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. Recognizing that scientific solutions cannot be successful
in a social vacuum, its primary objective is to support the integration of ecological
and social values.
Under its inaugural director, Dr. Wayne Bell, 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. Critical new data management
and analytical technologies such as Geographic Information Systems were brought to
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.
Recognizing that the Center acts as a portal to one of the world’s greatest estuaries
- the Chesapeake Bay - the Center acquired research vessels and remote sensing equipment,
including a side-scan sonar, marine magnetometers, acoustic seabed classification
systems and hydrographic survey software, allowing the Center’s focus to expand 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. An 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 took over management of 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. That property
is now being transferred to the College, forming the incomparable River & Field Campus.
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.