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Maryland Sea Grant projects aid fishers, businesses, policymakers, and conservation volunteers in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region. Here are highlights of our program's impacts and accomplishments in 2022. These summaries describe scientific research; extension and public outreach; and education and communications efforts.
The highlights are grouped by these four broad focus areas in Maryland Sea Grant's strategic plan:
A cornerstone of our program is to continually evaluate and report on the real-world impacts of our projects. These projects are drawn from our 2022 annual report for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of our major funders. You can read our reports about our impacts and accomplishments in years before 2022 in a searchable database on NOAA's National Sea Grant College program's website.
Using eDNA as a novel monitoring method, Maryland Sea Grant-supported researchers are developing tools to better assess populations of shad and herring, making it easier to gather needed data about these important Chesapeake Bay fish.
Partners: Maryland Coastal Bays Program; Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR); Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), Horn Point Laboratory
Relevance: River herring and shad are important species in the Chesapeake Bay but are difficult to study. Their populations have decreased due to pollution, historic overfishing, habitat loss, and warming waters. Shad spend most of their adult life in the ocean, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) manages the coastal shad and river herring stock. ASMFC's 2020 American Shad Benchmark Stock Assessment found stocks coast-wide to be depleted, and a 2017 assessment of river herring reported similar findings. Maryland's commercial shad fishery has been closed since 1980. Developing accurate, affordable methods to monitor river herring and shad populations in the Bay is key to their restoration and management.
Response: Researchers supported by Maryland Sea Grant (MDSG) and an MDSG fellow are using environmental DNA (eDNA)-genetic material shed by animals that remains in water for about 24 to 72 hours-to identify when and where river herring and shad are present in the Chesapeake Bay. The researchers are comparing eDNA data from the Choptank and Northeast rivers to results from traditional survey methods, including gillnet surveys and electrofishing, as well as video analysis of sonar data. They developed quantitative qPCR assays specific to American and hickory shad, which measure how much of a species' DNA is in a water sample. They are now testing the shad assays in the field, including in Maryland waters, to evaluate their effectiveness.
Results: Shad assay information was shared with representatives from the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources who requested use of the new technology for their own waters. Researchers have now successfully used the technology to detect shad in water samples from North Carolina, the Delaware River, and the Chesapeake Bay. The MDSG fellow is building on this work by developing a model that can predict fish count in a single river based on eDNA concentration and comparing results with true run count estimates from traditional survey methods. This model is providing fisheries managers with an additional, more accessible tool to monitor shad and river herring abundance, making it easier to gather data about these important fish. The team plans to present their research to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay Office this year.
Maryland Sea Grant-funded research shows that excess salt in freshwater can produce "chemical cocktails" harmful to wildlife, the environment, and human health, and highlights the need to consider salt pollution when developing best management practices to reduce pollution from runoff.
Partners: Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; University of Maryland College Park (UMCP); US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)
Relevance: Human activities, such as de-icing roads in the winter, can add excess salts to streams, creeks, and rivers. Too much salt can harm wildlife, contaminate drinking water, and corrode infrastructure. It can also lead to freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS), where salt ions cause other pollutants, like metals, to flow into waterways. However, current best management practices to reduce runoff do not typically address salts. Understanding how salts accumulate, how they interact with other contaminants, and how long they persist will help managers evaluate the risks of salt pollution and develop strategies to protect public health and the environment.
Response: Maryland Sea Grant-supported researchers studied the concentration and movement of salts, nutrients, and metals across seven urban watersheds in the Mid-Atlantic. They conducted salinization experiments on sediment samples using common road salts and analyzed the chemistry of stream-water samples collected at each site. The researchers found that FSS mobilizes major ions, nutrients, and metals in streams, creating potentially harmful "chemical cocktails." They also found that stream restoration efforts-such as step pools intended to slow the flow of stormwater-may unintentionally retain excess salts. The researchers also synthesized 29 case studies from North America and Europe which showed similar findings to their data.
Results: Researchers shared their results with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and helped them develop a fact sheet on freshwater salinization syndrome (FSS). This information on the risk of salt and FSS is accessible on the EPA's website (https://www.epa.gov/risk/salt) and has been viewed 780 times since its publication, according to Google Analytics data from March 2023. Researchers also held a workshop in 2022, where they presented their findings to a group of about 1,000 practitioners and scientists. They surveyed the group about future research needs and published a report on the top 10 management questions related to FSS. The report has been cited six times since its publication.
To support a growing land-based Atlantic Salmon aquaculture industry in the United States (US $2 billion investment), a three-year, National Sea Grant Program-funded network hosted its final meeting of collaborators, researchers, industry, and educators as the network expands. This work led to a new $10 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
Partners: Maine Sea Grant; Morgan State University; The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute; University of Maine (UMaine); University of Maryland Baltimore County; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology; Wisconsin Sea Grant
Relevance: Salmon is one of the most in-demand seafood products in the United States. Land-based Atlantic salmon production using land-based, recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) technology offers the US aquaculture industry a viable and sustainable means to expand domestic salmon production, while also increasing biosecurity, minimizing environmental impact, and improving proximity to regional markets. As of 2022, over $2 billion has been invested in US salmon RAS production, including multiple facilities currently in development and construction. An additional $1 billion in investments is expected within the next five years in Maryland alone.
Response: The Recirculating Aquaculture Salmon Network (RAS-N), a National Sea Grant Program-funded collaboration between Maryland, Maine, and Wisconsin Sea Grant programs, and many partners, supported the growing Atlantic Salmon aquaculture industry in the U.S. The final meeting in Fall 2022 of the RAS-N collaborators included nearly 100 participants, including industry members, researchers, educators, and Extension Specialists. The meeting included a field trip, networking opportunities, and tech transfer opportunities as researchers presented findings to the broader network, and panel discussions prompted further conversations.
Results: A variety of extension and education activities were produced, including videos, curriculum, and newsletters. Research collaborations, extension activities, and education activities has been further strengthened and developed through the Sustainable Aquaculture Systems Supporting Atlantic Salmon (SAS2), supported by a $10M grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Maryland Sea Grant supports this effort in a leading role, with MDSG staff and Extension specialists involved in SAS2 research, education, and extension objectives.
To help oyster aquaculture businesses understand their operational costs and remain profitable, a University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension Specialist launched an online business planning tool that provides customized income projections for individual businesses that more than 180 users have accessed and used for their aquaculture business planning.
Partners: Palisade; University of Maryland
Relevance: Oyster aquaculture businesses run on tight profit margins, and require large up-front investments for equipment, including boats, oyster seed or larvae to raise, and containers or oyster shell for their lease. Since the oysters can take 2-3 years to grow large enough to sell, oyster growers may have several growing seasons before they see a profit or return on their investment. Understanding start-up costs of a new business or projecting business expenses for established farms can help oyster growers plan for the future. Additionally, growers must have a business plan to apply for state-funded loans.
Response: A University of Maryland Extension Specialist affiliated with Maryland Sea Grant developed a business planning tool for oyster aquaculture operations over the last decade. However, to use the tool, growers had to work directly with the specialist. In 2022, the specialist worked with a consultant to create a web-based version of the tool through a grant from the National Sea Grant Program. This new tool now allows growers to anonymously input factors like gear cost and oyster mortality. Then, based on the grower's information, the tool runs a model and provides the business's annual cash flow estimates and projected income for the next 10 years.
Results: More than 180 users have accessed the business tool since its launch in November 2022. One oyster grower commented he has "worked with many [business tools] and this is a good one I will use." The tool's release online allows this work to reach a broader audience since growers can directly, anonymously access the tool. Since the Extension Specialist no longer needs to manually run the tool's simulation for each farm that wants to use it, this frees up the Extension Specialist's time and expertise.
Through the Remote Setting Aquaculture Training Program, a Maryland Sea Grant Extension Specialist assisted and trained 17 oyster growers in the process of setting their young oysters, and helped the growers complete 67 sets of oysters before the growers dispersed the oysters to grow to market size on their leases. The program helps oyster growers save money on the cost of "spat on shell."
Partners: Ferry Cove Shellfish; Maryland Seafood Cooperative; Ratcliffe Foundation; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), Horn Point Laboratory
Relevance: Before oyster growers can disperse young oysters to grow on the bottom of their leased areas, the oyster larvae must first attach to shell, a process referred to as "setting." For aquaculture growers, this process requires access to setting equipment and a water supply near the waterfront where the oyster larvae can settle onto the shell and begin the stationary phase of their life.
Response: The Remote Setting Aquaculture Training Program, a collaborative effort executed by a Maryland Sea Grant Extension Specialist, provides new oyster farmers with education and hands-on training to empower them to set larvae and produce spat-on-shell. The program includes seven remote setting locations around the Chesapeake Bay where new growers have access to all of the necessary infrastructure for larval settlement. The Extension Specialist works with the new growers to help them obtain the right amount of oyster larvae for setting and trains them in the setting process so they can establish their own setting tanks and become self-sufficient.
Results: In 2022, the Remote Setting Aquaculture Training Program had 17 participants, including a new participant, who collectively completed 67 sets of oysters, resulting in about 66 million spat deployed on leases last year. By setting their own oysters through this program, growers spend roughly $6 per half bushel of spat, compared to the $20-25 they would spend to purchase this spat-on-shell from another entity. Since the program's inception in 2011, it has assisted more than 100 oyster growers as they learned how to set oysters, found an area to establish their own remote setting systems, and scaled up their oyster growing operations.
Participants in a Maryland Sea Grant workshop developed 11 large-scale marsh restoration project ideas, many with a focus on communities and environmental justice, resulting in a new workshop to develop concrete projects.
Partners: Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (US DOC, NOAA, NOS, NERRS); Chesapeake Bay Office (US DOC, NOAA, NMFS); Chesapeake Bay Trust; George Washington University; Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR); Old Dominion University (ODU); The Nature Conservancy; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; University Of Virginia, Charlottesville (UVA); Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ); Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)
Relevance: As climate change accelerates sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay, saltwater seeps into marshes and surface flooding inundates plants. In turn, marshes must migrate into agricultural land, forests, and developed areas on higher ground, or else the marshes die and become mudflats. Marsh areas have the potential to shelter fish, soak up floodwater, and store carbon. An influx of funding could potentially help align marsh conservation and nearby community priorities, such as shoreline protection or additional green space.
Response: In October 2022, the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative, coordinated through Maryland Sea Grant, led a workshop focused on large-scale marsh persistence in the Chesapeake Bay for nearly 100 participants. After lectures about tidal wetlands, large-scale restoration in other regions of the US, and funding priorities, the participants generated 11 ideas for potential projects. They also discussed the benefits of marshes, sustainable marsh management for different kinds of marshes, and how this could inform larger, collaborative projects with available funding opportunities.
Results: After the workshop, Maryland Sea Grant connected workshop participants who were interested in further collaboration and released a preliminary summary of the workshop's project ideas and themes. The workshop connected individual participants and strengthened relationships between funding agencies. This workshop allowed the Chesapeake Bay Program Goal Implementation Team choose two specific marsh sites for their upcoming restoration workshop that will launch concrete restoration projects.
Maryland Sea Grant helped train 33 people in sustainable landscape maintenance and is developing toolkits and bilingual educational materials to help the town of Easton, Maryland, meet stormwater management goals.
Partners: Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council; Town of Easton, MD; University of Maryland College Park (UMCP), Sea Grant Extension; Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VA GIF); Wetlands Watch
Relevance: Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits require municipalities to develop and implement Stormwater Management Programs that include measures to monitor, prevent, and treat pollution. Some smaller municipalities lack the staff, time, and background in education and outreach to effectively meet MS4 permitting criteria and to work with community members on efforts to meet Chesapeake Bay clean water goals. The town of Easton, Maryland, sought support in building capacity for MS4 stormwater management.
Response: Maryland Sea Grant Extension watershed specialists, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP) certification program, held a sustainable landscape maintenance training for Easton Public Work staff in May 2022. Local landscapers and maintenance crews were also recruited for the training, where they learned about best practices for stormwater management. Extension specialists are now developing an MS4 toolkit for the town of Easton. The toolkit includes educational materials compiled from a literature review by a Maryland Sea Grant diversity, equity, and inclusion intern. The team also identified seven fact sheets on topics including septic systems, conservation landscaping, and rain barrels, to convert into bilingual Spanish- and English-language brochures for community outreach.
Results: Proper maintenance of stormwater management projects extends their lifespan, helping the town of Easton meet its clean water goals. Thirty-three people completed the CBLP training course, including professionals responsible for the maintenance of sustainable landscaping for stormwater management in Easton, advancing the town's ability to meet it MS4 permitting requirements. The MS4 toolkit and several bilingual brochures are currently in development to help community members learn about stormwater management efforts they can support.
