UMCES Professor Jeffrey Cornwell Receives Highest University Award

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Research Professor Jeffrey Cornwell has received a 2018 USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Service, the highest honor that the Board bestows to recognize exemplary faculty achievement.

Dr. Cornwell, a geochemist and oceanographer at UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory, was recognized for decades of dedication to community service and his balanced leadership on some of the most challenging scientific questions related to Chesapeake Bay. His research has had national and international relevance for management of coastal natural resources and water quality, and his publications in peer-reviewed journals underscore the influence of his science beyond Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.

“Cornwell is committed to independent and objective science that can inform best management practices within the State of Maryland,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin. “He exemplifies the leadership, collaborative skills, and willingness to apply his work towards solving complex ecosystem issues, such as Poplar Island restoration, understanding the impact of Conowingo Dam, and the role of oyster reefs in reducing pollutants in Chesapeake Bay.”

Dr. Cornwell has led research teams to address critical environmental issues for the State of Maryland and served on numerous advisory committees where he has helped to inform major management decisions made by state and federal agencies.

“Throughout Jeff Cornwell’s career at UMCES he has provided essential service and advice to the State of Maryland regarding the restoration and responsible stewardship of Chesapeake Bay,” said Mike Roman, director of the UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory.

Dr. Cornwell has done pioneering work on oyster recovery programs in Chesapeake Bay and leads ongoing research on the ecological benefits of oysters, demonstrating the importance of oysters in removing excess nitrogen from the Bay and improving water clarity. Serving on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Oyster Best Management Practices Expert Panel, he led a diverse group of scientists and managers who developed the first approved in-water best management practice in Chesapeake Bay that supported efforts to improve water quality and the oyster aquaculture industry. Cornwell’s expertise in oyster filter-feeding, nutrient cycling dynamics, modeling, sediment biogeochemistry, oyster ecology, and population dynamics were instrumental in developing the guidance document, and the group’s calculations and recommendations provide a model for other impacted ecosystems.

He has been key to understanding the impact of dredged material from shipping lanes in Chesapeake Bay, including the conditions under which contaminants are released, and how to use the material to create wetlands or maintain the elevation of existing marshes. Cornwell led a team of scientists studying the establishment of marshes on Poplar Island, a disposal beneficial use of the sediments dredged to maintain efficient shipping to the Port of Baltimore.  Poplar Island now provides essential habitat for a variety of bird species and nest sites for terrapin turtles. His research is fundamental for understanding the successes and failures of the created wetlands and has led to changes in the way wetlands are created.

“It is rare for a person to possess the knowledge, skills and ability to create scientific studies that answer previously impenetrable questions, and to do so in a manner that is collaborative, comprehensible, and easy-going,” said James White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. “Jeff has always been approachable, and he has a way of conveying information that allows everyone from lay persons to fellow researchers to understand the applicable nature of the outcomes of his studies.”

His pre-eminence in the field of fate and transport of sediments and the chemical constituents attached to the particles is also reflected in his appointment to lead a major feasibility assessment of removing sediments from Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. Cornwell was the lead investigator of a team of scientists that provided critical data to the State of Maryland on the type of sediments and pollutants stored behind the dam, how much material enters the Chesapeake Bay under different flood conditions, and how the sediments impact Bay water quality. This information is essential for the State of Maryland to make a sound decision regarding relicensing of the dam, as well as meeting Chesapeake Bay water quality goals. The results were instrumental in helping to inform Chesapeake Bay 2017 Mid-Point Assessment.

Dr. Cornwell joined the faculty at the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory in 1986. Has contributed to teaching and training the next generation of natural resource custodians through his Biogeochemistry course, has served as advisor or co-advisor to 20 graduate students, and mentored 20 Maryland Sea Grant undergraduate REU interns. He completed his B.S. in chemistry at Hobart College and his Ph.D. in oceanography from University of Alaska.

The Board of Regents Faculty Awards publicly recognizes distinguished performance by educators and researchers within the University System of Maryland. Award categories include collaboration, mentoring, public service, teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity. This year’s awards were given by the Chancellor and Board Chairman at the Board of Regents meeting at University of Maryland Baltimore.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is renowned for its groundbreaking research on coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and boasts a number of globally eminent faculty scholars. Dr. Cornwell joins an impressive group of UMCES faculty members who have received Regents’ Faculty Awards in past years, including Drs. Mario Tamburri, Russell Hill, Tom Miller, Andrew Elmore, Keith Eshleman, Patricia Glibert, Rose Jagus, Rodger Harvey, Ed Houde, Michael Kemp, Tom Malone, Margaret Palmer, Allen Place, David Secor, and Diane Stoecker.

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

A Chesapeake Portrait, Painted by Almost a Thousand Words by Tom Horton

Photo by Dave Harp

Combing the beach, I stoop to pick up an essay for my upcoming college nature writing class. It’s a reddish, roundish pebble, tumbling in the clear lapping waves during a campout to the vanished community of Holland Island.

For a couple of centuries, before erosion forced Holland’s people to the mainland, my pebble was a brick, proud and sturdy and eminently useful in its uniform rectangularity for stacking when constructing a home’s foundation with precise edges and level tops.

Made by humans, who have the corner on corners as no other species, the brick has been reshaped by nature, which embraces the rounded, the curved and the meandering, from spiral galaxies and loopy marsh creeks to the shells of whelks.

The brick/pebble thus becomes distilled and refined to a rich essential — to an image — the straight versus the curved, the human versus the natural.

This gives my fledgling essayists a useful lens. Later in the semester we’ll look at farm drainage ditches versus swamps, the former doing one thing very well — whisking rainwater from cropland; the latter doing no one thing spectacularly — just nurturing life in diversity unknown to the ditch and the cornrow.

They may expand their view further, to the pavement and the curb, the gutter and the storm drain, versus the woody debris and leaf duff of the forest floor; they may ponder which of those landscapes, during a downpour, a trout in a stream would most like living next to.

A photograph may be worth a thousand words, but a good word image is worth a hard drive’s worth of photos. Word imagery is especially important when you are writing to explain a six-state, 64,000-square-mile, Atlantic-to-Susquehanna ecosystem like the Chesapeake Bay. Here are a few of the images I’ve found useful over the decades:

The Skinny Bay

From Havre de Grace, MD, to Virginia Beach, the Bay’s about a million feet long — and up to 100,000 feet wide. Yet the average depth is around 21 feet. So many implications flow from that.

Large as it looks, the estuary has scant water to dilute runoff from Cooperstown, NY, to Altoona, PA, to Lynchburg, VA, so how we use the land matters big time for water quality.
This essential shallowness also means that light penetrates to the bottom copiously, growing lush habitats of seagrasses, which support waterfowl and waterfowl hunting cultures and soft-crabbing.

It means that wind pushes water around so easily that it is often more important, ecologically, than the tides. It also also dictates the classic “deadrise” designs of skipjacks and other watermen’s crafts, evolved to make their living in skinny water.

Wet

The Chesapeake ecosystem for most of time is widely understood to have been green, with forests covering most of its watershed. But thanks to the scientific detective work of people like Grace Brush of Johns Hopkins University, we now comprehend how much of the landscape was also wet, dammed and ponded by millions of beavers.

Brush’s work, now in book form — Decoding the Deep Sediments, available from Maryland Sea Grant — shows how prevalent the pollens of aquatic plants are in sediment cores that allow us to look back through what was washing into the Bay in centuries past.

Green and wet. Why does it matter so much? Because that landscape fostered the healthiest Chesapeake, the landscapes we should most try to emulate and restore.

Ask yourself, WWBD — what would beavers do?

Edges

Edges are inherently interesting: the gradations of color and texture that artists employ to draw the eye to the glorious intersections of the seasons, adorned by the great migrations of fish and fowl they trigger.

Life loves an edge. Hunters who prowl the seams where forest meets field know this, as do fishermen who troll the dropoffs from shallows to channels, as do blue herons and egrets, nesting eagles and beachcombers (I prefer “proggers,” the waterman’s term for them).

The Bay, with around 11,000 miles of tidal edges, is at the heart of the heart of this phenomenon. That includes the overwhelming preference of humans to also locate along the edge, drawn by everything from places to discharge waste, cool their power plants and hoist drinks to the sunset.

The search for peaceful co-existence between humans and the rest of edge-loving nature is a fundamental tension that runs through much of my writing.

