Welcome Chesapeake Conservation Corps Class of 2019! And congrats to the Class of 2018!

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Maryland's future is bright green.

Maryland Environment Secretary Ben GrumblesGraduation speaker for the Chesapeake Conservation Corps Class of 2017-2018

This week the Trust celebrated the incoming and outgoing Chesapeake Conservation Corps classes with the annual “Passing of the Golden Shovel” ceremony, a focal point of a day of celebration and training held at YMCA’s Camp Letts in Edgewater, Md. At the event, the 38 2018-2019 Corps participants met their host organizations to learn more about their job responsibilities for the upcoming year. The ceremony also served as a graduation for the 42 members of the outgoing Corps class who wrapped up their year of service this month. The day’s guest speakers included Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.; Senator John Astle; Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles; John Quinn, Director of Governmental and External Affairs, BGE; Ernestine White, National Youth Employment Programs Coordinator, National Park Service; and Trust Board Chair Ben Wechsler.

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps is a green jobs program created by the Maryland Legislature to educate and train the next generation of environmental stewards. The program matches young people ages 18-25 with nonprofit and government organizations for paid, one-year terms of service, focused on improving local communities and protecting natural resources.

During their year of service, Chesapeake Conservation Corps members gain valuable on-the-job experience as they work to advance environmental conservation, K-12 education, energy efficiency programs, sustainable agriculture practices, and a host of other environmentally-focused initiatives.

“The Chesapeake Conservation Corps’ impact on our communities and our environment multiplies with each new class of Corps members,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., the initiator of the program in 2010. “We have reached a point where members of the Corps’ first classes are now leaders in environmental organizations throughout our region. I am proud of the investment we are making in them and the future of the green economy in our state.”

The program has a consistent track record of placing graduates in full-time positions upon completion of the program, with many Corps members in each graduating class hired directly by their host organizations, often into brand new positions.

“Since its creation, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps has been a launching pad for environmental careers throughout our state,” said Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. “It is vital that we continue to grow our green workforce through programs like this. The work that these young people are undertaking and the issues they are trying to address are critical to the health and future of our environment and natural resources. The department has been fortunate to host a number of bright and talented Corps members over the years. We have seen firsthand that the training they receive is top-notch and their energy and enthusiasm is boundless.”

The program has become more popular with potential host organizations each year since its initiation in 2010 because of the quality of the young people who serve.  Three times as many host organizations seek Corps members than resources can support.  The Corps members’ stipends are supported by the Chesapeake Bay Trust (and the Bay Plate license plate program) and their partners, providing host organizations with added capacity at little added cost.

Partner funders include the State of Maryland, BGE an Exelon Company, and the U.S. National Park Service. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Adkins Arboretum, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of the Environment, South River Federation, and Maryland Coastal Bays Program also contributed matching funds for the program this year.

“The National Park Service is proud to once again be supporting the Chesapeake Conservation Corps,” said George McDonald, U.S. National Park Service Youth Programs Manager. “These young people are embarking on a truly unique career-building experience that will ultimately benefit all of us as they learn and teach others the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation.”

“BGE has been a proud supporter of the Chesapeake Conservation Corps for many years because we care about the health of our communities and our natural resources,” said John Quinn of BGE, a key funder of the program.  “We understand the importance of developing leaders who value our natural resources and have the experience and perspective to be good stewards. The Corps program prepares young people to enter the workforce in all sectors: nonprofit, government, and corporate as well.”

During the course of the year, Corps participants work directly with their host organizations, receive extensive job trainings hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and gain experience in grant writing and project management through a capstone project.

“Continuing the progress that has been made in restoring the health of the Chesapeake depends on educating and training the next generation of environmental leaders,” said Jana Davis, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. “The Chesapeake Conservation Corps prepares young people with the skills and experience that are needed to keep the momentum going.”

The 2018-2019 Chesapeake Conservation Corps class includes the following individuals and their host organizations:

  1. Travis Anthony, National Aquarium, Baltimore City
  2. Michael Bowman, U.S. National Park Service, Anne Arundel County
  3. Kaila Cavanaugh, Accokeek Foundation, Prince George’s County
  4. Emily Castle, Adkins Arboretum, Caroline County
  5. Evan Claggett, Environmental Concern, Talbot County
  6. Megan Davis, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Biological Stream Survey, Anne Arundel County
  7. Jennifer Duvall, Patapsco Heritage Greenway, Howard County
  8. Brianna Fragata, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Worcester County
  9. Leah Franzluebbers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Anne Arundel County
  10. Brittany Furlong, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Biological Stream Survey, Anne Arundel County
  11. Justin Gallardo, Uptown Metro Ministry Group, Baltimore City
  12. Sarah Grossweiler, Maryland Department of the Environment, Baltimore City
  13. Thomas Heffernan, Living Classrooms Foundation, Baltimore City
  14. Lucy Heller, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Anne Arundel County
  15. Kelly Johnson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Anne Arundel County
  16. Andrew Jones, Town of Edmonston, Prince George’s County
  17. Shayna Keller, South River Federation, Anne Arundel County
  18. Jay Kinnaman, Maryland Environmental Service, Anne Arundel County
  19. Alexander Kirchhof, Mayor and City Council of Cumberland, Allegany County
  20. Amy Kochel, Susquehanna Heritage Corporation, Pennsylvania
  21. Connor Liu, The Nature Conservancy, Allegany County
  22. Jamie Mancini, Sultana Education Foundation, Kent County
  23. Rory Maymon, Maryland Department of the Environment , Baltimore City
  24. Syler Merski, Friends of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Calvert County
  25. Jesus Munoz Buenrostro, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Baltimore City
  26. Kelly Peaks, University of Maryland, Environmental Finance Center, Prince George’s County
  27. Rachel Plescha, ShoreRivers, Talbot County
  28. Arianna Russo, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Worcester County
  29. Marissa Sayers, Central Baltimore Partnership, Baltimore City
  30. Cheyenne Sebold, C&O Canal Trust, Washington County
  31. Dominic Serino, Audubon Maryland-DC, Baltimore City
  32. Justin Shapiro, National Wildlife Federation, Anne Arundel County
  33. Nathaniel Simmons, Adkins Arboretum, Caroline County
  34. Bradley Simpson, Audubon Naturalist Society, Montgomery County
  35. Alexa Stillwell, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Anne Arundel County
  36. Thomas Urban, Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks, Howard County
  37. Tanisha Washington, Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Baltimore City
  38. Olivia Wisner, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR), Anne Arundel County

Now Open! Prince George’s County Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program

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The Prince George’s County Government and the Chesapeake Bay Trust announce the fifth year of our partnership for the Prince George’s Stormwater Stewardship Grant Program. This grant program supports projects that provide community engagement while treating and controlling stormwater. The goal of this program is to improve communities, improve water quality in the County’s waterways, and engage County residents in stormwater solutions.

This year’s program focuses on water quality implementation projects (requests for $50,000 up to $200,000) and tree planting projects (requests for $50,000 up to $150,000).

Please refer to the application package found on the grant program page for additional details and application instructions and requirements. The deadline to apply is September 27, 2018 at 4pm. 

In addition, the Trust would like to thank the grantees shown in the video above for sharing their projects and experiences, and providing insight on the impact that the projects had on their community. More information on each of the grantees highlighted in the video is below.

  • Anacostia Watershed Society collaborates with Prince George’s County Public Schools and other partners for the Treating and Teaching program to install stormwater solutions and outdoor classrooms on school campuses and train the facilities staff to maintain the assets.
  • Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization Community Development Corporation developed the Go Green! Plant Trees! program to increase tree canopy in residential neighborhoods by providing native trees to homeowners and educating the community about the value of trees.
  • End Time Harvest Ministries conducted their Wellness Ambassadors Environmental Health Program to engage youth in the community through tree planting projects, stormwater education, and green-job skills programs.
  • Global Health and Education Projects developed the Family Tree Adoption Program to educate the community about the importance of trees and to provide native trees and shrubs to private homeowners in the County.
  • Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake collaborates with faith-based organizations to provide training and workshops for faith leaders to increase citizen awareness of and engagement in stormwater management and watershed protection actions.
  • Neighborhood Design Center developed the Stormwater Savvy program to help small municipalities, schools, and community organizations create action-oriented design plans that help to improve water quality and increase community engagement with their landscape.

Learn more about these and other projects funded by this grant program on our grant projects page.

20th Annual Treasure the Chesapeake Celebration

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Annual Event Raises Over $110,000 to Support Cleaner, Healthier Watersheds
The Trust’s 20th Annual Treasure the Chesapeake celebration was held on Thursday, May 17, 2018, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. More than 400 corporations, businesses, and individuals participated in this year’s event, helping to raise over $110,000 in support of the Trust’s work to engage hundreds of thousands of students, citizens, and volunteers in hands-on projects for cleaner, greener, healthier watersheds throughout the region.
Guests were treated to Nanticoke oysters at the oyster bar provided by the Oyster Recovery Partnership; a special beer tasting provided by Brewery Ommegang, a Cooperstown, NY-based craft brewery known for their clean water initiatives; a silent auction with fantastic finds and exciting getaways donated by dozens of local artists and regional businesses; and a thrilling presentation from America’s Cup winner, world-class sailor, broadcaster, and producer, Gary Jobson.
This year’s event was a huge success and could not have been accomplished without the support of our grantees, sponsors, partners, and friends! We surpassed our fundraising goals and we are thrilled to be able to invest those resources in the work of our grantees.
Thank you to those who were able to join us at the event and to those who supported us from afar and in spirit! We are so grateful your continued support!

2018 Treasure the Chesapeake


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Local Nonprofit Organizations Receive Close to $300,000 in Grants for Environmental Projects

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Rockville, Maryland – The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Chesapeake Bay Trust announced that $291,000 in grant funding has been awarded to seven organizations to improve water quality and help manage stormwater runoff in Montgomery County. Montgomery County neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations, and nonprofit organizations received support ranging from $6,000 to $77,000.

“The Department of Environmental Protection is committed to improving the water quality of our local streams while contributing to the health and sustainability of our communities,” said Patty Bubar, acting Director of the Department of Environmental Protection. “This grant program fills an important niche towards meeting our mission and we’re thrilled to be able to support and engage these hard-working local groups who share this mission.”

Established in 2014, the initiative supports projects and programs that improve communities and water quality in Montgomery County through public engagement, education, and on-the-ground restoration projects. Project types include public outreach and stewardship projects, such as volunteer-led stream cleanups, stormwater education workshops, environmental education projects and community-based restoration projects, such as rain gardens, rain barrels, tree planting, impervious pavement removal, conservation landscaping, and green roofs.

Funding for these projects is made possible through Montgomery County’s water quality protection charge.  The Chesapeake Bay Trust, a regional grant-maker specializing in engagement of not-for-profit entities in restoration and outreach work, administers the grants for Montgomery County, similar to programs it manages for seven other jurisdictions.

These programs are so important to provide residents and nonprofit groups the tools, resources, and power to be part of the solution and feel like they are improving their communities,” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  “Completing one’s first project as a nonprofit creates the capacity to do so much more and we’re proud of how many of these groups have grown and become strong grantees in other programs.”

The 2018 Montgomery County Watershed Restoration and Outreach Grant Program awardees include:

Anacostia Riverkeeper, $14,644: To engage Montgomery County Spanish-speaking populations in programs to improve water quality.

Anacostia Riverkeeper, $58,350: For rain gardens and conservation landscape plantings at the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting House.

Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc., $53,417: For a rain garden at Woodend Nature Sanctuary in Chevy Chase.

Butler Montessori, $58,275: To remove 3,000 square feet of impervious surface and install permeable pavers at Butler Montessori School in Darnestown.

Friends of Sligo Creek, $22,650: For an engineering study, conservation landscaping, dry wells, and engagement of volunteers in the Three Oaks community in Silver Spring.

University of Maryland, Environmental Finance Center, $77,096: To engage county Civic Associations in watershed restoration activities and to hold a stormwater summit in Montgomery County.

Wildlife Habitat Council, $6,568: To engage corporations in the implementation of stormwater and habitat best management practices such as rain gardens, bioretention cells, conservation landscaping, water recapture, and other practices on corporation-owned land.

About the Chesapeake Bay Trust

The Chesapeake Bay Trust ( is a nonprofit grant-making organization established by the Maryland General Assembly dedicated to improving the natural resources of Maryland and the Chesapeake region through environmental education, community engagement, and local watershed restoration. The Trust’s grantees engage hundreds of thousands of individuals annually in projects that have a measurable impact on the waterways and other natural resources of the region. The Trust is supported by the sale of the Treasure the Chesapeake license plate, donations to the Chesapeake Bay and Endangered Species Fund on the Maryland State income tax form, donations from individuals and corporations, and partnerships with private foundations and federal, state, and local governments such as Montgomery County. The Trust has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator for fourteen years: 92 percent of the Trust’s expenditures are directed to its restoration and education programs.

About Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection

The mission of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection is to enhance the quality of life in our community by protecting and improving Montgomery County’s air, water, and land in a sustainable way while fostering smart growth, a thriving economy, and healthy communities.

Trust Kicks Off 2018 with More than $3.7 Million in Grant Awards

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The Trust announced the approval of 164 grants totaling $3,727,047 to enable a wide range of organizations to implement on-the-ground restoration and education projects and programs. Four times each year the Trust’s board of trustees announces its grant approvals which help local nonprofit organizations, local governments, and schools improve water quality and better local communities through a variety of outreach and restoration techniques. In fiscal year 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded more than $11 million in grants.

“We are proud to offer grant opportunities to a wide range of organizations, from small homeowner associations and faith-based institutions to large cities, universities, and hospital campuses, to help them further our shared mission of improving our communities and protecting the natural resources of the Chesapeake region,” said Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

The grants announced today range from small tree plantings and community outreach initiatives to large-scale restoration and stormwater management projects.

For example, Black Girls Dive Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and empowering girls and young women to engage in aquatic-based recreational and STEM activities, was awarded their first grant from the Trust. The grant will be used to incorporate environmental ecology curriculum into their STREAMS program, which integrates science, technology, engineering, art, and math experiences with SCUBA lessons.

Baltimore Tree Trust, an established environmental nonprofit dedicated to restoring Baltimore’s urban forest, was awarded a grant for their planned collaboration with Volunteering Untapped and Baltimore Trash Talk. Funds will be used to expand their Trees for Public Health program by working with the residents of Baltimore’s Berea neighborhood to “green and clean” their neighborhood and to reforest a portion of the Harris Creek watershed by planting 170 street trees.

The Trust works with many funding partners to pool resources. Partners for these awards included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, City of Baltimore, Charles County, Howard County, Harford County, and numerous private foundations.

About the Awards:

Community-based engagement and on-the-ground restoration work:  Sixty-five grants totaling more than $2.6 million were awarded to support a broad range of projects that engage residents and restore habitat and/or water quality in our region.

Awards were made to: American Farmland Trust, Anacostia Watershed Society, Anne Arundel County, Maryland (2), Associated Catholic Charities, Inc., Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc., Back Creek Conservancy, Inc., Baltimore County Soil Conservation District, Baltimore Tree Trust, Black Girls Dive Foundation, Inc., Blue Water Baltimore (2), Carroll Soil Conservation District, Charles Soil Conservation District, City of Annapolis, City of Bowie, Civic Works, Inc. (2), Clean Water Fund, Clyburn Arboretum Association, County Commissioners of Caroline County, Delaware Maryland Synod ELCA, Epping Forest Community Association, Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources (OSER), Frederick Soil Conservation District, Friends of the Patapsco Valley Heritage Greenway, Inc., Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (2), Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, Howard County Conservancy, Inc., Howard EcoWorks (2), Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC), Kent County Commissioners, Knollwood Improvement Association, McDaniel College, Most Precious Blood Church, Mount Sinai African Methodist Episcopal Church, Park School of Baltimore, Patterson Park Audubon Center, Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Port Tobacco River Conservancy, Potomac Conservancy, Ridge to Reefs, ShoreRivers (3), South River Federation (4), Southeast Community Development Corporation, The 6th Branch, The Church of the Redeemer, Town of Centreville, Town of New Market, and University of Maryland College Park.

Science: The Trust partners with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support some of the science gaps in bay restoration.  This quarter, two awards totaling $108,000 were made to Tetra Tech, Inc. and Penns Valley Conservation Association.

Capacity Building Initiative: The Trust supports innovative partnerships between traditional natural resources organizations and organizations not traditionally engaged in natural resources as way to reach beyond the choir and broaden the engagement of individuals in watershed restoration.

Twenty-six grants for this type of work were awarded totaling $743,539 to: Anacostia Coordinating Council, Assateague Coastal Trust, Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development, Blue Water Baltimore, Capital Area Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc. (2), Clean Water Fund (2), Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas – CATA, DC Appleseed, Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture (C.A.S.A.), Groundwork Anacostia River DC, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC), Neighborhood Design Center, Patterson Park Audubon Center, Piedmont Environmental Council, Progressive National Baptist Convention Community Development Corporation, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Surfrider Foundation, TRF Development Partners, Inc., Ward 7 Business Partnership, and Waterkeepers Chesapeake.

Small Grants: For entities just starting out in the environmental realm and for teachers who need just a small amount of resources to get their students outside to experience nature, the Trust also offers small grants up to $5,000.  This quarter, 53 organizations received small grants for a total of $202,007.

For more information on any of these specific grant awards, email Erin Valentine at

Trust Celebrates 2018 Scholarship & Award Winners

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The Chesapeake Bay Trust celebrated our 2018 scholarship and award winners at our Annual Legislative Reception and Awards Program held at the Maryland General Assembly on Thursday, January 11, 2018. During the event, more than 150 environmental leaders and Maryland legislators came together to honor six remarkable individuals for their outstanding contributions to environmental education, watershed restoration, and volunteerism.

This year’s winners embodied the spirit of the Trust’s family of grantees, who work tirelessly to restore and protect their local natural resources and engage community members in those efforts.

Awards are made each year to two students for environmental and community leadership, to one educator for excellence in environmental education, to one business for green efforts, to one organization for a notable watershed stewardship project, and to one community leader or volunteer who goes routinely above and beyond in improving the streams, rivers, parks, forests, or other natural resource within our watershed.

2018 Award Winners

2018 Ellen Fraites Wagner Award
Reverend Gail A. Addison
President/CEO, End Time Harvest Ministries
Prince George’s County

2018 Student of the Year Scholarship
Mercedes Thompson
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
Baltimore City

2018 The Honorable Arthur Dorman Scholarship
Darrea Frazier
Baltimore City

2018 Educator of the Year
Francis J. Cardo
Program Facilitator for Science and STEM Education
Cecil County Public Schools

2018 Commercial Stewards Award
Shockley Honda
Frederick County

2018 Melanie Teems Award
Housing Initiative Partnership, Inc.
Prince George’s County

Congratulations to all of our awardees and thank you to the legislators, partners, family, and friends who joined us in celebrating them!

Learn more about our scholarships and awards program and find a description of each award here.

I am grateful and very blessed to be among the distinguished recipients who have received this award that honors a phenomenal lady, Ms. Ellen Fraites Wagner. I am deeply moved and humbled to be among people who have made tremendous environmental education contributions in this region. Thank you to the Trust for your faith in End Time Harvest Ministries’ environmental work of educating youth and families about the importance of being environmental stewards in their communities and schools.

Reverend Gail A. AddisonPresident/CEO, End Time Harvest Ministries and 2018 winner of the Ellen Fraites Wagner Award

Annual Port Isobel & Tangier Island Trip with the Chesapeake Conservation Corps

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By Brandt Dirmeyer

[Photo Credit: Malia Pownall, Chesapeake Bay Trust Conservation Member]

As we all looked back in silence at Port Isobel on the boat ride back to the mainland, I felt the midday sun and a slight breeze on my skin, and also felt a sense of longing to stay another day. The past two and a half days had left a warm glow within my core, and as I did a few yoga poses while the boat swayed and rolled with the waves, I let the experiences sink in deeper.

Roughly thirty corps-members spent time together on the island, and during the first meeting with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation staff, we were split into three groups and assigned two MWEE’s (Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience), an immersive field experience and a service project. The group I was a member of, Group 3, explored the East Salt Marsh the first afternoon and set up a shoreline fish trap the following morning.

For the immersive field experience, we gathered supplies and set out on a short hike to the high marsh. Osprey, seagulls, and egrets flew over our heads and the towering Loblolly and Virginia pine trees as we walked along a path lined by cordgrass and invasive phragmites reeds to a sandy beach, then a little further along the beach to the low marsh, where oystercatchers were nesting for the season. The high marsh was only about two inches further above sea level than the low marsh, but even that slight difference in elevation has a significant impact upon the ecology of the marsh.

As we walked along the beach, we noticed the whitened remnants of pine tree trunks. Our guide Adam explained that the saltwater from Pocomoke Sound intruded into the wood over time, slowly killing the trees, and that the sun had bleached the bark, giving it the eerie ghost-white appearance. The area of the sand we were standing on used to be a pine forest, but had turned to a sandy beach because of the rising sea level and subsequent erosion. He also explained that submerged in the saltwater tide of Pocomoke Sound, there were still tree trunks clinging to the now-inundated ground.

While in the low marsh, we walked atop the benthic algal mat and short stalks of salt grass photosynthesizing in the afternoon sun to wade into the shallow water. Almost immediately, our noses were permeated by a pungent odor. Adam explained that the smell was from sulphate in the ground of the marsh, which acts as the terminal electron acceptor in the decomposition of organic matter by benthic microorganisms, as opposed to oxygen gas or another electron acceptor. In layman terms, sulphate is responsible for the energy transfer between bacterium and microalgae in soil devoid of oxygen, which are instrumental in controlling the exchange of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus across the sediment-water interface.

In the tide of the low marsh, as our footsteps swirled the top layer of the algal mat into the water, we collected periwinkle snails and jellyfish with our nets. A few of us had our boots nearly swallowed by the marsh as we marshed around, but all boots were accounted for as we trekked back to higher ground.

Surrounded by tall salt grass in the high marsh, we pulled black needlerush stalks out of the sulphuric sediment, peeled back the green outer layer, and chewed upon the white inner layer. Our eyes lit up when we tasted the black needlerush We were all amazed that they tasted like almond cake, and shared smiles and laughs as we nibbled like muskrats.

Photo Credit: Tara Baker

After dinner and some time to prepare, each group presented about what they learned during their experience. We went last. For our presentation, we decided to put on a play about a muskrat living in the marsh. As I began to fingerpick the guitar, Judith started the narration and Andrew hopped on stage wearing a furry hat, robber mask, and printer paper front teeth and did his best imitation of a muskrat. We showed how the muskrat eats black needlerush, played by Mary, Ellie, and Kylie. With a hand outstretched and holding a muskrat skull, we asked the audience, “to nibble, or not to nibble. . . that is YOUR question!” and shared our prior amazement in the field with the audience as Ellie gave them all black needlerush to taste. As everyone experienced the almond taste of the black needlerush, Olivia became the ocean before our eyes as she acted out the changing tides. Judith, Kathy, and Bre’Anna pretended to be various animals as Judith spoke of the other species present in Port Isobel’s marsh ecosystem. To show pollution, Mary swirled the trash that we collected from the field in front of her in the air. Dressed in a lab coat and safety goggles, Kyle informed the audience about how the sulphate, saltwater, sunlight, and mucky ground of dead organic matter combine to form one of the most productive ecosystems in terms of biomass, and tied the encroaching sea and increase of coastal erosion on the island into the play. The other corps-members, CBF staff, and Schmidt Center employees were entertained, and we received a lively round of applause.The following morning, the writers, directors, and performers of “Muskrat Love” took part in the construction of a bank trap on the shoreline of Port Isobel. The previous year’s corps-members had begun the project, and it was our duty this year to replace a few wooden poles and install the fencing. Mary, Kathy, Ellie, and myself volunteered to immerse ourselves in the water with Adam, and the others helped to facilitate our dirty work. We were up to our bellies in brackish bay water removing and replacing poles in the silty ground. After a few minutes of us loudly exclaiming how cold it was with smiles on our faces, Andrew felt compelled to join us. The water was frigid and the black gnats were swarming, but all we could talk about after we completed the project was how much fun we had.

After we first set foot on Port Isobel and moved our luggage into Snow Goose Lodge, we explored the area before our introductory meeting. On the side of a shed was a painted map of the island, complete with different colors to highlight the different topographies, landmarks such as the various buildings and service projects, and trails weaving throughout the island. My eyes studied the details of the map. Written in pencil beside a trail that ended between the East Marsh and West Marsh, I noticed the words, “Sacred Bench.” Later on, I would learn that CBF also has a sacred bench at their Annapolis Office, but at the time I thought that it must have had some deeper legacy. After breakfast the following morning, with my alpaca blanket wrapped tightly around me as I carried a book, Earth Prayers, that I found in the peaceful poems drawer in the kitchen, I made a solo trek out to the sacred bench through the pine forest restored by CBF. Later that day, as most of the corps-members were out on the boat harvesting crab pots, I brought a small group to the sacred bench, which turned into a long walk along the beach and through the marsh. For the third and final visit to the sacred bench, I led another small group on a night hike after the bonfire. We sat together on the bench as we talked about our individual and collective futures while moving our eyes from one another to the array of stars overhead, and to the horizon, where the light of a distant lighthouse recursively returned to point in our direction. Each trip to the sacred bench was different, memorable, and full of beauty. The bench may not be a main attraction on the island, but it will forever be sacred to me.

Although there was a warmth within me as I reflected about the trip on the boat ride back to the mainland, I couldn’t help but also feel melancholy. I wished to stay, but I also wished that the islands themselves would stay. Both Port Isobel and Tangier are at most a few feet above sea level. The shorelines are eroding, at some places up to 15ft per year. There are talks of a new sea wall being built, but it keeps getting delayed as funding needs to be allocated and bureaucracy works at a slower pace than the pace of the rising seas.

At dinner the second day, the mayor of Tangier Island, known as Ooker, was a special guest. He talked with us about how Tangier Island needs a healthy bay to survive, as the economy of the community is dependent upon the yields of crab, rockfish, oysters, and eels that the Chesapeake Bay and Pocomoke Sound produce. He also discussed the sea wall with us. He smiled as he talked about potential the sea wall, as it would keep their community afloat, but after he said all that he wanted to say about it, he was quiet and looked somewhat dejected. I hope that the islands can stay above water both ecologically and economically, as they are beautifully unique and ultimately irreplaceable.

That is why I simultaneously felt profoundly elated and deeply sad. Although it was only a two and a half day trip, I couldn’t imagine a world without Port Isobel and Tangier, and I knew that the people that live there couldn’t either. After all, while I was only a visitor, it was their home, and although the source of their livelihoods is encroaching upon the longevity of their current lives, I could tell from listening to Mayor Ooker that the core of his being and the shared being of the Tangier Island community rises and falls with the tides, and rests within the shallow waters of the Chesapeake.

When your home threatens to destroy itself, no matter the severity, you must remain optimistic in the face of the evidence. I felt that although he has mentally prepared for the worst, he was hopeful for the best, and that hope is what drives us to make the effort to save and protect what we love. Although the corps-members applied from all over the watershed to work towards improving the health of the Bay, including a few from outside the watershed, and the people Tangier Island have their tight-knit and isolated community surrounded by the Bay’s brackish water, we all share a love for the Chesapeake Bay, and its that respect for nature that binds us together in our efforts to restore the bay, as well as in our day-to-day lives. We love the Bay, and we want to see it healthy for ourselves, for others, and for the future.

As I watched our boat distance itself from Port Isobel, I felt a strong connection to those few dry acres surrounded by water. Even though we had only been there a few days, it had felt like a home. Even as I sit under the gazebo of my childhood home in the piedmonts of central Maryland, I still feel the presence of the islands within me, and I also feel a pull to return someday. Although the islands were only my home for those few days, and over time specific memories of my time there will be buried below other, more recent memories, just as a receding shoreline is buried by vast, rising waters, I will carry the experience in the depths of my heart for the rest of my life. Even if Port Isobel and Tangier Island are eventually engulfed by the rising seas, they will live on in the memories of those who have spent time there. As someone who only spent a few days there, I know that what I have to say is limited, but I still feel compelled to vouch for the survival of the islands. I am grateful for them, and I am hopeful that they will thrive along with the Chesapeake, with the Atlantic, and with the other waterbodies and other landmasses that compose the unique ocean planet that nurtures us all.

Home is Where the Heart is
21 Apr 2017 @ 11:15 AM

as the sun permeated my exposed, salty skin
on the boat ride from the island to the mainland
although I was returning, it felt like I was leaving
home, and I wished that I could visit once again

if you move a periwinkle snail from its home
it still retains its sense of place, even halfway
across our ocean planet, it will rise and fall
to the watery tempo of its true tidal home

as the moon sheds and reclaims shadows
I continue my routines atop piedmont soils
occasionally visiting mountains and coasts
keeping all that I love within my calcified shell
composed of the substance of my surroundings

Hearkening to Green Team stories

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By Kimberly Y. Choi, Chesapeake Conservation Corps Member at UMD Environmental Finance

Since I had never conducted an interview before, when that part of my work duties came around, I
went to the library for advice. One book I found instructed on wresting answers out of important,
busy people. Quite a different one, purporting to be about “psychosocial interviewing,”
recommended getting interviewees comfortable with opening up and asking them to tell stories. It
was with those books in mind that I approached the Green Teams of two Maryland towns.

Extracting answers from them turned out not to require any wresting; they were eager to share
their experiences of learning about the Sustainable Maryland program and helping their towns
take part. On the other hand, I followed Hollway and Jefferson’s advice and phrased my questions
as requests for stories. Instead of “What difficulties does your Green Team have?” I had them tell
me about the projects that were the most challenging. Instead of asking, “Why do you participate?”
I asked for particular satisfying moments.

In response, they told stories I enjoyed hearing. The “satisfying moments” were particularly
memorable: I heard about projects that turned out successful, the pride and unity Green Team
members feel at events, residents’ delight at projects close to their lives, children appreciating
environmental activities.

Not everything Hollway and Jefferson recommend when interpreting interviews is relevant to
studying Sustainable Maryland, but one approach in particular is quite important: namely,
identifying the possibly-unconscious meanings and narratives that underlie people’s stories. One
Green Team member framed municipal sustainability efforts in terms of responsibility to one’s
community. Someone from a different town had a narrative of figuring out what it meant to be
‘green.’ Throughout her stories, she and others came to new understandings of greenness, made
manageable on a small scale, shed of the suspicion the media sometimes impart. To her, gaining
support for the environmental cause is often just a matter of speaking about greenness in a new

It might seem at first that stories might be less useful than traditional interview material, but in
fact there was much to learn from these underlying meanings. I learned, for instance, that one
concept important in Green Team minds is that of the government caring about its people.
Implicit or explicit in many stories was the idea that sustainability goals indicate governments’
concern, and that the common ambition brought staff and residents together. Patterns like this
one—and I’ve only just begun the analysis phase—teach us what makes some communities and
individuals so active in sustainability pursuits and puts us on the way to encouraging more.

Sitting on the dock of the Bay

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It was my last day co-leading an Alternative Weekend Trip, and the weather was perfect. Sitting on the Philip Merrill Center beach, waiting for my team to wake up, I watched sun lazily make its way up in the sky. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and light was shining off the blue green waters of the calm bay. I was dirty from hours of tree planting the day before, but I could care less. I savored these last few hours outside in the sun before returning to the busy hectic schedule waiting for me on campus. I took the deepest breath I had in the past three days and listened to the wind blowing through the meadow grasses and the calls of birds residing in them. While watching an osprey catch its breakfast, I remembered my team would be up soon and in need of the same sustenance. I made my way back to the vans to prepare the hot water so we could all enjoy our oatmeal while reflecting on what we had done over the past few days, which was a lot.

The Alternative Weekends I led were three-day trips camping on the beach of the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis and serving with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) made possible by the generous grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Besides getting some much needed time off campus and in the outdoors, Alternative Weekends introduce University of Maryland students to environmental stewardship work and educate them about the problems plaguing the Chesapeake Bay. As an Environmental Science and Policy major concentrating in Coastal and Marine Science, I have learned a lot about the Chesapeake Bay and feel an incredible connection to it after growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I went on an Alternative Break my sophomore year focusing on Chesapeake Bay restoration with CBF and knew my commitment wouldn’t end on the last day of the trip. I wanted to lead my own trip and teach other students about the watershed so I agreed to lead two alternative weekends in the fall.

The first Weekend was difficult but with the help of our guide and mentor, David Tana of CBF, and the enthusiasm of the team, the trip was a success. It rained without mercy for the duration of the weekend but our team was still able to plant seventy trees on a dairy farm and finish a wetland planting on another. We were rewarded for our work in kale, potatoes, eggs and sausage from the second farmer and could not have been more grateful. We ate the farm fresh food for breakfast the next morning and could not help but repeating over and over that this was “the best tasting produce we’ve ever had!” It was a great learning experience for the team about how supporting local farmers was rewarding for both the farmer and the customer. We reflected on where our food came from and how we could better get in touch with our community through events such as farmer’s markets.

On the second alternative weekend, we were blessed with beautiful weather and a passionate group. The members on the trip were from all different backgrounds and majors, but were interested in learning more about the Chesapeake Bay. On Saturday we attended three tree plantings and had time to set up a campfire upon returning to the beach. We engaged in a long conversation under the stars while making s’mores. We reflected on the service we did and how important conserving the environment is for all the organisms that rely on a healthy bay for existence, and how to strike a balance between human activities, such as agriculture, and ecosystem conservation. Buying food consciously and from a farmer you know and trust was a big contributor to that balance, we agreed. It was also evident that a lot of the work CBF did to help the Bay was reliant on volunteers like us. We all vowed to be active members in the community and continue to dedicate our time to events like tree plantings which make such a difference.

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to lead an Alternative Weekend that was only possible because of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. I am hopeful for my generation who is invested in where our food comes from and issues like water quality and public health because it is up to us to clean up the mess we are currently in and prevent it from happening again to future generations. There is no “Planet B” and there is no other Chesapeake Bay. With education, volunteering, and reflecting we can all feel a part of something as great as the environmental movement and make tangible change in our community. I hope the Alternative Weekends Program continues to give unknowing and unexposed students on campus a chance to go on an adventure and explore this wonderful watershed right in our backyard.

Libby Truitt, Junior ENSP- Coastal and Marine Science major at University of Maryland