Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Significant Impacts, 2015

Maryland Sea Grant is making a difference.

Maryland Sea Grant projects have produced significant results that aided fishers, businesses, policy makers, and conservation volunteers in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region.

Here are highlights of our program's impacts and accomplishments in 2015. These summaries describe scientific research; extension and public outreach; and education and communications efforts.

The highlights are grouped by these four broad focus areas in Maryland Sea Grant's strategic plan:

A cornerstone of our program is to continually evaluate and report on the real-world impacts of our projects. These projects are drawn from our annual report for 2015 to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA), one of our major funders. (You can read our reports about our impacts and accomplishments in years before 2015 in a searchable database at NOAA's National Sea Grant College program.)

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

Researchers Identify Tree Species for Riparian Reforestation to Maximize Survival Under Varying Flooding Conditions. Scientists developed a predictive model to help improve the survival of trees planted to restore and conserve riparian forests. This conservation method is being used to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. (Details)

Managing Nutrients to Control Invasion of Phragmites australis in Chesapeake Bay Tidal Marshes. Researchers completed the first multi-factor field study indicating that elevated levels of nitrogen and carbon dioxide in Chesapeake Bay marshes directly facilitate increased rates of invasion of Phragmites, the common reed. The findings indicate that land use managers may limit future Phragmites expansion by limiting nitrogen availability. (Details)

The Role of Winter Plankton Blooms in the Chesapeake Bay Food Web and Striped Bass Fishery. Researchers quantified winter blooms of a dinoflagellate species in Chesapeake Bay that can play an important role in the food web that supports the estuary’s population of striped bass, a commercially important fishery. The research indicated that improved monitoring of the winter blooms could help improve understanding of annual variation in the striped bass population and refine management of this fishery. (Details)

Modeling Studies Provide New Insights On Dam’s Influence on Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay. Researchers used modeling tools to develop novel insights into trends in the accumulation and loss of sediments and nutrients in the reservoir behind the Conowingo Dam, a major hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River. The findings can inform management decisions about the dam in ways that support a multi-state effort to reduce nutrients and sediments in Chesapeake Bay to improve water quality. (Details)

Designing an Effective Public Education Campaign to Reduce Importation of Invasive Species. Maryland Sea Grant and its partners completed a research-based public-education campaign to obtain help from bait shop owners in five Mid-Atlantic states to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species via the marine bloodworm live bait trade. (Details)

Analyzing Microbial Genomes in Streams of Urbanizing Watersheds to Measure Ecosystem Health. Researchers developed a method that uses the taxonomic diversity and abundance of microbial populations to measure effects of increasing urbanization and other environmental stressors on streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. (Details)

STURM Laboratory Established To Study Chesapeake Bay Sediments. This project supported two universities to set up an unusual research facility, the Shear Turbulence Resuspension Mesocosm (STURM). The facility will support research about sediment resuspension and benthic-pelagic coupling (the exchange of material between bottom sediments and the overlying water column) in estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay. The project will help undergraduates from groups underrepresented in marine science to advance in research. (Details)

 

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Commercializing Macroalgae Aquaculture to Reduce Oyster Nutrients. Scientists worked to commercialize their research findings that growing seaweed (Gracilaria macroalgae) and oysters together in Chesapeake Bay can provide an economically valuable crop while improving the Chesapeake’s water quality. (Details)

Quantifying Atlantic Menhaden Population Dynamics Using Historic Tagging Data. Researchers used data from a historic, large-scale fish tagging study to produce new analyses that improved understanding of the population dynamics of Atlantic menhaden and informed sustainable management of the commercial fishery for this species. (Details)

Extension Specialist Helps Maryland Seafood Industry to Enhance Customer Safety and Market Competitiveness. Maryland Sea Grant Extension's Seafood Technology Specialist conducted a variety of programs in 2015 to help the Maryland seafood industry maintain a strong market position and meet federal and state seafood safety requirements. (Details)

Extension Specialist Provides Education and Training to Develop Oyster Aquaculture. A new grant of $49,500 per year for two years allowed Maryland Sea Grant Extension specialist to continue a multifaceted education and training program in collaboration with a diverse team. The program transferred technical skills to watermen, entrepreneurs, and seafood processors needed to establish and expand oyster aquaculture businesses. The training led to economic, employment, and environmental benefits for the Chesapeake Bay region. (Details)

Extension Economist Helps Guide and Inform Chesapeake Fisheries Management and Policies. A fisheries resource economist with Maryland Sea Grant Extension provided expertise and analysis to help inform policies and management for the region’s fisheries and maximize the fisheries’ benefits for these multiple users. (Details)

 

Resilient Communities and Economies

Measuring Effects of Different Shoreline Stabilization Techniques on Sedimentation in the Maryland Chesapeake Bay. A study found that different types of shoreline stabilization techniques in Chesapeake Bay, such as hardened and natural shorelines, are associated with different patterns of local sedimentation. Improved information may eventually help planners minimize harmful effects of human-driven shoreline modifications on water quality and aquatic vegetation. (Details)

Disseminating Models of Land Use and Nutrient Loading in Coastal Bays of the Delmarva Peninsula. Researchers created and disseminated a public, online analytical tool to help land-use managers understand the effects of development on nutrient loading in coastal bays on the Delmarva Peninsula. (Details)

Maryland Sea Grant Extension Hires First Coordinator of Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative. Sarah Wilkins was hired as the first coordinator of the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative (CBSSC). Wilkins will help the CBSSC’s diverse partners to use environmental data collected at seven monitoring sites. The data enables communities to prepare for coastal flooding and other effects of changing climate conditions. (Details)

Planning for the Effects of Climate Change in Maryland. Maryland Sea Grant Extension staff members engaged in several partnerships and outreach projects that promoted increased planning, understanding, and dialogue among local community leaders to prepare for the effects of climate change in the Chesapeake Bay region. (Details)

Business Specialist Helps Shellfish Aquaculturists to Obtain Loans to Support Oyster Growing Operations. The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program (MDSGEP) Aquaculture Business Specialist provided training that helped Maryland oyster aquaculture entrepreneurs to submit successful applications for low-interest loans. (Details)

Watershed Stewards Academy Helps to Improve Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program (MDSGEP) has provided ongoing support for the state’s four Watershed Stewards Academies (WSAs). The academies train community leaders to obtain funding for and lead projects to install stormwater management practices that improve water quality in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. (Details)

Maryland Sea Grant Watershed Specialists Help to Found New Regional Certification for Bay-Friendly Landscapers. Extension specialists continued to help lead an effort to establish a new regional certification for Bay-friendly landscapers. (Details)

A Comprehensive Report on Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding in the Chesapeake Region. Maryland Sea Grant’s Communications team published an in-depth, 72-page report describing the causes and effects of sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay. (Details)

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Book on Salamanders and Environmental Science Is Published and Wins National Recognition. J. Adam Frederick, Maryland Sea Grant’s assistant director for education, participated in a pair of public education projects about salamanders and environmental science. One was Salamander Season, a children’s book written by Frederick that was recognized by an annual national competition for science books. He also appeared in an episode of a children’s TV show about salamanders. (Details)

Aquaponics Used in Public Schools to Teach Interdisciplinary Science. Maryland Sea Grant helped public schools expand the use of aquaponics and aquaculture to teach students to use science and engineering to solve practical problems. (Details)

Maryland Sea Grant Supports Career-Building Fellowships for Graduate Students. Maryland Sea Grant sponsors graduate fellowship programs that train qualified students in marine science through participation in research and policy activities. During 2015, 13 students received support to conduct research projects at seven Maryland institutions, and three students were placed in federal offices as Knauss Marine Policy Fellows. (Details)

Supporting Undergraduate Research and Education on Chesapeake Bay Issues. Maryland Sea Grant funded undergraduates who conducted original research about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed through the Gemstone Honors Program at the University of Maryland. This program is designed to help attract and retain students in science. (Details)

Increasing Training Opportunities for Undergraduate Students From Groups Underrepresented in Marine Science. For a fourth year, Maryland Sea Grant, with support from the National Science Foundation, provided opportunities for undergraduate minority students to participate in a pilot marine science research program in Puerto Rico. (Details)

Video Oral History of Bernie Fowler, a Pioneer of Chesapeake Bay RestorationMaryland Sea Grant’s staff videographer planned and produced eight hours of oral history interviews with former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler about his pioneering role in advocating to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The videos and the edited transcripts represent an important addition to the historical record of Chesapeake Bay environmental science and policy. (Details)

Blogs Inform Readers about Chesapeake Bay Scientific Research and Graduate Education. Maryland Sea Grant launched a new blog, On the Bay, which explores environmental science and its application to improve the Chesapeake Bay. We continued to develop a separate blog, Fellowship Experiences, in which graduate fellows we funded describe their scientific work and professional development. Both blogs reached thousands of online readers. (Details)

 

Project Details

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

Researchers Identify Tree Species for Riparian Reforestation to Maximize Survival Under Varying Flooding Conditions

Summary:  Scientists developed a predictive model to help improve the survival of trees planted to restore and conserve riparian forests. This conservation method is being used to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The model can be used to identify species suited to survive in floodplains under distinct hydrological conditions in Maryland.