Ecosystem Services

If you would be popularly read, avoid such terms, but not what they include. Consider the oyster. The revelation in recent decades of their immense values in filtering and cleansing Bay waters has fundamentally changed the way we regard them — not only as a tasty food and commerce by the bushel, but also as sanctuaries for the health of the Bay.

Some scientists say it’s likely that the reefs, built by oysters to form undisturbed, undredged, untonged communities, are at least as valuable for habitat as for their filtration.

And One Last Favorite: Horseshoe Crabs

These marvelous animals are living fossils for whom the rise and fall of dinosaurs was just a short span in the species’ history. When they scrabble onto remote beaches in May and June, with nothing else in the scene but the full moon gleaming on their bronze-colored shells from above, sand and the lapping of saltwater below — that’s as close as you will ever get to traveling back in time half a billion years.

Tom Horton has written about Chesapeake Bay for more than 40 years, including eight books. He lives in Salisbury, where he is also a professor of Environmental Studies at Salisbury University. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Bay Journal.

Information Session on Maryland’s Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Program

The agricultural industry is known for having significant barriers to entry, namely the high cost of farmland and other capital needs, but a newly funded program is available to help bring about the next generation of farmers.

On Thursday, May 3rd, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) and the Maryland Agricultural & Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO) will be hosting a regional information session on the Next Generation Farmland Acquisition Program. This exciting state-supported program – funded for the 2nd year in a row – is designed to help qualified young and beginning farmers secure long-term access to farmland, while also effectively preserving the agricultural land from future development.

This free event is open to the public and will be held at the Talbot Free Library from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm on May 3rd. The information session will include an overview of the new “Next Gen Program”, as well as information on how ESLC and MARBIDCO could help folks secure farmland or obtain additional financial resources to help build their agricultural businesses.

“This program really is on the cutting edge – it helps to both permanently preserve important natural resources, while also assisting qualified individuals with making their way into an industry with relatively high barriers to entry,” said ESLC Policy Manager, Josh Hastings.

The Next Gen Program, administered by MARBIDCO, has an application submission deadline of July 31, 2018 and application forms should be available by May 1st. Come hear how area organizations and agricultural lenders can help the next generation make their dream of farming into a reality. For questions, please contact Josh Hastings at jhastings@eslc.org or 410-251-5268.

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit land conservation organization committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them. More at www.eslc.org.

Former Riverkeeper Tom Leigh to Help Eastern Shore Localities

Tom Leigh, a former local Riverkeeper and Chesapeake Bay Trust program director, has been hired as a clean water expert to counsel multiple Eastern Shore localities. Leigh will provide technical support to four municipalities and two counties as they reduce water pollution. Much like small churches on the Shore used to share a circuit rider preacher, the localities will share Leigh’s expertise on cleaning up local creeks.

Leigh’s position is being funded through a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grants program, as well as matching funds from the six localities and the Maryland Department of the Environment. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) spearheaded the creation of the position, and applied for the grant. Leigh technically will be an employee of CBF during the three-year grant period, but he will directly support the six localities in their efforts to reduce water pollution, and clean up local creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

“This is an exciting beginning of a new model for cooperation and cost savings in cleaning up Eastern Shore water,” said Alan Girard, director of the CBF Eastern Shore Office.

The new position to be occupied by Leigh is one part of a wider collaboration between the localities to reduce polluted runoff from streets, parking lots, and other hard surfaces. This is the only major source of water pollution that is rising in Maryland. Finding ways to reduce runoff once a landscape is developed is challenging. The six localities decided that sharing resources to address this problem is more efficient and effective. The collaborative was born from a series of discussions hosted by local officials and partners called the Healthy Waters Round Table.

The six localities are Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, and the municipalities of Easton, Salisbury, Oxford and Cambridge.

Leigh was a natural choice to serve as a shared expert by the localities. He formerly held positions as a water quality advocate with the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and the Chester River Association. He also worked as the director of programs and partnerships for the Chesapeake Bay Trust, managing a significant portion of the organization’s grant portfolio. Leigh served as an independent contractor for the University of Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology in Queenstown where he developed a compendium of pollution-reduction practices for local governments, organizations and private landowners. Earlier in his career, Leigh also was a project manager for Environmental Concern, Inc. in St. Michaels. He has lived most of his life on the Eastern Shore.

“With Tom’s leadership, CBF will work seamlessly with our partner counties and towns on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to plan, prioritize, and streamline projects that control polluted runoff,” Girard said. “Tom also will leverage new resources. Our goal is to clean our water faster, and to test a model for locally-shared technical service that can be replicated throughout Maryland and beyond.”

This work is made possible by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grants program, which supports efforts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to accelerate nutrient and sediment reductions with innovative, sustainable, and cost-effective approaches.

ShoreRivers Needs Some Help: Development and Event Coordinator Position Available

ShoreRivers seeks a Development and Event Coordinator to join their team and help fulfill our mission to protect and restore our rivers and the living resources they support. The ideal candidate will be an energetic, outgoing individual who is organized, detail oriented, and enthusiastic about the environment and the communities they serve. The position is located in our Easton, Maryland office at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center.

ShoreRivers seeks to protect and restore Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

We have a dedicated staff of educators, scientists, restoration specialists, and advocates focused on policies and projects that will improve the health of our rivers. Our staff includes four Waterkeepers who regularly patrol and monitor our waters and serve as key spokespersons: Chester Riverkeeper, Choptank Riverkeeper, Miles-Wye Riverkeeper, and Sassafras Riverkeeper. Our Waterkeepers and staff are a strong, collective voice for Eastern Shore waterways.

ShoreRivers was created in 2017 when the Chester River Association, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and Sassafras River Association merged. We have more than 3,500 members and supporters across the Eastern Shore who help us achieve our vision of healthy waterways.

For more information please click here

CBEC to host Mid-Eastern Shore Volunteer Fair April 19

A group of nonprofit organizations on the mid-shore have teamed up to organize the first-ever volunteer fair scheduled for Thursday, April 19 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, 600 Discovery Lane in Grasonville. This is a free event and open to the public.

The volunteer fair will be held in conjunction with National Volunteer Week, as an effort to encourage people to lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community. Attendees will enjoy live music, refreshments and the opportunity to connect, one-on-one, with nonprofit organizations that represent diverse community services on the mid-shore.

Throughout the event, each participating organization will have an opportunity for a “pop-up” presentation to briefly explain their mission and its impact on the community, in addition to sharing what volunteer opportunities are available.

“We are seeing an increase in volunteer needs from organizations across the mid-shore, fueling our desire to collaborate with one another,” said Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services, Compass Regional Hospice. “Our hope is to share the missions of our organizations with the public and meet people who are also passionate about the work that we do.”

Julia Schultz, guest services coordinator, Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries, adds “This is a great chance for individuals to meet with local organizations and learn about the many ways they can use their skill sets to make a difference in their own community.”

Participating organizations include Character Counts!, Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, Compass Regional Hospice, Crossroads Community, Animal Welfare League, Haven Ministries and Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries and several more.

For more information or to reserve a table for your organization, free of charge, contact Courtney Leigh, volunteer and adult education coordinator, Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, 443-262-2032, cleigh@bayrestoration.org. Volunteer coordinators interested in future networking opportunities with this collaborative group, contact Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services, Compass Regional Hospice, 443-262-4112, cwilliams@compassregionalhospice.org.

ShoreRivers Hosts “State of the Rivers” Series Across the Shore

ShoreRivers is pleased to invite the community to a series of five State of the Rivers presentations during April and May (offered at different locations for the convenience of our public). ShoreRivers will unveil its 2017 Report Cards for the Choptank, Chester, Miles, Wye, and Sassafras Rivers, as well as Eastern Bay, and lead informative discussions about the results. River Report Cards analyze the data from our extensive water quality monitoring during 2017. Admission to each event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Our Report Cards reflect data collected at hundreds of sites by our scientists, Riverkeepers, and dozens of trained volunteers. The presentations will provide an opportunity for the community to learn about the health, trends, and challenges of our local waterways and how the most recent grades compare to those from previous years.Distinguished keynote speakers will enhance the programs. Our Riverkeepers and staff will also discuss new initiatives being undertaken in 2018, including the new RiverWatch real-time water quality online platform.

STATE OF THE RIVERS SERIES . . .

