After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

Doctor for the Bay

(Posted by Walter Boynton)

It comes as a bit of a shock to find myself writing a blog.  It’s not something that I know much about…almost nothing, in fact…other than I understand that there are a huge number of blog sites and that, in some cases, folks feel compelled to say things that might better be left unsaid.

But, Gerald Winegrad, the sparkplug of this blog group, is a persuasive and persistent person so I’ve agreed to add my two cents to this group effort discussing the progress (and lack of progress) in cleaning up Chesapeake Bay and the many rivers draining into the Bay.

In addition, I think environmental scientists like me are generally poor communicators.  We normally distribute the results of our work on a variety of environmental issues in professional journals and these publications are almost always quite technical.  In fact, they are almost unreadable by members of the general public and, if truth is to be attempted in this blog, they sometimes are very effective at putting me fast asleep.  You will not find these publications at the check-out counter at the local Safeway or at the airport news stand.   So, there is lots of work to be done in this area of communicating what scientists know (or think they know) to the public, environmental managers and political leaders; perhaps this blog can improve two-way communication between diverse groups of folks who care about environmental issues.

So, it seems to me a first question might be “Who the heck is Walt Boynton?”  So, this first blog from me focuses on me, where I’m from and what I do for a living.  After this I will comment on some issues of more general concern.

I’m originally from the Boston area and grew up largely outdoors skiing, fishing, hiking and the like.  I was not an outstanding high school student…in fact, my high school goals were to maintain an 80.00 average (to keep the folks happy) and to finish.  I went off to college and that I loved and completed a degree in Biology.  While a senior in college I wrote a proposal to the college wherein I basically said I could learn a lot by spending my last semester walking up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  The college agreed and I started walking and eventually got to Massachusetts in time to graduate…I did learn a lot!  Among other things, during this walk I found I had not been accepted at any of the graduate schools I had applied to so I was at loose ends regarding gainful employment.  Then, I got a letter from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (CBL) in Solomons, Md., offering a summer job…I took it and started (in 1969) what has become a lifetime adventure.  After working at CBL for several years I did manage to go off to graduate school and when I finished found myself with a job offer from CBL.  I’ve been in the Chesapeake area ever since.

I’m a general ecologist and I’m primarily interested in estuaries.  In a sense this is equivalent to being a general practitioner in the medical field…the local doc sees lots of different illnesses and so do general ecologists.  I’ve been involved in studies of fish recruitment, seagrass ecology, power plant impacts on estuaries and nutrient effects on estuarine water quality and others that don’t readily come to mind.  All have been interesting, some have been really baffling and still others have been largely solved.  Trying to understand how nature works is basically what we do.  I’m hopeful that this blog will improve general understanding of Bay ecology and give us all a forum to talk about how we are doing in restoring this large estuarine ecosystem.

If you have questions about the science behind the Bay’s troubles, or anything else for that matter, please leave me a comment below.

2 Responses to Doctor for the Bay

  1. Walter, I’m quite pleased that you are contributing to this new blog, which I see as a terrific resource for nonscientists. As someone who teaches a course on the literature of the Chesapeake Bay, I know how important it is for students connect the scientists’ voices with the novels, memoirs, poetry, historical records and literary journalism that they read in my class. We all certainly need that combination of science and aesthetic interpretation to move us toward making positive environmental changes. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

  2. Walter – a real question: much is being made about the contribution of human hormones (and in the case of the ES, chicken hormones/antibiotics) in intersex fish issues.

    Can these chemicals be isolated or removed on an industrial/municipal level? Is there technology emerging to actually deal with this?