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College Dedicates Bold River Project
CHESTERTOWN, MD — Governor Martin O’Malley and top environmental advocates and scientists will gather on the banks of the Chester River on Friday afternoon, May 30, to help Washington College dedicate a bold new initiative that is poised to become a national model for watershed stewardship.
The public is welcome to join the inauguration of the Chester River Watershed Observatory (CRWO), which will begin at 2 p.m. next to the College boathouse, 445 S. Cross Street. In addition to an official ribbon cutting, the event will include the launch of an observation buoy, and informational displays about other project components such as autonomous kayaks and underwater vehicles. Among those joining Gov. O’Malley at the CRWO’s dedication will be Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Patrick F. Noonan, former president of The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Fund.
Created and administered by the College’s Center for Environment & Society in collaboration with Hach Hydromet (a Danaher company that specializes in water-quality analysis and equipment), multiple federal, state, and regional institutions and agencies, the CRWO will connect surrounding communities to the river’s future and provide more thorough information on which to base decisions that will positively affect the river and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.
This initiative is based on three interconnected platforms:
Information: The CRWO supports a series of buoys, monitoring stations, research vessels, and autonomous craft that will record a wealth of data about the river, from its headwaters to its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay, several times a day, every day. Coupled with monitoring of variables such as weather events, fish migrations, and land-based factors including agricultural practices, the data will be accessible to schools, citizens, agencies, organizations, and scientists through a website developed in partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observation System (MARACOOS).
Education: The CES is working with nearly 40 educators in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties to teach data-gathering techniques and to develop K-12 lesson plans that incorporate the CRWO. As students progress through grades, their data-gathering and analysis skills will grow more sophisticated. By graduation they will have a 12-year dataset, experience in building robotics and conducting field research, and a deep personal connection to, and understanding of, the Chester River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Collaboration: The project draws on the expertise and cooperation of many, including CES staff led by Director John Seidel and Deputy Director Doug Levin; the director of the College’s GIS lab, Stewart Bruce; the College’s environmental sciences and biology faculty; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey; the Maryland Department of Education and Department of Natural Resources; the University of Maryland, University of Delaware, the U.S. Naval Academy, and Rutgers University; Kent and Queen Anne counties public and private schools; the Chester River Field Research Station at Chino Farms, Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge, the Chester River Association, and the Chesapeake Conservancy.
“This pioneering initiative will give us a much more holistic understanding of the complexities of this watershed, and by extension, the Chesapeake Bay,” says Gov. O’Malley. “By involving our children in hands-on science as early as kindergarten, and growing their knowledge and skills every year, the Observatory will not only help our State reach our restoration goal, it will create a foundational change in our stewardship of this river and the Bay.”
CES director Seidel says the Center bases its programming on the knowledge that science alone cannot solve environmental problems. “For our society to solve these difficult environmental problems like threatened rivers, we have to consider the social, cultural, political, and economic factors as well as the scientific evidence. The Chester River Watershed Observatory will help local citizens and civic leaders understand the river in a visceral, tangible way. That can lead to better stewardship.”
The project’s scale and closely integrated educational components make it a national model for how to understand and manage other bodies of water, says Levin at the CES. “The aim is to make the Chester the best understood river in North America, if not the world. And the method is something that can be used as a template anywhere in the world, in watersheds of any size.”
For more information contact CES at 410-810-7176, or visit http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/ces/crwo.php