Posts Tagged 'chesapeake bay watershed'

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Chesapeake Conservation Corps


For the fourth year in a row, the National Aquarium has been chosen as a host site for a Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) volunteer. This program, developed by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, matches young people (volunteers, ages 18-25) with environmental organizations throughout the region; providing leadership and career training experience for the intern and additional program capacity for the host organization. The program provides service-learning opportunities and green job training to its volunteers through hands-on environmental, leadership, and technical training opportunities for a paid, one-year term of service.

As a host organization, the Aquarium benefits by gaining an energetic volunteer whose one year commitment translates into meaningful improvements in program capacity. Because CCC is not designed to replace full-time staff, there is a real opportunity to use the time and talents of the volunteers to expand upon and improve programs already in place. Stephanie Pully, our 2012-2013 volunteer, used additional grant funds from Chesapeake Bay Trust, to enhance our Fort McHenry Wetland field station for educational programs surrounding the theme of BayScaping.

stephanie pully

Funds from CBT’s mini grant program for CCC volunteers made it possible to improve the native gardens at our field station and install different educational amenities. In addition to the installation of native plants, plant ID markers, a butterfly box and watering stations, Stephanie also lead the effort to install an outdoor white board next to the rain garden to help use the gardens as an educational station for students on field trips.

After a very successful year, I’m happy to report that Stephanie officially graduated from the CCC Program on August 13th! With a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland under her belt, Stephanie hopes to continue developing initiatives that help to conserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed!

Applications for the 2014-2015 Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program can be found on the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s website beginning in the Spring of 2014.


A Blue View: Stormwater – A Search for Solutions

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

July 31, 2013: Stormwater – A Search for Soluations

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Halle Van der Gaag
from Blue Water Baltimore discuss stormwater runoff!

John: We hear a lot about stormwater, but many of us still don’t exactly know what it is and why we should care. In Baltimore and all across the country, however, stormwater runoff is a major problem. To help us understand what this issue means to our community, Halle Van der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, is with me in the studio. Hi, Halle.

Halle: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

J: There’s a lot of misinformation out there about stormwater, but at its most basic, what is stormwater, and how does it relate to our community and our waters?

H: Stormwater runoff is actually rainwater that hits our pavement, roofs, and parking lots, and flows downstream, carrying pollutants, animal waste, fertilizer, and pesticides. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it actually carries air pollution that lands on our pavement, and washes that downstream as well.

J: Why is our stormwater situation so critical here in Baltimore?

H: For a long time, no one paid attention to stormwater. We were focused on industrial pollution and agricultural pollution. The reality of it is that pipes that carry stormwater are old, deteriorating, and breaking. They have not been maintained and they need an infrastructure overhaul.

J: Do we have a lot of impervious surfaces here? Describe what those are.

H: Impervious surface is just a term for hardscape or pavement – hard surfaces where you get no infiltration of rainwater. If you look around Baltimore, you’ll see that we have lots and lots of pavement. Not all of it is actually being used. Some of it is streets, but some of it is parking lots.

J: How does this whole situation manifest itself in our city these days?

H: What we’re seeing a lot is pipes bursting, streets collapsing, pollution in our waterways and in our harbor. It’s a real problem, not just for our waterways but as an inconvenience to commuters and people who are living and working in Baltimore.

J: It’s obviously a very costly and labor-intensive problem to solve, but what kind of work is being done now to help with this issue?

H: Recently, people have probably heard about a stormwater utility fee that has been passed in Baltimore and across the state. This allows Baltimore to finally be proactive and actually have the resources it needs to fix stormwater pipes before they break.

J: I know this is a really important issue, and some people have mis-characterized the stormwater fee as a rainwater tax and things like that. Help us understand more what these fees will help accomplish and how that might help the Chesapeake Bay.

H: In addition to fixing pipes, we also see lots of opportunities for green infrastructure, for opportunities to create stormwater practices that will help beautify the city, but are actually functional, beautiful spaces where you’re using plants and trees to filter and slow down stormwater before it hits the streets. It can be happening on public right-aways and in parks, but there’s a lot that people can do in their own backyards – installing rain gardens, rain barrels, planting conservation landscaping, lots of things that folks can actually do. Then they can offset and ask the city for credit for the stormwater fee. The goal here is to reduce pollution, not just collect fees that go into a big giant pipe.

