People Land Water – Review of a 6 Year Study

Fisher and Lewis in Lewis’ farm field.

The Horn Point Laboratory invites you to join a half-day technical meeting, open to the public.  The meeting will review 6 years of data gathered to evaluate the impact of best management practices implemented by farmers to improve water quality.  The meeting will be held on Friday August 9, 2019, from 1-5 pm in Public Hearing Room #110 of the Caroline County government offices in Denton, MD (403 S. 7th Street, Denton MD 21629). Parking is available around the building.

The meeting agenda includes; information on impediments to BMP implementation, a farmer panel reflecting their perspective on BMPs and water quality, and results of water quality monitoring on farms where BMPs are installed, at intermediate streams draining several farms, and at the watershed outlets.

The research project is called “People Land Water” to emphasize that people living and working on the land contribute to the quality of the water leaving the land. Horn Point Laboratory professor, Tom Fisher, and his research team lead this project.  The project is funded by the National Science Foundation, the United States Dept. of Agriculture, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology.  The goals of the research are: (1) to obtain the cooperation of farmers to add BMPs to four small watersheds with long-term monitoring, (2) to evaluate farmers’ attitudes towards BMPs and water quality, (3) to examine the economic efficiency of BMPs, and (4) to test the biogeochemical efficiency of BMPs to retain N, P, and soil on farms and out of groundwater and streams.

Jim Lewis, University of Maryland Ag Extension agent shared this comment about the long-term study, “It increases the confidence of farmers like me that the water quality data being collected by Tom Fisher’s research team is accurate because it is right at the site of our farms on the Choptank River. This is the kind of work on Best Management practice that the farm community wants to collaborate on.”

This meeting is an important element of the overall research project. The team will provide attendees with information they have gathered on the people living and working on the land, and the water quality of these four heavily monitored agricultural watersheds. Project leader, Tom Fisher Professor at UMCES – HPL, “My great hope is that we can figure out which Best Management Practices at least make sense and figure out how to properly compensate farmers to implement the ones that work best.”

Please add this event to your calendar and join the discussion of this project and its results.

For more information, contact Anne (410-221-8238 or abgust@umces.edu).

Register to this FREE program via EventBrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/water-quality-agriculture-in-the-choptank-watershed-tickets-63393297058. Space is limited to 110.

People Land Water Science Team: Tom Fisher, Rebecca Fox, Kalla Kvalnes, Anne Gustafson, Erika Koontz, Jim Lewis, Jon Winsten

Science Bytes with the Horn Point Lab: Learn, Sip & Taste

Dr. Victoria Coles

The Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) invites you to join them for Science Bytes a witty, interactive event where one can learn, sip, and taste.  Join us Thursday, July 18 from 6 to 7:30 pm at Piazza Italian Market in Easton.

These gatherings are make science relevant to our communities available to you in a casual, fun setting.  Join the Horn Point Laboratory’s Dr. Victoria Coles as she shares her most recent research efforts to understand the physical and ecological impacts of changes in extreme events in the Chesapeake Bay. Lab Director, Mike Roman, will interview Victoria and discuss her research taking us back in time over the past century using local weather stations to learn how our weather has been changing – and what models predict for the future.”  Questions are encouraged, and thought provoking conversation is sure to ensue.

Learn, sip and taste at Piazza Italian Market in Easton, MD. Savor wine, beer, and antipasto from Italy. Get to know the scientist behind the science important to our environment, and mingle with old friends and new acquaintances in this casual, local setting.

Tickets are $25/ person.  To register visit https://www.umces.edu/events/science-bytes-july or contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu, 410-221-8408.

Horn Point is offering “Science After Hours” Talks in St. Michaels

The Chesapeake Bay and its rivers are the lifeblood of the Eastern Shore. While many easily recognize the natural beauty Bay country offers, the Horn Point Laboratory is offering “Science After Hours with Horn Point Laboratory,” to make the science of the Chesapeake Bay as accessible as its beauty.

“Science After Hours with Horn Point Laboratory” will be held on November 15 and December 3 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Michaels Branch of the Talbot Co. Library, located at 106 Freemont Street, St. Michaels MD

 21663. Programs include:

Thursday, November 15:  

Dr. Patricia Glibert; “Nutrient Pollution and Water Quality – global insight & local perspective ” This talk will explore nutrient pollution and algal blooms – lessons from around the world, the recent Florida red tide and blooms in the Bay.

Monday, December 3:

Dr. Victoria Coles; “Changing Chesapeake: What’s in store for the Eastern Shore” This interactive talk will go back in time over the past century using local weather stations to learn how our weather has been changing – and what models predict for the future.”

Free and open to the public the forty-five-minute talks will shed light into the mysteries of the Bay and highlight Horn Point Laboratory’s research working to improve the health of the Bay and coastal waters globally.  Questions and participation by the audience are encouraged.

 

Register on line:  https://www.umces.edu/science-after-hours-november, or contact Carin Starr, cstarr@umces.edu or 410-221-8408.

 

Horn Point Laboratory’s Dr. Katja Fennel to Speak at Library June 20

“Gasping for Breath: what is taking the oxygen from our coastal waters?” will be the subject of the free special public talk by Dr. Katja Fennel on Wednesday, June 20 from 4:30 to 5:30 at the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library.  Dr. Fennel’s program will shed light on the culprits, challenges, and possible solutions to the serious problem of oxygen deprivation that impacts our Chesapeake Bay in a big way.

Dr. Fennel is the 14th Ian Morris Scholar in Residence, a recognition presented biannually at the Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) to a leader in marine research.Mike Roman, HPL Director, shared his enthusiasm Katja and her research, “Our Ian Morris Scholar in Residence program gives our graduate students the opportunity to interact with a world-renowned scientist for a week. This year we are fortunate to host Dr. Katja Fennel from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Dr. Fennel is an international leader in the use of models to assess the impacts of climate change and land use on the marine environment.”

The Ian Morris Scholar in Residence is an endowed program to honor the memory of Ian Morris, Director of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) from 1981 to 1988.  In his brief tenure Dr. Morris’ contribution to the successful growth and scientific reputation of UMCES was enormous.  Through the Scholar in Residence program Ian Morris’ legacy continues to have a positive impact on the next generation of science and our local community.

To learn more visit umces.edu/hpl or contact Carin Starr cstarr@umces.edu or 410-221-8408.

Horn Point Laboratory’s Ian Morris Scholar in Residence to Give Public Talk

“Gasping for Breath: What is taking the oxygen from our coastal waters?” will be the subject of the special public talk by oceanographer Dr. Katja Fennel, Wednesday, June 20, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library. Dr. Fennel’s program will shed light on the culprits, challenges, and possible solutions to the serious problem of oxygen deprivation that impacts our Chesapeake Bay in a big way.

Dr. Fennel is the 14th Ian Morris Scholar in Residence, a recognition presented biannually at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory (HPL).  Scholars are selected by the HPL graduate students based on their academic record, field of research and ability to communicate and stimulate scientific excellence in others. During her week in residence, Fennel will give scientific talks to faculty and students, participate in seminars, and share a special public lecture.

Educated in Germany, Dr. Fennel is professor of Oceanography and part of the Marine Environmental Modelling Group at the highly respected Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada. Her work focuses on the use of models as useful tools to advance our understanding of marine ecosystems and the cycling of carbon and other essential elements.

Mike Roman, HPL Director, shared his enthusiasm for Katja and her research, “Our Ian Morris Scholar in Residence program gives our graduate students the opportunity to interact with a world-renowned scientist for a week. This year we are fortunate to host Dr. Katja Fennel from Dalhousie University. Dr. Fennel is an international leader in the use of models to assess the impacts of climate change and land use on the marine environment.Models are increasingly powerful tools for predicting changes in marine environments in response to climate variability and direct human influences.”

The Horn Point Laboratory, has advanced this community and society’s understanding of the world’s estuarine and ocean ecosystems. Horn Point scientists are widely respected for their interdisciplinary programs in oceanography, water quality, restoration of seagrasses, marshes and shellfish, and for expertise in ecosystem modeling. With ongoing research programs spanning from the estuarine waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the open waters of the world’s oceans, Horn Point is a national leader in applying environmental research and discovery to solve society’s most pressing environmental problems.

The Ian Morris Scholar in Residence is an endowed program to honor the memory of Ian Morris, Director of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) from 1981 to 1988.  In his brief tenure, Dr. Morris’ contribution to the successful growth and scientific reputation of UMCES was enormous.  Through the Scholar in Residence program, Ian Morris’ legacy continues to have a positive impact on the next generation of scientists and our local community.

For more information, contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu or 410-221-8408.

New Solar Field and Sustainability Take Center Stage at Horn Point

This spring, the switch was flipped on a new solar field spanning 10 acres on the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory campus. The 11,000 solar panels are expected to generate the equivalent of 50% of the campus’ annual energy consumption.

“The solar field is another example of how we are using innovative ways to reduce our environmental footprint and engage with the community,” said Mike Roman, director of UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory, where scientists engage in world-renowned research in oceanography, water quality, and restoration of seagrasses, marshes and shellfish. “This is a milestone in a long journey to carbon neutrality and non-dependence on fossil fuel.” 