Relevance: Riparian (streamside) forests are considered effective at reducing nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay, but many such forests within the watershed have been degraded or removed by human activities. Thus, restoring and conserving riparian forests are priorities for meeting targets for improving water quality in the estuary. Organizations have planted trees to restore these forest areas without guidance about which species can best survive in chosen locations. One result can be high mortality of the replanted trees because they are poorly adapted to tolerate patterns of prolonged or intense inundation. Increasing survival rates could reduce the need for replanting and reduce the cost of restoration projects.

Response: Matthew Baker of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and Molly Van Appledorn, a graduate fellow supported by Maryland Sea Grant, constructed a model that can be used to characterize which tree species are best suited to plant in riparian zones representing a variety of hydrological conditions in Maryland. Planting trees in areas to which they are well adapted can improve their survival. After completing a detailed analysis of stream gauge records relative to plant distributions in Maryland and in Michigan, the researchers conducted field research in four stream basins in Maryland’s Piedmont region. They performed statistical analyses that describe associations among the species’ functional traits; flood frequency, intensity and duration; and other hydrologic and landscape characteristics within the study areas.

Results: Study findings demonstrated the potential for this analytical approach to inform riparian restoration projects and improve understanding of forest floodplain ecology. The approach offers restoration managers a means to tailor restoration efforts to local and regional environmental conditions. The researchers’ hydrodynamic modeling departed from the methodologies used in most ecological studies of floodplain forests. This study appears to be the first to quantify regional patterns of riparian plant trait distributions, account for local variations in floodplain hydrology, and demonstrate that this knowledge can be applied to restoration decisions across different geographic regions. Van Appledorn plans to conduct follow-up work to adapt the predictive model for wider use across the United States.

See more information about this project.

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

Managing Nutrients to Control Invasion of Phragmites australis in Chesapeake Bay Tidal Marshes

Summary: Researchers completed the first multi-factor field study indicating that elevated levels of nitrogen and carbon dioxide in Chesapeake Bay marshes directly facilitate increased rates of invasion of Phragmites, the common reed. The findings indicate that land use managers may limit future Phragmites expansion by limiting nitrogen availability. In 2015, the researchers presented these results at a four-day Phragmites symposium they organized at the Society of Wetland Scientists meeting.

Relevance: In the Chesapeake Bay, invasions of a non-native type of Phragmites australis have altered native marsh habitat. The researchers studied how rates of Phragmites growth and invasion in intact marsh ecosystems would be affected by likely future increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and elevated levels of nitrogen (N) caused by human activities. In Chesapeake Bay, Phragmites invasions threaten to alter habitat for aquatic species like the mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitis), an abundant fish on Bay marshes and a food source that supports many commercially important fisheries.

Response: Maryland Sea Grant supported research by principal investigators Patrick Megonigal and Melissa McCormick of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Thomas Mozdzer of Bryn Mawr College. In a field study, they exposed tidal marsh plots to combinations of carbon dioxide gas and nitrogen-rich flood water. Each plot straddled a non-native Phragmites plant community and the native plant community it was invading. The primary response variable of interest was the rate at which non-native Phragmites invaded.

Results: The researchers found that N, CO2, and N+CO2 clearly increased Phragmites invasion rates in marsh habitats. This suggests that future increases in N and CO2 may make non-native Phragmites more capable of displacing native marsh habitat. However, the research team also found that in the low nutrient marsh under ambient conditions, Phragmites density and biomass did not change significantly. This suggests that altering management practices to limit N and/or CO2 may slow future Phragmites invasions. These data can also be used to help prioritize which marshes can and should be managed. The scientists have advised the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Region 5 (Northeast) about applying these findings to improve management of Phragmites in National Wildlife Refuge marshes managed by USFWS. The researchers’ data also indicate that ecosystems dominated by Phragmites may gain surface elevation more quickly than those dominated by native plants, which may make the Phragmites-dominated marshes more resilient to the effects of sea level rise. Dr. Mozdzer organized a four-day Phragmites symposium held during the 2015 Society of Wetland Scientists meeting. About 100 participants, who included land managers, policy makers, federal agencies, and scientists, heard 42 talks, seven of which featured research supported by Maryland Sea Grant.

See more information about this project.

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

The Role of Winter Plankton Blooms in the Chesapeake Bay Food Web and Striped Bass Fishery

Summary: Researchers quantified winter blooms of a dinoflagellate species in Chesapeake Bay that can play an important role in the food web that supports the estuary’s population of striped bass, a commercially important fishery. The research indicated that improved monitoring of the winter blooms could help improve understanding of annual variation in the striped bass population and refine management of this fishery.

Relevance: The size of the annual recruitment of commercially important fish such as striped bass in Chesapeake Bay depends on a food web that includes phytoplankton, zooplankton, and copepods. Typically resource managers have assumed that algal blooms do not occur during winter months and so have not monitored phytoplankton at that time. However, winter blooms of plankton (dinoflagellates) have been observed in the Chesapeake since the 1970s. The Chesapeake Bay’s dominant copepod, Eurytemora carolleeae, feeds on these dinoflagellates in Chesapeake Bay tributaries where the winter blooms occur. Eurytemora carolleeae are a key food source for larvae of commercially important fish species like striped bass, which spawn in the bay’s tributaries in springtime. These copepods that hatch in winter take three to four months to mature and likely become the prey for striped bass larvae in springtime. Research that describes winter dinoflagellate blooms and the response of predators in the food web that feed on them can potentially inform management of commercial fish populations.

Response: Nicole Millette, a graduate student at Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science who was funded by a Maryland Sea Grant fellowship, estimated the rate at which the copepod E. carolleeae ingests the dinoflagellate Heterocapsa rotundata in winter. The project included an outreach component to provide professional development for high-school teachers and mentoring for their students.

Results: The researchers demonstrated the importance of winter dinoflagellate blooms in the food web that supports striped bass. The researchers found that a winter bloom of H. rotundata dinoflagellates was associated with an increase in the E. carolleeae copepod population the following spring. The researchers also found that E. carolleeae preferentially consumed H. rotundata as prey and, as a result, survival of E. carolleeae nauplii (an early stage of development) increased in winter and abundances of E. carolleeae copepodites (a later stage) increased in spring. The ability to more accurately predict striped bass recruitment may partially depend on a better understanding of winter dinoflagellate blooms of H. rotundata and their effect on E. carolleeae abundance. Researchers offered to share their data with the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

See more information about this project.

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

Modeling Studies Provide New Insights On Dam’s Influence on Water Quality in Chesapeake Bay

Summary: Researchers used modeling tools to develop novel insights into trends in the accumulation and loss of sediments and nutrients in the reservoir behind a major hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River. The findings can inform management decisions about the dam in ways that support a multi-state effort to reduce nutrients and sediments in Chesapeake Bay to improve water quality.

Relevance: The Conowingo Dam hydroelectric facility on the Susquehanna River has became an important focus of scientific study and public interest in an ongoing discussion about effective ways to improve water quality in Chesapeake Bay. Over decades of the dam’s operation, sediments and associated nutrients have accumulated in the reservoir behind the dam. The potential for these to become resuspended and flow downstream poses significant, negative consequences for water quality in the estuary; the Susquehanna flows into the Chesapeake’s head 10 miles downstream of the dam. The dam’s federal operating license is up for renewal, and some citizens have proposed that the new license require new measures, including dredging of the sediments. Future progress in Chesapeake Bay restoration will depend on accurate predictions of how outputs of sediments and nutrients from the reservoir may change over time.

Response:  Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) supported principal investigator William Ball of the Johns Hopkins University and colleagues to develop new statistical modeling of rates of sediment accumulation and loss in the Conowingo’s reservoir. This work was a component in a broader, MDSG-funded project by the researchers to use a state-of-the-art riverine loading estimation method, WRTDS (Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season), to generate models of nutrient and sediment loadings in the nine major tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including the Susquehanna. MDSG funded a graduate fellow and doctoral candidate, Qian Zhang, who made substantial contributions on this project.

