Previous month:
May 2010
Next month:
July 2010

Plant corpse, then tree

I learned a ritual recently for planting a tree: gather a bunch of people close around the freshly planted sapling, and then all yell at the top of your lungs. It’s called "waking the tree,” according to Joe Imhoff, a guy from Hawaii.

Imhoff and his wife are traveling around the country planting at least one native tree in each state - modern-day Johnny Appleseeds. They are trying to raise awareness about the importance of native trees.  They also are making a documentary about the project. The couple has planted in 14 states so far.

On Tuesday, June 15, the couple and lots of volunteers planted a young serviceberry tree on the grounds of the Cheapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) headquarters in Annapolis, MD. 

Imhoff and his wife Sara Tekula call their project Plant a Wish. The idea is, before you plant the tree, you write a wish down on a piece of paper and put it into the hole where the tree will go. On Tuesday, CBF staff and visiting students filled the hole with wishes, then each threw in a handful of dirt.

CBF’s expert on native vegetation, Marcy Damon, explained to the group that the serviceberry tree got its name from New Englanders who had to wait till the spring thaw to bury their deceased. They planted the particular species alongside the now thawing corpse.

Cambridge etc. 012 Native trees and plants are indigenous to a specific region (eg. The Mid-Atlantic) or area (eg. the county where you live). They are adapted to local conditions of moisture, soil, and seasonal temperatures. While native plants are not maintenance-free, they require much less water, fertilizer, and care than non-native plants.

With increased development, deforestation, loss of habitat, and extensive lawns, the Chesapeake Bay watershed has lost much of the diversity and genetic heritage of its native trees and plants. Local wildlife, such as birds, insects, and mammals are also critically dependent on native vegetation (the zebra swallowtail butterfly, for example, feeds almost exclusively on pawpaw trees during its larval stage).

CBF volunteers have planted tens of thousands of native trees, shrubs and plants (raised on CBF’s Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro) throughout the watershed as part of the organization’s restoration of farms, shorelines and in other projects. CBF also encourages homeowners to plant native vegetation. Information is available at the CBF website.

"Being able to plant a tree on the shore of the Chesapeake is very important to me," Tekula said. "I lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as a child, and my father was a Bay fisherman. I grew up living off of the bays nearby where we lived, and deeply understand the need for the bays to remain healthy and biodiverse. "

Take Action to Protect River Herring and American Shad

herringAmerican shad and river herring need your help today.

These fish spawn in Chesapeake Bay tributaries but spend most of their life at sea. They are a major food source for predators like striped bass, blue fish, ospreys, and dolphins. As they migrate up and down the Atlantic coast, these fish are frequently caught up in fishing nets intended for other species.

Today, their populations are at historic lows and fisheries in all Atlantic states are in danger of being closed down by 2013. Please take a moment to sign this petition with the Marine Fish Conservation Network to protect these fish in our oceans so they may continue to support both recreational and commercial fisheries and the wildlife that depend on them.    

Photo from the Marine Fish Conservation Network

Chesapeake Bay is fighting its own 'oil spill'

Map showing extent of Gulf oil spill superimposed over the Chesapeake Bay Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Wheeler posted this thought-provoking item on the B'More Green blog. This map shows the BP Gulf oil slick superimposed over the Chesapeake Bay. That really puts things into perspective. He created the map on the nifty website If It Was My Home. If you've wanted to take action on this but don't know what to do, the site offers some good suggestions.

For those of us in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, here’s another thought—the Bay has been struggling against a similarly sized danger for years in the form of high levels of  nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment pollution. In a recent post on Chronicling the Chesapeake Bay, CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee notes there are many similarities between the Gulf disaster and the Bay’s poor health. The big difference is one you can see and one you can't.

"I think it is in a sense that nitrogen is our oil," said McGee. Degraded water quality makes portions of the Bay unlivable for fish, oysters, and crabs. It also puts stress on those that remain, making them more susceptible to disease, "which is exactly what oil does."

"We’re not outraged because it's not in our face, like it is in the face of the folks in the Gulf," said McGee, referring to the fact that views of our waterways from the surface are misleading, as most of the damage is taking place underwater.

