Darius Johnson, communications director at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, poses for a portrait near Washington College’s Environmental Hall in Chestertown, Md. (Image by Carlin Stiehl/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Some of our most popular articles from the past year easily reflect the state of the world in 2020. The Chesapeake Bay watershed was not immune from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic or the call for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice reform that echoed across the country. And like so many others around the globe, our readers were looking for ways to get outside and explore nature in 2020. Let’s take a second look at some of the stories that spoke to all of us this year.

Eight ways to the explore the Chesapeake Bay from home

Take the opportunity to explore from home with virtual tours like this one of Otsego Lake, showing Otsego Castle in Cooperstown, N.Y. The tour was made by Terrain360 for Chesapeake Conservancy.

During the first few dark weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, when it seemed as if the entire planet had shut down, people turned to the virtual world for education, distraction and entertainment. We were happy to help by providing eight ways to explore the Chesapeake Bay watershed from your own home. Whether it’s becoming a backyard birder or finding a physical or virtual Chesapeake site to visit, we hope we these ideas made some difficult times a bit easier.

Eight springtime wildflowers you can eat

Often considered weeds in urban settings, plants like violet, dandelion and henbit can be enjoyed as food. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Being stuck at home this year not only made many people interested in learning about what was happening in their own backyards, but it also brought out the inner gourmet chef in many of us. We hope that our guide to some of the edible wildflowers found throughout the Chesapeake region in the springtime inspired some creative recipes—and careful foraging.

Are there dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay?

Dolphins swim along the Rappahannock River in Virginia within sight of the shoreline. (Photo courtesy Beth Henschen)

For years, our most popular blog has been, “Are there sharks in the Chesapeake Bay?”. Well, it turns out that sharks can’t hold a candle to the popularity of dolphins! So yes, Virginia, there are dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay and are often spotted between April and October in the Chester and Potomac rivers and near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. In 2018, Chesapeake DolphinWatch recorded 1,129 sightings.

Centuries-old Susquehanna petroglyphs give history a personal touch

Downstream from Safe Harbor Dam, sunset reveals details in roughly 150 petroglyphs on Little Indian Rock. The site represent the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the northeastern United States. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Petroglyphs are most associated with the Native American tribes that once called the western United States home. But did you know that the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the northeastern part of the country can be found right along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania? Only reachable by the water, this sacred area bears witness to some of the most important history of the Chesapeake region.

A military veteran’s new mission is to restore a stream and help people heal

Jeff Swire, co-founder of Patriots Cove, has turned his private property into a fly-fishing refuge for other veterans and first responders seeking relief and renewed purpose. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

There were no greater heroes in 2020 than our first responders. U.S. Army veteran Jeff Swire wanted to provide a respite in nature not only for our caregivers, but also for the veterans who so bravely serve(d) our country. Through Patriots Cove, Swire has not only improved the environmental health of Beaver Run, a tributary of Bowman Creek, which flows into the Susquehanna River, but also the mental and physical health of our nation’s heroes.

Three Chesapeake beaches reflect the history of desegregation in the United States

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is seen from Sandy Point State Park in June. The beach at Sandy Point remained segregated until the 1954 ruling on Brown v. Board of Education. (Photo by Carlin Stiehl/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Parks, particularly those with water access to escape the sweltering heat, were much in demand across the watershed this past summer. As millions of people across the nation called for social justice reform, we took the time to examine how even the Chesapeake Bay was not excluded from shameful, segregated practices. Four regional beaches were witness to important Black American history, including the eventual Supreme Court case that ruled segregated facilities lacked equal quality.

Fireflies shed light on the benefits of a natural yard

Fireflies flash outside of Sam Droege’s shed during the twilight hours at his property in Laurel, Md., on July 7, 2020. This photo illustration combines 93 exposures made over a 25-minute span. (Photo illustration by Carlin Stiehl/Chesapeake Bay Program)

As we yearned for—and learned to embrace—simple pleasures this year, an article about the classic summer ritual of catching fireflies delighted our readers. Sam Droege, a biologist at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, took us on his journey to document the bioluminescent insect. We examined why the bug lights up and what its early summer arrival says about our changing climate.

Seafood businesses go online to stay afloat

Workers at L.D. Amory & Co. process flounder at the seafood wholesaler in Hampton, Va., in 2019. Unable to sell to restaurants, the company has turned to Facebook to promote direct sales to the public. (Photo by Aileen Devlin/Virginia Sea Grant)

Like many industries in 2020, those who harvest crabs, grow oysters and deliver fresh seafood found themselves having to pivot from their normal business model. Organizations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, like Virginia Sea Grant, quickly jumped into action, helping the industry utilize e-commerce and social media to sell their product directly to consumers. Almost seven months after this article was first published, our local businesses still struggle. Take another look at the companies mentioned here the next time you crave fresh seafood and buy local!

A ferocious predator in a small package

The fisher is a brown furry mammal with black bushy tail and short black legs. (Photo courtesy arianeg/iNaturalist CC BY-NC-ND)

As more and more people sought knowledge about the natural world around them this year, many discovered one of the region’s cutest—and most notorious predators—of the Chesapeake region. Found in coniferous forests along the East Coast from New England to Virginia, fishers are one of the few species to prey on porcupines.

Ten Chesapeake species with unique nicknames

A two-year-old Eastern hellbender, photographed on Oct. 1, 2017, is one of 100 that is being raised in captivity in central New York in order to be released into the Susquehanna River watershed. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Everyone has a nickname—whether it’s a shortened version of your formal name or that one from third grade you’d rather forget. Many species in the Chesapeake are no different. People this year discovered that the whistlepig, lumpsucker and timberdoodle live amongst us.

Still interested in reading more? Check out some of the honorable mentions to our top ten list:

Your favorite 2020 blog didn’t make the cut? Let us know what it is in the comments!

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