Results: The researchers’ modeling offers new information describing historical trends in the Conowingo reservoir’s inputs and outputs of sediments and associated nutrients as the dam has filled and under varying levels of river flow. An important implication for the Chesapeake’s water quality is that the reservoir is trapping less sediment over time as its storage capacity has decreased. The modeling indicated that inputs of suspended sediments and total phosphorus at the reservoir inlet have declined during a recent 30-year period, reflecting the effects of upstream management controls on a variety of sources. However, there was not a corresponding decline in outputs from the reservoir. Although storm-driven scour has been implicated in this diminished trapping, the modeling indicated an increase in output of sediment relative to previous decades that occurred under a range of river flows including ones well below the literature-reported scour threshold. Model results were consistent with monitoring data. The research team presented the findings at scientific conferences; in journal articles, including one in Environmental Science & Technology; and in meetings with agencies studying the Conowingo Dam including the Chesapeake Bay Program Office, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The modeling approaches used in this project are helping to inform – and can be used to calibrate and verify – additional modeling that is underway to quantify temporal changes in the reservoir’s sediment output under differing rates of river flow.  Improvements in modeling informed by this project can improve future decisions about how best to manage the dam and the Susquehanna River Basin in order to help reduce future impacts on water quality in Chesapeake Bay. The results and methods are also applicable to other reservoir systems that may be similarly approaching a state of dynamic equilibrium with respect to sediment storage.

See more information about this project.

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

Designing an Effective Public Education Campaign to Reduce Importation of Invasive Species

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant and its partners completed a research-based public-education campaign to obtain help from bait shop owners in five Mid-Atlantic states to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species via the marine bloodworm live bait trade. Distributors in Maine pack this live bait in algal material and ship it widely. The campaign gave bait shop owners educational materials to share with customers. A survey of the owners indicated that they found the materials persuasive.

Relevance: The introduction of non-native species to ecosystems can cause both economic and ecological harm. The most effective way to prevent introduction is to control the pathways (vectors) through which unwanted aquatic species are introduced into a new environment where they can become a nuisance. Until this project, there had been no coordinated effort to control the live bait vector at a regional scale. 

Response: The project team was led by Maryland Sea Grant and involved Sea Grant extension specialists from the Mid-Atlantic and researchers from multiple institutions. The team developed a public education messaging campaign to change anglers' behavior regarding the live bait vector. The campaign focused on Ascophyllum nodosummarine, the brown algae wormweed used as packing material for Glycera dibranchiate bloodworms, which are widely used as bait. The educational campaign materials encouraged fishers to safely dispose unused live bait and its packing material in the trash rather than dumping it in waterways. Sea Grant Extension delivered educational materials bearing the phrase "Protect Our Fisheries - Trash Unused Worms and Packaging" to 13 bait shops across the Mid-Atlantic. In 2015 the research team conducted follow-up interviews with bait shop owners to evaluate the campaign’s effectiveness. In a separate part of the project, researchers quantitatively characterized the wide range and amount of live macroinvertebrates contained in the bait shipment bags. Project scientists conducted lab studies that demonstrated that treating the contents of the bait shipment bags with water of varying salinities could effectively reduce the number of live organisms. 

Results: This pilot study has provided a wealth of information that could be used to implement a larger-scale intervention study on trade in live organisms, such as bloodworms, that can introduce invasive species to aquatic environments, Bait shop owners who were interviewed expressed enthusiasm for the campaign and agreed that it had value. Most were happy to help distribute the campaign materials, often noting that their businesses depend on a healthy environment. Most thought that anglers would be willing to properly dispose of the packing material if they were informed about the potential problem.

See more information about this project.

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

Analyzing Microbial Genomes in Streams of Urbanizing Watersheds to Measure Ecosystem Health

Summary: Researchers developed a method that uses the taxonomic diversity and abundance of microbial populations to measure effects of increasing urbanization and other environmental stressors on streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The method offers an alternative approach to quantify the resulting impairments in water quality and may be more flexible and cost effective than existing measures.

Relevance: Scientists traditionally have measured diversity of fish and benthic macroinvertebrate species (e.g. mayflies) as indicators of stream health. However, these indicators do not necessarily provide useful information about key ecosystem processes, such as nutrient cycling, that are driven by microbial communities and can mitigate the impacts of disturbances on aquatic ecosystems. Microbial pathogens are also important to human health, and identifying their prevalence and location may have important implications for resource management and planning. However, little is known about how microbial community composition and diversity vary within a watershed and respond to changes in land use. 

Response: Robert Hilderbrand, Stephen Keller, and Alyson Santoro at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science performed genetic analyses of microbe populations collected from 96 stream sites across the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Maryland. Using recent advances in DNA sequencing, the researchers sequenced entire microbial communities at once. This allowed scientists to determine taxonomic richness and diversity. A graduate fellow funded by Maryland Sea Grant, Sarah Laperriere, organized work by three local groups of citizen scientists to collect stream water samples for analysis for this project. 

Results:  The researchers found evidence of the utility of this approach. They identified, for example, correlations between microbial taxonomic richness and specific ecosystem factors of interest, such as dissolved organic carbon concentrations, quality of stream-bottom substrate, and the area of forest and agricultural land in the surrounding watershed.  The researchers did not find statistically significant correlations between microbial richness and the standard, commonly used indices that are based on macroinvertebrate and fish richness. However, the researchers suggest that the microbiome data complement those indices usefully; analyses indicated that the microbes can faithfully repeat stream health assessments as designated by macroinvertebrates. The findings were presented to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Monitoring and Non-Tidal Assessment Division and at an annual statewide meeting on stream monitoring. While the approach requires further testing, it has the potential to greatly expand stream monitoring cost effectively.

See more information about this project.

 

Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses

STURM Laboratory Established To Study Chesapeake Bay Sediments

Summary: This project supported two universities to set up an unusual research facility, the Shear Turbulence Resuspension Mesocosm (STURM). The facility will support research about sediment resuspension and benthic-pelagic coupling (the exchange of material between bottom sediments and the overlying water column) in estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay. The project will help undergraduates from groups underrepresented in marine science to advance in research.

Relevance: The STURM facility was conceived to provide students hands-on experience in researching sediment resuspension and benthic-pelagic coupling. The project funded the University of Baltimore to set up the facility at Morgan State University, Maryland’s largest historically black university. The project is intended to foster collaborations among the two universities and other academic institutions in the state and therefore provide research opportunities to students, including ones from groups underrepresented in marine science. The STURM facility was used during summer 2015 to study the erosion and resuspension of oyster waste and the resulting effects on water quality. Understanding these effects better could help to inform efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

Response:  The facility was set up in summer 2015 at Morgan State’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (PEARL) in St. Leonard, Maryland, and then researchers began using it for experiments. The STURM facility consists of cylindrical tanks (mesocosms) containing water, oysters, and sediments. Motors are used to create turbulence in the tanks to simulate the effects of tides and storms on coastal estuarine environments.

Results: The STURM facility was integrated into PEARL’s research, education, and outreach programs. Elka Porter of the University of Baltimore, the principal investigator on the grant from Maryland Sea Grant to set up the facility, obtained funding from other sources to support undergraduates, including one from an underrepresented group, to conduct summer research using STURM. Morgan State used the facility to collaborate with other Maryland academic institutions, including the University of Baltimore and the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Morgan State and Dr. Porter also worked to incorporate STURM into PEARL’s educational outreach programs; these activities include visits by K-12 school students to the laboratory.

 

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Commercializing Macroalgae Aquaculture to Reduce Oyster Nutrients

Summary: Scientists worked to commercialize their research findings that growing seaweed (Gracilaria macroalgae) and oysters together in Chesapeake Bay can provide an economically valuable crop while improving the Chesapeake’s water quality. The seaweed can remove nutrients created by oyster cultivation from the water and be harvested for use as feedstock or biofuels. Researchers identified investors for the project and formed business plans to implement commercial production of Gracilaria in the estuary.

Relevance: Maryland state agencies have promoted oyster farming in the Chesapeake Bay because of its benefits to the economy and environment. Chesapeake Bay is facing the challenges of excess nutrients, eutrophication, and oxygen depletion. This research project confirmed that growing seaweed (Gracilaria macroalgae) together with oysters reduces the oyster aquaculture’s impact on the environment by removing excess nutrients, and the seaweed grown can be harvested for marketable products. Growing seaweed and oysters together would create jobs and generate additional income for oyster aquaculture businesses.

