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Center for


Environment & Society

History

Our vision is a Chesapeake Bay and watershed that is healthy and thriving; one in which natural systems and human communities are in balance. Interdisciplinary academic programs promote the integration of environmental issues, social values, and good old river mud.

The Center for Environment & Society at Washington College was created in 1999 to promote interdisciplinary learning, research and exemplary stewardship of natural and cultural resources. Its primary objective is to support the integration of ecological and social values.

Under its inaugural director, the Center focused primarily upon issues of sustainable agriculture on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, along with educational programs to enhance the College’s environmental studies curriculum. In cooperation with the Department of Sociology & Anthropology, critical new data management and analytical technologies such as Geographic Information Systems were brought to campus.

The Center’s current director, Dr. John L. Seidel, served as interim director in 2006 and after a national search was named director in 2007. While the mission of CES has remained the same since its inception, its capabilities have expanded significantly since 2006. Recognizing that the Center acts as a portal to one of the world’s greatest estuaries - the Chesapeake Bay - the Center acquired remote sensing equipment including a side-scan sonar, marine magnetometers, acoustic seabed classification systems and hydrographic survey software, giving the Center the ability to expand its focus from the land into the water. As a result, programs have grown from regional agricultural sustainability and environmental education to include estuarine studies and marine habitat assessment, the latter focus drawing the attention and interest of the National Park Service. A more formal incorporation of archaeology into the Center allows a vision of the future that profits from lessons of the past.

Augmented significantly through the grant-supported internship and research associate programs, the Center’s modest endowment has allowed staffing to expand and solidify. In 2011, the Center acquired the Chester River Field Research Station, including the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory and access to the 5,000 acres of Grasslands Plantation (Chino Farms), on the Chester River in Queen Anne’s County. This greatly expands the opportunities for teaching, research, and outreach related to sustainable agriculture, habitat restoration, and conservation biology.

The Center continues to give Washington College students the opportunity to understand fully the relationship between human and natural environments and provide them with the technical knowledge, practical experience, and aesthetic perspective needed to advance that relationship for the benefit of future generations.