Conserving Our Local Waterways

Sustainability efforts are just as important on land as in the water in order to preserve and repair the health of our waterways.

Mike Lewis, chair of the environmental studies department, has been teaching at Salisbury University since 2000. As a non-native to Maryland, he is always learning about the local ecology and trying to impart his own wisdom upon students.

“We want to improve the situation that we’re in,” Lewis said. “We have to figure out, what is the Bay we want to set as our goal? Is it the bay of the 1960s, the 1920s? We can’t have the Bay of the 1800s, it just isn’t possible.”

Coming from a delicate swampy ecosystem in Okeechobee, Florida, Lewis is aware of the importance of conserving ecology of the waterways. Lewis also pointed out how waterways are susceptible to damages not only in the water, but run off from land.

“We have a lot to do if we want to continue improving the health of our waterways,” Lewis said. “It takes education—not necessarily in the classroom, it takes activism to raise awareness, and it takes intervention from governmental groups to enforce and protect the ecosystem.”

Captain Ian Park works for Fish and Wildlife Service as a fish biologist, mainly focusing on sturgeon populations. The sturgeon is a prehistoric endangered species of fish that is often poached for caviar.

“Human impact has created low dissolved oxygen levels, especially in the Delaware River,” Captain Park said. “This has created a barrier preventing migratory species from spawning for several years. It doesn’t just affect sturgeon, but due to their low population we worry about them the most.”

In the past hundred years, female sturgeon populations in the Delaware River alone are estimated to have dropped from 180,000 down to 300. Even worse, Captain Park said, was that industrial pollution can prevent females from spawning, or can negatively affect the growth of juvenile sturgeon.

“Being a part of an agency that can really make a difference is so enlightening,” Mike Steiger said. “Nothing feels better than seeing the population numbers go up, or catching a tagged sturgeon that’s bigger than the year before.”

Tagging and relocating sturgeon is an important park of the job, especially since drilling into waterbeds includes the use of explosives. Steiger said that the concussive blasts are so powerful that they can kill fish in a huge radius around the drill site.

“We’re always seeing things improve,” Lewis said. “But there are always more things we can do. It’s dangerous to become satisfied with the work one is doing, because that’s when progress starts to cease.”

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Katelyn McStravog handles the spool to make sure too much slack isn’t let out at once. “I’m only a seasonal employee,” McStravog said. “But I’ve learned so much about fish species and the science behind conservation since I started.”

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Mike Steiger sets gill nets in the water to try and catch juvenile sturgeon. “We annually check different parts of the river so we can get a better idea of the overall population,” Steiger said.

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Captain Ian Park tags a juvenile sturgeon with a microchip to track it. A special device is used to locate tagged fish, additionally a notch is put in their tail to signal it has been tagged before. Permit # 19255-01

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Chestertown Farmer’s Market

The Chestertown farmer’s market acts as a central hub that connects residents to local food producers and artisan creators.

The market has met every Saturday of the season in Chestertown’s Fountain Park since 1981. It was founded with the help of Owen McCoy, Kent County native, and now the market manager.

“Nowadays a lot of people don’t really take the time to think about where it is their food is coming from,” McCoy said. “The market’s really helped build a connection between the people and their farmers, and to their credit, the growers have taken a lot of time to educate locals on their sustainability practices.”

Dawson Hunter has been coming to the market since before he bought a home in Chestertown. He said that the food is consistently fresher than anything he gets from the supermarket, and swears that farmer’s market produce tastes better because of it.

“So many people think that farmer’s market are simply a more expensive version of the supermarket,” Hunter said. “But the truth is, most of the people here fairly price their food. I get specialty breads, butters, and all my produce here for much cheaper and way fresher than I could get from any other store. To top it all off, I’ve also forged really important relationships with the people who produce my food.”

Hunter lives between Chestertown and Washington DC, he claims that while the farmer’s markets in DC are larger, there are no where near as many organic farms that participate. He was unaware until talking to growers at the Chestertown market how much it meant to not only grow organic food, but also be nationally recognized as an organic farm.

Wayne Lockwood of Lockbriar admits that his farm is not considered USDA Organic, but they are highly conscious of their actions upon the land.  Some of their produce is grown organically, but can’t be labelled as such because they aren’t registered with the USDA.

“We use a technique called IPM, or integrated pest management,” Lockwood said. “Instead of spraying constantly to kill off or deter pest bugs, we only employ pesticides to keep a majority of our produce from injury. We’re well aware of the effects these chemicals have on the soil and waterways, so we’re trying to look at ways we can further increase our sustainability practices.”

Lockbriar farms also attends annual sustainability conferences in order to keep up with new techniques and technologies that might further their sustainability initiative.

“The Chestertown farmer’s market has really brought this community together,” McCoy said. “It’s been a boon to the people through education, but also the economy of the town. People put money into things they deem worthy, and I know a lot of the producers here put out their very best to help support the Chestertown community.”

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Carl Schaumann, owner of Carl’s Bakehouse, and Lew Dodd, owner of White House Farms, exchange bread and produce with one another. Both are vendors at the Chestertown farmer’s market, as well as longtime friends.

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Schaumann is a stay at home dad who started an in-home bakery in 2014. The only income he makes from his baking is each Saturday at the Chestertown farmer’s market.

Growing Garden Club

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Vice President Alli Shumate plucks weeds from the herb bed. She has played a large role in the revitalization of Garden Club since the last President and Vice President suddenly left. Shumate was also in part responsible for getting local farmer and part time professor Jay Martin involved with leading the club.

Alexis Lenhart

Freshmen Alexis Lenhart tending to a bed of kale, she said she enjoys having a food source she can more a part of than that of commons or a grocery store. Lenhart aims to be a part of Garden Club’s leadership group next semester

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Ellie Ricks has known she wanted to be a part of garden club since before she arrived to SU. Working alongside a recognized organic farmer has been really beneficial in expanding her knowledge of food growth on a personal scale.

Brandon Holladay

Brandon Holladay is not an Environmental Studies major but still feels passionately about taking time to tend to a garden every week. Holladay feels it is important for individuals to know how to grow basic food items to use in their personal kitchens.

Alexis Lenhart and Ellie Ricks

Freshmen Alexis Lenhart and Ellie Ricks discuss making mint lemonade with the plentiful spearmint growing in cinder blocks alongside the raised beds of vegetables. Being a part of Garden Club has helped made them more knowledgeable about food sourcing, and cooking with raw ingredients rather than processed foods.

Blooming Green Beans

The Green Floor, one of Salisbury University’s pilot Living Learning Communities, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Living Learning Communities (LLCs) were originally founded in 2005 with the Honors Floor by Professors James Buss and Mike Lewis in order to bring incoming honors freshmen together.

In 2007, Lewis introduced the Green Floor in an attempt to bring popularity to the then new environmental studies department. The move was deliberate so that new environmental students might build the foundation of a tight knit community.

“At the time we didn’t have a department or a house like we do now,” Lewis said. “I wanted the students to all have a chance to live together, grow closer, and really get to know one another.”

The students all live together on the same floor, most times their roommates are also a part of the LLC. The students also have a resident assistant living with them that is a part of the Green Floor or an Environmental Studies major.

This year the Green Floor has eight members whom take two classes together fall semester and one in the spring. The LLC students have the benefit of attending one of their courses in the classroom inside their residence hall.

Freshmen Jobilynn Gronau is currently a member of the Green Floor, she is excited to use the LLC to make connections with other students and to get involved with clubs on campus. She is also looking forward to a beach cleanup and camping trip planned for weekends later in the semester.

“If I wasn’t a part of this floor, I probably wouldn’t have talked to as many people as I do,” Gronau said. “I think I’d have very few friends, and I definitely wouldn’t get off campus as much as I do with the Green Floor.”