MILES, WYE AND CHOPTANK RIVERS—Saint Michaels
Keynote Speaker: Senator Chris Van Hollen
April 20, 5:00pm
Sponsored by the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Small Boat Shed
213 N. Talbot Street

CHOPTANK RIVER—Cambridge
Keynote Speaker: Jay Lazar, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
April 26, 5:30pm
Robbins Heritage Center, 1003 Greenway Drive

CHESTER RIVER—Chestertown
Keynote Speaker: John Seidel, Director of Center for Environment & Society
April 26, 5:15pm
Washington College, Hynson Lounge, 300 Washington Avenue

SASSAFRAS RIVER—Cecilton
Keynote Speaker: Nick DiPasquale, former EPA Director of Chesapeake Bay Program
May 3, 7:00pm
Cecilton Fire Department, 110 E. Main Street

WYE AND CHESTER RIVERS AND EASTERN BAY—Grasonville
Speakers: Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Elle Bassett and Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer
May 16, 5:30pm
Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, 600 Discover Lane

For more information, visit shorerivers.org or contact Eleanor Nelson at 443.385.0511 or eleanor@shorerivers.org.

ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education. We work collaboratively with our community yet maintain an uncompromising and independent voice for clean rivers and the living resources they support.

Jerry Harris: A Hunter and Conservationist Who Is “Giving Back” by Kristi Moore

We are strolling with Jerry Harris on his 230-acre farm, Mallard Haven, when a group of ducks suddenly takes off from their marsh hiding spot. Harris, a committed conservationist and hunter, has created the perfect marshland habitat for migrating waterfowl for just this moment.

“Watching the birds come in, how they treat the marsh, how they fly around it, how they call—that whole symphony is quite intriguing to me,” Harris said. “I never tire of that.”

Harris, now 75, fell in love with waterfowl as a young boy when he started hunting, but has long seen the value of conservation over sport. On his farm, you shoot only what you can eat, and not one more. Those values were instilled in him from his first days hunting with his grandfather, Burr Love, at a family hunting cabin in the San Francisco Bay area.

”The first year when I was 11 or so, they felt I was too young to hunt, and so I got to pick the ducks. The second year, I got to wash the dishes, do the cooking, and pick the ducks, and the third year, I got to finally hunt.”

Over the years, Harris hunted with two other men who influenced his values about hunting and conservation: Louis Rapp, an old-time duck hunter and friend of his great uncle, and Ray Lewis, who taught him about the soil management technique Harris uses on his farm today.

“Over a period of 30 to 40 years, I hunted and gained extensive knowledge from all three of these people,” Harris said. “I was extraordinarily lucky to be able to partner with them over my lifetime.”

Living in New York in the early 1970s, Harris would visit Maryland’s eastern shore to hunt geese, and he recognized the area’s bountiful appeal to waterfowl. And to him. Harris, his wife, Bobbi, and their three retrievers, Maddie, Rusty, and Bo, now spend their winters on their eastern shore farmland before flying west to spend summers in Montana.

Even before he retired, Harris decided to devote much of his time to wetland conservation. He has been a member of Ducks Unlimited ever since he started a new Ducks Unlimited chapter as a student at University of California, Berkeley, and he has reached out to a variety of organizations, including Delta Waterfowl, Waterfowl Chesapeake, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and of course, Ducks Unlimited to determine how to best use the funds from the family foundation he and Bobbi set up. Wanting to preserve vital marshlands and “to give back some,” Bobbi and Jerry created a family foundation that dedicates most of its funding to wetland conservation, with a smaller portion going to secondary education.

We’re trying to demonstrate how collectively we can all make this a better place and preserve some of the rich heritage the Eastern Shore—Maryland, Delaware, Virginia—has had from a waterfowl standpoint.

All the lessons Harris absorbed from his hunting friends and experiences have turned him into a teacher for new generations of conservation managers. He thinks of Mallard Haven as a demonstration farm to teach others how they can use their properties to attract more waterfowl and how his moist soil management system attracts waterfowl and feeds their nutritional needs.

