High school students shared the results from their yearlong study of nutrient enrichment and phytoplankton dynamics Saturday at the third annual Plankton and Nutrient Studies (PLANS) for the Chesapeake Bay at Huntingtown (Md.) High School, Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reports.
Kelly Clark, director of the Morgan State University Estuarine Research Center, said the program enhances the high school science curriculum. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides funding, allowing Calvert County students to get some hands-on experience with “the wonders and intricacies” of the Chesapeake Bay.
Dr Clark said the program is a partnership between Morgan State University, the Society for Ocean Sciences, and Calvert County Public Schools. “But more than a partnership with the administrative core, it’s a partnership with the students, because we … put the programs together but it’s the students who run the experiments.”
Students study nutrients in the bay chemically and examine plankton under a microscope. In the process, they learn about the role plankton play in the estuary ecosystem and solve problems about conserving the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
Calvert High School 11th grader Meggie Stewart was part of a group that put together a poster board about submerged aquatic vegetation’s gradual decline in coastal basins, the news service reported. The “chief threat” of submerged aquatic vegetation, she said, is the poor water quality:
“The bay is so cloudy that sunlight can’t penetrate through and the grass can’t grow,” the news service quoted Ms Stewart as saying. “Mostly, it’s really polluted by runoff.”
This year’s report from the Chesapeake Bay Program
The Baltimore Sun reported in February that the water quality in the bay remains poor as a result of oyster populations being low, about 1 percent of their highest levels. Oysters filter and thereby clean water in the bay naturally.
“It should come as no surprise that many of the bay health indicators our scientists track—aquatic life, dissolved oxygen levels, bottom habitat—continue to reflect the reality of a seriously impaired bay watershed,” wrote Nicholas DiPasquale, the director of the Chesapeake Bay Program. “Our most recent research shows that only 34 percent of the bay met dissolved oxygen standards, and water clarity was very poor. Oyster populations remain low, at less than 1 percent of their historic levels.”
To this, Ms Stewart added, “If more people know that they need to cut back on fertilizer and plant more trees to stop erosion, then we can, as a whole, improve the quality of the bay.”