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

8 Outings that Aren’t Taxing on the Environment

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Wine tasting at a local, sustainable winery: Support a local business and learn about green agriculture! This outing is a great way to spice up any road trip or to just get away for a day. Go with friends, family, or a significant other and take some time to smell the grapes. Some wineries will even host small parties for you.

Go on a hike and pack a picnic: There’s no better way to experience and appreciate nature than to spend a day surrounded by it! Pack a lunch and take it to go! You don’t need to go far to get exercise. Look up nearby parks or trails and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Take a Class: There are classes in eco-friendly paper-making or sustainable cooking class now. This is a great outing do to with a date, or friends. Fun and educational!

Hit the Farmers’ Market: There’s nothing like being able to pick out your produce and know that you are helping support local farmers. Farmers’ Markets are very popular, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one close by. If you have a big family, consider joining a CSA that has weekly produce pick-ups.

Visit a Museum: Taking a trip to a museum is an excellent way to spend the day! If the weather isn’t nice enough to be outside, take the kids to a museum. There are so many different kinds of museums—history, art, botanical gardens—and a lot of them are free.

Play Tourist in Your City: Have you really taken advantage of everything your town has to offer? Leave the car in the driveway and explore where you live. I have a long list of places I want to visit where I live. The Botanical Gardens in D.C. or the Dragon Run Kayak tours are next on my list.

Stargazing: Laying out and admiring the stars is a wonderful ending to a day and the best part is that there is no pollution involved! Just you and your blanket and a clear sky. If you’re ambitious: make it a nighttime picnic or try to name all the constellations. Leave your phones at home and make an effort to really unplug.

Urban Gardens: If you live in or near a large city then there’s a garden that needs help! Large cities have community gardens that are always looking for volunteers. Grab your friends, your gardening gloves, and your rake and spend a day helping out. It’s a rewarding way to help the environment and socialize at the same time.

Marie Paterson is an intern at the Chesapeake Bay Trust in the Development and Communications Department and a junior at UMBC majoring in Psychology and Media and Communications.

A New Front in the Fight for Maryland’s Forests

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Deep in the woods of Maryland, a hidden war is being waged. On one side, the native trees that have provided food, shelter, clean water and beauty to the region for thousands of years. On the other, foreign invaders that have upset the natural balance of the state’s ecosystems and are threatening to make the forest less diverse and a less enjoyable place to visit. The winner will help determine if and how our natural systems will continue to deliver these benefits to both animals and people in the face of future threats such as climate change and development.

This battle is not new; non-native pests and pathogens have been attacking our natural heritage for more than 100 years. The chestnut blight, a fungus introduced to Eastern forests from China around the beginning of the 20th century, quickly brought the American chestnut, one of our most ecologically and culturally important trees, to functional extinction throughout the eastern United States. Additionally, since the late 1800s our state’s forests have been battered by frequent outbreaks of the gypsy moth, an invasive from Europe, which defoliates and eventually kills thousands of acres of forest annually. But this newest wave of invasives may prove fatal to other species that are some of the most ecologically valuable trees in the forest.

The first pest, the emerald ash borer, is a beetle native to Eastern Asia that was accidentally brought to the United States in the bottom of a cargo ship sometime in the 1990s. Originally discovered in Michigan in 2002, it arrived in Maryland the next year at a nursery in Prince George’s County, and despite a ban on transporting firewood has since expanded its range to other parts of the state, reaching the Eastern Shore in 2015. The emerald ash borer, or EAB, lays eggs in the bark of ash trees. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the trunk and feed on the sugar-rich sap within. This destroys the tree’s phloem, robbing it of its ability to transport water and nutrients between tissues and eventually killing it. The second invader, the hemlock woolly adelgid, or HWA, is a small aphid-like insect native to Japan. It arrived to the Eastern US in Virginia in the 1950s, reaching Maryland by the 1980s. These insects feed on Eastern and Carolina hemlocks, and can be easily identified by the white wooly sacs that protect the eggs. When the eggs hatch, their larvae crawl to the bases of the needles on the hemlock branches and feed on the sugars the tree produces via photosynthesis. This, combined with the toxins they sometimes inject in to the phloem, causes the needles to dry out and drop off the tree, leading to its death.

Both of these species have the potential to drastically alter the composition of Maryland’s forests by virtually eliminating ash and hemlock from the landscape. Aggressive infestations of both EAB and HWA can kill a target tree within four years, and studies have found that once established in a stand of ash or hemlock, tree mortality rates can reach 98 percent. This would be a major loss on several fronts. Ash trees are valued economically for their furniture-quality wood, culturally for their use in traditional Native American crafts and ceremonies, and ecologically as a source of food and protection for a variety of animal species as well as an important actor in preventing soil erosion along river banks. Similarly, hemlocks play a vital role in the riparian and cove habitats in which they are found, improving water quality by preventing soil runoff and providing shade to keep stream temperatures suitably low for species like brook trout. Additionally, both ash and hemlock are commonly used as ornamental trees in urban and suburban areas, meaning that this battle between tree and pest could be occurring in your backyard right now. Local tree loss will have regional effects too – dying ash and hemlock means more erosion and runoff into streams and rivers, which in turn means a more polluted and less healthy Chesapeake Bay.

So how can we turn the tide in this war? Bring in the reinforcements. As this year’s Chesapeake Conservation Corps member at The Nature Conservancy MD/DC chapter, I am working on a project to tilt the scales in favor of forests. The reason both EAB and HWA are such a grave threat to forest health is that neither have natural enemies in the area. Without predators to keep them in check, they have been free to run rampant. Therefore, classical biological control has been identified as the best long-term option for management. Classical biological control, or biocontrol, involves finding a natural predator that is specific to the target pest and effective in reducing its population. In EAB’s case, there are three parasitic wasp species that have been approved for release in the United States and have proven successful at establishing at release sites. For HWA, there are three beetle species, two from the Pacific Northwest and one from Japan, which have successfully been released and established in the region or are slated for release in the near future. My role in this effort is to write internal proposals for the release of these biocontrol agents on TNC lands, and then (pending approval) assess our preserves in the state to determine which would qualify as high-potential release sites. Ideally, I will be able to make some initial releases by the end of the summer, but that step may fall to my successor. Nevertheless, it is an exciting project that has the potential to help protect Maryland’s forests from degradation and protect the health of the Bay. The Nature Conservancy’s preserves encompass some of the most unique habitats in the state, and guarding them against invasion is good for both the rare species that dwell in those areas and for all of us who want to visit and enjoy them.

Nobody knows who will emerge the victor in this decades-old struggle between native trees and the invasive pests and pathogens seeking to destroy them. In an age of ever-increasing globalization, new invasives will continue to arrive at our shores, further weakening the integrity of our forests and requiring renewed searches for control options. Meanwhile, climate change will bring new stressors to bear, such as drought, wildfires, and storm damage. In order to save Maryland’s forests and the myriad services they contribute to our communities and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, we must all be aware of what is going on in our backyards and nearby woods, and support efforts to protect them. Only by working in tandem with state agencies, conservation groups, and local communities can we contain and control the invasives here now, and protect the health and intactness of our forests for years to come.

Andrew Ireland is a Chesapeake Conservation Corps member at The Nature Conservancy.

Why Arlington Echo Made Me Want to go Back to Summer Camp

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Why Arlington Echo Made Me Want to go Back to Summer Camp

For many adults, the start of summer means rolling down the windows during the drive to the office and looking out the window a little more longingly while we’re there. So when I was offered a chance to spend a Friday with the Chesapeake Conservation Corps at Arlington Echo, an Outdoor Education Center that sees every fourth grader in the county each year, for one of their “All Hands on Deck” events I accepted immediately. Expecting nothing more than a few hours in the sun and maybe a decent lunch, I was completely unprepared for the experience I received.

As I arrived, I caught glimpses of pavilions and picnic tables tucked behind trees, several inviting trails branched off of the main road, and a cloud of butterflies and bumblebees hovered over the flower gardens that surround every building and field. Having not been to an outdoor education center since I was about 12, I was afraid that I would no longer enjoy an entire day of environmental education geared towards a pre-teen age group. While I parked my car and walked towards my Corps group I couldn’t help feeling like I was walking into a new elementary school, worried that the other kids would make fun of my shoes. But my fears evaporated instantly under the infectious smile of Anna, our group’s camp guide, as she led us towards the low ropes course. Minutes later I was being passed through a gigantic spider web, lifted over a 12 foot wall to escape the “zombie apocalypse,” and testing the limits of my balancing skills on “Don’t rock the boat.”

Feeling much more comfortable with my new friends and our teamwork potential, we met up with the rest of the Corps members and Echo staff for lunch. Before we could eat however, we had to learn the rules of Wheel of Echo! , a game after lunch where a lucky 4th grader (usually) gets to show off their ecology chops by answering a random nature question. Despite my personal, grouchy aversion to cheesy audience participation, I soon found myself joining the rest of the dining hall in enthusiastically shouting “SPIN THAT SQUIRREL!” and straining to see what category it landed on. However, lunch wasn’t over until after the traditional weighing of any leftover food waste. Thankfully our group of career environmentalists was able to finish our veggies, earning us a coveted spot on the food waste wall of fame.

After a short digestion break, the Conservation Corps split into two groups and prepared for an afternoon hike/canoe through the Severn Run natural area. Not satisfied that we were soaking in all that Arlington Echo had to offer the staff challenged us to see which group could spot the most plant and animal species before we left later that day. So with our eyes and ears peeled looking for types of life we began paddling up the Severn Run. Focused mostly on not getting stuck in the shallows, and then of course on having to get ourselves un-stuck, we were only able to identify six different types of birds including a great blue heron, a kingfisher, and even a bald eagle. The real fun began once we met up with the other group and our mystical forest guide Sean.

Leading us through stands of chestnut oak and Virginia pine, pointing out lady slipper orchids and wild cherries, rainbow tie-dye socks poking out of the tops of his boots, Sean McGuinn could only be described as the cool counselor in every movie about summer camp. As he led down the trail leaking tidbits of information like “Jewelweed can help counteract poison ivy,” I was reminded of my childhood camp experiences just like when I was in 4th grade and looked up to older kids working at Arlington Echo and decided that’s what I want to be when I grow up.

It wasn’t until we had finished the hike and I sat under a red cedar rehydrating that I realized how much fun the entire Arlington Echo experience had been. Not only was the location right on the Severn River beautiful, you could tell the staff truly cared about their program and wanted every visitor to leave with a newfound passion for supporting local habitat. On top of Arlington Echo itself, I was blown away by the Chesapeake Conservation Corps members: their enthusiasm for environmental stewardship, and the incredible projects they are working on outside of this event. Somehow it made even my own healthy environmental passions and career goals feel shallow. The worst part of the day was driving away and realizing that I had to go to work on Monday and there are kids that are going to get to go there every day of the week this summer.

Will Cameron is an intern at Chesapeake Bay Trust and a senior at John Hopkins University.

Sustainably Cultivating Faraway Fields 

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By Kimberly Y. Choi

My discomfort at a Watershed Forum session about GIS applications was at once resolved when a professional sitting behind me said to the instructor, “Not all of us are scientists,” for indeed I wasn’t a scientist.

Throughout my later schooling I feared I was finally in the grasp of specialization, that I was closing off opportunities to involve myself formally in any disciplines other than my own. And now at the GIS session, which I attended out of curiosity, it felt inappropriate somehow to sit in an audience among scientists who might use the data we were discussing to position a real construction project in its proper location. It was relieving to find out there were others who were not scientists by training. My worries were dispelled that it should be indulgent of me to choose a workshop not directly related to my work. Instead it was permissible here, even encouraged, for me to expand my Chesapeake knowledge across fields, and treat it as a legitimate part of my work. After some years of introducing myself to others with my degree program, being told the disciplines are disparate modes of thought, and seeing scholarly papers criticize other disciplines for approaching a problem the wrong way, attending a variety of workshops at the Forum to entertain various informal interests seemed something of an act of defiance.

The Corps in fact has us regularly committing such acts. Volunteering and visiting outside our specific areas of work are considered almost as valuable as doing so within. Although we come from a wide range of educational backgrounds, we’re largely said to occupy the same field. Those disciplinary divisions that so clearly delineated ourselves as students are breaking down in the interest of a common issue. I can see how projects of conservation and sustainability lend well to that dissolution, as their very concern is the reconciliation of the built environment with the natural one, the human with the nonhuman, our membership in the ecosystem with our membership in the state. For me in particular, no longer is it sensible to think the concerns of humanity a domain disconnected from their tangible surroundings, if I am to work with the attitudes and social phenomena around tangible measures to protect the environment. I’d guess the scientists of the Corps confront a similar dissolution, between science and society and between the branches of science.

At events and site visits, it’s been pleasant spending time around Corps members with other bodies of knowledge, other ways of thinking. On a walk outdoors, I am not in the habit of identifying pieces of infrastructure and kinds of trees, but others are, and they point out to me those interesting bits of the environment we live and work in that I’m not accustomed to notice.

As we unite in looking after our locale, we find it’s good for us to cultivate academic fields both near and far, without pesticides, and with a rain garden in the corner.

Chesapeake Bay Trust Conservation Corps Leadership Training

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By Brandt Dirmeyer

On the 26th and 27th of October, 2016, as part of my year as a Chesapeake Conservation Corpsmember, I attended an Environmental Leadership Training retreat across the Potomac from Harper’s Ferry at the Blue Mountain Retreat with half of the other corpsmembers. We spent a little over 24 hours together with Tara Baker, the program officer of the CCC and Michael Gagné, the regional programs manager for the Environmental Leadership Program, learning what it takes to achieve our professional goals through introspective exercises that helped us better understand our strengths and weaknesses.

According to the Strengthsfinder test that all of us were required to complete before the training, my skillset focuses on the absorption, synthesis, and extrapolation of the details of the environment around me. My top five were input, connectedness, intellection, ideation, and learner. I took these attributes to mean that I am best when I am allowed to exist beyond myself, to think about the world at large as opposed to my comfort as an individual. From this, I was then able to see where my weakness lies. I have difficulty thinking about myself as an individual. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see my asymmetric eyes nor my full lips, but my original face. I am uncritical of my personal trajectory as I spend too much time critically thinking about the course of humanity and the ecological worlds we inhabit. My mind is not an arborescent hierarchy of feelings and facts, but, according to my former literary theory professor, a rhizomatic structure noding every which way. Luckily, many of the exercises Michael led us through focused us on ourselves and the goals we strive to achieve in this life we’ve been generously given.

The exercise that most stuck out to me was one where we were told to draw two trees, one with a problem in its trunk, and another with a corresponding solution. The roots of the problem and solution trees extend upward to the branches filled with the budding fruits of causality. For the problem tree, the roots were the causes of the problem and the branches were the products of the problem, and vice versa for the solution tree. While most of the corpsmembers thought about their paths towards graduate school or the careers they hoped to find, I ended up focusing on how to recreate nature’s sustainable infrastructure of clean water and localized agroecology across the world, as I have recently been reading Vandana Shiva’s most recent book, Who Really Feeds the World? Obviously, this is a daunting task that I could never accomplish on my own, nor did I have the time to write out every root and branch of the problem and the solution, but it helped me to envision a world beyond the desirous overconsumption of finite resources that plagues the current world to an ideal world where all forms of present biota can coexist and proliferate from the production of others.

For another exercise, we were instructed to make a chart of our five biggest wins, with “my big wins” in the center and each win branching outward from the center. I thought of four right away: Cognitive Autonomy, Career Foundation, Legal Freedom, and Physical Health. A number of these I can attribute to the privileged position that I was born into, but I also had to consciously act in order to make the most of my advantageous circumstances. This is why I empathize with the suffering of the world. Since I was born and raised in the third largest and most studied estuary in the world, it is easy to dismiss the fight for water rights in Bolivia, the conflict between nuclear powers Pakistan and India over the historically-contested Jammu and Kashmir, or the droughts and depleted aquifers that are catalyzing the crumbling of Arabia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean, and California as existing beyond personal scope.

Too bad everything is interconnected through complex cyclic processes. Clear right and wrong moral answers are hard to find in our multiplicitous world of necessary-yet-bounded natural resources. Nelson Mandela, the beloved leader of post-Apartheid South Africa, a man who experienced alienation, subjugation, oppression, and torture at the hands of ulterior interests, made a tough decision when he invaded the precipitous highlands of Lesotho to secure that water flows cheaply to the arid central region of the first country to assert water as a human right.

The fight for water rights in Bolivia during the Cochabamba Water War happened because an engineering firm in California bought rights to the country’s water for private use. Arabia, North Africa, the Western United States, and the Mediterranean are desertifying at rapid rates because of the changes in climate brought on by our own ignorance of our deep connections to the environments that sustain us. Countless empires from the Assyrians to the Romans, the Mayans and the Minoans collapsed from over-irrigation, monoculture farming, deprivation of the population’s nutrition, and the subsequent environmental changes that led to each catastrophic decline. While Lake Chad receded from natural climate variability, as the Sahara fluctuates between desert and grassland every 20,000 years or so, Lake Urmia in northwest Iran has decreased by about 80% in the past 40 years, with most of the change occurring between 2009-2015.

After thinking hard about my fifth biggest win as I wandered the grounds of the retreat, looking at the grasses under my feet, the trees towering above me, and the vultures circling high, I realized that my last big win wasn’t necessarily a personal win, but more something that I could never lose: the sun. For all the energy that I exert on the page and in the waking world, for all the energy that we exert as we do our personal best to make Earth a better place than how it was when we first came into its nurturing atmosphere, and for all the energy that we consume in the pursuit of something greater, we have the radiant star that we orbit to thank. The sun and the moon have been eternal witnesses to the changes in our original face.

To conclude this blog, I will share the first exercise that we did at the training. As we all sat in a large circle in an open room, Michael gave us three quotes from Rabbi Hillel and asked us to write about the thoughts that the quotes provoke within us. The first was, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” followed by, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” and lastly, “If not now, when?” In order to order my thoughts, I wrote in the manner that has historically been reserved for the contemplation of existence: poetry. Prose, at it currently stands with all of its punctuation, paragraphs and logical sequences, is a fairly recent development in human history, with the earliest popular English novel Robinson Crusoe, a travel narrative about a British man encountering the “savages” of Trinidad until he can be saved and sail back to civilization, written by Daniel Defoe in 1719. At the show-and-tell later that evening, I shared this poem that I wrote, titled If Not Now, When?


If Not Now, When?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me
If I am at a distance from my mental health
How will I see the organic beauty all around me
originating outside myself, my original face is free
to wander through dense forests filled with diverse trees
leading my mind on a journey, not only for myself
but through interactions in scene, we are at play
to combine our differences under illuminated sun rays
captured for their proliferating energy that sustains
the abundance of life left outside when it rains
yet some stay sheltered and never know the feeling
of allowing rain drops to permeate our skin, for healing
our minds, we must become aware of our present place
in the currents of time, we must share our sense of this space