Tag Archives: FWS experience

Living on the dredge

Remember the students Curtis told you about a few weeks ago? Four lucky interns are spending the summer working on urban conservation projects, as part of our Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. This week, we hear from Stephen, an environmental biology major at Towson University. 

I was completely unfamiliar with dredging before this internship. I knew dredge had something to do with ships but that was basically my extensive knowledge on the subject. Now I feel like my life revolves around dredging.

Steve Filling in the Holes with Plants

Nope, that’s not Stephen dredging. He’s planting salt meadow on Poplar Island, to help restore habitat.

Dredging is the process of scraping mud and debris from the bottom of a body of water. This needs to be done in the Chesapeake Bay up into the Port of Baltimore to allow the passage of large cargo ships. That part has pretty much nothing to do with what I do, but what they do with the dredge material is where my role comes into play. In the Chesapeake Bay region (among other areas), dredge material is used to create new or restored habitats.

The major dredge material project in my neck of the woods is on Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Less than 200 years ago, the island was about 1,200 acres. By 1993, there were only three to five acres left split up between four islands. So, Poplar Island was disappearing, and we needed a place to put dredge material. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure this one out. Win-win.

Over the course of an entire week, I worked with the National Aquarium Conservation Department to plant 37,000 plugs of Spartina patens, commonly known as salt meadow. During this week we also worked with community volunteers, students and representatives from different organizations, which made the job even more enjoyable.

You would think we were doing a lot, right? Planting 37,000 plants for a whole week sounds like we got a lot done. In a way, we definitely did; we planted two whole acres of land. However, when I considered that the island was over 1,100 acres and they are planning to add 575 more, it seemed insignificant. Plus, the project wouldn’t be finished until 2043. It was a little disheartening at first, honestly.

Steve and Kids Planting

Stephen with students planting salt meadow on Poplar Island.

That depressing aspect soon disappeared with a tour of the island. The island is split into cells to turn the overall project into much smaller, manageable projects, and there were a few completed cells on the island already. Seeing what some dredge material and some hard work could do completely changed my perspective. There were beautiful wetlands in the finished cells that were flourishing with wildlife. It was a paradise. That made the week of work incredibly easy. It wasn’t even work. It was a reward.

I am definitely willing to have this experience again. If you were given the opportunity to participate in a similar restoration project, I would tell you to take advantage of it. The work is incredibly rewarding. You get to turn nothing into everything.

It’s amazing to think that this restored habitat was possible because of some mud at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s truly a great collaboration between many different organizations, with each achieving their goals through a common interest.

Follow Stephen and the other interns this summer; we’ll hear from each them for the next several weeks. 

At Baltimore’s Masonville Cove, students explore urban conservation

Today, you’re hearing from Curtis Bennett of the National Aquarium, one of the partners at Masonville Cove, a partnership in Baltimore that was designated as an urban wildlife refuge partnership by the Service in 2013. Masonville Cove is now home to an environmental education center and is a place for local residents and schoolchildren to spend time in nature and participate in environmental stewardship projects. Working with Curtis, interns will work on a variety of projects that will benefit Masonville Cove and the Greater Baltimore area. They will be sharing their experience with us all summer.  My name is Curtis Bennett and I am a Project Manager within the Conservation Department at the National Aquarium (In the photo below, I’m the one in the blue polo). On behalf of the steering committee for the Urban Conservation and Education Internships Program, I would like to extend a warm welcome to our 2015 interns! On June 1, these four college students from the Greater Baltimore area began an eight-week journey, and throughout the summer they will spend time learning from local experts and gathering many new experiences along the way, all in an effort to paint a clear picture of career opportunities within the conservation sector.


The whole crew during the launch of the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition, the first day for the interns! From left to right, Tamara Taylor, Anastaia Alvarez Johnson, Congressman John Sarbanes, Karlis Grauze, Stephen Celano, me and U. S. Fish and WService Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber.

Over the past couple months, these four students have been patiently awaiting the start of program and here’s what each student is looking forward to the most:

“I’m looking forward to experiencing new adventures that this program may offer. I know quite a bit about the underwater sea animals but I’m eager to know more about wildlife creatures and why and how they are highly essential to the world.”

Tamara Taylor, Tuskegee University 
Elementary education major

“I am really excited about devoting a significant amount of time to putting to use my environmental knowledge and passion. I feel like there are plenty of opportunities to grow on a personal level as well as on environmentalist level.”

Karlis Grauze, University of Maryland
Environmental science and policy major/Philosophy minor

“I am most looking forward to further educating myself in the field of conservation and educating others on what can be done to help sustain our environment.”

Stephen Celano, Towson University
Environmental biology major 

“I am honestly looking forward to the contacts I know I’ll make during the program. I am looking forward to meeting my peers and working with them, learning and growing together. I hope to take anything I learn and share it with our community. Growth in individuals helps to grow our communities.”

Anastasia Alvarez Johnson, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Animal and poultry sciences major

Please stay tuned and follow our four interns as they share their experiences over the course of this program! Learn more about our partnership at Masonville Cove here.