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.”