Science Wednesday: Saving the Bay Means Getting Your Hands Dirty!

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By Kerry Hamilton

How would you prepare for a 100+ mile triathlon across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed? If you’re like me, your training regimen is not exactly running 10 miles a day. (Does switching from cookies and cream to strawberry ice cream count? It’s fruit!) Instead, I’m preparing for the Chesapeake Bay Expedition by attending pre-expedition events to lend a hand cleaning up and learning more about the Bay.

The expedition is being led by EPA’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN), a group of young professionals from across the Agency who are volunteering their time to learn and promote awareness about Chesapeake Bay environmental issues.

ELN members on cleanupTo prove I am not a cubicle environ- mentalist, I joined fellow ELNers on July 31st for a cleanup event at Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary. There’s nothing quite like digging my hands into piles of garbage to remind me how important it is for communities to take a role in protecting their backyard! It also humbles me to know that as a researcher and former lab junkie, I’m only a piece of the puzzle in tackling these environmental issues—just one of the reasons I’m most excited to get out there to see the Bay and the people it affects firsthand!

To prepare the Expedition Team, I helped organize a discussion panel with several Bay experts. The panel members were Lee Paddock, an environmental lawyer from the George Washington University faculty; Michael Haire, the EPA headquarters TMDL (a measure of water pollution) guru; Joel Dunne, co-editor of A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation; and Travis Loop, Public Affairs Director from the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program in Annapolis, MD. This Bay “dream team” painted a picture of the complex factors that affect the health of Chesapeake Bay. Communities, businesses, farmers, scientists, and government agencies all have important roles to play, and we hope to interact with many of these groups along our journey.

Armed with some more knowledge of the issues, I’m ready to get my hands dirty again and participate in the Expedition’s kick-off cleanup on the Anacostia wetlands—part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed right here in DC. ELN will be joining forces with Earth Conservation Corps this Wednesday, August 25th from 9am – 12pm for the cleanup of this neglected treasure right in our own backyard. Consider this your invitation to join! Stay tuned for more lessons learned from the road…we’re just getting started.

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About the author: Kerry Hamilton is a public health fellow in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. As a former soccer player, she is psyched to be watching ELN athletes suffer through the running, biking, and kayaking. She also can’t wait to share lessons learned on the Expedition with others!

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