EARTH 540
Essentials of Oceanography

Is Chesapeake Bay Dying a Slow Death?

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Figure 3-1: The Chesapeake Bay watershed and land use map. Do you live in the watershed?
Source: WHRC

By way of introduction, please view the power point presentation on the problem of dead zones, hypoxia, eutrophication and the health of Chesapeake Bay. Then go to the assignment below to flesh out your knowledge. If you're having trouble viewing the PowerPoint, try the PDF.  (admittedly, this ppt is a tad aged, but the trends stand and we will discuss updated data soon!)

We think that this is a great focus for teaching about the oceans, primarily for teachers in the northeastern US, because it is "local," has food chain connections, and involves so many aspects of physical oceanography, nutrients and primary production, marine animals, environmental issues, fisheries--you name it! However, we think that oceans on both coasts experience many of the things in this presentation, so don't despair if you're on the west coast...it's great for you, too! And, there are so many resources and data sets available for students to work with.

Activity 1

After reading the first assigned article (Brattonetal2003), which provides an historical overview of Chesapeake Bay hypoxia on the basis of the sedimentary record, and examining the power point presentation above, answer the following questions (in a file to be uploaded to the Canvas DropBox). You may simply provide a list of elements, when appropriate. Elaborate if you like. Numbers 6 and 7 will be a basis for discussion, so that will be posted in the Canvas Discussion.

  1. What factors contribute to hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay? How does each factor operate to exacerbate the major influence?
  2. Historically, when did hypoxia first develop in Chesapeake Bay? Was it extensive and when did it begin to more fully develop (see article by Bratton et al.)?
  3. What methods are used by "paleo-oceanographers" to reconstruct the history of hypoxia? What does each method or indicator really tell them? (again, reference the Bratton et al. paper)
  4. What are the consequences of Chesapeake Bay hypoxia? Be explicit regarding the many issues.
  5. What are the main things that need to be done to improve the "health" of Chesapeake Bay?
  6. Write a 600-word "blog" summarizing the current state of Chesapeake Bay. Emphasize the extent of improvements that have occurred, if any, over the past few years and the prospects for the near future. Assume that you are writing this for people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. You might want to consult these sources for updated information on the state of the Bay. (here is the latest "bay barometer" from The Chesapeake Bay Program; you should also check out the Chesapeake Bay Foundation website; each state also maintains a CB-oriented website.  Maryland and Virginia are particularly good and those of us in California use The Bay Institute for all our bay health needs)
  7. How would you appeal to the populace external to the Chesapeake Bay watershed? Why should they care about this issue.
  8. Comment on the posts by at least 2 or 3 of your colleagues.

Submitting your work

For numbers 1 through 5, please put your answers in a file and drop that in the dropbox on Canvas.

For number 6 - 8, use the Canvas Discussion.

Save your document as either a Microsoft Word or PDF file in the following format:
L7_Activity1_AccessAccountID_LastName.doc (or .pages or .pdf)
For example, student Elvis Aaron Presley's file would be named "L7_Activity1_eap1_presley.doc".

Grading criteria

See the grading rubric for specifics on how this assignment will be graded.