OysterFutures Make Recommendations for Oyster Management in Choptank

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After a two-year process to find common ground on ways to improve oyster fishing practices and restoration in the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers, the OysterFutures stakeholders reached consensus and submitted their recommendations to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The OysterFutures research program—an experiment in consensus building funded by the National Science Foundation—brought together a diverse group of stakeholders from the oyster industry, environmental groups, other nonprofits, and government agencies to build consensus recommendations on ways to improve the oyster resource in the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“The ultimate goal of the OysterFutures stakeholder workgroup was to ensure that oyster fishing and restoration policies are informed by the best available science and share stakeholder stewardship values, resulting in an economically viable, healthy and sustainable oyster fishery and ecosystem in the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers,” said OysterFutures project leader Dr. Elizabeth North, a scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

In their package of 29 Consensus Recommendations for improving the oyster resource in the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers, the OysterFutures Stakeholders recommended that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:

· Enhance enforcement

· Explore a limited entry program

· Allow hand tonging in some sanctuary areas where no restoration efforts are planned, some with rotating harvest

· Increase planting of shell and hatchery-reared spat

· Complete planned restoration efforts

· Help place privately-funded reef balls

· Combine the above options to improve outcomes

· Use the Consensus Solutions process in Maryland

· Develop cost effective strategies for shell and substrate

· Coordinate investments in marketing strategies and business plans

· Consider increasing oyster fishery related fees and taxes

· Promote education, training, and research

OysterFutures stakeholders considered over 100 options in the process of making these recommendations, many of which were informed by the use of a computer simulation model which forecasted the potential outcomes of the recommendations.

“The stakeholders really wanted to explore a wide range of options, and they found many that are likely to result in better outcomes than continuing current policies,” said Dr. Michael Wilberg, the lead model developer on the project and professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The OysterFutures research program was based on testing a new approach for making regulations and policies called Consensus Solutions. This process – which included multiple meetings, a diverse stakeholder workgroup, professional facilitators, and a science team – built the trust among stakeholders needed to achieve the consensus recommendations.

Nine workgroup meetings were held over two years with representative stakeholders from the key interest groups that affect and are affected by the oyster fishery. Through these meetings guided by professional facilitators, the stakeholders produced a collective vision for the future of oysters in this region.

The final report is available here:  https://oysterfutures.wordpress.com/reports/

This project was supported with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Coastal Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability program with scientific support from researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Virginia Institute of Marine Science and with professional independent facilitators from Florida State University’s FCRC Consensus Center, who developed the Consensus Solutions process and facilitated the nine OysterFutures work group meetings.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

UMCES Professor Jeffrey Cornwell Receives Highest University Award

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University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Research Professor Jeffrey Cornwell has received a 2018 USM Regents’ Faculty Award for Excellence in Public Service, the highest honor that the Board bestows to recognize exemplary faculty achievement.

Dr. Cornwell, a geochemist and oceanographer at UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory, was recognized for decades of dedication to community service and his balanced leadership on some of the most challenging scientific questions related to Chesapeake Bay. His research has had national and international relevance for management of coastal natural resources and water quality, and his publications in peer-reviewed journals underscore the influence of his science beyond Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.

“Cornwell is committed to independent and objective science that can inform best management practices within the State of Maryland,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin. “He exemplifies the leadership, collaborative skills, and willingness to apply his work towards solving complex ecosystem issues, such as Poplar Island restoration, understanding the impact of Conowingo Dam, and the role of oyster reefs in reducing pollutants in Chesapeake Bay.”

Dr. Cornwell has led research teams to address critical environmental issues for the State of Maryland and served on numerous advisory committees where he has helped to inform major management decisions made by state and federal agencies.

“Throughout Jeff Cornwell’s career at UMCES he has provided essential service and advice to the State of Maryland regarding the restoration and responsible stewardship of Chesapeake Bay,” said Mike Roman, director of the UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory.