The farm is a natural maze of dirt paths, cornfields, wetlands, and a long trench that serves as freshwater storage. Depending on the time of year, it might look like another grain farm in the countryside, but when he wants to beckon ducks, Harris and his farm manager, Sam LaCompte, will flood pockets of his farmland, or impoundments as he calls them. At the end of the season slowly draining the water encourages the growth of smart weeds that provide a diverse, appetizing food source to migrating waterfowl.

“We’re trying to demonstrate how collectively we can all make this a better place and preserve some of the rich heritage the Eastern Shore—Maryland, Delaware, Virginia—has had from a waterfowl standpoint,” he said.

Harris is also helping facilitate a course that shows wildlife managers and leaders how hunting can balance with conservation. He was impressed with a course on the West Coast that UC Davis conducted with Ducks Unlimited and a local waterfowl conservation group, so this past winter, Harris and Dr. Chris Williams, wildlife ecology professor at the University of Delaware, developed and ran a similar course for the East Coast on Jerry’s Dorchester farms.

The first class, which included 10 students, recently ended and Harris considers it a success.

“None had experienced waterfowl hunting or shooting and over that three-day period, they went from 0 to 60 miles per hour. We’ve just seen their review of the program, and it was very exciting to read their comments and how it had changed their perception to the role hunting plays in wildlife conservation,” Harris said. “And that’s our goal—to make sure the future managers and leaders understand the role that hunting plays.”

Harris hopes to keep offering the course, serving as long as he can as a mentor to others, much as he was guided throughout his life.

This year, Horn Point Laboratory will honor Jerry Harris with its 2018 Chesapeake Champion award for his vision and leadership in marshland restoration and conservation. “We could not find a more fitting partner in our efforts to ensure our marshlands are preserved for wildlife habitat and coastal sustainability,” said Mike Roman, Director of Horn Point Laboratory. We are delighted to honor our good friend and devoted educator, Jerry Harris.”

The Chesapeake Champion celebration will be held Friday, April 27th, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Waterfowl Armory, Easton. Tickets are $50, sponsorships are available, and can be purchased online or by contacting Carin Starr at 410-221-8408.

Proceeds from this year’s event will be used to launch a new Marsh Ecology and Restoration Laboratory at Horn Point Laboratory. The new Lab will conduct vital research into the role marshes play in: providing critical habitat for waterfowl, birds, plants and animals; providing green infrastructure to mitigate erosion and flooding; and, filtering pollutants to improve water quality.

Jerry Harris, the Horn Point Laboratory 2018 Chesapeake Champion, talks about running a Dorchester County farm, which, with careful planning and management, turns marshland into a paradise for migrating ducks.

Kristi Moor is the Digital Communications Manager for University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science UMCES.

For more information on the Horn Point Laboratory please go here

 

Washington College is Maryland’s First Bee Campus USA!

Washington College has become the first higher-education institution in Maryland and the 35th in the nation to be designated an affiliate of Bee Campus USA, a program designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators.

“Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of ninety percent of the world’s wild plant and tree species. Washington College is a stellar example of the influence educational institutions can have on their students and the broader community,” said Bee Campus USA Director Phyllis Stiles upon announcing WC’s affiliation. “Their talented faculty, staff, and students offer an invaluable resource for Eastern Shore residents in seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways.”

Students celebrate the first honey harvest at the campus garden from the campus apiary’s bees.

“By studying and supporting pollinators, students are working to realign our culture with natural forces and enhance life on this planet,” said campus garden adviser Shane Brill ’03 M’11, who three years ago helped students install an apiary in the campus garden. “They can trace the path of a bee’s flight back to the energy of the sun and, in the course of that journey, reimagine our place in the world.”

Through a Beekeeping 101 course hosted each spring by the Department of Environmental Science and Studies, students examine bee anatomy, nutrition and colony behavior, and how to establish a hive. They become empowered in the role of “bee ambassadors” for the public, and they volunteer their apicultural skills in the community with the Upper Eastern Shore Beekeeping Association.

In the campus garden, students are hands-on learning not only the mechanics of beekeeping, but also the interconnected relationships between the campus bees and the plants and flowers that sustain them–and which they also sustain—in and near the garden. Last fall, for the first time, students harvested their own honey, collecting about two gallons. And, they’ve participated in pollinator workshops with local community members to further educate people about the vital roles that pollinators play in agriculture, permaculture, and plant and human health.

Beyond maintaining the campus apiary, students involved in the campus garden program implement conservation landscapes that ensure thriving populations of pollinators in a local, resilient food system. They share their research on the college website with a growing inventory of useful plants they cultivate on campus.

In its designation as a Bee Campus, Washington College has committed to minimizing hazards to pollinators by using no neonicotinoid pesticides, and almost no glyphosate herbicide or other potentially dangerous synthetic pesticides. According to Stiles, each certified campus must reapply each year and report on accomplishments from the previous year.

For more information about Washington College’s campus garden and for videos about beekeeping and honey harvest, visit https://www.washcoll.edu/about/campus/campus-garden/.

About Bee Campus USA and Bee City USA

The Bee Campus USA designation recognizes educational campuses that commit to a set of practices that support pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, among thousands of other species. For more information about the application process for becoming a Bee Campus USA affiliate, visit http://www.beecityusa.org/application-campus.html.

Bee City USA® urges local governments, individuals, organizations, corporations, and communities to promote and establish pollinator–friendly landscapes that are free of pesticides.  Since its inception in Asheville, North Carolina in 2012, many cities have been certified across the nation and many others are in the process of preparing applications. For more information about the application process for becoming a Bee City USA community, visit http://www.beecityusa.org/application-city.html.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

New Federal Budget Does Not Contain Funds to Build Oyster Reefs in Maryland

The federal budget recently passed by Congress failed to provide any dedicated money to continue reef construction in either Maryland or Virginia, putting in doubt the future of oyster restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been building oyster reefs in the Bay for more than 20 years, and in recent years it has been a major partner in the state-federal initiative to restore oyster habitat and populations in 10 of the Bay’s tributaries by 2025.

But the omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2018 — approved March 23 and signed the same day by President Trump — marks the second year in a row with no specific appropriation for the Corps to continue reef restoration in the Bay.

The omission threatens to stall work already under way in Maryland’s Tred Avon River. It also jeopardizes future projects in both Maryland and Virginia where the federal government had been expected to take the lead.

Supporters of the oyster restoration effort say they hope the Army Corps can still put some money toward it this year from a $1 billion pot of discretionary funds Congress approved for the Corps’ construction program.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, explained to a group of Bay advocates Thursday that he and others were unable to designate money for oyster restoration in the appropriations bill because congressional rules forbid earmarking funds for anything not proposed in President Trump’s budget.

But he noted that Congress approved more construction funding for the Corps than the Trump administration proposed. Eugene Pawlik, a Corps spokesman, said the total was about double the requested amount.

Cardin expressed optimism that the extra money will prompt Corps leaders to allocate some of those funds toward the effort this year.

The omnibus spending bill did urge the Corps to request funds for Bay restoration in future budgets.

After meeting Thursday with senior Corps leaders for a tour of Poplar Island, a restoration project using dredged material from the Bay, Cardin said that he is “pretty confident” some of the extra money put in the Corps budget will go for oyster restoration.

It won’t be known until perhaps May 22 if that gambit paid off. That’s the deadline for the Corps to submit its work plan to Congress. The plan, due 60 days after the omnibus bill’s passage, will lay out planned expenditures on projects specifically listed in the legislation. The Corps can add some of its extra funds to those projects, as well as spread some money among projects not designated for funding.

Cardin acknowledged that it’s still possible, given the nationwide competition for federal public works funding, that the Corps won’t designate any money for oyster restoration. Before being submitted to Congress, he noted, its work plan must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which also may have a say in the matter.

Bay advocates said that the uncertainty surrounding oyster restoration funding has roots in a controversy two years ago, when Maryland officials put a hold on the Tred Avon project after watermen objected to the Corps’ use of granite to build the reefs there.

“Now, we’re sort of reaping the consequences of those delays and those challenges to the Corps’ efforts, in the fact that there’s no appropriation,” said Allison Colden, a fisheries scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

From the mid-1990s through fiscal year 2016, the Corps had received annual funding for oyster reef construction in the Bay, with the Baltimore District getting a cumulative total of $28.8 million and the Norfolk District $22.1 million, according to figures supplied by Cardin’s office.

In 2014, in recognition of the ecological value of oysters and their reefs to the overall health of the Chesapeake, the Bay watershed states and federal government jointly pledged to restore native oyster habitat and populations by 2025 in five tributaries each in Maryland and Virginia.

The annual funding stream ended two years ago, when then-President Barack Obama requested no money in the Corps’ fiscal year 2017 budget for Bay oyster restoration. That came shortly after the Hogan administration had called on the Corps’ Baltimore District to halt work in the Tred Avon — a request prompted by small group of watermen, who complained to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford about the cost and efficacy of the restoration effort, particularly the methods and materials used.

Watermen objected to the use of granite to build reefs in the Tred Avon and in an earlier restoration project in Harris Creek, another Choptank River tributary. They contended that the stone reefs snagged fishing gear and damaged boats, and that oyster shells are the best surface on which spat, or baby oysters, grow best. Scientists countered that oyster spat will do well on any hard surface in the water, and monitoring on Harris Creek reefs later that year found a much higher density of new oysters growing on granite than on shells.

At the time, Cardin warned that the stoppage could threaten future federal funding for oyster restoration in Maryland. It had immediate impact, as the Baltimore District shifted $1 million it had for that purpose to the Norfolk District. With that extra money, and no major reef construction planned this year in Virginia, the Norfolk District is not yet as strapped.

A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources called the Tred Avon stoppage then a “pause” until the DNR could complete an internal review of the state’s oyster management.

The Hogan administration lifted its hold on the federally funded project, and work resumed in the Tred Avon in April 2017, more than a year after it had been interrupted. Even then, the state insisted that the Corps not use any more granite in constructing reefs. The Corps opted to build the reefs with clam shells from a processing plant in New Jersey, but the contractor couldn’t get enough shells. Only six of the 10 acres of reefs planned to be built that year were completed.

In November 2017, Col. Edward Chamberlayne, the Baltimore District’s commander, made a personal appeal to the DNR’s Oyster Advisory Commission, warning that the Tred Avon project and future federal funding for oyster restoration were in jeopardy if the state did not relent in its opposition to use of stone in building reefs. Oyster shell is too scarce and expensive to be used for such large-scale construction projects, Chamberlayne explained, and there aren’t enough clam shells, either.

Delays and construction interruptions already had added $133,000 to the $11.4 million estimated cost of the Tred Avon project, Chamberlayne said. If forced to continue using only clam shells, he said, it could take another four to five years to finish the job — at that rate, he warned, Congress and Corps leadership may be unwilling to keep funding oyster restoration.

The DNR Oyster Advisory Commission responded by recommending that the Corps be allowed to use stone to finish the Tred Avon reefs. The four acres left from last year were finished in March, but 45 more acres of reefs are planned, and funding is now in question.

“We are still requesting funding through the Army Corps work plan,” said Sarah Gross, spokeswoman for the Corps’ Baltimore District. Officials there have estimated it will cost $3 million to $5 million to finish building reefs in the Tred Avon, after which they are to be seeded with hatchery-spawned baby oysters.

Stephen Schatz, communications director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said the department “is very confident that there is currently adequate funding to continue advancing the state’s oyster restoration efforts and projects.”

“With roughly $7.25 million in state capital funding [for oyster restoration] available and federal funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Schatz continued, “the partners should have enough to complete the work in Tred Avon.”

Schatz furnished documents showing that the DNR had asked Congress to maintain NOAA’s current level of funding for habitat conservation and restoration, including $1 million for oyster habitat restoration. That money goes to seeding and monitoring reefs, not building them.

The Bay Foundation’s Colden said that while she’s hopeful the Corps will allot some money for reef construction this year, federal funding is no longer guaranteed.

“Now, the priority we place on oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay has to compete with Mississippi River flood control and dam operations in the Pacific Northwest,” Colden said. “Before, we had a dedicated pot of funding because it’s been recognized as such a significant project and significant priority.”

While Cardin expects Corps officials to put some of this year’s discretionary funds toward oyster restoration, given the extra money in their budget and a clear statement of congressional intent, he expressed dissatisfaction with having to go through such maneuvers.

“It’s not a very transparent way of doing things,” he said. And he noted that supporters in Congress will have to fight the same battle again later this year, because Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 did not contain any money for Corps reef-building.

by Timothy B. Wheeler

Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal