By Sarah Hansen
In the Chesapeake Bay region, water quality is a big deal. It can affect populations of economically important animals such as crabs and oysters, or shift ecological relationships among other species. Differences in water quality might even determine whether an invasive species can establish a foothold in the Bay.
But water quality is a nebulous thing. Even collecting water samples can be tricky, something intern Shelby Paschal knows first-hand.
“This is our obstacle course training,” Paschal says with a laugh, after a climbing onto a rickety fish weir at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). Paschal and the rest of the Nutrient Lab, headed by senior scientist Tom Jordan, are running one piece of an ambitious 6-year project studying the effects of multiple factors in shallow near-shore habitats. These critical habitats for small fish, crabs, and plants face threats from invasive species and construction, as well as from degradation of water quality caused by release of excessive nutrients from cropland into the Bay. Click to continue »