(Image by Skyler Ballard)

Marion Clement, executive director of the Maryland Bird Conservation Partnership, listens for bird callbacks during a marsh bird monitoring survey conducted by Maryland Department of Natural Resources at Monie Bay in Somerset County, Maryland, on June 15, 2017.

Along with Otter Point Creek in Harford County and Jug Bay in Anne Arundel County, Monie Bay is a component of Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR). CBNERR Maryland protects and manages the three sites—which encompass more than 6,000 acres of land and water—to serve as living laboratories for research on issues facing the Chesapeake Bay. (Across the state line, CBNERR Virginia manages more than 3,000 acres at four sites.)

With limited nearby development, Monie Bay’s relatively pristine conditions have made it host to numerous studies on the health and function of marshes. Researchers like Clement monitor marsh bird populations to study their current status and document potential changes. Other researchers use surface elevation tables, or SETs, to measure changes in marsh elevation, helping to estimate wetland resilience against sea level rise. Staff and volunteers also monitor water quality, study marsh vegetation and band barn owls.

As a vast, undisturbed natural area, Monie Bay also offers abundant opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, through kayaking, fishing, hiking and more. But due in part to its remote location, public use of the reserve is fairly infrequent. To boost visits to Monie Bay, Clement—through her previous work as a Chesapeake Conservation Corps intern—spearheaded the creation of a network of three water trails. With funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Clement and others installed directional signs down nine miles of tidal creeks, which guide visitors along a unique view of Monie Bay’s salt marsh habitat.

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