Maryland Sea Grant created two fellowship programs which placed seven advanced graduate or postgraduate students in high-level positions with state agencies to spend a year conducting law and science policy work, after which, all fellows were hired into environmental jobs.
Partners: Agriculture Law Education Initiative; Maryland Department of Environment (MDE); Maryland Environmental Services; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; University of Maryland College Park (UMCP); University System of Maryland
Relevance: As part of an effort to build a diverse and scientifically literate workforce throughout Maryland, Maryland Sea Grant identified an opportunity to connect graduate and post-graduate students with state-level organizations to work on issues in coastal resource management, law, and policy. The fellows gain hands-on professional training while they also provide additional capacity for their host offices to complete projects at the interface of science, law, and policy.
Response: Maryland Sea Grant created two yearlong fellowship programs, the State Science Policy Fellowship and the Law and Policy Fellowship, in partnership with state agencies, Maryland's Agriculture Law Education Initiative, and University System of Maryland leadership. Maryland Sea Grant provided fellows with additional professional development experiences relevant to coastal science, management, policy, and law. State Science Policy Fellows were placed in high level offices in Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Environmental Service, and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Results: In the first year of these programs, Maryland Sea Grant supported three State Science Policy Fellows and one Law and Policy Fellow (2021-2022). All fellows secured jobs in their field of work after their fellowships. These placements were across multiple sectors including government, non-governmental organization, the private sector. In the second year (2022-2023), Maryland Sea Grant selected two State Science Policy Fellows and one Law and Policy Fellow.
Using an unusual Maryland native species, the spotted salamander, Maryland Sea Grant staff developed protocol to enable hundreds of Maryland high schoolers to conduct hands-on, project-based scientific study, and contribute to salamander research and support the native population's survival.
Partners: Carroll County Public Schools; Center for Conservation Genomics, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute; George Washington University; Gettysburg College; Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service (MD DNR)
Relevance: Maryland's native spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) is the only vertebrate known to live with another organism-in this case, algae-growing inside its cells. The algae (Oophila amblystomatis) is found nowhere in the world but inside the spotted salamander embryos in seasonal water bodies. The spotted salamander provides a powerful science teaching tool through which Maryland high school students can study symbiosis, develop advanced laboratory skills, and advance their knowledge of science in their local environment.
Response: Building on existing aquaculture projects in the Carroll County Public School System, Maryland Sea Grant's Assistant Director for Education developed a protocol for students to hatch salamander eggs and raise the larvae in captivity in their classrooms. Some of the salamander larvae raised in the schools were provided to scientific researchers at the Smithsonian and National Zoo. The remaining salamander larvae were returned to the seasonal water bodies where the eggs were collected.
Results: Each of the six science research classes hatched the salamander eggs and provided 60-80 salamander larvae to researchers studying salamander symbiosis. While raising the larvae, more than 150 students learned about the salamander and the cutting-edge salamander research about their symbiosis. Since the program began in 2015, approximately 700 high school students have successfully raised salamanders, which have a higher survival rate in captivity. The majority of the raised salamander larvae are returned to the seasonal water pools from where the eggs were collected so they can grow as part of the wild population, helping the native population's survival.
Maryland Sea Grant, working with administrators and educators at two minority-serving Baltimore City Public Schools, are revitalizing aquaculture and aquaponics programs to improve students' science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and career readiness.
Partners: Baltimore City Public Schools; Carroll County Public Schools; Maine Sea Grant; National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Relevance: Hands-on lessons for environmental sciences help students engage with concepts and spark an interest in career paths in aquaculture. Recirculating aquaculture systems, where fish are raised in a tank, teaches students about important biology concepts like the nitrogen cycle and other water quality parameters. However, establishing these systems in classrooms requires curriculum development as well as training and support for teachers.
Response: Maryland Sea Grant staff hosted two summer workshops to revitalize the aquaculture curriculum so students who participate in the aquaculture programs can receive research credit or additional Career and Technology Education certification. Maryland Sea Grant provided construction materials and guidance for teachers on how to build new recirculating aquaculture systems in two Baltimore City Public Schools, Reginald F. Lewis High School and Green Street Academy.
Results: Based on the curriculum workshops, teachers began to establish aquaculture systems in their classrooms at two minority-serving schools in Baltimore City. As the projects develop, students will have the opportunity to develop unique projects, and teachers will be able to share those ideas and serve as a model for other classrooms and schools in the system.