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Other Aspects

Wild (feral) ponies visit our campsite on Assateaque Island

On the trip we also visited Assateaque Island and Ocean city Maryland, to contrast the quiet waters of the bay with the open coast of the barrier islands, and the natural Assateaque seashore with developed Ocean City. We concluded the trip in Washington DC, where students had a day to explore the City on their own.

Kapil, John and Wes prepare dinner on Assateaque IslandChemistry Professor Cliff Harris poses with models in one of many shops along the Ocean City BoardwalkErica and Lisa discuss global change policy with Senator Debbie Stabenow's environmental aideStudents relax in the National Building Museum after visiting the display on green building

The Watershed


Chesapeake Bay is wide and shallow, so contains a small amount of water for an estuary of its size. It also has a very large area of watershed for its volume of water, and thus is quite susceptible to contamination from activities in the watershed. Originally almost entirely forested, the watershed now is the site of coal mining, industry, agriculture and, increasingly, urbanization. A forest acts like a sponge, evening flows and filtering nutrients. Without its forests, the watershed is prone do delivering bursts of freshwater, contaminated with nutrients and worse into the Bay. To save the bay, it is necessary to reclaim at least part of the forests function in the watershed.

Acid seeps from old coal mines have killed fish in hundreds of miles of tributary streams in central PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Forester Doug D'Amore shows one of the remediation efforts to treat acid mine runoff.  Though millions of dollars have been spent, tens of millions or more would be needed to solve the problemSteam emerges from the ground in Centralia, PA, where burning coal seams have forced abandonment of a town

The Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna provides renewable power, but at the cost of interfering with American Shad and other fish migration.  A fish elevator has been installed to help alleviate this problem







The group pauses for a picnic in Lancaster County, PA where productive farms contribute to nutrient loading of the bayA group photo at Three Mile Island.  Though not presently an issue in the watershed, historically the nuclear accident here led to a halt in construction of new nuclear power plants in the U.S. for many years

The Bay

Students enjoy a sunset on Smith Island

Chesapeake Bay is rich in history, resources and natural beauty. All of these are evident on Smith Island, located off the eastern shore half way up the bay. During our stay on the island, we gained a sense of place by talking with residents of town, scraped for crabs (and other marine life) in the grass beds, and discussed policy with educators from the Chesapeake bay foundation.

Should pacific oysters, non-native, but resistant to invasive disease that has decimated native oyster populations be introduced? Does scraping grass beds for crabs really encourage more growth? How will the island be affected by rising sea levels? What would it be like to live a life with time dictated by season and tide? These and other questions kept us thoroughly engaged.

Zakk found a dry place to stow himself on the ride to Smith IslandDespite the decline of the oyster fishery, waterman are able to make a living from the sea.  We were on the island for the soft-shelled crab seasonStudents and Alumna Julie Falkner ('85) discuss issues raised during the day. Julie, a senior policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy, joined us on Smith IslandAlex displays bycatch from our crab scraping, a sea turtle.  The turtle later found its way back into the bay








One afternoon was spent strolling teh streets of Tylertown, and visiting with the residents to hear their stories.  All welcomed us into their homes, and the experience helped us appreciate the deep traditions of the islandAlex enjoys boiled crab at Harris Crab House.  Owner Karen Ortel gave her perspectives on bay issues, challenging scientists for endlessly seeking grants rather than action, and environmentalists for being too cautious about introducing Pacific oysters

Other Trip Details

An experiment aimed at understanding the growth and carbon sequestration under elevated CO2 is explained at Oak Ridge National Lab

On the trip, we also explored other issues and visited other relevant places. At the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Labs, we visited the environmental section, where experiments ranging from ways to lessen fish kills from hydroelectric turbines to studies of the potential effects of elevated global CO2 on forest growth were explained.

Early morning mists shroud Fontana Dam, built to provide power to war industries, including Oak Ridge, in the 1940's

On another day we visited the TVA headquarters and the nearby Norris Dam, first of many hydroelectric projects which forever altered both the economy and the riparian ecology of the region.

 Students stroll amid the gardens of Eco-village residents

We ended the trip with a quick visit to Berea College's Eco-village. This complex of apartments uses 75% less water and energy than conventional housing. The progressive environmental and social innovations shown by a sister College provided inspirational and up end to our trip.


Tiles created by children in the complex adorn the base of a demonstration straw bale pavilion in the complex

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