From Chesapeake Quarterly

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Original Article from the Chesapeake Quarterly

by Daniel Pendick

CARLOS LOZANO STARTS HIS DAYS at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (CBL) by checking a website that displays information about water quality and weather conditions in the Bay. Modern digital instruments at the end of the lab's historic research pier test the waters every 15 minutes. "If I see any issues with it, I'll go out there and check," says Lozano, a research assistant with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. As he marches along a wooden pier that now juts 750 feet out into the mouth of the Patuxent River, Lozano follows in the footsteps of generations who have walked the CBL pier for science. Reginald Truitt, the founder of the CBL, started the monitoring program in 1938. In the early days, instruments were basic; to take the temperature of the water, someone had to walk to the end of the pier and lower a thermometer at the end of a metal tube to a depth of one meter.

Instruments at the end of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory's research pier at the mouth of the Patuxent River have measured water quality continuously since 1938. Photograph, Sarah Brzezsinski

Instruments at the end of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory's research pier at the mouth of the Patuxent River have measured water quality continuously since 1938. Photograph, Sarah Brzezsinski

Truitt knew that continuous, long-term records were essential to understanding the Bay and exposing future changes. In fact, in 2006 — almost 70 years after the measuring began at the end of his Solomons Island research pier — the record revealed the subtle trace of global climate change in the Bay. And today, the record continues to grow, nearing 80 years long. Regular monitoring remains essential to understanding key processes in the estuary, managing its fisheries sustainably, and anticipating the impacts of climate change.

Since Truitt's time, the business of measuring things has dramatically surpassed the thermometer-on-a-stick approach. The CBL pier has become a point on a nationwide map of coastal observation systems. Networks of sensors keep watch on estuaries, coastlines, the Great Lakes, the continental shelf waters, and the open ocean.

If you have spent time on the Chesapeake Bay, you've probably seen at least one example of the region's observing systems at work: an instrumented buoy. Some of them measure winds, tides, and water temperature and salinity, which ship pilots use to navigate the Bay. Or you may have seen one of the research boats that stop at multiple spots along the mainstem of the Bay to measure dissolved oxygen, nutrient levels, and other key indicators of the estuary's ecological health...

 

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