Dr. Cornwell has done pioneering work on oyster recovery programs in Chesapeake Bay and leads ongoing research on the ecological benefits of oysters, demonstrating the importance of oysters in removing excess nitrogen from the Bay and improving water clarity. Serving on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Oyster Best Management Practices Expert Panel, he led a diverse group of scientists and managers who developed the first approved in-water best management practice in Chesapeake Bay that supported efforts to improve water quality and the oyster aquaculture industry. Cornwell’s expertise in oyster filter-feeding, nutrient cycling dynamics, modeling, sediment biogeochemistry, oyster ecology, and population dynamics were instrumental in developing the guidance document, and the group’s calculations and recommendations provide a model for other impacted ecosystems.

He has been key to understanding the impact of dredged material from shipping lanes in Chesapeake Bay, including the conditions under which contaminants are released, and how to use the material to create wetlands or maintain the elevation of existing marshes. Cornwell led a team of scientists studying the establishment of marshes on Poplar Island, a disposal beneficial use of the sediments dredged to maintain efficient shipping to the Port of Baltimore.  Poplar Island now provides essential habitat for a variety of bird species and nest sites for terrapin turtles. His research is fundamental for understanding the successes and failures of the created wetlands and has led to changes in the way wetlands are created.

“It is rare for a person to possess the knowledge, skills and ability to create scientific studies that answer previously impenetrable questions, and to do so in a manner that is collaborative, comprehensible, and easy-going,” said James White, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration. “Jeff has always been approachable, and he has a way of conveying information that allows everyone from lay persons to fellow researchers to understand the applicable nature of the outcomes of his studies.”

His pre-eminence in the field of fate and transport of sediments and the chemical constituents attached to the particles is also reflected in his appointment to lead a major feasibility assessment of removing sediments from Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. Cornwell was the lead investigator of a team of scientists that provided critical data to the State of Maryland on the type of sediments and pollutants stored behind the dam, how much material enters the Chesapeake Bay under different flood conditions, and how the sediments impact Bay water quality. This information is essential for the State of Maryland to make a sound decision regarding relicensing of the dam, as well as meeting Chesapeake Bay water quality goals. The results were instrumental in helping to inform Chesapeake Bay 2017 Mid-Point Assessment.

Dr. Cornwell joined the faculty at the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory in 1986. Has contributed to teaching and training the next generation of natural resource custodians through his Biogeochemistry course, has served as advisor or co-advisor to 20 graduate students, and mentored 20 Maryland Sea Grant undergraduate REU interns. He completed his B.S. in chemistry at Hobart College and his Ph.D. in oceanography from University of Alaska.

The Board of Regents Faculty Awards publicly recognizes distinguished performance by educators and researchers within the University System of Maryland. Award categories include collaboration, mentoring, public service, teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity. This year’s awards were given by the Chancellor and Board Chairman at the Board of Regents meeting at University of Maryland Baltimore.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is renowned for its groundbreaking research on coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and boasts a number of globally eminent faculty scholars. Dr. Cornwell joins an impressive group of UMCES faculty members who have received Regents’ Faculty Awards in past years, including Drs. Mario Tamburri, Russell Hill, Tom Miller, Andrew Elmore, Keith Eshleman, Patricia Glibert, Rose Jagus, Rodger Harvey, Ed Houde, Michael Kemp, Tom Malone, Margaret Palmer, Allen Place, David Secor, and Diane Stoecker.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

New research award will help resource managers plan for increase in toxic algal blooms in Chesapeake waterways

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Researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory have been awarded funding to develop a new model to better predict the long-term occurrences of dangerous and costly harmful algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay. The cooperative project is made possible by the Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms (ECOHAB) program of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS).

“The harmful algal blooms in Chesapeake Bay have been increasing due to nutrient enrichment, and with climate change we are going to have more occurrences,” said co-investigator Professor Ming Li. “In this project we will be developing a new mechanistic model to predict the harmful algal blooms.”

The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries have long suffered from harmful algae blooms, or HABs, caused by excess nutrients running off of the land, due largely to a continually growing population in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and the development of animal and plant agriculture in its watershed. Ecosystem-disrupting events, harmful algal blooms have shown marked increase in the past 20 years.

