Posts Tagged 'urban wildlife'

Week of Thanks: Laura Bankey on Urban Wildlife!

In the spirit of the holiday, our experts are sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Our fourth “Week of Thanks” post comes from the Aquarium’s Director of Conservation, Laura Bankey

As always, I am grateful to the many volunteers, students, and partners we’ve worked with this year – all working together with the common goal of protecting and restoring the animals and habitats that are vital to the health of our region.

This year, a unique focus has been directed towards wildlife and habitats within our urban boundaries. A new recognition is being placed on our shared space, our shared resources and the need to manage both with care for the benefit of both humans and wildlife.

In particular, the National Aquarium partnered with others in two major efforts this year to help improve and model the restoration and protection of urban wildlife habitat.

Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership: In September of this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) launched a new initiative to engage urban communities in wildlife conservation, and officially designated Masonville Cove as the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Masonville Cove

With 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, FWS identified the need to find innovative ways to share its mission with an expanded audience. This new Refuge system works with conservation organizations, like the National Aquarium, already on the ground in these urban areas to give many more Americans the opportunity to grow up with a real connection to the outdoors and wildlife. Masonville Cove was the first of eight partnerships announced this year.

Community Wildlife Habitat Certification: In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, the National Aquarium announced a joint effort to certify the city of Baltimore as a Community Wildlife Habitat. This program aims to provide food, shelter, cover and water to local and migrating urban wildlife. The community certification uses the same backyard habitat improvement practices and applies them on a city-wide scale, allowing for much greater impact and improved resources for birds, pollinators, etc.

national aquarium certified wildlife habitat

In Jim Sterba’s book, Nature Wars, he asserts “it is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history.” This is primarily due to the obvious increase in human population of this region over the past 400 years, and not so obviously, to the improved protection and management of natural areas within the same region.

If we value the new connections we can make to wildlife in these urban centers, we need to recognize our responsibility in creating a shared space that benefits both the human and animal communities. This year, I’m thankful to say that with the help of our partners and volunteers, National Aquarium has made many great strides in that direction!

I hope that others will continue to join us in making these important connections with wildlife to urban populations!

Thoughtful Thursday: The Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge!


National Aquarium is proud to announce that our circle of partners at Masonville Cove will now include a federal agency: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)!  Today, the National Aquarium and its partners joined with government officials and community members to formally announce Masonville Cove as the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in the United States.

John Sarbanes

Congressman Sarbanes speaking at today’s designation.

Through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership program, FWS offices across the nation embarked on a mission to join forces with their local, urban conservation counterparts.  Dozens of worthy applications were submitted for official recognition, and eight partnerships were accepted for designation and support.  We are thrilled to announce that our own Masonville Cove is one of these eight!

Masonville Cove

Part of the recently restored area at Masonville Cove!

About the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership Program
While the FWS refuge system encompasses some of our country’s most pristine and unique landscapes, a majority of the refuges are in remote locations, making them inaccessible to large portions of the population.  With 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, they identified the need to find innovative ways to share the FWS mission with this expanded audience. Cue the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  Through this new program, FWS aims to have a broader and more effective impact through partnering with existing urban conservation organizations.

At National Aquarium, our mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, and we are proud to take that mission beyond our doors with our amazing group of conservation partners. Today was a special day for National Aquarium at Masonville Cove.

National Aquarium is working to engage students and other local citizens in the process of habitat restoration and we are thrilled to be a part of this unique project – one that highlights the importance of creating and supporting a home for wildlife within an urban center and one that helps bring opportunities to connect with wildlife to urban populations.

 Eric Schwaab, Chief Conservation Officer for National Aquarium. 

Eric Schwaab at Masonville Cove

Our CCO, Eric Schwaab, speaking at today’s event.

While this initiative does not make the land at Masonville Cove a National Wildlife Refuge, it does mean that the FWS presence will be felt at the campus.  Already, several benefits have been realized including a FWS intern stationed at Masonville Cove, and the creation of a Wildlife Management Plan to maximize habitat use at the site.  All of the organizations involved share a common goal of environmental conservation and restoration, and by working together we all increase our chances of making this goal a reality in urban centers.

About Masonville Cove

The Masonville Cove Nature Area was opened in 2012 on a restored site owned by the Maryland Port Administration on the Patapsco River, allowing public access to the cove for the first time in over 70 years. The nature area offers opportunities within the city limits for walking, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities. Currently 11 acres of the nature area are open to the public and, after further restoration in the next few years, 52 acres will be open to the public. National Aquarium helps lead community-based restoration efforts on the sight, engaging more than 1,000 volunteers in planting more than 45,000 native plants along the shoreline so far, including a wetland restoration event just last week.

Conservation Team at Masonville Cove

Our conservation team checking out Masonville Cove’s new official Urban Wildlife Refuge signage!

If you are interested in visiting the cove, there are many opportunities for recreation and educational programming.  Visit for details.  Masonville Cove is also looking for volunteers who love nature and enjoy sharing their passion with others! Friends of Masonville Cove work to improve and manage this urban wilderness area, as well as introduce other community members to the educational and recreational activities Masonville Cove has to offer. If you are interested in a long-term volunteer opportunity involving everything from debris cleanups to gardening to scientific wetland monitoring, please e-mail for more information.

The National Aquarium will be hosting another habitat restoration opportunity at the Cove next Spring.  Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up-to-date on these and other volunteer opportunities!


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