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Chesapeake Bay News

Dec
05
2016

Six environmental jobs you might not have heard of

The environmental field is full of jobs that are personally fulfilling and make a difference at every scale. While some—like wildlife biologist or clean water activist—seem obvious, there are some not-so-obvious green collar jobs that have a lasting impact. Here, we’ve pulled together a list of some of those uncommon and unique ways of working in the green sector.

Conservation Corps volunteer

Maryland Conservation Corps volunteers use fencing to protect sweetbay magnolia trees from predation by deer at the site of a wetland restoration on Church Creek in Annapolis, Maryland, on May 3, 2016.

In the spirit of AmeriCorps, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps is a program that prepares young adults looking to enter the environmental field. Volunteers gain leadership and job training through a year of service, for which they receive a stipend. They are assigned to an organization in the Chesapeake region ranging from county governments and museums, to environmental nonprofits and nature centers.

Look for similar opportunities with the Delaware Conservation Corps, Maryland Conservation Corps, New York’s Excelsior Conservation Corps, Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps and Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia. Virginia has a similar program, the Service and Conservation Corps Veterans Crew, for military veterans.

Arborist
Arborists are responsible for managing and maintaining trees in a given area. Some arborists consult with local governments, landowners and utility companies to plant trees that won’t eventually tangle with power lines or require more space than is available. Others take a more hands-on approach and focus on planting and pruning street trees or treating sick ones.

Working with trees is a great way to work in and with communities to create a more beautiful space. In recent years, organizations like Blue Water Baltimore and Washington Parks and People have used job programs centered around trees to help people who live in underserved areas or who were released from prison to gain skills and job experience while benefitting their communities.

LEED credentialed professional

Crewmembers from Intus Windows, based in Fairfax, Virginia, install low-impact triple pane argon-filled windows at the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, on April 15, 2015. Designated LEED platinum in 2015, the center features numerous sustainable features such as salvaged materials, zero stormwater runoff and both wind and solar energy generated on site. It is also the first building in the United States to turn rainwater into potable drinking water.

Construction is a field that is full of careers that affect the environment. Beginning with the architect who designs the building and the forester who manages timber supplies, all the way to the client who maintains the building, each stage of the construction process holds an opportunity to be green. One way to set yourself apart and help the environment is to have LEED certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is a rating system created by the U.S. Green Building Council to determine the environmental performance of a building and encourage more sustainable design.  It is a system that covers almost the entire lifespan of a building, including citing, construction, materials and maintenance. Once construction is complete, a building can become LEED certified if it meets certain standards. When it opened in 2001, the Philip Merrill Environmental Center—the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland—was the first building in the world to receive a LEED Platinum rating.

Having LEED credentials not only helps the environment brick by brick, but can make you more marketable to employers, potentially leading to a higher overall salary. Jobs that benefit from LEED accreditation include: construction managers, architects, landscape designers, facility managers, contractors, tradesmen and engineers.

Energy auditor
While some careers focus on how we create energy, such as solar panel installers or wind turbine engineers, energy auditors focus on how efficiently we use it. They consult with property owners about ways they could improve the efficiency of their home or building.

Energy auditors inspect buildings to determine where energy is being wasted or used inefficiently. After the visit, they provide property owners with advice on upgrades to make to improve the building’s efficiency. Most of the watershed’s jurisdictions—which include six states and the District of Columbia—have residential and commercial energy audit programs, with many of them offering free or discounted energy audits for qualifying residents.

Prescribed burn crew member

Chino Farms in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, uses a controlled fire to manage habitat for northern bobwhite quail.

While it might seem counterintuitive, fire can be used in some places around the region to restore and maintain habitats. However, these aren’t any old fires, and they definitely are not wild. These fires are set and managed by professionals on prescribed fire burn crews. Fires can provide an ecosystem with a number of benefits by helping to return nutrients to the soil, open up dense areas and control invasive species. Being a member of a burn crew is a unique way to help restore important habitat. Programs like the Natural Lands Project in Chestertown, Maryland, use prescribed burns to create habitat for breeding grassland birds.

Entrepreneur

Executive Chef James Barrett, right, and Sous Chef Kurt Peter of the Annapolis-based restaurant Azure, prepare blue catfish at Smallwood State Park in Marbury, Maryland, on April 10, 2014. Blue catfish are an invasive species and were the subject of a "catch and cook" effort encouraging restaurants to serve up the fish.

The green career field has many opportunities for involvement including starting off on your own path. There are opportunities for new and innovative businesses in growing fields like renewable energy, or to combat food deserts by starting an urban farm.

More broadly, green entrepreneurship doesn’t need to include only businesses with titles that include the word “energy” or “conservation.” Green entrepreneurs could do just about anything as long as they have a foundation of sustainability. From aquaculture companies to area chefs, entrepreneurs across the region are incorporating sustainability into their business models. Perhaps you open a restaurant that sources only local ingredients, a bike shop that refurbishes old bikes or a hair salon that uses natural haircare products. Reducing the environmental footprint of your business, and encouraging others to do the same, is a great way to work toward a better environment.


Want to get involved in the environmental field? Our weekly newsletter, Bay Brief, is full of current environmental job openings around the Chesapeake region.

Do you work in the environmental field? Let us know what you do in the comments!

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Dec
02
2016

Photo of the Week: Cows are part of the family at Misty Meadows Farm

Dave Herbst drives a tractor trailer full of visitors through his family’s dairy farm, Misty Meadows, in Smithsville, Maryland on October 2, 2016. The family hosts tours and school field trips to educate people about the work they do and how they care for their cows.

There are currently about 160 cows, mostly Holsteins, being milked at Misty Meadows Farm. They are milked twice a day in a room that holds 12 cows at a time. Before milking, the cows’ teats are cleaned with iodine to kill off any germs and bacteria. They are then wiped off and attached to the milking units which feeds into a large milk tank. Of all of the cows’ milk, about eight to ten percent is used in the farm’s on-site creamery.

When the family living on the farm expanded, they had three choices: farm more land, increase the size of the herd or add a new facet to the business. That is when they decided to build the creamery, which was completed five years ago. There was no more available farmland and Jenny Malott, Herbst’s daughter who manages the herd, wanted to be able to know every one of her cows. Increasing it to the size necessary would mean losing that connection with her cows.

Like most dairies, they use antibiotics, but only as treatment for an animal’s specific problem. That means that only two of their roughly 300 animals were on antibiotics. “They are all my kids,” says Malott, who says she knows each cow by name. “If your kid is sick you’re going to take them to the doctor, and that’s how I feel about my girls.”

Milk from cows that are on antibiotics is dumped, and once the cows are off of the drugs, their milk is tested to be free of antibiotics before it is used for human consumption. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration completed a milk sampling survey which found that over 99 percent of milk tested was free of drug residues of concern.

Learn more about agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay region and check out Misty Meadows Farm Creamery on the Maryland’s Best Ice Cream Trail.

Image by Will Parson

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



Nov
22
2016

Photo of the Week: Chemical contaminants pose invisible threat

Industry lines the Elizabeth River, looking south from the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge in Portsmouth, Virginia. As the site of ports, shipyards and industrial processing facilities—both past and present—the Elizabeth River has faced significant pollution challenges.

One of the most highly polluted waterbodies in both the Bay region and the entire East Coast, the Elizabeth River has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as one of three “regions of concern” in the Bay watershed for chemical contaminants, alongside Baltimore Harbor and the Anacostia River. These chemical contaminants can range from pesticides to pharmaceuticals, metals and more, and can harm the health of both humans and wildlife.

Almost three-quarters of the Chesapeake Bay’s tidal waters are considered impaired by chemical contaminants, according to the most recent estimates. Contaminants can enter the Bay and its tributaries in a multitude of ways: air pollution, agricultural runoff, polluted stormwater and wastewater are all potential sources. These toxics can then be taken up by fish, shellfish, birds and other critters, affecting their survival and threatening the health of humans who use them for food. Cities and states issue fish consumption advisories in areas when there is a concern that locally caught fish could contain chemical contaminants.

Learn more about chemical contaminants in the Bay watershed.

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Nov
22
2016

In wake of flooding, Ellicott City works to recover and adapt

Angie and Michel Tersiguel pose for a portrait in the space of the basement that used to be the wine cellar. Their restaurant on Main St. was forced to close for repairs after the devastating July 30, 2016, flood that hit Ellicott City.

The sound of a phone echoes through three empty floors of a restaurant under construction. Michel Tersiguel’s steps crinkle plastic sheeting on the ground as he walks past stacked tables and empty shelves to the phone hanging on the wall of the entry hallway. His face lights up, “Our phones are working! That’s the first time I’ve heard it ring.” For the first time since floods on July 30, 2016, pummeled historic Ellicott City, Maryland and forced his business, Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant, to close for repairs nearly two months ago, he picks up the phone to say, “Bonjour, Tersiguel’s, may I help you?”

Ed Lilley looks down the under-construction Main Street in his hometown of historic Ellicott City. His family has roots to this community dating back to 1878 and almost all of his professional life has centered around Main St. "I didn't lose possessions or a business but you still feel a loss when you've been here that long," he said.

The Flood

At 7:18 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning as a thunderstorm lumbered east across Maryland. Runoff coursed through the many tributary streams of the Patapsco River that carve down steep slopes around historic downtown Ellicott City.

Walls of water swept down driveways, streets and parking lots in downtown Ellicott City; it filled basements and first stories of buildings and launched cars into shop windows. At some point the bank of a retention pond at the Burgess Mill Station residential development breached, sending the water it was containing careening downhill towards Main Street. Just over six inches of rain fell in only two hours and by 9:00 p.m. the Patapsco rose 13 feet, turning a normally serene river into a tree uprooting, bank-eroding, debris-carrying monster for miles.

Part of a stormwater retention pond was fenced off at the Burgess Mill Station development on September 11, 2016. The bank collapsed during the July 30 floods.

Heroic citizens rescued a woman from her car on Main Street as the water surged around them, but tragedy visited the historic downtown area as well. Jessica Watsula, mother to a 10 year-old, left Portalli’s Italian restaurant after a night out when she was caught in the wall of water that had taken over Main Street. She was swept away and killed by the surge. Joseph Blevins and his girlfriend, Heather Owens, were in her car when the water overwhelmed them. She managed to escape but he did not; his body was found about 8:30 a.m. the next morning on the banks of the Patapsco River.

The large-scale damage on Main Street that the flood left in its wake was immediately apparent: cars belonging to patrons of restaurants like Tersiguel’s piled in the Patapsco River, debris lines that reached past the first story of some buildings and large chunks of sidewalk and building foundations eroded away.

The bridge over the Patapsco River in Ellicott City, Maryland, remained closed September 9, 2016, after stormwater runoff and heavy rainfall made the river rise 13 feet in 100 minutes during the July 30 flood.

Unique Problems

Steep slopes surrounding the historic downtown area that saw the most severe damage, adding a unique and recognizable landscape but also creating challenges during big storms.

Ed Lilley grew up in Ellicott City and has worked on Main Street most of his career. He is a longtime community organizer, sits on the board for the Ellicott City Partnership’s Clean Green and Safe Committee, works at the B&O Museum and was out on Main Street at 6 a.m. the morning after the flood signing up volunteers and taking donations.

“The unfortunate thing for Ellicott City is we are the bottom of the bowl,” he said.

The historic nature of a city founded in 1772 means that some of the development—and therefore impervious surface like roads, sidewalks and buildings—was built before managing stormwater runoff was considered a necessity. Impervious surfaces mean less water can be absorbed into the ground, and as water collects and moves more rapidly runoff becomes more hazardous.

The Tiber-Hudson watershed, which includes Ellicott City, is about 21 percent covered by impervious surfaces. According to Cecilia Lane, stormwater coordinator for the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, “Any more than 10 percent impervious cover in the watershed and you will begin to see impacts.” 

About one-quarter of the Tiber-Hudson watershed is covered by impervious surfaces. (Map courtesy Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning)

“We know that the storm and rainfall was exceptional, and that perhaps the best of systems could not have contained all of the runoff,” said Mary Catherine Cochran, executive director of the Patapsco Heritage Greenway. “But we don’t have the best of systems in place.”

Older developments and private property often have no way to manage stormwater runoff, Cochran explained. And although new developments have some stormwater mitigation in place, it may not be enough. “Even the newest developments have systems in place to handle 100-year floods, but not 1,000-year floods,” said Cochran.

The probability for a storm to bring such a large amount of rain in any given year was 1 in 1000 making it what experts call a 1,000-year storm. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean an event like July 30 will only happen every thousand years—in fact growing evidence shows that potentially flood producing downpours are happening more often.

Downstream

Downstream from Ellicott City, staff at the Patapsco Valley State Park are focused on flood recovery.

Maintenance coordinator Dennis Cutcher has seen the river go through many changes since he first began playing and fishing in it as a child in the 1960s and 1970s. He’s noticed more frequent flooding as more people have moved in and built homes around the river and its tributaries.

Aerial photos show the increases in development in and around the Tiber Hudson Watershed since 1943. (Images courtesy Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning)

“I would say I’m close to it because of the simple fact that I grew up in that river,” Cutcher said. “I played in there since I was a little kid. It’s sort of a part of me if you want to look at it that way.”

          

Dennis Cutcher, maintenance coordinator and park ranger at Patapsco Valley State Park, looks out over the Patapsco River at Bloede Dam September 21, 2016. He grew up playing in the river and has seen it change dramatically as more people move to the area around the Patapsco and its tributaries.

Evidence of the July 30 flood remains apparent.

More than a month after the storm, evidence of a flood still lingered: stray recycling bins, car tires embedded in newly-formed sediment islands, log jams piled high with uprooted trees that once stood 30 to 40 feet tall. Their intricate root systems seemed to grasp wildly in the wrong direction.

A large uprooted tree lays on the banks of the Patapsco about 40 yards from the water on September 21, 2016. It serves as an indicator for how strong and high the July 30 floodwaters got along this stretch downstream from Ellicott City.

“When we get those heavy rains like we had, the river changes from one side to another,” Cutcher said. Sediment gets moved around shifting the flow of the river, vegetation gets washed away thereby destabilizing the banks and new beaches and islands form, which disrupts fish and other wildlife.

A great blue heron walks past a car tire embedded in sediment washed down by the July 30 flood in Patapsco Valley State Park along the Patapsco River on September 21, 2016.

With the slightly above average rainfall that occurred in September, some of the logjams along the Patapsco have broken up, and the debris, including plastics and other trash, is headed downstream towards the Chesapeake Bay.

“As far as how debris affects the Bay, we know that the most persistent debris that will linger is plastic, since it doesn't fully break up,” said Julie Lawson, founder and director of Trash Free Maryland. “It may cause visual blight, but it also can absorb chemicals from the water and be ingested by aquatic life, both obviously negative environmental effects.”

Less visible but still concerning: a sewage overflow released more than 17 million gallons of untreated wastewater over about three days at Sucker Branch, a tributary to the Patapsco.

The July 30 flood swept the clock in downtown Ellicott City into the Patapsco River and it was thought lost until Bobby Barker, a kayaker, found it. It has proven to be a symbol of hope and recovery for the community.

Adaptation is Key

With Ellicott City’s placement directly over a stream and very near a river, floods have been occurring for a long time. The scientific consensus is that they will continue—and, as climate change continues its trajectory, occur with greater frequency.

Future climate projections look at two scenarios: one in which emissions like carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere are significantly lowered, and one that assumes a continued increase in emissions. In the scenario where emissions are reduced, extreme daily precipitation events would occur twice as often from 2081 to 2100 as compared to 1981 to 2000. But if emissions continue to increase, those events would occur up to five times as often.

Local groups and government organizations have been and are working to mitigate the impact of severe flooding. Tom Schueler, founder of the Chesapeake Stormwater Network based in Ellicott City, says adaptation to more frequent flood producing storms and a careful examination of the science behind the flood should be the focus moving forward. Also the county has put in place Clean Water Howard that incentivizes commercial and private property owners to treat or remove impervious surfaces on their land by providing reimbursements for stormwater projects and a reduction in their watershed protection fee.

Without preemptive efforts by Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth or READY, the flood may have been even worse. They employ young people throughout Howard County who work in Ellicott City to maintain stream channels from Route 29 down to the Patapsco River.

The sense of community responsibility and the instinct to rebuild no matter what is apparent in Ellicott City. As of October 20, 2016, forty-four businesses have reopened, including Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant, and another twenty-three have preliminary time frames for when they plan to reopen according to Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s Facebook page.

“No one fights as hard as these business people, and no one enjoys the town as much as those that live here. We have come back from floods, from fire and more floods,” Angie Tersiguel said as she and her husband Michel get their restaurant back up and running again. “We are still here. Striving and working to be the best we can be.” 

Photos and text by Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson



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