Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Messing About in Boats

I have just finished reading the section entitled “messing about in boats” in Tom Horton’s Bay Country (John Hopkins University Press) and was tickled as to how well it captured our summer field work to date.  Our group, which consists of members of CES and WC Depts. of Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Studies is interested in understanding how the Chester River ecosystem functions and what state of “health” it is in.  Clearly this pursuit raises a lot of questions and initiates much discussion among our group. (Questions like: How long does the water stay in the Chester?  How much of what is happening in the Chester River is the result of “stuff” happening in the Chesapeake Bay?) So, as a start, we are collecting surface sediment all along the Chester River and will be determining the amount of “things” in it; things like lead, copper, silver, zinc, (and other elements), organic carbon, and what is living in the sediments. Some of what we find may help us reconstruct where the sediments may have come from and where they are accumulating now. Any large organisms we find living in the sediment (benthos) are saved. Later we hope to see if there are any patterns of contaminant accumulation in these organisms. We do all of this by taking a “ponar” grab (see photo) and collecting only the upper 1-2 cm (recent) of surface sediment.  Thus, I have been seeing a lot about this river from the water; trying, similar to John Smith’s agenda, to reach up creek as far as our boats will allow.  And this takes me back to Horton’s “messing about in boats”.  Much of the Bay is very shallow, especially the “upper creek” areas. (..and yes, if you have to ask, I have been stuck a few times and needed to wait for the tide).  One constant throughout this effort is that the Chester River mud is quite messy.  Anyway, here is CES’s progress (via red triangles) on this front so far:

Christian Krahforst is the Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow of Biogeochemistry for the Center for Environment & Society at Washington College.

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