Tag Archives: Masonville Cove

Nia Edwards ties Baltimore Latinos to resources at Masonville Cove

In the early 2000s, there was a need to clean up the Baltimore Harbor and dredge material (wood, mud, silt, sand, shell, and debris) from the seafloor. From that project and a robust coalition of partners, Masonville Cove was restored and Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was born. Located on a restored site along the Patapsco River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubbed Masonville Cove one of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in September 2013. The partnership and education center have since served as a place for local residents and schoolchildren in Baltimore to connect with nature and participate in meaningful stewardship projects. The adjacent communities of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are geographically isolated and face challenges such as income inequality, concentrated poverty, limited public transportation, high crime, and low high school graduation rates. Today we continue our celebration of Latino Conservation Week with a post written by Nia Edwards, featuring some of the work she’s done to help residents of South Baltimore discover nature in the Chesapeake Bay.

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My name is Nia Edwards…

and I am a graduating senior at Towson University double majoring in Spanish and international studies. I am the Latino community outreach liaison working with Hispanic Access Foundation, Living Classrooms and Masonville Cove to serve the local community in South Baltimore. I am responsible for providing the local Latino community with engaging events and materials and bilingual programming in English and Spanish, to foster a better relationship with Masonville Cove and build awareness about environmental conservation. By translating resources to Spanish and offering events in both languages, I help open up the lines of communication and increase accessibility to Masonville Cove resources for members of the local Latino community. For example in February, I led a community program on watersheds that focused on waste management and the impacts of urban debris on our watersheds. We also participated in Project Clean Stream, a Maryland-wide initiative to tackle trash in and around state waterways.

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A reminder that litter negatively impacts wildlife and our environment

Although serving the community is a very fulfilling job, it was initially very challenging for me to address environmental issues with local communities.The environment appeared to take a backseat to basic needs such as housing, food and jobs. Aside from these socioeconomic factors , language also plays a large role and is a barrier when engaging these communities.

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Our first clean-up with the community was a lot of fun and seemed to successfully address a lot of these barriers. It was eventful, well-attended, and incorporated a lot of giveaways, while providing food and a safe space for community members to get together. During our Brooklyn clean-up, we served over 100 members and the feedback from the event was fulfilling. We had a free recycling bin giveaway for Baltimore City residents, and provided an opportunity for kids and their families to decorate their bins. Our biggest giveaway, and the one that the community volunteers seemed to enjoy the most, was a free year-long membership to the aquarium. Valued at $125, the winner and their family gained free entry to the aquarium and access to exclusive aquarium events.

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Events like these are a reminder of the good work we are doing and continue to do at Masonville Cove. Our goal to bring awareness and create a safe space for community members, specifically in the Latino community is constantly met during these events. For Latino Conservation Week, Nia will be leading a community event at Masonville called “Nosotros Conservamos” which will include a shoreline cleanup, fishing, and a nature walk.

Next, this week, we’ll hear from Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla as he strives to connect Providence, RI residents to green spaces in their communities.

BioBlitz fun at Baltimore’s Masonville Cove

Today Curtis Bennett from the National Aquarium in Baltimore writes in to share his experiences from the 2015 BioBlitz at Masonville Cove. Here he explains his mission to  conserve wildlife and engage the community through citizen science to preserve species like the iconic monarch butterfly.

The National Aquarium’s Conservation Department recently hosted its second annual Masonville Cove BioBlitz. Masonville Cove is an urban wildlife refuge partnership site in Baltimore, Maryland, encompassing 54 acres of upland area, including tidal wetlands and vernal pools, as well as 70 acres of water, which provide valuable habitat for a variety of plant and wildlife species. This annual bioblitz provides a snapshot of the biodiversity of Masonville Cove. The Masonville Cove BioBlitz is unique because it encourages local students and community members to work with scientists,  provides exposure to the  outdoor environment and local wildlife and it helps to build a strong connection to Masonville Cove.

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Several monarch butterflies were spotted during the bioblitz and we were able to educate participants about their unique migration journey. Photo Credit: Pat Venturino

From tracking biodiversity to connecting urban residents to nature and experiencing the power of observation and discovery, the Masonville Cove BioBlitz provides an example of how just one event at a single site can encompasses the core values of the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition. This alliance, which includes the National Aquarium and the Service, supports a vision of expanding a connected and protected green infrastructure network in central Maryland, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Piedmont. Large-scale green spaces, such as Masonville Cove, within the Greater Baltimore area are critical in order to ensure the protection of local biodiversity. Additionally, environmental education programs such as a bioblitz, allow people the opportunity to explore these natural areas, observe the local species and learn how they can further contribute to conservation efforts.

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Catching Butterflies! Photo Credit: Genevieve LaRouche/USFWS

Empowering people in Baltimore to engage in conservation action is one of the goals of the National Aquarium’s citizen science program, and the Masonville Cove BioBlitz is a critical component. This program encourages people of all ages to “get nerdy with nature” and make observations to contribute to science. This year, we made 219 observations of 164 different species! For the bioblitz, all observations were entered into iNaturalist, just one of many citizen science projects with a mobile application. However at each station participants were provided with information about other citizen science projects and apps, through our citizen science website.

When citizen science projects and apps are directly tied to specific conservation efforts, the impact is even more powerful. Not only does this increase conservation awareness but the project and/or app serves as the tool to encourage public involvement. During this year’s bioblitz the National Aquarium highlighted one such project/app- Journey North, which seeks to track migratory species, such as the monarch butterfly. Masonville Cove provides critical habitat for monarchs, given the presence of three local milkweed species and other nectar sources. Throughout the bioblitz, participants observed several adult monarchs and upon learning their conservation story, were encouraged to further conservation efforts by tracking their presence or by providing wildlife habitat through our certification program. Continued efforts to connect people to nature and empowering them to take conservation actions will ensure that species such as the monarch butterfly will continue to be observed at the Masonville Cove BioBlitz for years to come.

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.

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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.