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July 2011

A Race to Restore the Bay’s Oyster Population

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Photos by Johnny Haworth/CBF Staff (above and below right)

I had always dreamed of the glory of winning a medal in the Olympic Games. Until last Friday, I never thought I would taste the sweet splendor of the gold, but I did. Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) interns won the gold medal at the first annual Oyster Olympic Games! It was a tough competition at CBF’s Oyster Restoration Center (ORC) in Shady Side, Maryland. It seemed we had met our match, competing against interns from all over the watershed. CBF summer interns, students from the University of Maryland, Restoring America’s Estuaries (RAE) interns, and interns from the Chesapeake Conservation Corps put up a tough competition in five oyster-related events.


Olympics_2011 031 First was shell shaking. We shoveled empty oyster shells into a sifter to shake the sediment and debris off, and then dumped the shells into a large crate. Next, we sprinted to the reef ball mold-making event. This event required accuracy and precision when puzzling together the molds. It was then a mad dash to oyster garden cage building, where each team bended and shaped wire into cages for oyster gardening. We were finally able to catch our breath, and break a mental sweat instead, during the spat counting event. Each team had to accurately count the number of spat (oyster larvae) on 30 or so oyster shells, and then calculate the average on each shell. The final race was an exciting, close match as the teams canoed around the Oyster Restoration Center. In the end, CBF Team 1 took the gold, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps interns won the silver, and University of Maryland students got the bronze.


After an exciting and tiring morning, we took the afternoon to learn of the importance that each event carried in the effort to restore the Bay’s oyster population. As Dan Johannes, CBFer and founder of The Oyster Olympics, says, “The events I selected for the Oyster Olympics are part of our weekly projects that we depend on volunteers to do. All of the hard work from shell shaking five cages and bending the wire to make nineteen oyster garden cages was an added bonus for ORC.” Touring the ORC put the magnitude of restoring the Bay’s oyster population in perspective, for me. These little critters are essential to filtering the Bay and restoring it back to the clean, healthy water it once was. Participating in the Oyster Olympics left me with more than a gold medal. It also left me with a desireand a pledgeto restore the oyster population, and to reach CBF’s goal to Save the Bay.

—Maggie Rees

Editor’s Note: With the current oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay at two percent of its historical number, it is essential that we help to restore these vital creatures which help purify and clean Bay waters. To learn more about oyster restoration, the ORC, or to get involved, please visit: DSC_2153
CBF interns Maggie Rees and Johnny Haworth show off their gold-colored oysters after being the ultimate winners of CBF's annual Oyster Olympics. Photo by Alice Christman/CBF Staff

Notes from the Field: Cultivate Your Own (Oyster) Garden

Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff

It’s a surprisingly cool Tuesday afternoon for the middle of June, and I’m on a small Boston Whaler with several drywall buckets brimming with oysters. No, we are not headed for an oyster roast, but rather a sunny spot in the middle of the Severn River, just below the Naval Academy Bridge and directly in front of the Severn River Inn in Annapolis.

There, just below the surface of muddied water, lies the beginnings of an oyster sanctuary reef, where thousands of oysters, who filter and clean the water, will be planted throughout the day. Today represents just one of eight Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) oyster gardening plantings taking place across our local waters from Solomon’s Island to St. Michaels to Annapolis.   

“This is hands-on…we’re actually doing it, and I can see the difference…these little guys are growing,” says local oyster gardener Susan Benac. “We’ve got more grasses out here; the water quality is slowly but surely improving. I feel like its little steps, but it has a big impact.” Benac is one of roughly 450 oyster gardeners in Maryland, who every year grows oysters in protective cages off her dock until returning them to CBF to plant on sanctuaries. Since 1998, CBF has offered this unique opportunity to those who want to tangibly get involved in doing something positive for the Bay.

Final numbers have yet to be tallied, but CBF Oyster Restoration Outreach Coordinator Meghan Hoffman estimates they’ve planted close to 100,000 oysters in all in the past few weeks, including the event this past Tuesday. “As an individual, you feel like you make a difference,” Hoffman, who originally started as an oyster gardener volunteer, says, “that’s why I started doing it. People feel like they really are connected to the cause."                                                                                        

—Emmy Nicklin

 For more information on how you can become a part of this innovative program, visit: To read more about CBF’s oyster restoration efforts this season, visit: or

Where's the Crab?

Photo by:  John Haworth

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) blue crab is out of hibernation and scuttling around for the summer! This week, he has crawled upstream and onto a bike to explore one of the area’s many incredible bike paths. Can YOU guess which path along which Bay tributary he rides today? You have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to make your guesses known! Enter your guesses as comments below. First correct answer gets a free CBF T-shirt!

And the answer is...

Ok, you got us!  So…we may have had some technical difficulties and forgotten to change the “C&O photo” file name…whoops! (We assure you these games will be more of a challenge in the future!)

In any case, yes, it IS the Potomac River and it IS the C&O Canal towpath. In honor of National Rivers Month, the CBF blue crab was biking alongside the second largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay. This mighty river has its roots in the mountains of West Virginia and flows steadily to the west to reach our estuary. It passes historical towns such as Harper’s Ferry, WV, where the famous abolitionist John Brown raided the federal arsenal there in 1859. When the Potomac reaches its fall line—where it stops flowing downhill and becomes tidal—it runs passed our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Finally, it widens out and meets the Chesapeake in between Smith Point, VA and Point Lookout, MD.

The C&O Canal bike path totals 184 miles in length and runs on the Maryland side of the river from Washington D.C. all the way to Cumberland, MD. .  It is an incredible resource for area residents to get outside, ride a bike, and see the scenery alongside the Potomac. If you live in the area, make sure you use this public gem.

And congrats to both Erik Michelsen and Donna Cole, who together guessed the correct answer! Please send your T-shirt size and mailing address to , and we’ll get them in the mail to you.. 

                                                                                                                                                                        —Adam Wickline

Unfortunately, the Potomac, like many of our rivers and streams, is severely impacted by sediment and nutrient pollution ( To find out what YOU can do to help clean up the Potomac and other rivers, go to

To join our Blue Crab in his love for biking, sign up to become a Cyclist for the Bay at

Inside CBF: Q&A with Maggie Rees, Communications Intern

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Photo by Johnny Haworth

It’s that time of year again…summer-intern time! We are grateful to all the interns across the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) who are so vital to our efforts. We sat down with one such intern, Maggie Rees, a rising junior from Dickinson College, to find out why she chose to spend her summer with CBF.

What inspired you to pursue a degree in environmental studies?
Honestly, it always comes back to the two programs I did in elementary school. In fourth grade we did a project where we grew celery grass in the classroom. We took pH and other scientific measurements, and a few of us got to eventually plant the grasses in the Chesapeake Bay. It was so much fun. And in sixth grade, I actually did a Smith Island trip with CBF (

Why CBF?
It’s such an important organization. I’ve grown up admiring it. Its mission and work have always been very close to home.

Why is the Chesapeake Bay important to you?
It’s about protecting and maintaining the whole system—not necessarily just the crabs and the oysters, but the people that depend on them, too. [It’s about] keeping that system in order so it can be self-sustaining in the future.

Tell me about what you’ll be doing this summer.
We’re looking specifically at college kids—how to better engage college kids and the millennial population [in CBF’s work]. I think this is a really interesting topic. We are a completely different generation and figuring out how to reach this audience is important.

What do you hope to get out of your time at CBF?
Obviously the experience itself. Working at an organization like this is an amazing opportunity…hopefully leading to a job here would be ideal. Other than that, just getting to learn about the Bay, and Marcellus Shale (, and all the other important things that are going on here.  

Emmy Nicklin 

Vote Now for CBF on Facebook!

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Craig Mosier.

Maryland native and CBF long-time supporter Craig Mosier, shown above with his son Ryan, reflects on why the Chesapeake Bay is so important to him and future generations. 

Over 34 years of swimming, boating, and fishing in the Bay, I’ve made a very personal connection with the Chesapeake. Growing up I spent many afternoons with my parents boating, and now I enjoy the opportunity to do the same with my children. I can’t tell you the value I place on sharing my love of the water with my sons and watching them enjoy these experiences.

Through organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) we can continue to support the Bay and those who make their living on it. And hopefully, one day, my sons’ children will be able to boat and fish these same waters with the same joy that I have.

Please vote now at to help CBF continue to protect and restore our Chesapeake waters and provide vital educational opportunities to our children!

—Craig Mosier, CBF member and an agent with Liberty Mutual

By voting on Facebook you can help CBF win $30,000 to go toward its Baltimore Harbor Education Program. Click here to learn more about this important campagin.