J: Reducing pollution is something that’s good for all of us. Thank you so much for joining me, Halle. To learn more about Blue Water Baltimore and how you can reduce your stormwater impacts at home, visit


Take the Bay Quiz for a Chance to Meet Our Dolphins!

This week, we’re excited to partner with Constellation Energy in support of their Bay Quiz initiative!

The Chesapeake Bay is one of our nation’s most prized possessions. National Aquarium has numerous conservation initiatives to help restore the Bay, but not every one can join us for these events. By taking this quiz and participating in the sweepstakes, we hope that people can better understand what conservation measures we can all take to preserve the Bay and protect its inhabitants!

national aquarium dolphins

From now until August 4, those who participate will be entered to win a training and play session with our dolphins!

Through generous contributions to the Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC), Constellation has been a great supporter of the Aquarium’s conservation team and initiatives.  The CCC pairs young adults with organizations like ours for a year, giving them hands-on environmental, leadership and technical training! Check out our CCC volunteer, Stephanie Pully, in this great video about conservation issues facing the Bay:


Don’t forget to test your Chesapeake Bay IQ and be entered for a chance to meet our dolphins! 

Re-cap: Wetland Restoration in New York

Last week, our conservation staff traveled to upstate New York to engage students in local wetland restoration projects. Two schools, Chenango Forks High School and Ridge Road Elementary School, participated in a modified version of our Wetland Nursery program.

ny wetland restoration

For the students who live in the northern end of the watershed, it can be difficult to understand the connection between their community and the Chesapeake Bay. But after learning about and caring for different kinds of wetland plants, the students began to see how wetlands in their area can help clean-up waterways throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A total of 95 students from Chenango Forks High School and Chenango Forks Elementary School planted 1,500 freshwater wetland plants in a swamp on their school’s property. Additionally, the students removed four trash bags of invasive plants to make room for the native species.
Thirty-two students from Ridge Road Elementary School planted 1,500 freshwater wetland plants in a vernal pond at Tanglewood Nature Center. Afterwards, they took a tour of the Nature Center and the beautiful property around it.

ny wetland restoration

The Wetland Nursery Program aims to create a lasting connection between students and the Chesapeake Bay. By raising wetland plants and helping to restore a local wetland, students become invested in the health of the ecosystem and feel a closer connection to their watershed.
The students’ hard work did not go unnoticed; check out the local news channel’s coverage of the planting event.

A special thank you to our partners on this project: Elmira Corning Community Foundation, the Upper Susquehanna Coalition and Tanglewood Nature Center!


A Blue View: Vernal Pools

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 17, 2013: Vernal Pools

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss what vernal pools
and the important role they play for our woodland ecosystems. 

When most of us think of aquatic ecosystems, what usually comes to mind are oceans, rivers, bays, lakes, and streams. But there is another essential body of water, one not commonly known, that provides critical habitats for many woodland animals.

Vernal pools are similar to swamps or small ponds in appearance, but there’s one key difference: They fill and dry cyclically throughout the year. These temporary woodland ponds occur in shallow depressions and typically fill in the spring and dry out during the summer only to fill once again in the fall. Small in size, usually less than an acre, vernal pools are often surrounded by woodlands.

Several species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and numerous invertebrates use these pools as their primary breeding habitat, making their role in landscapes in the northeastern United States even greater than one might expect given their small size and temporary nature.

Vernal pools usually are at their deepest in the spring, which is where these pools get their name: vernal comes from the Latin “vernus,” meaning “belonging to spring.” They fill with rainwater, snow melt, and runoff from higher areas, and though small, they are literally teeming with life. The first warm rains of March and April set off mass migrations of frogs and salamanders from the surrounding woodlands into the pools, which provide a space for all sorts of plants, insects, and other animals to grow and thrive.

Take marbled salamanders, for instance. At summer’s end, many of the vernal pools are completely dry. By the end of September, prior to the onset of fall rains, hundreds of female marbled salamanders assemble and lay up to 200 eggs in depressions under logs, vegetation, and leaves in the lower areas of a vernal pools. The eggs are guarded until rains fill the low-lying areas, and the eggs hatch soon after coming into contact with water.

Fairy shrimp eggs that have been lying dormant in the dry mud also start hatching when these pools fill with water. Species such as wood frogs and spotted salamanders almost exclusively utilize vernal pools for breeding. Even mollusks, such as fingernail clams, can be found in vernal pools, surviving by remaining dormant in pool sediment during the dry season.

This wetland-then-drought cycle means that fish and other species that depend on permanent water cannot survive, providing an ideal habitat for the aquatic larvae of insects and amphibians. Any frog or salamander that lays its eggs in a vernal pool benefits by not having its offspring eaten by fish. These species would otherwise be challenged with competition or predation from larger aquatic species. The inhabitants of these vernal pools aren’t without predators, however. In April and May, snakes, turtles, birds, and mammals visit the vernal pools to feed on amphibians and their larvae. As the year progresses other species are drawn to vernal pools as well for food, water and shelter.

In addition to the providing a diverse ecosystem for wildlife, vernal pools help to gather and hold runoff from heavy rains, serving as storage tanks and settlement ponds for areas such as the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Without vernal pools, the runoff and silt load is increased and delivered directly into larger water sources.

Despite their vast importance, these wetland ecosystems are threatened. Because they are temporary, they are often not protected by wetlands laws. The study of these vernal pools is evolving, and ecologists are steadily increasing their understanding of these pools as a healthy habitat and breeding ground for many species.

This spring, you can see these vibrant ecosystems for yourself as you hike or bike through the forests of Maryland. These specialized, woodland wetlands can often be located by following the sounds of calling frogs. Take care not to disturb them, but by all means pause and look at the diversity of life that exists in these vernal pools.

A Blue View: Bayscaping!

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 3, 2013: Bayscaping

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the importance
of conservation-minded landscaping!

For many of us, spring means we can get our hands dirty. We bring out the mowers and the yard tools, head to the nurseries to buy seeds or plants for the garden, and enjoy spending our weekends outdoors working in the yard.

Increasingly in our region, a conservation-minded landscaping trend is taking hold. Sometimes called “bayscaping” here in the Mid-Atlantic, conservation landscaping incorporates sustainable strategies. The goal is to create an outdoor environment that reduces pollution and helps combat the contaminants that run into the Chesapeake Bay every day.

According to Blue Water Baltimore, Americans use 5 million tons of fertilizer and more than 70 million pounds of pesticides every year. Many times, these treatments are over-applied or applied at the wrong time, and they run off into our waterways.

To minimize the use of these types of garden treatments, one of the first things you can do is eliminate invasive plant species and instead incorporate native plants into your yard. Native plants are those that are naturally present in your region, while non-native species have been brought to the region at some point in history. Because native plants are uniquely adapted to a particular region, they don’t require as much water, fertilizer, or pesticides to be healthy. If you do find it necessary to use pesticides in your yard, first try alternatives, such as horticultural soaps. Pesticides not only kill the pests, but they harm other inhabitants of your yard as well.

Another key goal of bayscaping is the establishment of your green space as a dynamic wildlife habitat. According to the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council, minimizing the amount of lawn and replacing it with layers of plants—including trees, shrubs, and perennials—make yards wildlife friendly by providing a variety of shelter. Less lawn also means less mowing, which is another environmental plus. It’s also important to provide year-round water and food sources for your yard inhabitants.

Incorporating bayscaping strategies may mean that your yard doesn’t look like your neighbor’s, but that’s not a bad thing. Take the opportunity to educate them about sustainable landscaping practices. You may start a neighborhood trend that the Chesapeake Bay will thank you for!

Once your yard is bayscaped, there are several certification programs that will validate your conservation efforts. To achieve Bay-Wise certification, a Master Gardener will assess your property and give your yard a score. You can also create a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat by providing appropriate shelter, food, and water for the animals in your yard!

A Blue View: The Environment Up Close at the 2013 Maryland General Assembly

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

January 15, 2013: The Start of the Maryland General Assembly

Listen to John discuss the important environmental legislation that will be debated during this session of the Maryland General Assembly. *

The 433rd legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly opened on January 9, and with it, several environmental issues that will shape the future of life in Maryland are being debated.

Issues like shark finning, plastic consumption, hydraulic fracturing and wind energy affect the people of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed every day, and the quality of life in our state going forward.

Our government affairs team will be hard at work in Annapolis this year to advocate on behalf of these environmental initiatives.

Want to stay up to date on National Aquarium’s legislative efforts?  CLICK HERE to sign up for e-mail updates!

*Editor’s note: The audio and script for this week’s A Blue View incorrectly referred to 2013’s legislative session as the 429th. It is the 433rd.

Sign up for AquaMail

Twitter Updates