ELN

Expedition Day 4 Finale: I Now Call the Chesapeake My Home…Do You?

By Peter Fargo

This is a great moment, I thought, as I joined 30 other voices in a glorious cheer: “Save the Bay!”

We had just finished running a half marathon to Point Lookout, MD. It was last leg of our triathlon journey of over 100 miles from DC to the Chesapeake Bay. After it all, we stood there on the beach where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake, beaming with accomplishment for the flash of our final team photo. Along the way, we experienced first-hand the environmental challenges and opportunities of this watershed.

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In our kayaks, we explored the wetland ecosystem of Piscataway Creek where we saw bald eagles and osprey. Unfortunately, when we reached the Potomac, we had to paddle through the smelly product of over-fertilization and sewer overflows. (Hint: There is more than algae floating on the surface of the Potomac River.) On the same day, at the Accokeek Foundation, we learned the benefits of sustainable farming and saw how “rain barrels” and “green roofs” enable us to capture and use rainwater instead of letting it overwhelm our sewer system.

Half-marathonOn our bikes, we passed Amish families in horse-drawn carriages as we rolled through southern Maryland’s picturesque farm country. We also struggled with heavy suburban traffic as our route traversed busy roads and towns. The president of the Mattawoman (Creek) Watershed Society explained that suburban sprawl threatens the watershed, yet smart growth can protect the environment and promote economic development.

Before our run to Point Lookout, we visited St. Mary’s College and enjoyed an outdoor course in the ecology and history of the St. Mary’s River with Prof. Robert Paul. We witnessed an oyster-bed restoration project led by the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association.

_2All of these experiences gave us plenty to think about during our 13-mile run to the Bay. It was a hot day, so it’s no surprise that we celebrated our Expedition victory by diving in!

Somehow, even at the height of the algae season, the yellowish-brown water felt cleaner that day—especially after our months of hard work. As volunteers, we organized an Earth Day exhibit, river clean-up projects, and discussions with Bay experts. To expand the conversation on environmentalism, we found multiple ways to engage the public, including face-to-face listening sessions, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Greenversations blog posts such as this one.

And this was just supposed to be a pilot project! It started with an idea that I helped develop: What if we combined leadership development, experiential learning, and multi-media communications with a cause-driven expedition? Thanks to the collective energy and expertise of EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network and Georgetown University Outdoor Education staff, this idea transformed into more than we could have imagined. We all helped to create something extraordinary this year that I hope will continue to grow in the future.

Hands-and-Faces.1With this Expedition, I can identify more than ever with the people and places of my Potomac and Chesapeake watersheds. Even though I grew up in the West, I can say without hesitation, this is my home too. This is my environment.

About the author: Peter Fargo serves as the special assistant to the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He graduated from Georgetown University where he was (and still is) involved in their Outdoor Education program. Peter can’t wait for the next expedition!

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Expedition Day 3: Did Someone Say “Oyster Spat?”

By Lisa McWhirter

I awoke to the 6 a.m. rally call on Saturday and quickly realized the long bike ride from the day before had taken its toll. It was the third day of the Expedition and barely awake, I tried to rationalize biking another 30 miles. As I took my first sip of French Press coffee (yum, my favorite) and saw the smiling faces of the Expedition team any doubts of the day’s success ahead faded instantly.

The plan for the day was a short bike ride to meet with St. Mary’s College professor Bob Paul, and then continue our ride to Point Lookout State Park for our final campsite.

Expedition-Day-3Thanks to fellow Team members Steve and Jeremy, I improved my gear shifting along the rolling hills of southern Maryland and felt great when we finished cycling to St. Mary’s College. What a beautiful campus; imagine having class right on the river! Professor Paul told us about the St. Mary’s River Project , a state and federal funded program that studies the water quality and ecological health of the St. Mary’s River and the Chesapeake Bay. We weren’t the only ones there to learn as it was a community service day for first-year students. They were there to plant spat (baby oysters) on protected oyster beds in the river close by. I was happy to let the kids shovel the dirty spat into the water, but really enjoyed learning why this is such an important project.

The goal is to build up the natural oyster beds. The Project team works with local homeowners to grow and monitor monthly the oyster spat for twelve months. The year old spat is collected and placed onto the oyster beds and the cycle is repeated each year. Oysters are extremely important to the Chesapeake Bay. They filter the water, removing excess nutrients as well as harmful toxins, and help maintain a healthy ecosystem. One mature oyster can filter 55 gallons of water each day. Just think how much water can be cleaned from a million strong oyster bed in a year!Expedition-Day-3-photo-2

As I said good-bye to Professor Paul, I wondered how this program could be expanded to other areas of the Bay. What’s the best way to get marinas and other homeowners involved to voluntarily grow oysters? We learned from our listening session the night before that “Chesapeake” is Algonquin where “chesa” means enormous size or quantity and “peake” means shell. I’d like to help return the bay back to its namesake and plant more oysters!

About the author: Lisa McWhirter works in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and specializes in the Underground Injection Control program. She enjoys fishing and kayaking in the Bay. The Expedition was her first triathlon, and she is excited to do it again!

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Expanding the Conversation about the Chesapeake

By Scott Fraser

ELN members kayaking

Would you kayak, bike and run over 100 miles in the sweltering August heat? OK, how about if it were for a good cause? Well we’ve got a few takers for such an adventure here at EPA.

An EPA employee  group called the Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) is setting out on an Expedition from DC to the Chesapeake Bay to help raise awareness about one of our nation’s environmental treasures. This group of athletes and volunteers has been preparing for months not only for the physical endurance needed, but also to plan for listening sessions with the public along the way.

Now I like a good challenge and have raced in several Olympic distance triathlons over the years, so I was looking forward to joining the athletes. However, when ELN began planning the Expedition months ago I was already signed up to compete in the Timberman ½ Ironman the weekend before the Expedition. As it turns out, I had to withdraw from that competition due to a sore back. Let’s just say it’s important to use proper form when shoveling through feet of snow – thanks Snowpocalypse 1 and 2!

Back to the Expedition: it runs from August 26th through the 29th and the ELN Expedition Team will make their way through some of the Chesapeake Bay watershed – which covers over 64,000 square miles – to generate conversation about the environmental issues facing the Bay. The team will meet with citizens along the way to hear their ideas for protecting this vital resource. En route, athletes will describe their trek and what they’ve learned from the listening sessions through blog posts, Facebook entries, Flickr photo galleries, and Twitter. Check back to follow the Team and contribute to the conversation.

I think it’s so cool how this Expedition effort coincides with the work I’m now focused on in my new position with the Office of Public Engagement. So although I’m bummed I can’t endure the August heat exercising with the athletes, I’m excited to accompany this group and interact with the public on the lessons we’ll learn along the way (every successful expedition needs its sherpa).

About the author: Scott Fraser is currently working in the Office of Public Engagement in EPA’s Office of the Administrator. He has been with the Agency for five years and is fired up to expand the conversation on environmentalism! Stay tuned next year when he hits the triathlon circuit again and describes the joy of training outdoors.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.