​Stacy Epperson
Education Specialist
Aquatic Resources Education
Chesapeake and Coastal Service
MD Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: 410-260-8775​

The Maryland Envirothon Aquatic Ecology Resource Site

Maryland Envirothon logo Aquatics logo

Updated March 2018

This is the study guide for advisors and students participating in the Maryland State Envirothon competition. The four topic areas and listed objectives are similar to the Envirothon curriculum guidelines but note that changes have been made to reflect Maryland’s main topics for 2018. Fifth topic questions are sprinkled throughout the test; due to the transient nature of the 5th topic, specific objectives have not been defined. Questions for the test were generated from each resource. At the least, students will be responsible for the information related to the specific objectives listed below. In the case of web page links, only the opening page of the link was used for question generation unless marked otherwise. With PDF documents, students should study the complete document, unless specific pages are listed. Please feel free to contact Stacy Epperson at if you have any questions.

2018 Aquatic Ecology Training

2018 Aquatic Ecology Training Power Point

I. Abiotic Factors

  1. Know the processes and phases for each part of the water cycle and understand the water cycle’s role in soil nutrient erosion, and climatic influences.
  2. Understand the concept and components of a watershed and be able to identify stream orders and watershed boundaries. Know the feature of a healthy watershed and an unhealthy watershed. Understand why aquatic organisms and water quality is affected by the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the water; this includes changes caused by climate change.

II. Biotic Factors

  1. Understand the dependence of all organisms on one another (food web) and how energy and matter flow within an aquatic ecosystem. This includes oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon.
  2. Identify common, rare, threatened, and endangered aquatic species as well as Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) through the use of a key.
  3. Know how to use a dichotomous key to identify animals.
  4. Be familiar with aquatic plants and animals visually and descriptively.

III. Aquatic Environments

  1. Identify aquatic and wetland environments based on their physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.
  2. Know characteristics of different types of aquifers, and understand historical trends and threats to groundwater quantity and quality.
  3. Know Maryland’s physiological provinces.
  4. Be able to describe the difference between native, non-native, and invasive species

IV. Water Protection and Conservation

  1. Interpret major provincial and/or federal laws and methods used to protect water quality (surface and ground water)
  2. Be familiar with the federal, state, and county agencies that provide oversight of water resources.
  3. North American water rights: history, kinds, controversy.
  4. Water use in the U.S.; water conservation plans.

V. Fifth Topic: Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship

VI. Resources:

Basic Information about Watersheds (home page only)

Conservation Choices for Maryland Farmers (Know the appropriate names for the BMPs described, and special attention to pages 3 & 6.)

EPA Chesapeake Bay TMDL

Georgia Adopt a Stream Manual Chemical Stream Monitoring, (Chapter 2 Chemical tests)

Intro to an Ecosystem

Invasive Description

Learn About Watersheds (home page only)

*Macroinvertebrate Dichotomous Key (section 7).

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Invasives (review fact sheets)

*Maryland Freshwater Fish Dichotomous Key

Maryland Streams: Take a Closer Look (pages 7, 9, 12, 16)

Summary of Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2010 (front page only)

USGS, Water Science School - Water-Cycle Summary (Scroll to freshwater storage)

USGS Water Science School-Hydroelectric Power

* Provided at State Test

VII. Other Resources (good for background or general knowledge)

In addition to the resources listed above, you can find useful information below about various aquatic topics. Keep in mind that test questions do not come directly from these sources.

Chesapeake Bay - Official Chesapeake Bay Program Website

EPA Water Conservation Plan Guidelines

Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health

VIII. Teacher Resources

Project WET/Healthy Water, Healthy People/Discover a Watershed
For information on these materials, please contact Cindy Etgen at or visit The Aquatics Resource Education website

Eyes on the Bay

WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands
Environmental Concern visit: