I haven’t always loved oysters. When I was young, I was turned off by the raw, seemingly slimy creatures and their uneven shell homes. But, as I got older and my palate expanded, I fell in love with them. I was lucky enough to grow up in New England, where you can sit on tall bar tables on the side of brick sidewalks and eat oysters that may have been in the water that morning. Some of my favorite memories in high school, and later on college breaks, were going to Franklin Oyster House in Portsmouth, N.H. with my friends and enjoying an evening of good food and company. It’s funny how small things like food and location can do so much good for the soul.
Working in the environmental field, I began to love and appreciate them beyond being served on the half shell at my favorite oyster bar.
The first time I saw the ever popular demo of “this is a tank of bay water” and “this is a tank of the same bay water, but with oysters inside,” I was in awe. How could such a small, squishy creature turn murky, brackish water into a crystal clear pool. Upon doing more research, I discovered just how important oysters are to the ecosystem. From filtering sediment and contaminants out of water to creating habitat for fish and other invertebrates, the importance of oysters in the efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay cannot be understated. These small bivalves can filter fifty gallons of water per day, making healthy habitat for the return of underwater grasses, among other creatures.
Because of this, oyster restoration has become a focus of many environmental groups. This past Saturday, volunteers flocked to Phillips Wharf Environmental Center to pack oysters seeded with spat (baby oysters) into cages. The cages were then picked up by a fleet of “truckers” - volunteers who brought the cages to various private docks around Tilghman Island, Md. Over 250 cages were filled and delivered by noon.
Efforts such as this is what propels environmental movements forward. While it’s undoubtedly important and helpful to have legislation and lawmakers in our corner, much of the work is done like this- with community members volunteering their time towards environmental action they know to be important.
If you’re looking to find a group to volunteer with, or to learn more, check out the Find a Group page at chesapeakebay.net!
Since my first day at the Chesapeake Bay Program, I feel like I’m constantly learning and catching up. First, it was learning the slew of acronyms that quickly started to look like alphabet soup in my brain - TMDL, SAV, GIT. Then, I remembered something I once read, about how feeling dumb can be the best thing for you. If we allow ourselves to feel dumb, accept that there is something we do not know, then we are able to confidently ask questions, make observations, and enjoy the process of learning without the fear of being judged. So, I began asking a lot of questions.
“So, when we say SAV we are really talking about underwater/bay grasses, but we say SAV?”
“What exactly is a watershed?”
“So, if we are advocating for something the waterman/farmers/residents don’t necessarily want or can afford, how do we help them without being pushy or degrading?”
Once I began asking questions, I began learning. If you know me, you know that means I usually start telling people the amazing new things I learned. I would grin and tell my friends all about the bay grasses we saw during an aerial flight or why it was so interesting to see a nutria in Great Falls park. I began to find the intersection of my photography skills and love for environment that I had been searching for when I sought this position.
On August 14, I woke up in my friend’s apartment on Q St. NW. After spending the previous evening with the Women Photojournalists of Washington, I woke up feeling ready for the day. Upon turning onto New York Ave. from Florida Ave., I decided to take a detour to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The lotuses and lilies were exiting full bloom so I figured that I might as well get some images for the Bay Program to have on file and check another National Park site off my list.
Located along some of the few remaining original wetlands on the Anacostia River, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens was created by Civil War veteran Walter Shaw, who used paths to separate the ponds from the tidal marsh. Shaw’s daughter, Helen, later fought against the destruction of the gardens during a land seizure attempt for the dredging project in the Anacostia River. And, after successfully lobbying congress, the gardens became part of Anacostia Park. Kenilworth features lotuses and 20 varieties of lilies—including the original variety transported by Shaw from Maine.
Today was one the days that all I could think was “I love my job” and “I love D.C.” And, while I am fully aware that is incredibly cheesy, I stand by it. I’ve become unafraid of admitting my love for something- the natural world, my friends, a particularly artistic dinner. So, I’ll say it as often as I can; I love where I am and what I do. I love that I have been given the opportunity to tell stories with photographs and video. And while sometimes I wonder if anyone reads this blog, besides my brother (who is undeniably my biggest fan, thanks Kyle), I love having an outlet for my everyday work and the thoughts in my head. So thank you to whoever is out there reading (or not reading) this.