Leadership MD Class of 2016 begins program at Horn Point Lab
CAMBRIDGE — Leadership Maryland Class of 2016 and program alumni visited the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory for a tour of the oyster hatchery on Wednesday, April 13.
Attendees learned about the efforts of the laboratory to restore the Chesapeake Bay to good health and, in particular, the oyster population.
Leadership Maryland is a statewide personal and professional development program. Fifty-two participants are accepted each year, and they spend the better part of their year traveling around the state learning about subjects such as education, health and human services, criminal justice, the environment, multiculturalism and diversity and more.
The hatchery operation at UMCES Horn Point is the largest on the East Coast. Over 1 billion oyster spat have been produced at the facility over the last decade.
“The program in oyster restoration is a partnership among University of Maryland, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, Oyster Recovery Partnership, Army Corps of Engineers, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and lots and lots of other groups,” said Donald Meritt, Hatchery Program Director.
Meritt led the group through the hatchery facilities and explained step by step how the program works to boost the oyster population in the Bay. He spoke about the process oysters go through to reproduce — from spawn to larvae maturation on to shell attachment and finally into the Bay.
The group was shown oysters in different stages throughout the lab, the huge tanks where they live, and the greenhouse where many different types of algae are grown to feed the oysters.
After the tour, Chief of Staff at UMCES Dave Nemazie spoke briefly about the overall decline in health of the Chesapeake Bay.
Nemazie said the Bay restoration efforts began in the 1980s following Hurricane Agnes’ effect on the region in the 1970s. A large study of the Bay’s health was conducted and the results led to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, an agreement among several states to decrease nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay Program, formed by the agreement, set milestones for the reduction of nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Bay. As the year 2000 approached, and it was clear the goal of a 40 percent reduction would not be met, the program extended the goals through 2010.
“A really important thing happened six or seven years ago. With the leadership of all the states (in the Chesapeake Bay Program) and the federal government, they agreed to set two-year milestones instead of the 10and 20-year milestones set in the past,” Nemazie said.
According to Nemazie, the two-year milestones are important because they hold the sitting governors accountable for the restoration efforts under their watch. With 10- and 20-year milestones, Nemazie said, there was an attitude of “I’ll leave it for the next guy.”
Too much nitrogen and phosphorus causes algae to grow too thick and block light from penetrating the water’s surface, Nemzaie said. Without light, plants on the bottom will not grow.
Also, Nemzaie said, when the algae dies, it sinks to the bottom and begins to break down. That bacterial breakdown requires a lot of oxygen, which leeches the oxygen from the water, and not enough is left for other bottom-dwelling organisms to thrive.
The next long-term milestone year is 2025.
After the brief overview of the Bay’s issues, Leadership Maryland attendees were treated to a question and answer session.
“Under the Leadership Maryland program, we hope that our graduates learn and develop new passions, and go forward from their experience with us to do good for the state,” said Leadership Maryland President and CEO Renee Winsky.
Leadership Maryland prepared to kick of their 2016 class year with a tour of the oyster hatchery at that University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory.