Using technology to track Maryland’s progress
By Mark Trice
A quick look at the Chesapeake Bay and our eyes tell us that this beautiful estuary is a gift that keeps on giving by way of fishing, boating, sailing and supporting the livelihoods of hardworking watermen who harvest its bounty.
But as everyone knows, this generous Bay has endured years of exploitation; it is the enduring challenge — and responsibility — of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to give rise to a healthy Bay.
Using innovative technologies, the State has created easy-to-use web tools, through which citizens can discover how the Bay is faring and track how Maryland is doing in its quest to help this natural resource become sustainable. These tools include BayStat, Eyes on the Bay and StreamHealth websites and the monthly Eyes on the Bay newsletter.
BayStat is a powerful tracking tool established by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2007 to help experts assess, coordinate and target Maryland’s restoration and conservation programs. The BayStat website offers interactive maps by region, showing the causes of and solutions for Bay pollution and the efforts being undertaken to restore the world’s second largest estuary.
Improvements such as upgrading wastewater treatment plants, developing sustainable farming practices, conserving vital landscapes and conserving and restoring sensitive habitats are key to the Chesapeake’s survival. BayStat also provides transparency to citizens, allowing them to track the State’s progress in restoring the Bay.
StreamHealth, provides an in-depth look at Maryland’s non-tidal streams and creeks. Thousands of locations have been sampled across the State, and the interactive map-based results show whether streams are in healthy, fair or unhealthy conditions. The site also provides information on the types of organisms that live in these streams and whether these vital waters that feed into our rivers and the Bay are being helped by surrounding buffers or hindered by impervious surfaces. Results are gathered from the DNR-led Maryland Biological Stream Survey and the work of citizen volunteer StreamWaders.
Eyes on the Bay
The Eyes on the Bay website provides a comprehensive view of Maryland’s tidal water health. Summary maps allow citizens to see the three-year status of waterways (good, fair and poor) and whether regions are improving, becoming worse or holding their own. The site also provides real-time information on the current conditions of critical habitat factors including dissolved oxygen, water temperature, salinity, water clarity and algal blooms.
These daily satellite images of the Bay are extremely popular with the site’s 200,000 annual visitors. This valuable tool assists students in learning about and studying the Bay, helps boaters and anglers plan their outings and allows interested citizens to better understand water quality implications in their communities.
The Eyes on the Bay (formerly BayStat) electronic newsletter is another great tool that offers subscribers monthly updates on Chesapeake health and restoration news, as well as tips for helping create a smarter, greener more sustainable Maryland.
All of these tools contribute to building a better understanding between those whose job it is to watch over the Bay and Marylanders who rely on its restoration for ecological, economic and recreational benefits.
Mark Trice is the program manager of water quality informatics in DNR’s Tidewater Ecosystem Assessment Division. Mark has worked for DNR since 2001 and has been involved in Chesapeake Bay-related research for nearly 15 years.