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The Maryland Envirothon
Aquatic Ecology Resource Site

Updated December 5, 2013

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 North American Envirothon curriculum guidelines but note that changes have been made to reflect Maryland’s main topics for 2014. Questions for the test were generated from each resource listed under a particular topic. Though there are many resources listed, they are duplicated under more than one topic. Students will be responsible for the information related to the specific objectives listed below. In the case of web pages, 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 stacy.epperson@maryland.gov if you have any questions.

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. Be familiar with stream flow dynamics.
  3. 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 such as ocean acidification.


Natural Resources Conservation Service: How to read a topo map and delineate a watershed.

Basic Concepts Of a Watershed

Georgia Adopt a Stream Manual on Biological and Chemical Stream Monitoring, pg. 22, 25

USGS Water Cycle-Stream Flow

NOAA PMEL Carbon Program – Ocean Acidification (Opening page only)

Maryland Streams: Take A Closer Look, pg. 7-17, 21, 31-35

The Global Conveyor Belt: Currents

II. Biotic Factors

  1. Understand the dependence of all organisms on one another 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 native aquatic plants.


Intro to an Ecosystem, pg. 11-24

Maryland Fisheries Management

Maryland DNR Invasive and Exotic Species

*Macroinvertebrate Dichotomous Key

*Maryland Freshwater Fish Dichotomous Key

* Provided at State Test

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. Understand the different kinds of flooding and how flooding benefits aquatic environments.
  5. Understand the functions and values of riparian zones and be able to identify riparian zone areas.


Introduction to an Ecosystem, pg.11-24

EPA’s Watershed Academy: Sustaining Healthy Freshwater Ecosystems

Salt Water Intrusion of Coastal Aquifers

Ground Water Contamination

NOAA PMEL Carbon Program – Ocean Acidification (Opening page only)

Maryland Streams: Take A Closer Look pg. 7-17, 21, 31-35

Riparian Zones: Managing Early-successional habitats near the water’s edge. pg. 70-74.

IV. Water Protection and Conservation

  1. Be familiar with non-native aquatic plants and the methods to control their spread.
  2. Interpret major provincial and/or federal laws and methods used to protect water quality (surface and ground water)
  3. Be familiar with the federal, state, and county agencies that provide oversight of water resources.
  4. Know the most common diseases conveyed through our water and methods to prevent or control their distribution.


Center for Disease Control

EPA Chesapeake Bay TMDL

Maryland DNR Invasive and Exotic Species

*Anne Arundel’s 2012 Drinking Water Report

*2013 Maryland Fish Consumption Report

* Provided at State Test

V. Electronic Resources (good to know)

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.

Characteristics of a Watershed
Provides profiles of a watershed's geography, ecosystem condition, industry, planning resources and watershed management activities.

Streams 101
Provides basic information, definitions, and concepts of stream ecology and assessment.

Chesapeake Bay
Official Chesapeake Bay Program Website
http://www.chesapeakebay.net and www.bayeducation.net

Macroinvertebrate Ecology


VI. Teacher Resources

Project WET/Healthy Water, Healthy People/Discover a Watershed
For information on these materials, please contact Cindy Etgen at cetgen@dnr.state.md.us or visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/education/are/

Eyes on the Bay, visit www.eyesonthebay.net

WOW! The Wonders of Wetlands, please contact Environmental Concern at dir.educate@wetland.org or visit: http://www.wetland.org/

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