jurassic period
– Create different shorelines and model weather’s impact with laser imaging over a sand pit.
– Meet and talk to graduate students about their environmental career goals.
– At the children’s activity booth, create animals that live in the water with thumb print art. Play games that teach fun facts about the Bay. Go on a scavenger hunt through the exhibits to learn how the Bay’s super heroes are fighting for a cleaner environment.

The open house is designed to interest all ages and will take place rain or shine. The Horn Point Laboratory campus is located 2020 Horns Point Road on Route 343 outside of Cambridge, Maryland.

For more information, visit  http://www.umces.edu/hpl/openhouse or contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu, 410-221-8408.

Part of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s statewide network of research centers, the Horn Point Laboratory on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has advanced society’s understanding of the world’s estuarine and ocean ecosystems. Horn Point scientists are world-respected for their interdisciplinary programs in oceanography, water quality, restoration of sea grasses, marshes and shellfish, and investigations of sea level rise and storm surge.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
For 90 years, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has led the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories spanning from the Allegheny Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, our scientists analyze changes in rivers and streams, monitor air quality, sample fish populations, and assess the impacts of climate change along our coastal communities. We provide sound scientific advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

New research award will help resource managers plan for increase in toxic algal blooms in Chesapeake waterways

Researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory have been awarded funding to develop a new model to better predict the long-term occurrences of dangerous and costly harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay. The cooperative project is made possible by the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) program of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS).

“The harmful algal blooms in Chesapeake Bay have been increasing due to nutrient enrichment, and with climate change we are going to have more occurrences,” said co-investigator Professor Ming Li. “In this project we will be developing a new mechanistic model to predict the harmful algal blooms.”

The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have long suffered from harmful algae blooms, or HABs, caused by excess nutrients running off of the land, due largely to a continually growing population in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and the development of animal and plant agriculture in its watershed. Ecosystem-disrupting events, harmful algal blooms have shown marked increase in the past 20 years.

The three-year project will develop a framework for scientists and natural resources managers to understand the impact of blooms by two of the most common microscopic algae in the Chesapeake Bay. Prorocentrum minimum, better known as ‘mahogany tide,’ can severely reduce the amount of oxygen available to living things, killing fish and altering food webs. Kalrodinium veneficum produces a toxin that has been implicated in fish-kill events in the Chesapeake Bay, as well been as associated with failure of oyster spawning and development.

“This is not a forecasting model for three or four days out,” said Professor Patricia Glibert. “Our aim is to ask longer term questions, such as if temperatures warm by a certain amount, what effect will that have? If we were to reduce nutrients, how will that affect harmful algal blooms?”

The model would be a tool to play out a number of different scenarios to understand the impact of different potential management decisions and ecosystem responses over decades. Glibert, who has been working on understanding toxic algal blooms around the world, will be handling the physiological experiments. Li, an expert on modeling hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay, will focus on developing a numerical model for the HABs.

The Chesapeake Bay is not the only place facing such problems. Similar events are happening off the coast of China and in many parts of Europe.

“We’re seeing this all over the world. More blooms, more often, lasting longer. In many places these trends are consistent with increased nitrogen loads,” Glibert.

Climate change is expected to result in warmer temperatures, higher sea level, and a changing weather patterns that will further increase the amount of nutrient pollution running off the land into waterways.

“We will be working closely with managers to develop scenarios and questions they wish to have us ask,” said Li, referring to groups like the Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of the Environment, and others. “We will add a model of the harmful algal blooms to an existing water-quality model and come up with a product that will be useful for managers.”

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

Horn Point Laboratory Breaks Ground on 10-Acre Solar Field with Standard Solar

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Standard Solar marked the beginning of a partnership to bring sustainable energy to the Horn Point Laboratory campus with a groundbreaking ceremony. Standard Solar will install a 10-acre solar field on campus that will generate approximately 50% of the Horn Point Laboratory’s annual energy consumption. UMCES has also received a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration to install four vehicle-charging stations under a new solar canopy on campus.

“Higher education has a key role in shaping a sustainable society. It’s essential that we lead by example,” said UMCES president Don Boesch, who has led the University System of Maryland’s Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Initiative since 2008.

Photo: (L-R): Bill Reddish (Congressman Harris’ office), Melissa Kelly (Senator Van Hollen’s office), Kimberly Kratovil (Senator Cardin’s office), Jeff Miley (Asst. Dir. for Facilities, Horn Point Laboratory), Don Boesch (President, UMCES), Mike Roman (Director, Horn Point Laboratory), Tony Clifford (CDO, Standard Solar), Ray Cho (Director of Facilities, UMCES), Mary Beth Tung (Director, Maryland Energy Administration), Mary Ann Ibeziako, Director of Procurement, University of Maryland College Park).

UMCES signed an agreement this spring with Standard Solar to install the solar field. The 2MW system has an expected approximate annual generation of 3.5 MWh of solar renewable energy. The solar field is expected be in-service by the spring of 2018.

“Investing in renewable energy is a huge win for the State because we are creating jobs, supporting economic growth via electricity bill reduction, and addressing environmental concerns shared by all Marylanders,” said Director Mary Beth Tung, Maryland Energy Administration.

The project is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in which Standard Solar installs and operates the solar panels in exchange for the use of land. UMCES agrees to purchase the equivalent energy being generated over the next 20 years from Standard Solar.

“We applaud UMCES for its renewable initiatives and innovative efforts to achieve their energy-reduction goals,” said Tony Clifford, CDO, Standard Solar. “We look forward to a great partnership with the University and being a part of their very important work to provide information and data to help local and national leaders make better decisions about the environment.”

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (Second Nature) and has launched several programs aimed at reducing our environmental footprint, including setting goals for reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions at each of our laboratories, upgrading aging infrastructure to newer, more energy-efficient alternatives, and building all new campus buildings to at least the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver standard or equivalent.

“The solar field is another example of how we are using innovative ways to manage Horn Point Laboratory in a way that reduces our environmental footprint and engages with the community,” said Mike Roman, director of the Horn Point Laboratory. This project also contributes to increasing Maryland’s in-state distributed electricity generation capacity and reducing the dependency on electricity imported from other states.

UMCES has also been selected to receive a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration’s Solar PV Canopy with EV Charger Grant Program to offset the cost of four level-II electrical vehicle charging stations on campus. Work begins on the project this fall.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

STANDARD SOLAR

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UMCES Invites Everyone to Report Dolphin Sightings in Chesapeake Bay

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science invites everyone who spends time on or near the Chesapeake Bay to report dolphin sightings with a new online tracking system. Chesapeake DolphinWatch allows users to mark the location of their dolphin sightings on a map of the Chesapeake and its tributaries so scientists can better understand where the dolphins are and where they go. The online tracker is accessible at www.chesapeakedolphinwatch.org .

“We’d like to increase people’s awareness of the dolphins and collect data at the same time,” said Helen Bailey, a scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. She specializes in studying the movements of marine mammals.“Whether you’re at home, whether you have a community pier, you live near the water, or you go out on the water, we need your eyes on the sea telling us where are the dolphins.”

Bottlenose dolphins are frequently spotted in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer with reports of them leaping in the air or bow riding boats. However, very little is known about how often dolphins actually come into the Bay, how long they spend there, what areas of the Bay they are using and why.

“Right now we have such scarce information. This is really the first time we are systematically recording this,” said Bailey. “We are hearing anecdotally that dolphins are becoming more frequent visitors to the Chesapeake Bay, but we really don’t have much information at all about where they are going and when. The more eyes we have on the water the better to report dolphin sightings. We think that citizens can make very good citizen scientists,” she said.

The online tracker has four main sections. There is a map page where users can see all of the reported sightings and tap to report their own sighting. Users can either enter the location where they saw the dolphins or have the device use the current location to mark the sighting. Users will be able to view how many users are accessing the tracker and the dolphin sightings in real time. There is also an information page with responsible wildlife viewing guidelines and to learn more about dolphins and the Chesapeake Bay.

“We are excited to be using new technology that will enable everyone to help us understand more about dolphins,” said Tom Miller, director of UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “Citizen science, such as the DolphinWatch tracker, is becoming more and more important and helps connect everyone to our work to protect, restore, and sustain the Bay.”

Bailey notes that changes in climate, improvements in water quality, and improvements in fish stocks upon which dolphins feed could be factors in a surge in dolphin sightings. She already has a few underwater microphones in the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers where they meet the Chesapeake Bay listening for the echolocation click sounds dolphins make. The data collected through Chesapeake DolphinWatch will help inform where to put more devices to help understand where the dolphins are going and where are feeding.

“People have been really excited to tell us about their sightings, but there was no easy way to report them before,” said Bailey. “Dolphins are very iconic, and they are in our backyard.”

More information on the DolphinWatch program is available on the UMCES website at www.umces.edu/dolphinwatch. Tag your photos of dolphins to @dolphinwatch_cb on Instagram.

Funding for ChesapeakeDolphinWatch.org was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. http://www.umces.edu

Kenny Rose Joins UMCES Faculty as Professor in Sustainable Ecosystem Restoration

Dr. Kenneth A. Rose has joined the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory faculty as its first France-Merrick Foundation Professor in Sustainable Ecosystem Restoration.

The endowed professorship was established to maintain Maryland’s leadership in restoring our ecosystems in the face of growth and a changing climate. Dr. Rose will apply his expertise toward the restoration and sustainability of Maryland’s environment, including the nation’s largest and most important estuary, the Chesapeake Bay.

“We searched far and wide for someone with Dr. Rose’s scientific breadth and proven record of leadership to fill the Professorship,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Don Boesch. “I am certain that he will he will help our whole community of scientists contribute effectively to restoring ecosystems in a rapidly changing environment.”

Dr. Rose comes to UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory from the College of the Coast & Environment at Louisiana State University, where has been serving as Associate Dean for Research. He previously held the position of Abraham Distinguished Professor. He began his career as a research staff member at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“I am very excited about this opportunity to continue my career working with the faculty and staff of UMCES and with the graduate students in the Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences program. The France-Merrick Professorship gives me an opportunity to greatly expand on existing—and make new—collaborations, and to teach and advise excellent students who are the next generation of scientists in ocean and marine sciences,” said Dr. Kenny Rose. “The Chesapeake Bay is an iconic system to work on, and I hope I can contribute to furthering its effective management and restoration and to exchange lessons learned with scientists, managers, and stakeholders at other ecosystems worldwide.”

Dr. Rose’s research centers on using mathematical and computer simulation modeling to predict and better understand fish population and food web dynamics in estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, and oceans.

“We are delighted to have a world-class scientist like Dr. Kenny Rose join our faculty,” said Mike Roman, Director of UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory. “His vast experience in ecosystem restoration will be a tremendous asset to improving and maintaining the health of Chesapeake Bay.”

Dr. Rose is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Fisheries Society and recently earned an Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement from the American Fisheries Society. He has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed publications and served on more than 30 national and international advisory committees and editorial boards.

He earned is Ph.D. and M.S. in fisheries from University of Washington, and his B.S. in Biology and Mathematics from State University of New York at Albany.

Numerous individuals and foundations matched a $750,000 grant from the France-Merrick Foundation to make the France-Merrick Foundation Professor in Sustainable Ecosystem Restoration possible. The endowment for this fund now stands at more than $1,700,000.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound evidence and advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

Discover the Chesapeake Bay this Summer with Scientists from UMCES

The scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have a deep understanding of Chesapeake Bay, its value to the region, and by extension, to the public. Studying its rises and falls, its comebacks and creatures, has helped them to recommend best management practices to natural resource managers and elected officials that better serve our region, and have made our efforts in restoration world renowned.

Starting Monday, June 5, discover the Bay through the eyes of our scientists with a new YouTube series called “Discovering the Chesapeake.” Our scientists will talk about research studies they’re proud of and the impact they made, popular and oft-overlooked creatures that live in the Bay, and even the marvels of the Bay that have impacted them after years of research in the Chesapeake Bay’s waters and watershed.

Throughout the summer, you can visit the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s page on YouTube every Monday at noon for a new conversation.

Subscribe to our page at http://bit.ly/youtube-umces to receive notifications about new videos.

JUNE SCHEDULE

June 5:
Estuarine ecologist Walter Boynton on the disappearance—and return—of seagrasses in the Chesapeake Bay.

June 12:
Chemist Michael Gonsior on the Chesapeake Bay in relation to its neighbor Delaware Bay.

June 19:
Quantitative ecologist Matt Fitzpatrick on how growing up on in the Bay watershed led him to his research there

June 26:
Fisheries scientist Michael Wilberg on the mighty little fish menhaden.

July schedule to come.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound evidence and advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

Let There Be Light: Underwater Grasses Return to Upper Bay

The Susquehanna Flats, a large bed of underwater grasses near the mouth of the Susquehanna River, virtually disappeared from the upper Chesapeake Bay after Tropical Storm Agnes more than 40 years ago. However, the grasses mysteriously began to come back in the early 2000s. Today, the bed is one of the biggest and healthiest in the Bay, spanning some 20 square miles. A new study by scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory explores what’s behind this major comeback.

“This is a story about resilience,” said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “It’s a powerful example of how organisms in ecosystems once given a chance can make themselves resistant to stresses and changes.”

Underwater grasses are important to the Bay because they provide habitat for juvenile fish and enhance water clarity by trapping and removing sediment from the water. Historically extolled by trophy fisherman and waterfowl enthusiasts as prime wildlife habitat, researchers believe that the underwater grass beds at the shallow Susquehanna Flats began to decline in the 1960s when polluted runoff from a rapidly developing watershed overwhelmed the Bay’s waters with nutrients, causing algae blooms that blocked out much-needed sunlight for underwater plants.

“Underwater grasses are sensitive to water quality so they are a direct indicator of the Bay’s health,” said lead-author Cassie Gurbisz of the Center’s Horn Point Laboratory. “The fact that they came back means something good is happening. It’s important, however, for us to understand how they came back so we can use that information to support restoration in other areas.”

With SAV already stressed by nutrient pollution, it was Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972—a three-day weather event in June that dumped up to 19 inches of rain on the region and an estimated 30 million tons of sediment into the Chesapeake Bay—that was the final blow that destroyed the bed. A torrent of polluted floodwaters and sediment overwhelmed the beds, and the submerged plants virtually disappeared for nearly three decades. That is until the early 2000s when the underwater grasses, also called submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), rapidly recolonized nearly the entire region.

“This was a large and abrupt resurgence. The Susquehanna Flats SAV bed is gigantic–the largest in the Chesapeake, with multiple species of grasses,” said Professor Michael Kemp. “When you’re out on the Flats in summer at low tide, you see these plants at the water surface all around you, and it’s a truly awe inspiring scene.”

It was clear that the extreme flood event following Tropical Storm Agnes triggered the historic demise of the grasses at Susquehanna Flats, however the extended absence of SAV for over 30 years—and the rapid comeback in the last decade—was puzzling to scientists. Researchers analyzed recent and historical data to try to develop a model that explains this resurgence. Monitoring programs throughout the years provided a wealth of information on underwater grasses (since 1958), water quality (since 1984) and even climate-related variables, such as temperature and rivers discharge dating back to the late 1800s.

Researchers found that modest reductions in nutrient pollution to the Bay beginning in the late 1980s had led to long-term improvements to water clarity and the amount of light available for plants to grow underwater. A dry period from 1997-2002 combined with the absence of major storm events provided ideal conditions for new plant growth, and a critical threshold for the amount of light reaching the plants was crossed. As a result, the bed began to expand and colonize deeper water.

“Exceptional growing conditions during the drought period allowed the system to overcome turbid water and served to kick start a rapid resurgence,” said Cassie Gurbisz. “Light availability is the most important factor in the growth of submersed plants.”

Then the plants took over with a process called positive feedback. That is, once given a chance, grass beds can improve their own growing conditions by helping sediment drop to the bottom and stay there (increasing the amount of sunlight that can reach their leaves), and using excess nutrients in the water to grow. The researchers found lower nitrogen concentrations and less turbidity in the grass beds than the surrounding waters.

These feedbacks also affect a plant bed’s resilience, or its ability to resist disturbances such as storms and rebound after they pass. The researchers note that in the decade before Tropical Storm Agnes, the bed was deteriorating. As a result, feedbacks were not very strong and the bed was unable to stand up to Agnes. The present bed is, evidently, more resilient. When major floodwaters flowed from the Susquehanna River in Fall 2011, a portion of the bed was lost. However, the remaining bed has continued to thrive and expand.

“These processes and patterns are not unique to Susquehanna Flats. Similar trends have been suggested for the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Bays and Northern Europe alike,” said Kemp. “Our broader motivation lies in the idea that the methods and models used here can be applied elsewhere to explore similar plant bed dynamics around the world.”

The paper, “Unexpected resurgence of a large submersed plant bed in Chesapeake Bay: Analysis of time series data,” by Cassie Gurbisz and Michael Kemp of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory, was published in the March 2014 issue of Limnology and Oceanography.

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