Response: Following up on their findings about growing seaweed and oysters together, a research team at the University of Maryland, College Park worked to establish what would be the first commercial macroalgae farm in the Mid-Atlantic region. They identified three investors to fund commercial farming of Gracilaria and oysters together. Project leaders worked with Hollywood Oyster Company, one of the largest oyster farms in the State of Maryland, to form a business plan.

Results: Researchers secured grant money to develop the commercial enterprise. Through Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) grants, the State of Maryland invested $90,000, Hollywood Oyster Co. invested $10,000, and Haiyuan Group, a seafood company in China, invested $10,000. In 2015, project leaders were working to secure a location for the commercial farming project to begin. Each acre cultivated is estimated to produce net revenue of $3,300 or more per year. The researchers expect to realize economies of scale and generate higher revenues by growing Gracilaria on additional acres. Project leaders identified another investor anticipated to invest $200,000 to fund the costs of labor and equipment. The researchers estimated that each acre of macroalgae farmed will annually remove 13,500 pounds of CO2, 300 pounds of nitrogen, and 20 pounds of phosphorus, thus helping to ease the problem of eutrophic waters in Chesapeake Bay.

See more information about this project.

 

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Quantifying Atlantic Menhaden Population Dynamics Using Historic Tagging Data

Summary: Researchers used data from a historic, large-scale fish tagging study to produce new analyses that improved understanding of the population dynamics of Atlantic menhaden and informed sustainable management of the commercial fishery for this species.

Relevance: The commercial fishery for Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is the largest on the U.S. East Coast. Menhaden are significant in the food web of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal ocean, serving as prey for species such as striped bass that provide economic value through harvests by recreational and commercial fishers. Resource managers need improved knowledge about the effect of the fishery, which is centered on the Chesapeake Bay, on the sustainability of the menhaden resource both in the estuary and along the Atlantic coast from New England to Florida. New understanding about menhaden population dynamics, including migration and mortality rates, could reduce uncertainty in estimates of stock status and advance ecosystem-based management of the fishery.

Response: Researchers carried out new analyses and modeling using data from a mark-recapture study of Atlantic menhaden conducted during the 1960s and 1970s. More than one million menhaden were tagged and over 200,000 tags were recovered. The researchers used these data and data about the effort and catch of the commercial menhaden reduction fishery to estimate age-based selectivity of the commercial fishery, natural and fishing mortality, and the spatial distribution of menhaden. Unlike previous analyses of this tagging dataset, this project estimated migration among five Atlantic coast zones and accounted for lost tags. The project team provided an education campaign for fisheries managers and the general public. Researchers from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Beaufort Laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) collaborated on the study.

Results: This project supported the development of new, quantitative estimates of menhaden migratory patterns, an improvement over the solely qualitative descriptions provided in previous analyses of this tagging dataset. Among the findings were that fishing mortality was highest in the southern Atlantic region, and fish movement appeared to vary by season and age. These findings informed a stock assessment of Atlantic menhaden prepared by a technical committee for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which manages the fishery. The assessment concluded that the menhaden resource is not overfished nor experiencing overfishing relative to existing biological reference points. The ASMFC subsequently decided in 2015 to increase the total allowable catch by 10 percent over the 2014 level, which was consistent with the stock assessment.   The ASMFC also expressed interest in establishing ecological-based reference points for managing Atlantic menhaden that reflect its role as a forage species (prey for other species). The results of the MDSG research project will be useful for informing future spatial management of menhaden along the Atlantic coast and ultimately to help ensure that the menhaden fishery is sustainable.

See more information about this project.

 

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Extension Specialist Helps Maryland Seafood Industry to Enhance Customer Safety and Market Competitiveness

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant Extension's (MDSGEP) Seafood Technology Specialist conducted a variety of programs in 2015 to help the Maryland seafood industry maintain a strong market position and meet federal and state seafood safety requirements. This work included helping to certify 61 industry members in Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) procedures to improve food safety.

Relevance: Maryland’s seafood industry is essential to the state’s culture, history, and economy. However, crab and oyster processors face considerable challenges, including competition from international seafood distributors. Over the past decade, nearly half of the state’s crab and oyster processing plants have closed. Many of the remaining businesses are small, independently operated companies that lack the capacity to effectively respond to changing seafood markets. For businesses like these, maintaining a high level of product quality and safety is crucial for retaining current customers and expanding into new markets.

Response: In 2015, MDSGEP’s Seafood Technology Specialist continued to oversee the longstanding Maryland Crabmeat Quality Assurance Program (MCQAP). Participating businesses agree to undergo frequent food safety inspections and tests that go beyond what is required by law. In 2015, 12 Maryland seafood processors participated in MCQAP, helping them to remain current and competitive.  The MDSGEP specialist also helped Maryland businesses to comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirement that all seafood-processing plants institute HACCP procedures to reduce food safety hazards. To meet that need, the MDSGEP specialist partnered in 2015 with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the University of Delaware to organize and teach Seafood HACCP training courses to eligible representatives from the seafood industry. Maryland requires that all shellfish shippers complete HACCP training in order to receive business licenses.

Results: In 2015, 12 businesses, or nearly two-thirds of the state’s crab processors, voluntarily participated in the Maryland Crabmeat Quality Assurance Program. A total of 61 individuals from the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond received HACCP training in three courses: Basic Seafood HACCP Course, Seafood HACCP Segment 2, and HACCP for Shellfish Shippers.

See more information about the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program's work in seafood safety.

 

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Extension Specialist Provides Education and Training to Develop Oyster Aquaculture

Summary: A new grant of $49,500 per year for two years allowed Maryland Sea Grant Extension specialist to continue a multifaceted education and training program in collaboration with a diverse team. The program transferred technical skills to watermen, entrepreneurs, and seafood processors needed to establish and expand oyster aquaculture businesses. The training led to economic, employment, and environmental benefits for the Chesapeake Bay region.

Relevance: Bivalve shellfish are important to ecosystem health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and their harvest provides an economic benefit to Maryland fishermen. These waters provide habitat for a multitude of species, and shellfish biofiltration helps sequester excess nutrients that impact water quality. Human activities have reduced historic populations of the Eastern oyster C. virginica by an estimated 99 percent, contributing to the breakdown of the commercial oyster fishery and loss of business income and employment. Leasing of the water column and subtidal grounds to shellfish aquaculturists supports the region’s economy and improves environmental quality.

Response: In collaboration with team members, Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program Specialist (MDSGEP) Don Webster implemented several programs to help rebuild the ecosystem services provided by oysters and the associated industry of watermen and seafood processors. With support from the Philip E. and Carole R. Radcliffe Foundation and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, Webster continued to manage the Oyster Aquaculture Education and Training Program in 2015. Activities included educational meetings and informational publications in print and online. Another continuing priority in 2015 was the Remote Setting Training program, which trains oyster growers in seed-production techniques. Setting systems included nine locations around the state with a total of 32 remote-setting tanks. Mr. Webster also participates on the Maryland Aquaculture Coordinating Council and the Oyster Advisory Commission to develop policy to advance the aquaculture industry.

Results: Through these collaborative efforts, 25 commercial watermen obtained skills to help them transition from wild harvest to shellfish aquaculture. In 2015, the state of Maryland issued 46 additional submerged land leases for oyster aquaculture in the Chesapeake and coastal bays, comprising 400 acres, which raised the total to date to 346 bottom leases covering more than 4,600 acres for aquaculture operations. A total of 60 water-column leases were issued by the end of 2015, totaling 253 acres. Thirty-two leases were granted under a new sanctuary area program, which can reduce risk of oyster theft and adds more shellfish to these waters for biofiltration. Half of applicants for new leases in 2015 were commercial watermen. In the course of applying for shellfishing leases, many watermen and other individuals seek and receive a significant amount of informal advice and information from Mr. Webster and other team members. As of the end of 2015, 130 producers have learned the skills needed to evaluate and start new businesses and expand existing ones. The number of growers who participated in the Remote Setting Program increased in 2015 to 40, up from 31 in 2014. The Horn Point Lab Oyster Hatchery, which is run by a Maryland Sea Grant Extension specialist, produced 250 million spat — up from 186 million the previous year. The total annual harvest of oysters produced by aquaculture in 2015 rose to nearly 48,400 bushels, up from 35,000 bushels in 2014.

See more information about the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program's work in oyster aquaculture.

 

Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

Extension Economist Helps Guide and Inform Chesapeake Fisheries Management and Policies

Summary: For centuries, the Chesapeake Bay has provided benefits to Marylanders, including watermen, seafood processors and consumers, and recreational and sport fishers. A fisheries resource economist with Maryland Sea Grant Extension provided expertise and analysis to help inform policies and management for the region’s fisheries and maximize the fisheries’ benefits for these multiple users.

Relevance: Effective management of Maryland’s commercial fisheries requires a foundation of good science. This includes economic analysis, which seeks to determine the net social benefits of fisheries management decisions. For example, economic analysis provides an evidence-based method to allocate fisheries resources between competing interests.

Response: The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program’s Fisheries Resource Economics Specialist provided scientific review, economic analysis, and recommendations that informed and influenced the direction of fisheries management strategies and policies in the Chesapeake Bay. While serving on the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Committee of Economics and Social Sciences, the specialist helped to draft a request for proposals for a socioeconomic assessment of the menhaden fishery on the Atlantic coast. The study, which began in 2016, will fill key knowledge gaps by characterizing the commercial menhaden fishery and the communities it supports. The specialist was part of the panel that selected the winning study proposal.

As a member of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team, the specialist worked to ensure that economic data and analysis will play a role in evaluating a proposed management strategy to allocate an annual total allowable catch of female and male crabs for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery among three management jurisdictions—Virginia, Maryland and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. The specialist also helped to draft a detailed work plan to complete the evaluation of the proposed strategy by 2017.  Such strategies are intended to achieve goals for the blue crab fishery set out by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Those goals are to maintain a sustainable blue crab population as well as a stable and productive blue crab fishery.

At the request of NOAA Fisheries, the specialist reviewed the scientific basis of a proposed NOAA management action regarding the recovery of Atlantic sturgeon populations in the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, and Chesapeake Bay. The specialist provided feedback on NOAA’s assessment of the impacts on local economies when designating certain areas as critical sturgeon habitat, which can impact harvests of other species.

Results: The expertise of our fisheries specialist guided and informed key fisheries management strategies and policies. The specialist helped to ensure that a socioeconomic study of menhaden fishing would yield the high-quality data needed to allocate the menhaden resource across states and uses (i.e. bait versus reduction fisheries). The specialist helped to draft management strategies to maintain a sustainable blue crab population and a stable, productive crab fishery.

See more information about the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program's work in economics.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies

Measuring Effects of Different Shoreline Stabilization Techniques on Sedimentation in the Maryland Chesapeake Bay

Summary: A study found that different types of shoreline stabilization techniques in Chesapeake Bay, such as hardened and natural shorelines, are associated with different patterns of local sedimentation. This project contributed evidence and understanding of an aspect of ecosystem dynamics that is highly complex and variable. Improved information may eventually help planners minimize harmful effects of human-driven shoreline modifications on water quality and aquatic vegetation.

Relevance: Sixty-nine percent of Maryland’s shorelines are eroding. Erosion rates and coastal flooding are likely to increase due to sea level rise caused by climate change. A variety of shoreline stabilization techniques are used in Maryland’s portion of Chesapeake Bay. But there are few quantitative, long-term data available about how well these techniques control erosion and promote near-shore water quality and abundance of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) — information that is useful to resource managers and land use planners. 

Response: Building on previous studies, researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science collected data from 17 sites in Maryland representing a variety of shoreline stabilization mechanisms. These included riprap, landscaped vegetated shorelines (a.k.a. “living shorelines”), and offshore breakwaters as well as baseline sites with no stabilization. At each site, the researchers measured sedimentation rates and sediment types before and after stabilization techniques were applied and characterized whether the changes observed were likely to increase or diminish SAV growth. In addition, a graduate fellow supported by Maryland Sea Grant, Jia Gao, conducted related research to create an updated wind climate model for the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay, which the research team used to study stabilized shoreline sites.

Results: The researchers made a novel set of findings about associations between different kinds of shoreline hardening and sedimentation patterns. Riprapped and living shorelines appeared to decrease the transport of fine sediments (clays, silts) and organic material from land into the adjacent nearshore waters. Riprap projects also may increase the supply of coarser (sand) sediments to the nearshore when sand is used to fill in gaps in these built barriers. These conditions are beneficial for SAV growth because SAV prefers coarser (sand) sediments to finer (mud) ones as a growth substrate. The study also found that offshore breakwaters promoted accumulation of finer sediments on their landward side, which could prove detrimental to SAV. The researchers documented a range of sedimentation responses associated with variations in local conditions. By identifying a range of variability and uncertainty in these responses, this project has identified important questions for further study. The scientists presented these findings at national scientific meetings and a regional summit on living shorelines and to the Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO) Modeling Workgroup. In addition, Cindy Palinkas, one of the co-principal investigators, is participating in a CBPO project to produce a revised technical synthesis report about SAV restoration in Chesapeake Bay. This project’s findings will inform a section of the report about effects of land use, including shoreline hardening, on SAV. Jia Gao’s modeling work is relevant to refining existing models to predict the effects of sea level rise and wind conditions on erosion rates along the estuary’s shorelines.

See more details about this project.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies

Disseminating Models of Land Use and Nutrient Loading in Coastal Bays of the Delmarva Peninsula

Summary: Researchers created and disseminated a public, online analytical tool to help land-use managers understand the effects of development on nutrient loading in coastal bays on the Delmarva Peninsula. Maryland Sea Grant cosponsored workshops at which scientists presented the model to state and local officials. The researchers used feedback they received from the officials to improve the model’s usefulness.

Relevance: Local and county land-use managers on the Delmarva Peninsula (containing portions of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) face decisions on land use, development pressure, agricultural operations, and population growth in watersheds. Presently, these officials have limited information allowing them to relate these decisions to resulting nutrient loads and ecosystem responses in the peninsula’s coastal bays.  Decision-support management tools like the one developed in this project may also help officials meet Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) targets for water quality in the bays.

Response: In this multi-year project, researchers supported by the Sea Grant programs of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia developed three coupled models and adapted them to make them easy to use by non-scientists. A Nutrient Loading Model (NLM) represents effects of changes in watershed land use, population sizes, and agricultural activities on nutrient loading in the Delmarva bays. A Lagoon Ecosystem Model (LEM) describes the coastal bay ecosystems at a coarse scale across all lagoons and at a finer scale within specific bays. A Virtual Eelgrass Model (VEM) describes eelgrass growth in the bays. The research team adapted the models to include a number of land uses and to include parameters for regionally important nitrogen inputs from chicken production byproducts, septic systems, and tomato production. Principal investigator Lora Harris of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory worked in collaboration with graduate student Jessica Foley, a Maryland Sea Grant fellow, to expand the VEM to include reproductive processes and a seedling-specific growth rate sub-model. This work underscores the importance of modeling the effects of increasing water temperatures and rising sea level that are predicted to result from future climate change.

Results: The researchers released the coupled models in August 2015 for use by local and county planners and other stakeholders. As of February 2016, the stand-alone NLM spreadsheet and user’s guide were downloaded 134 and 180 times, respectively, and the online NLM-LEM was accessed 146 times. In the spring of 2015, co-principal investigator Harris participated in a meeting of Maryland coastal bay managers who are constructing policy to guide potential commercial harvest of macroalgae from the northern bays of Maryland. The researchers used the coupled models to evaluate various scenarios and provide preliminary guidance on whether to harvest macroalgae. In addition, the researchers submitted a section on estuarine models that was published in the "Encyclopedia of Estuaries."

See more details about this project.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies 

Maryland Sea Grant Hires First Coordinator of Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative

Summary: The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program hired Sarah Wilkins as the first coordinator of the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative (CBSSC). Wilkins will help the CBSSC’s diverse partners to use environmental data collected at seven monitoring sites more effectively. The data enables communities to prepare for coastal flooding and other effects of changing climate conditions. 

Relevance: During the last century, the relative sea level has risen more than a foot in the Chesapeake Bay. In part to capture such changes, federal, state, and private entities collect long-term data at monitoring stations around the Chesapeake Bay. These environmental datasets are potentially invaluable to communities and managers who need to anticipate and prepare for the predicted effects of climate change, particularly more-frequent coastal flooding and more-intense storms.

Response: Maryland Sea Grant hired a Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative Coordinator to bring partners in the CBSSC together around the common issue of flooding and sea level rise to better anticipate and mitigate their impacts. The partners include local, state and federal agencies, as well as academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, local communities, and regional organizations. Sentinel sites in the collaborative collect long-term data, including marsh elevations, water levels, water quality, and vegetation type and distribution. The coordinator will ensure that CBSSC partners achieve their objectives to share and disseminate data, visualizations, and other information that can inform management decisions about sea level rise and coastal flooding. The position is funded through a grant from NOAA to Maryland Sea Grant, with additional support from the University of Maryland Extension and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Chesapeake and Coastal Service.

Result: Having a full-time, permanent coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative ensures that the partnership continues to grow in new ways and that the wealth of data available about the region is put to the most beneficial use possible. The coordinator facilitates collaboration between the Cooperative’s Sentinel Sites and partners and helps to identify and fill gaps in the data. The coordinator’s work will help the CBSSC’s diverse partners, including Maryland coastal communities and decision makers, to better understand how sea level rise and inundation impact the Chesapeake Bay’s invaluable wetland communities.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies

Planning for the Effects of Climate Change in Maryland

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant Extension staff members engaged in several partnerships and outreach projects that promoted increased planning, understanding, and dialogue among local community leaders to prepare for the effects of climate change in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Relevance: Maryland faces a documented set of environmental challenges from the effects of a changing climate. These include (but are not limited to) rising sea level in Chesapeake Bay, with associated risks of more-frequent coastal flooding and erosion, and increasing average water temperatures and acidification in the estuary. The environmental challenges carry economic consequences such as costs of flooding damage to homes and public infrastructure. Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) is playing an important role in helping Maryland decision makers carry out the expectations in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, a multi-state consensus document that influences efforts to restore the estuary and its watershed. This document was revised in 2014 to include a new section requiring planning for the effects of climate change.

Response: MDSG Extension’s Coastal Communities Specialist engaged in a variety of capacity-building and outreach activities to help local communities adapt to these effects. Examples in 2015 include:

- MDSG collaborated with North Carolina’s and South Carolina’s Sea Grant programs, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, and Kent County, Maryland, to begin a VCAPS project in Maryland. VCAPS (Vulnerability, Consequences, and Adaptation Planning Scenarios) is a structured planning process to help local governments improve coastal resilience. Our Extension coastal specialist helped Kent County to successfully apply for funding for this project from the state’s coastal program, trained project partners, and conducted initial interviews and workshops with community participants.

- MDSG was a core participant in the Eastern Shore Coastal Resilience Partners effort, which brings together practitioners from key organizations interested in coastal resilience work on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The partners worked to develop a plan for delivering to Eastern Shore communities a consistent message and suite of resources to engage communities in climate resiliency dialogue.

- MDSG’s Director and the Extension coastal specialist served on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Climate Resiliency Work Group, which is assessing regional climate impacts and developing projects to address them. MDSG’s Director also served on the Maryland Climate Commission’s Adaptation and Resilience Working Group.

- The coastal specialist worked to engage the Latino community on climate resilience, working with the Town of Riverdale, Maryland, and the American Planning Association’s Latinos and Planning Division.

- At the national level, MDSG provided training at the annual meeting of the National Adaptation Forum, a group of professional adaptation practitioners. And MDSG’s coastal specialist became the Extension representative from University of Maryland for USDA’s Northeast Climate Hub.

- MDSG Extension hired another Extension specialist as coordinator of the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative. She will work with the cooperative partners to use environmental data they collect and to assist communities and managers to better understand and plan for coastal changes associated with climate change. (See separate Impact statement for further details.)  

Results: All of these efforts helped to advance multi-partner projects to help communities and leaders plan for and adapt to a range of impacts in Maryland caused by changing environmental conditions related to climate change.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies 

Business Specialist Helps Shellfish Aquaculturists to Obtain Loans to Support Oyster Growing Operations

Summary: The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program (MDSGEP) Aquaculture Business Specialist provided training that helped Maryland oyster aquaculture entrepreneurs to submit successful applications for low-interest loans. Applicants obtained $185,000 in new loans from the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO), funding shellfish aquaculture businesses as well as remote-setting operations to produce juvenile oyster “seeds.”

Relevance: The Chesapeake Bay oyster fishery plays a highly valued role in the culture and economy of Maryland. However, overfishing and disease have caused oyster populations in the estuary to decline to below 1 percent of their estimated historic numbers. Besides providing new jobs, shellfish aquaculture establishes an alternate source of income for traditional wild oyster harvesters. Oyster growing also restores a valuable ecosystem service: the capacity of shellfish populations in local waterways to improve water quality by consuming excess nutrients. Recent changes in regulations governing bottom culture and water-column aquaculture have made it easier for Marylanders to obtain leases for oyster-growing operations.

Response: Despite the advancement of aquaculture in Maryland, the state’s wild oyster harvesters still face considerable challenges in transitioning to careers in aquaculture. In order to succeed in the industry, commercial watermen need to learn how to launch and manage for-profit businesses. To that end, MDSGEP's Aquaculture Business Specialist has provided training and assistance since 2011 to aquaculture entrepreneurs. In 2015, the specialist also continued a partnership with MARBIDCO, a quasi-public corporation, to provide low-interest loans to Marylanders seeking to launch aquaculture operations and develop remote setting capability. The specialist worked with these entrepreneurs as needed to help them apply for and receive MARBIDCO loan guarantees.

Results: MARBIDCO, with assistance from MDSGEP specialists, has funded 62 oyster aquaculture projects in 10 Maryland counties since 2011, including 28 bottom culture, 27 water column, three remote setting, and four mixed projects. In 2015, the Aquaculture Business Specialist provided direct assistance to two applicants who secured $55,000 in loan commitments. Working with MARBIDCO, the specialist consulted on a total of four applications that secured $185,000 in loan commitments. To date, the specialist has contributed direct assistance to 30 applications to MARBIDCO, which approved more than $3.6 million to support the Maryland oyster aquaculture industry. Growing operations supported by loans have begun to produce market-size oysters.

Learn more about this work by Maryland Sea Grant Extension.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies 

Watershed Stewards Academy Helps to Improve Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay

Summary: The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program (MDSGEP) has provided ongoing support for the state’s four Watershed Stewards Academies (WSAs). The academies train community leaders to obtain funding for and lead projects to install stormwater management practices that improve water quality in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The newest Academy, in Cecil County, graduated its first group of stewards in December 2015. Eight new participants joined the Cecil Academy in 2015.

Relevance: Stormwater runoff from developed areas contributes roughly a fifth of the nitrogen and phosphorus and half of the sediment that enters the Chesapeake Bay watershed from Maryland. Under a federal and state effort to clean up the Bay and meet water-quality targets called the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), jurisdictions in the watershed are required to cut these contributions to local waterways. Officials estimate that the cost of such efforts will likely be in the billions of dollars.

Response: In 2015, MDSGEP’s Watershed Restoration Specialists continued their support and technical assistance for Maryland’s three existing Watershed Stewards Academies and worked to further develop a new, fourth one. The academies use an innovative “train-the-trainer” model to educate community leaders how to find funding for and install stormwater management practices. These “master” watershed stewards complete 45 to 60 hours of classroom and field training. This culminates in both class and capstone projects, which may include installing rain and conservation gardens or rain barrels.  The newest academy is located in Maryland’s Cecil County — the first such program on the state’s Eastern Shore. Also in 2015, the St. Mary's County Government in Southern Maryland increased the local University of Maryland Extension budget to include a permanent part-time position to coordinate a WSA program in the county under the direction of the Regional Watershed Restoration Specialist.

Results: In 2015, nine participants in the Cecil County Watershed Stewards Academy completed training, while a new class of eight participants entered the program. In 2015, new stewards in Cecil County helped to implement stormwater management practices that treated 18,384 square feet of impervious area. During the time they worked on their capstone projects, the Master Watershed Stewards in Cecil County obtained grant funds totaling nearly $6,800 to complete their projects and engaged more than 1,300 students and adults. To date, over 300 stewards have been certified as Master Watershed Stewards, who completed more than 100 stormwater site assessments and installed over 60,000 square feet of small-scale stormwater practices. Master Watershed Stewards have engaged nearly 32,000 residents across the four programs.

Learn more about the work of the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program to support the development of the Watershed Stewards Academies.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies

Maryland Sea Grant Watershed Specialists Help to Found New Regional Certification for Bay-Friendly Landscapers

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant Extension watershed specialists continued to help lead an effort to establish a new regional certification for Bay-friendly landscapers. The Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional certification will increase the pool of highly qualified conservation landscape professionals in the Chesapeake watershed and enhance the marketability of their services.

Relevance: Under a federal-state restoration effort, towns and cities in Maryland are required to reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment they contribute to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Local governments encourage and subsidize landscaping-based restoration practices, such as building rain gardens or installing rain barrels, to remove pollutants from stormwater. However, to produce the greatest benefit, these small-scale stormwater practices must be properly designed, installed, and maintained

Response: Maryland Sea Grant Extension watershed specialists partnered with the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC) to establish a new certification program for landscapers, slated for initial piloting in 2016. The Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional certification establishes a common curriculum and testing framework to certify a pool of highly skilled landscape professionals. Participation could reduce duplication of training across the region and enhance the marketability of services provided by CBLP-certified landscapers. The program will be integrated into existing training provided by county governments and community colleges. The new certification will also align with the Maryland state stormwater manual and be consistent with existing trade association certifications.

Results: Watershed specialists served on the CCLC Board of Directors, assisting in several key actions to move the new certification toward piloting and launch. Specialists helped to plan and facilitate a meeting of stakeholders to develop the certification program and reviewed and summarized the advisory committee’s findings. A specialist also led the search committee to hire two coordinators to help manage the certification program, and also helped recruit an author to write a manual on how to maintain small-scale stormwater practices, such as rain gardens.

 

Resilient Communities and Economies 

A Comprehensive Report on Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding in the Chesapeake Region

Summary:  Maryland Sea Grant’s Communications team published an in-depth, 72-page report describing the causes and effects of sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay. We provided the report to key policy makers and opinion leaders across Maryland. The report is a comprehensive primer on a significant problem for the state.

Relevance: Maryland is especially vulnerable to the effects of rising seas. The rate of relative sea level rise in the Mid-Atlantic region exceeds the global average.  Other media in the Chesapeake region had published articles about sea level rise, but our project’s content was broader and deeper and focused on science. This project was consistent with the National Sea Grant College Program’s strategic focus on coastal resiliency. 

Response: Maryland Sea Grant’s magazine Chesapeake Quarterly teamed up with a partner, Bay Journal — an independent newspaper that reports on the Chesapeake Bay region to jointly publish a series of articles in print and online about sea level rise. The partnership published 17 articles and multiple illustrations in print and online. In 2015 Maryland Sea Grant compiled all of this content into a single package as a special, comprehensive print report. The articles explained causes of sea level rise and its impacts on residents and the environment; the content also described responses planned or underway, such as flood gates and improved forecasts of storm surges. The material was presented in a journalistic fashion for a general audience. 

Result: Maryland Sea Grant distributed the printed compilation to 75 leading Maryland state lawmakers and officials at Maryland state agencies concerned with the Chesapeake Bay. We also distributed the report to more than 100 people who specifically requested copies when they visited the home page of the online version. The report received praise from readers who valued the quality of information presented. The project was recognized as a best practice by our National Sea Grant Site Review Team evaluation in 2015.

Download the report here (scroll down).

Or visit the multimedia website containing contents of this report.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Book on Salamanders and Environmental Science Is Published and Wins National Recognition

Summary: J. Adam Frederick, Maryland Sea Grant’s assistant director for education, participated in a pair of public education projects about salamanders and environmental science. One was Salamander Season, a children’s book written by Frederick that was recognized by an annual national competition for science books. He also appeared in an episode of a children’s TV show about salamanders.

Relevance: Educators continue to seek effective ways to excite the interest of school students in science. That can be a particular challenge in the area of environmental science, which is not taught consistently in many public schools. In Maryland, an additional challenge is to engage the interest of students who may live far from the Chesapeake Bay about the estuary and its large surrounding watershed.

Response: J. Adam Frederick, Maryland Sea Grant’s assistant director for education, co-wrote a book, Salamander Season, with nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis. The book describes the story of a young girl and her scientist father as they participate in a science project about salamanders on a cold, rainy, spring night. They follow hundreds of these amphibians as they venture into a vernal pool to mate and lay eggs. Together, the father-child team studies the salamanders through their complete natural life cycle and amphibian metamorphosis, which culminates in late summer when the pools dry up and the adult salamanders return to the woods. The book is presented as a nature journal kept by the girl and includes easy-to-understand text, photographs, and drawings. A concluding section of the book, "For Creative Minds," offers detailed information about the salamanders and the environmental biologists who study them. The species highlighted in the book is the yellow-spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), which is found in the eastern United States from Maine to Georgia and in parts of the Midwest. Frederick’s book uses these salamanders as a topic to teach an important theme in biology — symbiosis. The book describes a symbiotic relationship between this species of salamander and a species of algae. The algae grow in salamander egg sacs, and the growing salamanders benefit as the algae increase oxygen and provide nutrition from photosynthesis; they may also remove waste generated by salamander eggs. In a separate project, Frederick appeared as a guest scientist to discuss yellow-spotted salamanders in an episode of “Aqua Kids,” a syndicated television program for school students about marine and environmental science. 

Results: Salamander Season was named a Commended Book in the Children’s Science Picture Book category in an annual competition, the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is a cosponsor of the annual competition. A total of seven books received the honor. The book was also named a Best Book of the Year by the Bank Street College of Education.

More information about Maryland Sea Grant’s efforts in K-12 education.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Aquaponics Used in Public Schools to Teach Interdisciplinary Science

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant helped public schools expand the use of aquaponics and aquaculture to teach students to use science and engineering to solve practical problems. Staff members helped lead a week-long professional development summer workshop to train teachers in aquaponics, in which fish and plants are raised in recirculating closed systems. In 2015, students at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute built a new aquaponics laboratory, the largest such facility in a Baltimore City school.

Relevance: The new Next Generation Science Standards encourage teaching approaches that emphasize crosscutting themes and provide students opportunities to conduct project-based research, through which students learn scientific content and methods. Science educators face large challenges to provide these learning opportunities and to promote science literacy and competency among students. Maryland Sea Grant uses aquaculture and aquaponics projects to provide teachers and students with these learning opportunities. 

Response: Maryland Sea Grant’s (MDSG) assistant director for education, J. Adam Frederick, and Extension specialist Jackie Takacs have developed a teaching model called Aquaculture in Action. In 2015, 12 public-school teachers from four public school systems in Maryland attended a week-long workshop run by Frederick and Takacs based on this model. Grant funding for the workshop and equipment was provided by the University of Maryland Extension and the Bay Watershed Education and Training (BWET) program of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. The teachers toured and heard presentations at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore. Each teacher learned the basic principles of aquaculture by constructing a 240-gallon recirculating tank system for use in his or her school. MDSG arranged to supply fish for these operations (white perch and shad) and conducted school site visits to make recommendations for the placement and set-up of the aquaculture systems and for their integration into classroom instruction. MDSG also advised teachers at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute on designing and building an aquaponics lab. Approximately 115 Poly students donated time to do carpentry and plumbing to set up four tanks, each holding 200 gallons, and associated equipment. The tank systems are used to grow tilapia; the fish waste is recycled to grow plants like lettuce and basil. The students conduct science experiments to study principles of chemistry (maintaining water quality), physics (water flow), and biology (the life cycles of fish). All of these skills and concepts are effective for learning about environmental science. 

Results: The Aquaculture in Action teaching model is used in 23 schools in eight Maryland counties and Baltimore City. Participating teachers are sharing information about aquaculture instruction through webpages maintained by MDSG. Baltimore Polytechnic was one of the first schools in Baltimore City to set up an aquaponics laboratory. The use of aquaponics to teach science is also growing across the United States. Frederick and colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University collected some of the first comprehensive data on how many students are being taught with this method and how much it costs. Results were published in the European Journal of Health & Biology Education in 2015.

More information about Maryland Sea Grant's work in K-12 aquaculture education.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Maryland Sea Grant Supports Career-Building Fellowships for Graduate Students

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant sponsors graduate fellowship programs that train qualified students in marine science through participation in research and policy activities. During 2015, 13 students received support to conduct research projects at seven Maryland institutions, and three students were placed in federal offices as Knauss Marine Policy Fellows.

Relevance: Training future scientists is critical for developing a scientifically literate workforce that will investigate environmental issues, translate scientific information into forms useful to society, and help policymakers craft informed decisions.

Response: Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) supports highly competitive research fellowship programs and the Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. In 2015, the research fellowships supported included the Maryland Sea Grant Research Fellowships and the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Fellowships. These research fellowships provide students the freedom to exclusively pursue their own research projects without the additional time commitment of teaching courses or doing unrelated research work for their advisors. The Knauss Fellowship gives students opportunities to work in the legislative or executive branch of the U.S. government in the Washington, D.C., area in a one-year paid fellowship. MDSG created the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Fellowships in 2015 and selected three inaugural fellows for it. Their research projects examined resilience in several aspects relevant to the Chesapeake Bay region; these projects measured effects of ocean acidification on blue crabs, sedimentation dynamics in the upper Bay near a major hydroelectric dam, and the environmental benefits of green roofs. MDSG fellows described their scientific and professional growth in posts they wrote for a blog, Fellowship Experiences, on MDSG’s website. Each fellow is asked to produce one or more blog posts per year describing their research or aspects of their graduate experience. Fellows are encouraged to treat these posts as a professional development activity to prepare them as future working scientists to share their research and insights with non-scientists in an engaging, effective way. In 2015, MDSG edited and posted 12 of these blog posts. 

Results: During 2015, MDSG supported 13 research fellows and three policy fellows. Research fellows studied topics including the production of methane in Chesapeake Bay bottom sediments, modeling the distribution and growth of menhaden, collecting new data about fishing pressure on blue crabs, and modeling riparian buffers. MDSG has highlighted contributions by fellows in separate impact statements about the projects on which they worked.

Learn more about graduate fellowships supported by Maryland Sea Grant.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Supporting Undergraduate Research and Education on Chesapeake Bay Issues

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant funded undergraduates who conducted original research about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed through the Gemstone Honors Program at the University of Maryland. This program is designed to help attract and retain students in science. Sea Grant funded four undergraduates to travel to Barcelona, Spain, and present their research at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meeting.

Relevance: Numerous reports have called for American colleges to produce more graduates with direct experience in conducting research. These opportunities can help create a scientifically literate citizenry and workforce.

Response: Gemstone students at the University of Maryland are members of a learning community comprised of students, faculty, and staff who work together to enrich the undergraduate experience. In their fourth year, each team of students presents its research to experts in the form of a thesis. Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) funded students to study various issues relevant to understanding and restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Among the projects during this reporting period:

- The Bass Project: Students investigated the effects of contaminants in poultry litter on gonadal development in male largemouth bass in Chesapeake Bay tributaries. MDSG funded four students from this group to travel to Barcelona, Spain, for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meeting in May 2015. They presented a poster on their research and attended a student/mentor “professional development” lunch.

- Snakehead Analysis via Investigation and Organic Reaction (SAVIOR): Students examined genetic diversity in the invasive northern snakehead based on analyzing tissue collected from snakehead in the Potomac River; they also surveyed fishers about their attitudes about catching the species (e.g. would they be more likely to fish for it if they could receive a bounty.)

- Cattail Applicability To Toxin Adsorption In Lakes and Seas (CATTAILS): Students investigated whether seed-head fibers from common cattail species differ in their ability to absorb oil and serve as a useful tool for cleaning up oil spills. The students considered how this ability varies with environmental factors such as water temperature, water salinity, and wave action and investigated whether cattail fibers can be manipulated physically and chemically to create a viable product to extract spilled oil from marine environments.

- Suburban Optimization of Green Roof Efficiency and Economic Inquiry (SO GREEN): Students worked to design an effective green roof to be installed on existing sloped roofs; green roofs are more commonly installed on flat roofs. Green roofs – which include plants, soil, and drainage layers – create a living ecosystem, reduce stormwater runoff, and help to reduce air-conditioning costs.

Results: The students presented their research findings at a theses conference and colloquia and gained valuable experience in research.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Increasing Training Opportunities for Undergraduate Students From Groups Underrepresented in Marine Science

Summary: For a fourth year, Maryland Sea Grant, with support from the National Science Foundation, provided opportunities for undergraduate minority students to participate in a pilot marine science research program in Puerto Rico.

Relevance: Many federal policy makers and scientific societies have called for increasing the diversity of students pursuing education and careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in order to create a globally competitive workforce. To achieve this goal, academia must create opportunities for college students not traditionally represented in STEM fields. Providing a chance for students from underrepresented groups to experience the scientific method can inspire them to pursue careers in marine research. 

Response: Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) used funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide education and training opportunities for students from populations that are underrepresented in marine science. One of these projects was a multi-year effort to form partnerships with universities in Puerto Rico to create a pilot summer program for research and education for undergraduates. In 2015, 13 students from Puerto Rico’s Universidad del Turabo (UT) participated in a one-week summer research workshop to introduce them to marine science. The workshop included studying bioluminescent lagoons in Puerto Rico. MDSG Director Fredrika Moser and scientists from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science traveled to Puerto Rico to teach and provide mentoring. All 13 students presented their research findings at the end of the week in oral presentations in English at a UT symposium for faculty members, students, and the students’ parents. In addition, students were educated about applying for internships, graduate school, and undergraduate research training programs in the continental United States.  

Results: By providing the participating students an intensive research experience, the program helped to encourage them and build their confidence to apply for marine science educational opportunities.

See more information about this project.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Video Oral History of Bernie Fowler, a Pioneer of Chesapeake Bay Restoration

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant’s staff videographer planned and produced eight hours of oral history interviews with former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler about his pioneering role in advocating to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The videos and the edited transcripts were added to an archive of Senator Fowler’s papers at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland. They represent an important addition to the historical record of Chesapeake Bay environmental science and policy. 

Relevance: Former Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler has played a leading role since the 1970s in calling attention to the declining ecosystem health in the Chesapeake Bay and the need for governments and other organizations to take steps to restore these waters. These efforts grew out of his concerns about the declines in water quality, seagrasses, and fish life that he witnessed growing up and working along the Patuxent River, a tributary of the Chesapeake that flows through the Southern Maryland region that Fowler represented. Launching his first political campaign with a pledge to fight for restoration of the river and the Bay, Fowler led a historic three-county legal revolt that used new scientific findings to force the state of Maryland and the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce flows of poorly treated sewage into the river. To focus public and political attention on water quality problems, he created in 1988, and still leads, an annual and well-attended “Wade-in” on the banks of the Patuxent.  His success along the Patuxent provided a model for the creation of a science-based Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. Since he remains eloquent and deeply informed about the history and course of political and scientific efforts to restore Chesapeake waterways, it became clear that an oral history would be a valuable way of recording for posterity key highlights of the history and his role in it. 

Response: Maryland Sea Grant’s staff filmmaker, Michael Fincham, conceived of this oral history project in collaboration with the Calvert Marine Museum. Fincham recruited five interviewers who in separately recorded segments asked Fowler questions about his life and career. The segments covered the important roles he played in issues such the politics of policy making, educational planning, land use planning, and the struggles and successes behind environmental restoration of the Chesapeake ecosystem. 

Result: The resulting videos and edited transcripts were shared with the Calvert Marine Museum where they will be included in an archive of Senator Fowler’s papers that will be available to future historians and writers. A highlight video was produced featuring the interview and discussion between Senator Bernie Fowler and his long time friend and collaborator, Walter Boynton, a marine ecologist with the Chesapeake Bay Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The video will be featured at the laboratory’s Visitor Center.

 

Effective Environmental Science Education

Blogs Inform Readers about Chesapeake Bay Scientific Research and Graduate Education

Summary: Maryland Sea Grant launched a new blog, On the Bay, which explores environmental science and its application to improve the Chesapeake Bay. We continued to develop a separate blog, Fellowship Experiences, in which graduate fellows we funded describe their scientific work and professional development. Both blogs reached thousands of online readers.

Relevance: A variety of audiences in the Chesapeake Bay region need unbiased, accurate, and engaging information about environmental science and how it can be applied effectively to restore the Bay. Few media organizations consistently fill this niche. In addition, graduate students can benefit from the professional-development experience of writing blog posts for non-scientific audiences, which allows them to learn a method to make their current and future research relevant to diverse audiences.

Response: In 2015 Maryland Sea Grant built on its long tradition of providing journalistic feature writing to a broad audience of scientists and non-scientists. We started a new blog on our website called On the Bay. This blog features regular posts by three writers on MDSG’s communications team. In addition, the communications team continues to edit a separate blog, Fellowship Experiences, begun in 2014, that is written by and about graduate fellows funded by MDSG. The fellows have written about their research projects and described challenges in their professional development, including choosing a thesis topic, professional networking, and handling media interviews.

Results: In 2015 MDSG posted 16 posts on the On the Bay blog, which attracted hits from nearly 5,000 unique readers, meaning people who viewed the post at least one time. We published 12 posts by fellows on Fellowship Experiences, which drew 3,600 unique readers. Posts on both blogs were disseminated to a larger audience through Maryland Sea Grant’s social media and by the Chesapeake Bay Program Office. The graduate fellows who wrote for Fellowship Experiences reported that they found the experience of conceptualizing, writing, and revising the posts to be a positive and useful professional-development experience.