Sea Grant may be familiar to many people through its educational materials, which include newsletters, videos such as "Chesapeake: The Twilight Estuary," and a variety of books and pamphlets used in schools throughout the region. But most of Sea Grant's focus in Maryland and Virginia has been on Bay-related research. Some examples:
- Analysis of sediment cores by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has determined what the pre-Colonial Bay was like. Results have shown distinct trends in the Bay's biology and incidence of hypoxia (low oxygen conditions in the water) since the beginning of land clearance. This work sets a baseline against which the current state of the Bay and future restoration activities, can be compared.
- Airborne remote sensing has been used to track phytoplankton blooms in the Bay and compare chlorophyll levels to river inflow and nutrient inputs. Remote sensing gives a much broader picture than is possible with ship-board monitoring, and analyses have helped confirm the forces behind recent environmental trends in the Bay.
- Sea grasses have been considered an indicator of the Bay's health. With pass-through funds from the EPA, researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science(VIMS)and the University of Maryland's Center for Estuarine and Environmental Studies(CEES)teamed up to develop water quality criteria for promoting the growth of sea grasses. Such criteria provide managers with meaningful "targets" to guide nutrient reduction in the Bay.
- Researchers from CEES and VIMS are investigating the impact of toxics on the immune response of oysters and, in particular, its resistance to the parasitic disease Dermo. Their work is showing that these and other contaminants suppress the functioning of disease-fighting blood cells.
- Most organic toxicants that enter the Bay are particle-reactive, adhering to particles in the water column, which then sink to the bottom. But the story does not end there. With funds from NOAA and the EPA, Sea Grant research in both Maryland and Virginia has found that these toxic-laden particles are frequently resuspended into the water column by tidal and wind-generated currents. Also, benthic organisms play an important role in the fate of these toxicants - rapidly burying some toxic-laden particles, bringing others from the depth to the surface; and ingesting some particles, thus introducing toxicants into the food web.
- Sea Grant-supported work has helped to uncover the life cycle of the Bay's blue crab. Through field and laboratory studies, researchers at Old Dominion University, CEES and the University of Delaware teamed up to discover that blue crab larvae are flushed out of the Bay onto the continental shelf. Subsequent field and modeling work, including research at VIMS, have shown that blue crabs return to the Bay in the megalopa (post-larva) stage, and that variability in recruitment is largely determined by environmental factors. VIMS researchers have also shown that sea grasses are extremely important habitat for young blue crabs.
- When faced with the closure of several Virginia crab processors by the Food and Drug Administration because of the presence of the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, the Virginia Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program developed operating plans for the processing plants, which allowed them to remain in operation.
- Since the late 1970s, when Maryland and Virginia Sea Grant helped organize the first oyster culture conferences that have grown into the annual multi-state Mid-Atlantic Aquaculture Conference, Sea Grant Extension specialists have staged scores of workshops and demonstrations throughout the region and have produced a library of aquaculture educational materials that range from books to fact sheets to a series of aquaculture videos.