The three-year project will develop a framework for scientists and natural resources managers to understand the impact of blooms by two of the most common microscopic algae in the Chesapeake Bay. Prorocentrum minimum, better known as ‘mahogany tide,’ can severely reduce the amount of oxygen available to living things, killing fish and altering food webs. Kalrodinium veneficum produces a toxin that has been implicated in fish-kill events in the Chesapeake Bay, as well been as associated with failure of oyster spawning and development.

“This is not a forecasting model for three or four days out,” said Professor Patricia Glibert. “Our aim is to ask longer term questions, such as if temperatures warm by a certain amount, what effect will that have? If we were to reduce nutrients, how will that affect harmful algal blooms?”

The model would be a tool to play out a number of different scenarios to understand the impact of different potential management decisions and ecosystem responses over decades. Glibert, who has been working on understanding toxic algal blooms around the world, will be handling the physiological experiments. Li, an expert on modeling hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay, will focus on developing a numerical model for the HABs.

The Chesapeake Bay is not the only place facing such problems. Similar events are happening off the coast of China and in many parts of Europe.

“We’re seeing this all over the world. More blooms, more often, lasting longer. In many places these trends are consistent with increased nitrogen loads,” Glibert.

Climate change is expected to result in warmer temperatures, higher sea level, and a changing weather patterns that will further increase the amount of nutrient pollution running off the land into waterways.

“We will be working closely with managers to develop scenarios and questions they wish to have us ask,” said Li, referring to groups like the Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of the Environment, and others. “We will add a model of the harmful algal blooms to an existing water-quality model and come up with a product that will be useful for managers.”

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. www.umces.edu

UMCES Invites Everyone to Report Dolphin Sightings in Chesapeake Bay

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The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science invites everyone who spends time on or near the Chesapeake Bay to report dolphin sightings with a new online tracking system. Chesapeake DolphinWatch allows users to mark the location of their dolphin sightings on a map of the Chesapeake and its tributaries so scientists can better understand where the dolphins are and where they go. The online tracker is accessible at www.chesapeakedolphinwatch.org .

“We’d like to increase people’s awareness of the dolphins and collect data at the same time,” said Helen Bailey, a scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. She specializes in studying the movements of marine mammals.“Whether you’re at home, whether you have a community pier, you live near the water, or you go out on the water, we need your eyes on the sea telling us where are the dolphins.”

Bottlenose dolphins are frequently spotted in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer with reports of them leaping in the air or bow riding boats. However, very little is known about how often dolphins actually come into the Bay, how long they spend there, what areas of the Bay they are using and why.

“Right now we have such scarce information. This is really the first time we are systematically recording this,” said Bailey. “We are hearing anecdotally that dolphins are becoming more frequent visitors to the Chesapeake Bay, but we really don’t have much information at all about where they are going and when. The more eyes we have on the water the better to report dolphin sightings. We think that citizens can make very good citizen scientists,” she said.

The online tracker has four main sections. There is a map page where users can see all of the reported sightings and tap to report their own sighting. Users can either enter the location where they saw the dolphins or have the device use the current location to mark the sighting. Users will be able to view how many users are accessing the tracker and the dolphin sightings in real time. There is also an information page with responsible wildlife viewing guidelines and to learn more about dolphins and the Chesapeake Bay.

“We are excited to be using new technology that will enable everyone to help us understand more about dolphins,” said Tom Miller, director of UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. “Citizen science, such as the DolphinWatch tracker, is becoming more and more important and helps connect everyone to our work to protect, restore, and sustain the Bay.”

Bailey notes that changes in climate, improvements in water quality, and improvements in fish stocks upon which dolphins feed could be factors in a surge in dolphin sightings. She already has a few underwater microphones in the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers where they meet the Chesapeake Bay listening for the echolocation click sounds dolphins make. The data collected through Chesapeake DolphinWatch will help inform where to put more devices to help understand where the dolphins are going and where are feeding.

“People have been really excited to tell us about their sightings, but there was no easy way to report them before,” said Bailey. “Dolphins are very iconic, and they are in our backyard.”

More information on the DolphinWatch program is available on the UMCES website at www.umces.edu/dolphinwatch. Tag your photos of dolphins to @dolphinwatch_cb on Instagram.

Funding for ChesapeakeDolphinWatch.org was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. http://www.umces.edu