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Chesapeake Regional Studies

Chesapeake Regional Studies

Interdisciplinary Concentration


John L. Seidel, Program Advisor


The Chesapeake Bay is central to the history, culture, and economy of the mid-Atlantic region, and it is an attractive educational resource for exploration and integration of liberal arts studies. The concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies allows students to assemble a coherent array of courses based on student interests that might include science courses emphasizing field and laboratory study, and humanities and social sciences courses.


Students can complete the concentration in one of two ways. Either completion of the Chesapeake Semester and one other course chosen from those listed below, or completion of BIO 104 and three additional courses chosen from at least two academic divisions listed below.


Division of Humanities

ART 322. The Arts in America

PHL 303. Environmental Ethics

Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

BIO 104. Ecology of the Chesapeake Bay

BIO 206. Ecology

BIO 309. Marine and Estuarine Biology

ENV 301. Birds of the Chesapeake Bay

Division of Social Sciences

HIS 313. 17th- and 18th-Century America

ECN 117. Introduction to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

ANT 305. Doing Anthropology


Chesapeake Semester

Each fall, the Chesapeake Semester engages a select group of students in the interdisciplinary study of North America’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. Students study the complex history, ecology, and culture of the Chesapeake as a microcosm of the challenges and transitions confronting coastal communities around the world. Using the College and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum as base camps, students travel in, on and around the 64,000 square mile watershed.


This “signature semester” builds on the successful tradition of linking people and the environment in both the McLain Program in Environmental Studies and the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College. Connecting students to the land and water fosters a powerful sense of place and gives students a better understanding of the human and social dimensions of environmental issues. Students have an opportunity to study the ecosystem in depth, develop solutions to environmental problems, and influence decision-making at the local and national levels.


This is a four course program for 16 credits offered only in the fall. It combines intensive study, field work, and outdoor adventure. Students might band songbirds at sunrise, muck through the marsh, kayak on the river, research aquatic organisms, hike in the mountains and sleep beneath the stars, all in the same week. Class work and day trips are supplemented with four themed “voyages” away from campus, like the Ridge to Ocean tour. On the final voyage, participants will travel to another country such as Peru to explore a comparable estuary. Similarities and differences in culture, economics, politics, laws and ethics will be discussed.


CRS 240. The Natural Science of an Estuary

This course explores topics such as geology, coastal morphology and the formation of the Chesapeake Bay; defining a watershed; chemical and biological estuarine oceanography; estuarine productivity and community structure; zonation in marine habitats; salt marshes and mud flats; oyster bars and sea grass beds; contaminant cycling in the Chesapeake Bay; and the science and impacts of climate change. Some lecturers are on campus, while others are delivered while traveling.


CRS 242. The Social Science of an Estuary

This course explores topics such as the birth of an estuary, the first inhabitants, archaic and woodland traditions, the European influx , the Southern Chesapeake, Maryland in the early years, African Americans in the Chesapeake, Tidewater architecture, foodways, and the Bay today. Some lecturers are on campus, while others are delivered while traveling.


CRS 244. A Humanities Perspective on the Chesapeake

This course explores topics such as vision and site in environmental writing, environmental literature of the Chesapeake, traditional art of the Chesapeake, art in the exploration of nature and the environment, the Peales — art and science, music and culture, the influence of religion in the Chesapeake, and environmental ethics.


CRS 246. Interdisciplinary Study of an Estuary: Integration and Action

This course explores topics such as interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research; logic models and outcome assessments; policy, programs, and practice; environmental economics; competing resource use and resource valuation; visual impact assessments; geographic information systems and other data management and modeling tools; global trends—problems and solutions; and visioning for the future.