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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: March 2011

Mar
16
2011

USDA report shows agricultural conservation practices helping reduce pollution to Chesapeake Bay

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has released a study showing that effective use of conservation practices on farmland throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed is reducing nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay and its rivers.

The study, “Assessment of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region,” quantifies the environmental gains of using conservation practices and identifies opportunities for farmers to reduce even more pollution.

Agricultural conservation practices such as cover crops, conservation tillage and forest buffers help reduce and absorb excess nutrients and sediment before they can run off farmland or soak into groundwater.

According to the study, agricultural conservation practices have reduced edge-of-field sediment losses by 55 percent, surface nitrogen runoff by 42 percent, nitrogen in sub-surface flow by 31 percent and phosphorus by 40 percent.

“This study confirms that farmers are reducing sediment and nutrient losses from their fields,” said Dave White, chief of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Our voluntary, incentives-based conservation approach is delivering significant and proven results.”

The study shows that using additional conservation practices on farmland prone to runoff and leaching could reduce even more nutrient and sediment pollution. Targeting conservation practices in these high-need areas can reduce per-acre nutrient and sediment losses by more than twice that of treating acres with low or moderate conservation needs.

Scientists and officials will use the study results to better focus on priority conservation needs and achieve greater pollution reduction results throughout the Bay watershed.

For more information about the study, visit the USDA's website.



Mar
15
2011

Seven Chesapeake Bay Blogs You Should Read

Blogs have transformed the way people share information. Through blogs, we can instantly share everything from news to photographs to recipes. And since blogs tend to focus on a specific topic, they create a “one-stop-shop” for readers looking for certain types of information. Blogs also allow different perspectives to add their voices to an issue. This makes it interesting to read different blogs on the same topic.

There’s a good chance you came here to the BayBlog to learn about species that live in the Bay, places to visit around the region, and a wide variety of other Bay information. You can learn a lot from reading this blog, but you shouldn’t stop here!

For everything Chesapeake Bay, here are seven other great blogs you should follow. We know we’ve missed some, so feel free to add your favorite Chesapeake Bay blog in the comments!

1. Bay Backpack Blog

Bay Backpack is the first comprehensive online database of Chesapeake Bay lesson plans, field trips, grants and trainings for teachers. The website makes it easy for educators to incorporate Chesapeake Bay-themed lessons into subjects they already teach, including math, English, science and social studies.

For educators and non-educators alike, the Bay Backpack blog is a great source of ideas for how to introduce children to the environment. The blog also contains tips and resources from teachers around the country. The Bay Backpack blog is an essential resource for any teacher who wants to keep up to date on developments in the environmental education field in the Chesapeake region. 

2. B'More Green

Maintained by Baltimore Sun reporters, B’More Green is a great blog to read for the latest Maryland environmental news. Although it highlights many environmental topics in the Baltimore area, much of the blog content is dedicated to issues surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and its local tributaries. Recent articles have touched on topics such as offshore wind turbines, oyster populations, the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” and population growth int he Bay watershed.

3. IAN/EcoCheck Blog

Looking for a more science-focused blog? The University ofMaryland Center for Environmental Science’s Integration and Application Network is a group of scientists who not only study environmental problems, but aim to solve them. The IAN/EcoCheck blog covers a variety of environmental issues, but many posts focus on the Chesapeake Bay. Scientists working to solve Bay health issues have written entries discussing topics such as ecological forecasting, oyster aquaculture and tidal water monitoring.

4. Bay Journal Blog

The Bay Journal is a free monthly publication with in-depth articles about issues and events related to the Chesapeake Bay. Want your information more quickly than that? Then follow the Bay Journal’s blog, where staff regularly post current news highlights. The Bay Journal blog includes many entries that focus on what state and federal agencies are doing to restore the Bay.

5. Bay Daily

Bay Daily, written by staff with the non-profit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, is a great blog to follow for information on many hot Chesapeake Bay topics. Many of the blog entries expose underlying issues and topics you often can’t find in traditional media sources. Bay Daily also highlights volunteer opportunities and ways you can help the Bay.

6. Chesapeake Trips and Tips

If you are interested in getting out and exploring all the history and natural beauty the Chesapeake Bay has to offer, Chesapeake Trips and Tips is for you. Posts let you in on interesting places that are a bit off the beaten path and exciting events that are good for the whole family.

7. Chesapeake Bay Action Plan

Interested in learning everything there is to know about state and federal Chesapeake Bay legislation? Then the Chesapeake Bay Action Plan blog is for you. Written by scientists and policymakers, blog posts highlight laws and regulations on a variety of Bay issues. Follow this blog to keep up with the Bay region’s ever-changing political atmosphere and get a variety of opinions on current laws and regulations.

Is there a Chesapeake Bay-related blog you enjoy reading that isn’t listed here? Let us know in the comments!

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Mar
10
2011

Chesapeake Brrr! What it's like to work on the Bay in winter

You may think being a Chesapeake Bay scientist is a fun, easy job, but have you ever wondered what it's like to work on the water in the middle of winter? U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists Pete McGowan and Chris Guy give you a first-hand account of their experiences on the Bay in the frigid cold. It may be freezing, but as you'll read, they wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

The weatherman is calling for another frigid day with high temperatures just above freezing. Most people have long since winterized their boats and would not dream of boating 20 miles down the South River and across the Chesapeake Bay, putting on waders and plodding through thigh-deep (often ice-topped) water, to see if muskrats are active. But then again most people are not U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists working at the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island, better known (and easier to say) as Poplar Island. We remain very active outdoors even in the coldest of weather.

Before you pity us, let us tell you that winter is often our favorite time to be out working in the marshes and Chesapeake Bay. In fact, while working in the hot and humid days of July and August, we often talk about those cold winter days without mosquitoes and biting flies, when the vegetation has died back and the marsh has frozen, making it easier to walk and do our work. 

Often in the warmer months we are dodging thunderstorms and are rushed in our work because eggs are hatching, the chicks are fledging and everything seems to be coming at once. In the winter things slow down a bit and we can take the opportunity to regroup and prepare for the upcoming nesting season. This is the time of year when we build, repair, and install osprey platforms and bird boxes, and use old Christmas trees to develop snags for egrets to roost and nest upon. The Christmas trees also provide cover and nesting cavities for black ducks.

Boating is a little more relaxed, as you rarely see another boat on the water, and we can move freely without getting in anyone’s way or having them in our way. In this sense, winter is a time to pause and think about what we have accomplished and what we want to accomplish. It is a time of hope and optimism in our efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

This is not to say that winter is an easy time to be a wildlife biologist. During the winter we have the real and ever-present threat of cold, icy water.  Although we do not often speak of it, it is always on our minds. Unlike cars, most boats (including ours) do not have heating; the only heat we have available is that generated by the crew in our 25’ Boston Whaler. Did we mention there is only room for one or two people in the cabin?  This means that on most days the crew rides outside and often has to deal with a formidable wind chill. Even on the calmest of days when the boat is operating at speeds of 25-30 knots, an air temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit equates to a wind chill of 17 degrees. Then there are the days where icing on the gunnels and deck (and at times the crew) from boat spray adds an extra layer of slipperiness to our day. And of course, there is always the task of shoveling fresh snow from the boat’s deck.  Last year’s record snowfall made for lots of shoveling. 

During extreme cold periods when ice forms on the rivers and Bay, trying to get our boat out of the marina can be frustrating.  On many occasions while departing the South River this winter, we have had to break skim ice for miles.  We are always checking to make sure it is not so thick that we will get stuck, or worse, put a hole through the boat’s fiberglass hull. Our boat is supposed to be one that can be cut in half and won’t sink, but who really wants to put that theory to the test in the middle of winter? 

We prepare for the cold mostly by layering on the clothes, with as many as four layers to separate our flesh from the cold elements. Then there is the bulky survival suit with built-in flotation, plus hats, scarves, gloves and heavy boots. All these layers reduce our flexibility, not to mention causing us a bit of discomfort (try carrying around an extra 50 pounds of clothes when you work). Believe us, you need a lot of extra time if you need to use the bathroom! We often joke that the hardest part of our day is getting dressed and undressed.

Winter weather conditions wreak havoc on field gear. Batteries in electronics such as cameras, GPS units and field computers drain faster in cold temperatures. And trying to write field notes can be a bear when your fingers are numb.

Not to be forgotten is that pinhole leak in waders or gauntlet gloves that you can never seem to find and repair, and always seems to get bigger when standing or working in cold water. This makes for extended uncomfortable conditions, particularly when temperatures are near or below freezing. Drying these and other wet field items always takes longer in winter, too.

On a crisp winter day when the air is still, sometimes we just stop and wait to see the world around us. We see the marsh hawks that have come to the Chesapeake Bay for the winter zigzagging around the marsh looking for field mice and voles; what a thrill when they find one!  There are always a few bald eagles around, either perching on an osprey nest or majestically soaring through the air. The great blue herons are always present and never seem to mind the cold. Short-eared owls and the occasional snowy owl will show up in the winter, and it is alwaysa real treat to get a glimpse. Then there are the wintering waterfowl – puddle ducks, diving ducks, bay ducks and sea ducks – as they fly into the Bay and marshes in the thousands.

Winter is an active and lively time on the Chesapeake Bay. It is amazing to think that we have an opportunity to experience something that few others get to, especially considering we are doing it within 40 miles of the Washington/Baltimore metropolitan area. We wouldn’t trade our jobs in any season.

All images courtesy Pete McGowan and Chris Guy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service



Mar
08
2011

Chesapeake Bay featured in National Park Service teaching tool

The National Park Service has developed a teaching tool about Chesapeake Bay history, geology, ecology and restoration as part of its online educational resource Views of the National Parks.

The Chesapeake edition of Views of the National Parks provides readers with a background on the Chesapeake’s natural world, from its geologic formation as an estuary to its diverse species and ecosystems. Chesapeake Views also describes the region’s human history and cultural environment, how it has changed over time, and how people can get involved restoring and protecting it.

A Visit section highlights some of the many places to experience the Chesapeake Bay. Other teaching tools include photographs, maps, a glossary and links to additional resources.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, the National Park Service administers the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, and the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. The Park Service is a Bay Program partner, helping to promote Chesapeake stewardship by connecting people to the region’s natural and cultural heritage.

Visit the National Park Service’s website to explore the Chesapeake edition of Views of the National Parks.



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