The reality is that what is happening to communities in Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana is exactly what has been happening for years to communities in Virginia, Maryland, and throughout the Bay watershed—people can't go fishing, they can't buy fresh seafood, and those who make a living off the water have lost and continue to lose their livelihood and their culture.

That's why CBF is fighting hard for passage of the Chesapeake Clean Water Act, the most significant  legislation for the Bay's future health since the 1972 Clean Water Act.

As for whether the Gulf spill will make its way to Virginia’s shoreline, it’s highly unlikely, according to a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, as reported by Any oil that makes it into the Gulf Stream—which flows fairly close to North Carolina before veering east into the Atlantic—will likely remain in the stream. However, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will continue to monitor the situation. While the oil might not make its way to the Chesapeake Bay region, its impact on the Gulf's oyster fishery has. Bay-area oyster processors who rely on Gulf oysters have lost work and restoration efforts that rely on Gulf shell anticipate shortages.

To find out more about the hazards drilling presents to the Chesapeake Bay and CBF's response, visit For more information on progress of the Gulf spill and clean-up efforts, check these websites:

Environmental Protection Agency

Old Dominion University

Deepwater Horizon Unified Command

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration

Half rock, half flesh

Green School student Dashe Green Half rock, half flesh, the oyster living in a murky water world is an alien species to most children growing up Baltimore. Thanks to collaboration between Under Armour, two Baltimore schools and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), at least some lucky students are getting a hands-on, educational submersion into that world.

Under Armour, a sportswear manufacturer, allows students from The Green School of Baltimore, and from The Patterson Park Public Charter School to grow oysters at the company's Locust Point headquarters on the west side of the Inner Harbor. The oysters grow in protective cages dangling from an Under Armour pier at the site.

Every two weeks since the fall, the students visited the nursery with their classes, and collected data on the oysters' size and mortality. Being scientists, the students didn't call their subjects baby oysters. NO. They called them spat. Being children, however, they also got real excited handling aliens.

This week, in the culmination of the project, students from both schools collected the spat, and transported them with the help of the CBF workboat Snow Goose to an established sanctuary reef off Fort Carroll Island just east of the Key Memorial Bridge. After cleaning the spat and recording some final measurements, the students tossed their educational offspring into the choppy waters as cormorants looked on from their island perches.

Green School students plant their oysters in Patapsco Throughout the day's activities, the students chatted excitedly and knowledgably about their work.

"I knew nothing about oysters,' said Atlas Pike, a student in Charlene Butcher's fourth-grade class from The Green School as he reflected on the project. " I learned about their life, and I learned how they help the Bay."

One reporter covering the oyster planting live for WBAL Channel 11 News said in his broadcast the children knew an "amazing" amount about oysters and about the Bay. That's not by chance. The project was woven into the curriculum of the schools. All good environmental education programs engage students, but also provide context for learning, help children make critical connections between disciplines, and increase achievement.

CBF actively works with many Baltimore schools to provide environmental education opportunities, especially within the Inner Harbor. The Snow Goose takes children from the city on harbor research field trips virtually each day from March to October. CBF's Oyster Gardening program also is a way for children and families to grow oysters in cages, help restore the Bay's oyster population, and to learn about Bay ecology. But children often don't have access to waterfront to grow the spat, especially within Baltimore City.

Under Armour officials said they gladly offered their pier as an oyster nursery as part of its community relations efforts.

Under Armour employees Kevin Walker and Amy Stringer "Baltimore is our home and the Chesapeake Bay is in our backyard.  We're happy to support, contribute to, and learn more about restoration efforts," said Will Phillips, who manages Under Armour's Green program.

CBF coordinated the oyster gardening program for The Green School and The Patterson Park Public Charter School to use the Under Armour facility. The Green School uses experiential environmental education to improve student achievement and to increase stewardship for the environment. The Patterson Park school aims to develop well educated, community-minded children by providing high-quality, community-based and real-world education that capitalizes on the diversity of nearby neighborhoods.