The Environment in Focus

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Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR, broadcasts weekly reports on stories, often ecologically focused, on Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. The segments,’The Environment in Focus,’ air on Wednesday mornings and afternoons. The full archive can be found online at the link below. I’m going through some of the broadcasts now and they’re pretty interesting. Go listen!

http://programs.wypr.org/stationprogram/environment-focus-tom-pelton-2/episodes

Source of Pollution in Pennsylvania Streams

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Plug for my alma mater today: Dickinson College chemistry professor Amy Witter and her associates found a new source of pollution in the South-Central PA stream Conodoguinet Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, and provides over half of the Bay’s freshwater. Pollution that enters the Susquehanna eventually finds its way to the Bay.

Witter’s research found that the coal-tar-based sealcoat commonly used in residential driveways is having an impact on stream health in South-Central PA. This type of sealcoat is found throughout the East Coast and could be having impacts on other streams in the watershed. The good news is that this sealcoat is already banned in Washington D.C. as well as several other townships in the region.

For those with journal access, the article was published in Environmental Pollution, Volume 185, pages 59-68. A summary of the findings can be found here: http://www.dickinson.edu/news-and-events/news/2013-14/Toxic-Driveways/.

Related findings:

An interesting source to track restoration efforts in the Bay through a variety of criteria, including runoff and sediment loads: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/trackprogress

And background information from the USGS on how urban runoff affects the Bay, and how it can be managed: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3101/HoganFS_Final_01-23-09.pdf

Current Events

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At the end of each year, the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Council meets to discuss future goals for the protection and restoration of the Bay. The Executive Council is made up of the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the mayor of D.C., the EPA administrator and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The meeting for 2013 took place last Thursday, December 12, in Washington, D.C. What occurred at the meeting? And what changes are in store for the Bay?

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley took over from D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray as head of the Council, a role O’Malley filled in 2007 and 2008. As chairman, he pledged to have a new watershed agreement signed by the council next year. The draft for this agreement will be available to the public in early 2014 (http://www.chesapeakebay.net/documents/21113/summary_new_chesapeake_bay_watershed_agreement_12_5_13_pdf.pdf), allowing for feedback and comment before its signing.

The 2014 agreement may be quite different from years past. For starters, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation states that the agreement seeks to involve headwater states not included in the Executive Council. (The states of Delaware, New York, and West Virginia). According to a report published in the Washington Post on December 12, O’Malley wants to focus on short-term goals, as opposed to 20-30 year goals. He believes that shorter term goals will be more effective in Bay restoration efforts. He calls for “measurable actions” with a “measurable impact.”

Perhaps short term goals will hold states more accountable for recovery efforts in the Bay. Including the other states in the watershed will be an important change. I’m looking forward to reviewing the 2014 draft when it is released and will be sure to post more about it early next year.

Salinity Changes in Bay Tributaries

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I am finishing up a grad course on Wetland Ecology and Policy. This week’s topic in class is on climate change and wetlands, looking at how sea level rise, and other climate change impacts will affect the hydrology of wetlands in the U.S. While doing some work for the course, I came across a report on sea level rise and the Chesapeake Bay. The piece is a couple years old- it was published by the USGS in 2011, but a very interesting read.

The USGS study looked at estimated sea level rise, and used these predictions to create a simulation of changes in salinity in the York and Chickahominy River in the Bay watershed. The study found that salinity levels will rise with sea level, and change water quality gradients in saline and freshwater estuaries.

A link to the study here:

http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1191/

Other sources on the issue:

A National Science Foundation study: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081120122157.htm

Changes in salinity will have an effect on endemic species in the Bay, such as the Virginia oyster which I briefly talked about in my last post. As salinity levels change with the climate, oysters are likely to be significantly impacted. Some further information on the impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake oyster:

Interactive effects of salinity and elevated CO2 levels on juvenile eastern oysters, Crassostrea virginica, 2012: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22162851

Friday’s Finds

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I recently read an interesting article on the work of a Virginia graduate student with the oyster aquaculture industry. The Virginia oyster population has seriously declined over the last century, due to disease, overharvesting, and sedimentation. I found the article ‘Seeds of Success’ in the December 12th issue of the Rappahannock Record, where it was reprinted from the Bay Journal. I’ll share the link below.

The article discusses the efforts of a former grad student, Mike Congrove, and a Virginia waterman, Rufus Ruark Jr, to rebuild the oyster industry in Virginia. Oysters are having a bit of a rebound in the Bay due to state-sponsored reef building and the production of disease-resistant larvae. Congrove played a part in research for the disease resistant oyster- the triploid. Author Rona Kobell highlights his research and writes of his work with Ruark to build a hatchery that employed spat-on-shell growing techniques with the triploid oyster.

Congrove is currently involved in researching water quality in the Chesapeake region. He is working with Virginia Tech to determine suitable conditions for oyster growing, and how to continue oyster production when water quality declines. Although this is not mentioned in the article, water quality is likely to become the biggest challenge to Chesapeake oysters in the near future as acidifying waters associated with climate change could have a significant impact in the Bay. For this reason, I think it will be interesting to track Congrove’s work, and see what comes of his research.

http://www.bayjournal.com/article/seeds_of_success

Introduction

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Welcome to my new blog! I’m new to the blogging world but am very excited to get started.

I’ll start off with a quick bio:

I’m a recent graduate from Dickinson College in PA, where I studied environmental studies and history. Since taking an environmental course in high school, I became very interested in environmental issues. I was lucky to be able to continue to examine topics in this field in college. In many of my courses, we discussed the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from water quality issues to different problems facing the region’s species. My family owns property on the Northern Neck of Virginia, where I have been able to see many of these issues play out. From research projects to firsthand experience on the Bay, I have become very interested in the region. I created this blog to share environmental news for the greater Chesapeake area. Knowing that the Bay is a large watershed, I intend to look at environmental issues throughout the states that are included in the watershed, hence the ‘Beyond the Bay’ title. I will be sharing relevant articles and current events as well as reporting on any personal projects that I am involved in.

 

Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading!

-Kate