Category : Chesapeake Bay Ecology


Printables: Additional Links: The Chesapeake Bay Program has a great write-up on wetlands here: https://www.chesapeakebay.net/issues/wetlands Environmental Concern has several teacher-friendly publications about wetlands: https://wetland.org/education/publications/ Here is an interesting video about wetlands by Bill Nye the Science Guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeUPbGWg2KU

Action Items

There are many actions that individuals can take to lessen their impact on the Chesapeake Bay.  In this lesson, students are introduced to projects that residents of Chestertown have implemented to improve the health of the Chester River. Printables: Additional Links: This list from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has lots of examples of effective action projects to improve water quality: https://dnr.maryland.gov/education/Pages/Action_Projects.aspx   Here are some great ideas for student-led action projects from the Chesapeake Bay Program: http://baybackpack.com/schoolyard_projects   […]

Fish Anatomy

Scientists classify fish based on certain shared characteristics.  Let’s identify some features that all fish have in common.   Printables: Additional Links: Information on the White Perch a fish that you can find in many part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. https://www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/white_perch   Here is a handy map to the parts of a fish. http://aquaticnation.org/library/Lib_Gen_Fishbodypart01.php   An exploration of the fish, inside and out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNZQEmGp11k

Dissolved Oxygen

Organisms that breathe through gills require dissolved oxygen in the water.  How does oxygen get dissolved and how much of it do different species need?   Printables: Additional Links: The USGS has a good series of articles about Dissolved Oxygen. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/dissolved-oxygen-and-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects   The Chesapeake Bay Program has an interesting article about Dissolved Oxygen. https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/dissolved_oxygen   A video from MIT explains dissolved oxygen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVW5LAzd7Ec


Diamondback Terrapins are the official state reptile of Maryland, which is fitting as they prefer the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay.  They can be identified by the distinctive diamond-shaped pattern on their shells.   Printables: Additional Links: Some quick facts about Diamondback Terrapins. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/reptiles/facts-about-diamondback-terrapins/   The US Fish and Wildlife Service provides some great information about the Diamondback Terrapin. https://www.fws.gov/international/cites/cop16/diamondback-terrapin.html   Video of Diamondback Terrapins nesting. https://www.fws.gov/international/cites/cop16/diamondback-terrapin.html


Catfish are easily identified by their whisker-like features called barbels.  Let’s look at what they actually do for the fish as well as some of their other characteristics.    Printables: Additional Links: Some quick facts from the Chesapeake Bay Program on Channel Catfish. https://www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/channel_catfish   A story from Atlas Obscura examines how invasive catfish have altered the ecosystem of the Bay. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/blue-catfish   A video about the impact that an invasive catfish has had on the Chesapeake Bay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzKc51lvPUM


Closely resembling a flounder, the Hog Choker is one of the Chesapeake Bay’s flatfish.  Because of their ability to camouflage and hide themselves, they are often unnoticed by most people.   Printables: Additional Links: Information on the Hogcholker from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. https://www.vims.edu/research/departments/fisheries/programs/multispecies_fisheries_research/species_data/hogchoker/   More information on the Hogchoker from the Chesapeake Bay Program. https://www.chesapeakebay.net/S=0/fieldguide/critter/hogchoker   Here is a short video showing how a hogchoker buries itself for protection. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu8FoSAl7sg

Water Quality – Secchi Disc

The water in the Chesapeake is not as clear as water in a swimming pool.  What makes it murkier and how can we measure this difference?   Printables: Additional Links: A description of a Secchi Disk. https://www.nalms.org/secchidipin/monitoring-methods/the-secchi-disk/what-is-a-secchi-disk/   The USGS provides important information about turbidity, which is what a secchi disk measures. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/turbidity-and-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects   A quick article about how the Secchi Disk evolved over time. https://www.nalms.org/secchidipin/monitoring-methods/the-secchi-disk/why-a-black-and-white-secchi-disk/

Water Quality – pH

Scientists measure a water’s pH level to see if it is acidic, basic, or neutral.  Let’s look at contributing factors that could tilt the scales in one direction or another. Printables: Additional Links: The USGS provides some information about the pH scale. https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/ph-and-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects   A short summary about why pH is an important measurement. https://sciencing.com/effect-ph-living-organisms-6723807.html   A video about how living organisms tolerate different pH levels in the water column. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-nI3Ws7nxQ

Water Quality – Nitrogen

Nitrogen can enter the Bay’s waterways through natural processes as well as man-made contributions.  How does this impact the health of the Chesapeake? Printables: Additional Links: The USGS provides an interactive map where students see the impact of nitrogen in the watershed, https://cbrim.er.usgs.gov/maps/   An article about nitrogen in the Potomac River. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231016305234   A video explaining nutrient pollution from the EPA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCicSNnKUvM

Intertidal Zone (Seining)

Printables: ADDITIONAL LINKS: National Geographic article with a good definition of the intertidal zone: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/intertidal-zone/   The National Park Service provides an overview of different types of intertidal zones: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/oceans/intertidal.htm   PBS Digital Studios has a great video about the intertidal zone in oceanic environments: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR1gP5S6Bsk  


Printables: Additional Links: The Chesapeake Bay Program provides a great overview of underwater grasses: https://www.chesapeakebay.net/issues/bay_grasses The MD Department of Natural Resources has developed an excellent key to identify SAVs: https://dnr.maryland.gov/waters/bay/Documents/SAV/complete_sav_key.pdf The Associated Press made a video about the recovery of SAVs on the Susquehanna Flats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbE4AUN3k_4


Salinity refers to the amount of salt contained in a given sample of water.  When salt water from the ocean mixes with fresh water from the land it produces brackish water in the Chesapeake.  This range of salt levels will impact which organisms can live there.   Printables: Additional Links: Here is a series of articles about Salinity in estuaries from Freshwater Inflow. https://www.freshwaterinflow.org/estuarine-condition   NASA provides a map of salinity levels in all of the world’s waterways. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/aquarius/multimedia/gallery/pia14786.html   […]

Eastern Oyster

A single adult oyster can filter up to 50-gallons of water in a single day.  For this reason, they may be one of the most important species when it comes to ensuring the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Printables: Additional Links: Some basic information about the Eastern Oyster from NOAA. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/eastern-oyster   The Baltimore Sun provides a timeline of the history of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. https://www.baltimoresun.com/food-drink/bal-a-brief-history-of-oysters-in-the-chesapeake-bay-20140603-story.html   The North Carolina Sea Grant has a video about the life […]

Blue Crab

One of the best-known species in the Chesapeake is the Atlantic Blue Crab.  What makes these waterways such a productive habitat for this organism? Printables: Additional Links: The National Aquarium provides some information on the Blue Crab. https://www.aqua.org/Experience/Animal-Index/blue-crab   This Scientific American article explores how habitat changes impact the behavior of the Blue Crab. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/blue-crabs-migrate-north-as-ocean-warms/   The Smithsonian explains how scientists track Blue Crab populations in the Chesapeake Bay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caC91NtCiI8


The plankton, or drifters, of the Chesapeake Bay are often invisible to the human eye.  However, these plant and animal species for the base of the estuary’s food chain.   Printables: Additional Links: Here is an interesting article about the evolving nature of plankton in our modern world. https://www.wired.com/2015/06/plankton-wonders-of-the-drifting-world/   Interesting information on plankton from the magazine The Scientist. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/mixing-it-up-in-the-web-of-life-65431   A video from TED exploring plankton. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFQ_fO2D7f0


64,000 square miles of land around the Bay “shed” their water into the Chesapeake through streams, rivers, and runoff.  Let’s take a look at how that works. Printables: Additional Links: National Geographic provides a series of maps of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/maps/chesapeake-bay/   The EPA provides a great deal of information about the general plan for the Chesapeake Bay. https://www.epa.gov/chesapeake-bay-tmdl   Here is a video from NASA about how we can learn about the watershed from satellite imagery. https://www.epa.gov/chesapeake-bay-tmdl