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.

The campus also put the final touches on a new solar canopy over a 46-space, crushed stone parking lot that will offset the cost of four level-II electrical vehicle charging stations. This project is thanks to a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (Second Nature) and has launched a number programs aimed at reducing its environmental footprint, including setting goals for reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions at each of its four 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. UMCES was recently awarded a Mark of Distinction for meeting its 25% Carbon Reduction Goal.  

“Higher education has a key role in shaping a sustainable society. It’s extremely important that we lead by example,” said Peter Goodwin, president of the University of Maryland Center for

Environmental Science. He also serves Vice Chancellor for Sustainability for the 12-institution University System of Maryland. “We are committed as an institution to understanding and the protecting the environment, and we must be a leader finding ways to reduce energy consumption and increase sustainability.”

 

Outstanding Day of Exploration at Horn Point Laboratory’s Open House

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) welcomed over 650 guests to their annual Open House Saturday, October 14.  Free and open to the public, people of all ages explored over 15 hands on exhibits with Horn Point faculty and graduate students giving visitors the opportunity to experience science in real world situations.  The theme for this year’s event was “Bay Strong: Fighting for a clean environment.” A scavenger hunt introduced kids and parents alike to the “super heroes” of the Chesapeake Bay – oysters, marshes, plankton, and sturgeon,and shared how these heroes help make the Chesapeake Bay a healthier place for all of us.  Children received a free t-shirt for completing the scavenger hunt.

Kids rolled up their sleeves to forage in the Oyster Hatchery’s touch tank, finding baby horseshoe crabs, fish, eels, and crabs among the grasses.  The sturgeon exhibit gave visitors the opportunity to observe these prehistoric fish close up and compare other marine life of the Bay to these prehistoric giants growing up to 14 feet in length.

Visitors to the Open House were able to

  • Build a healthy marsh and learned who are our best partners to protect our shorelines.
  • Create and tag a bag of oyster shells to follow through the restoration projects.
  • Match up a DNA sequence to microscopic creatures important to the food chain.
  • Touch a sturgeon whose ancestors date to the Jurassic period
  • Create changing landscapes in a digital sand box to mimic different shorelines and model weather’s impact with laser imaging.
  • Take a “cell-fie” with the plankton that improves water quality.
  • Play a video game to learn what and how the balance of sediment to sea life is achieved.
  • Model the effects of sea level rise, increasing temperatures, and surge impacts on Baltimore Harbor and regional cities in 2050 and beyond.

“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.

From the banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, HPL scientists engage in world-renowned research in oceanography, water quality, restoration of sea grasses, marshes and shellfish, and expertise in ecosystem modeling.

The open house is an annual event geared to all ages.

For more information, visit contact Carin Starr at cstarr@umces.edu, 410-221-8408.

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

UMCES Commits to Generating Solar Energy on Horn Point Campus

Solar renewable energy will soon be generated in Cambridge, Maryland on the grounds of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). UMCES has signed an agreement with Standard Solar, Inc. to install solar field on approximately 10 acres of its Horn Point Laboratory (HPL) campus. The solar field will be a 2 MW system with expected approximate annual generation of 3.5 MWh of solar renewable energy.

“While the work we do here helps others live more sustainably, 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. “Higher education has a key role in shaping a sustainable society.”

The project is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in which the entity, Standard Solar, installs and operates the solar panels in exchange for the use of land, and UMCES agrees to purchase the equivalent energy being generated over the next 20 years from Standard Solar. It is expected that the solar field will generate approximately 50% of the Horn Point Laboratory’s annual energy consumption with anticipated cost savings over the duration of the agreement. 

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is a signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment 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.

Design of the system has already begun on the solar project at the Horn Point Laboratory and construction is expected to begin this summer and be in service by the spring of 2018.

“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.

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

Scientists partner with farmers and landowners to help reduce runoff

fisher 1Professor Tom Fisher wades into the water just past his knees in a creek at South Forge. We’re below a bridge on the edge of a narrow two-lane road that winds past farms and houses in Caroline County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The shallow stream itself runs past a farm, through a patch of woods, and into a large metal outflow pipe that carries the water under the road and eventually into the Choptank River on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

He strings a rope across the stream that hangs a few inches above the water. From there, he holds up a meter stick and takes measurements of the stream’s depth. Then he straps on a device that measures the water velocity of the stream using a long metal pole that he systematically moves across the stream.

