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Restoring Horseshoe Bend

Would Lord Calvert, Margret Brent, or Mathias DeSousa recognize the Bay today?

As the Chesapeake has declined, the College’s region has suffered. Although still among the healthiest of Maryland’s Potomac tributaries, the St. Mary’s River is still subject to anoxic conditions each year, driving away or killing wildlife. Once a prime location for harvesting oyster and crabs, along with the Patuxent, these days the River cannot boast a tenth of its historic population. Though the name “Chesapeake,” given to the Bay hundreds of years ago by native peoples, means “great shellfish bay,” just 1% of the historic native oyster population remains today.

A degraded Chesapeake threatens not only the region’s native wildlife, but the livelihoods of Bay residents and our cultural heritage and history. At St. Mary’s College of Maryland we know the importance of the past, and how the stewardship of the present protects the prosperity of the future. We are dedicated to environmental stewardship and the restoration of our local habitat. For as many problems that threaten the Bay, there are equal measures available to combat and surpass them. The College’s approach is one of scholarly research, hands on education, institutional responsibility, community outreach and advocacy.

Restoring Horseshoe Bend

The small bend in the St. Mary’s River that we call our home has undergone an extensive amount of restoration in the past few decades.  Our faculty, staff and the community are committed to the understanding and restoration of our local ecosystem.  Examples of our dedication to the St. Mary’s River extend across disciplines and generations, as well as states!

The St. Mary’s River Project, led by Dr. Bob Paul and Dr. Chris Tanner of the Biology Department, was a paragon of the multi-faceted monitoring of a closed watershed, that is to say, a body of water that had all of its streams enclosed within one county.  This project occurred over several years and involved hands-on work from dozens of students, and resulted in the publication of multiple scientific papers and reports.  Currently, the environmental outreach of the St. Mary’s River Project continues as an education program for local fifth graders.

The St. Mary’s River Watershed Association has completed a number of important projects to restore the natural habitat of Horseshoe Bend.  Most recently, SMRWA has been involved with the bottom stabilization of the St. Mary’s River using oyster shell and reef balls placed and/or created by SMCM interns.  Shore Thing Shellfish, a local oyster company comprised of three SMCM alums, supplied the shell and labor for this endeavor.

Students themselves have shown their dedication to the St. Mary’s River by conducting a number of research-based St. Mary’s Projects (SMP’s) on the health and potential restoration methods of the Bend.  SMP’s are a capstone thesis project required by most majors at SMCM, and often ecology-based projects will focus on oysters or SAV living in the St. Mary’s River, or potential roadblocks to restoration.  Students from other disciplines, including Chemistry, Biochemistry, and English, have also generated projects focused on the understanding, restoration, and importance of the St. Mary’s River.

Get involved:

St. Mary’s River Watershed AssociationEyes on the BayShore Thing Shellfish