Where is pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

The SciFund Challenge
State College, Pennsylvania
DOI: 10.18258/1909
Raised of $475 Goal
Funded on 3/07/14
Successfully Funded
  • $500
  • 105%
  • Funded
    on 3/07/14

About This Project

Pollution enters waterways just as cars enter highways - through connection points. Targeting those points that carry the most pollution is one way to improve water resources. I will be identifying pollution hotspots of the Chesapeake Bay watershed for my Master's thesis at Penn State University. Becoming certified as an aquatic taxonomist and attending the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting are important first steps in this research.

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What is the context of this research?

Sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus are the three most important stressors in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (and in many other watersheds around the world). They lead to the degradation of water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Problems like algal blooms and "dead zones" are caused by these stressors. If you have ever seen a stream or lake covered in a layer of green, this is an example of an algal bloom. This can cause a decrease in oxygen in the water (which aquatic critters need just like you and I) and leads to "dead zones," where nothing (except some bacteria) can survive. With the ability to affect everything from headwater streams to larger rivers to the Bay, this issue is important for many, many people.

The sources of sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus are quite varied. From lawn fertilizer to cow manure to loose dirt at construction sites, they can be widespread and challenging to control. What is important for this research, though, is that not all areas of a watershed contribute equally to the sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus that ends up in our waterways. The "hotspot" areas of these three stressors have been researched individually, but investigations into locations of "hotspots" of all three stressors (in the same place) are needed. I would like to identify these areas in order to target them for management. What makes one area a major source of all three of these stressors? And how can we link the ecological communities to these hotspots?

What is the significance of this project?

This project is based in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so individuals from
New York's headwaters to Virginia's Bay area will be most immediately affected by this project. The vision of this research is to advise the management of nutrients and sediments in the Mid-Atlantic region.

What are the goals of the project?

  • Attend the (first ever!) Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Portland, OR.
  • Become certified as an aquatic taxonomist from the Society for Freshwater Science.
  • Identify independent sources of sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus.
  • Identify factors that transport sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus from sources to waterways.
  • Identify where source areas with high connectivity overlap for all three stressors (the hotspots).
  • Sample ecological communities and identify macroinvertebrates.
  • Measure ecological community response in triple threat hotspot areas.
  • Publish my thesis and acknowledge you for your support that is making it possible!


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As a graduate student on a limited budget, I am starting this campaign to raise the supplementary funds needed to attend the Joint Aquatic Science Meeting in Portland, OR this May. This is the first time that the four major water-focused organizations are coming together for a conference. Because my project involves so many different pieces (mainly, what is needed to figure out hotspot areas), it will be beneficial to hear from and speak with the experts in these various fields. Additionally, at this meeting I will sit for my taxonomic certification exam, which will allow me to identify the organisms that are living in these hotspot areas.

Meet the Team

Claire Regan
Claire Regan

Team Bio

Hailing from Lancaster, PA, where agriculture abounds, the cows are plentiful, and the Susquehanna River is never far away, the direct connection between how we use land and how that affects our water resources is obvious. When I moved to Maryland, I was immersed in the "Bay culture," with unending summer crab-feasts and where Old Bay finds a permanent place on the dinner table. Moving back to Pennsylvania for graduate school, I find myself in the headwaters once again, removed from the Bay but with a clear understanding that it is all intricately connected. While crabs and oysters may not be the focus here, the brook trout, drinking water, and overall health of local waterways are as vitally important. My motivation for this research is to help facilitate a win-win situation for both headwater and downstream residents, finding a way for finite funding to be better utilized, and ultimately improving water quality for all those fortunate enough to live in this beautiful watershed.

Project Backers

  • 11Backers
  • 105%Funded
  • $500Total Donations
  • $45.45Average Donation
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