On the bank, field technician Michelle Lepori-Bui blows spiders out of a barrel-shaped device that automatically pulls water in from the stream at designated intervals so it can be tested for nitrogen and phosphorus levels, nutrients that are good for crops but bad for waterways. Algae blooms occur downstream in the Choptank and Chesapeake, blocking sunlight and reducing oxygen after the algae settle to the bottom, making it difficult for fish and oysters to survive.

fisher 2The monitoring is part of a five-year project called People Land Water. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Fisher and his team from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory are working directly with farmers and residents on the Eastern Shore to measure the impacts of best management practices like cover crops and steam buffers on water quality. They are looking for the best ways to combat harmful runoff from farms and lawns in the watershed.

“A five square mile area drains to this point,” says Fisher. “The idea was to pick small areas so we could get to know all the farmers and as many of the residents as possible so we have a chance of making a significant increase in best management practices. There are some here already, but we’re trying to add on to that and measure the impact.”

Fisher and his team have been working directly with 25 farmers in Caroline County to implement a variety of best management practices intended to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus running off the land, into streams, and into the Chesapeake Bay. This region has particularly high nitrogen and phosphorus pollution because the dominant land use is agriculture.

fisher 3Maryland has been making progress toward its cleanup goals for the Chesapeake Bay. The latest report card gave the Bay a ‘C’ overall, crediting sewage treatment upgrades, use of winter cover crops by farmers, and reductions in atmospheric nitrogen deposition to moving the needle on restoration. While some tributaries have been improving, water quality in the Choptank River has been on the decline. Fisher and his team are trying to figure out why.

“If we can get 15 best management practices upstream, we can see an effect right here,” said Fisher, pointing to the stream as a truck rumbles by. “We can we see it in terms of nitrogen in base flow, and we can we see it in terms of phosphorus in storm events.”

The group works directly with farmers and residents to implement best management practices, also known as BMPs. For instance, residents can use rain barrels, rain gardens, denitrifying septic systems, and porous pavers to reduce impervious surfaces. Farmers can use cover crops in the off season, controlled drainage structures, and riparian buffers to protect streams from the adjacent land use.

Farmers pay for nitrogen and phosphorus for their crops to increase crop yields, applying it at a rate that is recommended by the State of Maryland. If the nutrients in the field end up in the waterways instead of making corn and vegetables grow big and strong, it not only causes poor water quality, but it is like washing money down the drain for farmers.

fisher 4The People Land Water project also has sociological and economic components. Through annual surveys, Horn Point Laboratory research scientist Kalla Kvalnes is studying whether and how much farmers’ attitudes are changing toward their role in improving water quality. The economic aspect, undertaken by agricultural and environmental economist Jon Winsten at Winrock International, provides information about the relative costs and benefits of management practices.

“I’m hoping it will make a difference in what BMPs are used,” said Fisher. “ I’m fairly certain that’s going to turn into a positive thing.”

For more on the People Land Water project, visit the project blog: peoplelandwater.wordpress.com or look for “People.Land.Water” on Facebook.

Science in the First Person: Jamie Pierson

Jamie Pierson“I study copepods, one of the smallest multicellular animals in the Chesapeake Bay. They are crustaceans, so they are related to crabs, but they eat mostly algae, or single-celled plants.

Copepod means ‘oar foot’ in Greek. They have appendages that act like oars, like on old rowing ships that have paired oars that move at the same time. Fun fact of the day: the study of copepods goes back to Aristotle, who described a parasitic species.

We drag these nets around and filter many cubic meters of water, and then we condense that down into a jar. On average there are a couple of copepods per liter. 

In the lab, we look at their egg production, we look at their grazing rate (how much they are eating), their growth and respiration rate. We’re interested in how those things change with temperature, with food availability, with dissolved oxygen availability, such as in the dead zone in the Bay.

Copepods are right in the middle of the food chain, and that’s why we are interested in what they are doing. You have phytoplankton, which can be measured from space by satellites, at the bottom end. At the top you have fish, which are very important to us.

But the only way you get from phytoplankton to fish—from autotrophs that use sunlight and basic nutrients as the building blocks of life to fish that are economically and ecologically important to us—is through the copepods, because the baby fish and forage fish in the middle eat lots of copepods. That’s how you get from the transfer of the sun’s energy to things that are economically important to us.

The long-term trend suggests that the total amount of copepods available in the Chesapeake Bay has decreased in the last 50 years. It could be because of changes in the types of algae growing due to nutrient inputs or changes in the timing of when the algae peaks.

They could also be affected by how many predators are out there. Jellyfish, larval fish, and forage fish like bay anchovy compete for them. If the conditions are really good for the predators, they can really eat up more of the copepods.”

Jamie Pierson
Biological Oceanographer
Horn Point Laboratory

 

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