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Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem History Project Hosts Dartmouth College Field Geology Program

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sidescan sonar image of sunken WWII submarine
Sidescan sonar image of wreck of WWII submarine in the lower Patuxent River. The deck and conning tower (shadow) are at the top. The bow is believed to be at the left.
During the first week of September, the Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem History Project conducted a field operation in the bay from a station based in Solomons, MD. In addition to follow-up sampling and acoustic-data acquisition for the project, Steve Colman and Dave Nichols (WHFC) teamed up with Dartmouth College professors Max Zhao and Jim Aronson to teach a segment of Dartmouth's field geology program.

The program, known as the Stretch, is unique. Students spend an entire semester in the field, working in different places for two-week intervals. The combination of geology in the Appalachian Piedmont and in Chesapeake Bay is the first segment taught in the eastern U.S. in many years. This year's course was the largest ever and included 36 students and four teaching assistants.

muddy students
The best and brightest sample of Chesapeake Bay mud.
Each day after short morning lectures, the students split into two groups. One worked aboard the R/V Aquarius (Chesapeake Bay Laboratory, University of Maryland) focusing on water sampling and estuarine-circulation measurements. The group measured salinity and dissolved oxygen, among other things, in order to learn about mixing and stratification in the estuary, as well as the relation between productivity and anoxia. The second group used the R/V Kerhin (Maryland Geological Survey) to learn about sidescan-sonar, seismic-reflection, and coring methods.

Proximity to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station provided spectacular targets for sidescan-sonar imagery. Seismic-reflection profiles in the main part of Chesapeake Bay in this area show remarkably well the relations among modern bathymetry, the river channel of the last glacial lowstand of sea level, and older paleo-channels. Finally, the students operated coring equipment to obtain samples of Chesapeake Bay sediments and examine them closely.

seismic reflection profile across the bay
Seismic-reflection profile across the axial channel and paleochannel of the bay.
  sidescan sonar image of sunken ship
Sidescan sonar image of ship wreck in lower Patuxent River. It is believed that the stern is missing at the top of the image and the bow is toward the bottom.

In addition to hands-on experience with scientific operations, the students were exposed to the beauty of Chesapeake Bay and its ecosystem from a vantage they might not have enjoyed otherwise. Only a few mild cases of seasickness were reported. A group dinner with fresh steamed blue crabs provided a memorable finish to the experience.

Related Web Sites
Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem Change and History Project
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Maryland Geological Survey
State of Maryland

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in this issue: Fieldwork Delmarva Coastal Bays—Hoverprobe

Outreach cover story:
St. Pete Open House

Cub Scouts

JC Students Visit St. Pete

Teachers Learn About Rocks

Chesapeake Bay—Dartmouth College

Meetings Seafloor Mapping

Leadership in Scientific Research

British Antarctic Survey

Awards FWS, USGS Honored for Restoring Refuge

Student Achievement Awards

ECO Photo Contest

ESRI 2000 Conference

Staff & Center News Expert Witnesses at Environmental Trial

Two Long-Time Geologists Retire

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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:18 PM (THF)