Stream Surveying!!



Ashley (left) and I pose in front of one of the most polluted stream segments we surveyed. The thumbs down was my rating for water quality.


This past Wednesday, Ashley and I got the amazing opportunity to go stream sampling with Andrea and Benjamin Glass-Siegel, who works with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES). BES is based in University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is collecting data on the Gwynns Falls watershed water quality over a period of 50 years. That’s a long time and a whole lot of data! BES is actually one of the only long-term studies in the world investigating the effects of urbanization on ecology and one of only two in the United States (the other one is in Phoenix, Arizona). Water quality isn’t the only aspect of the Baltimore are that they are researching: they are also looking at vegetation, soil, biodiversity, and how data connects to demographic and social aspects of Baltimore. Check out their website HERE!

Stream sampling has been going on for the past 15 years and has been constantly changing and adapting to new technology and opportunities. For instance, at the first site, Ben showed us a device (hidden and locked under an old oil can to prevent vandalism) that gathers data from the Gwynns Falls every few minutes. Ben visits each site along the stream once a week and uploads the data from the device onto his computer. The device also collects a sample of water every few minutes into a bin stored underneath the device. Every week, Ben samples the water collected over the seven days and then cleans out the bin, preparing it for a new week of sampling.

Ben surveys about ten sites along the Gwynns Falls watershed, from around where the stream starts in Baltimore County to where the stream becomes a rushing river in Baltimore City. At every site, he gathers data on the dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, conductivity (similar to turbidity, or how clear the water is), and the water level/height (compared to a standard ruler on the side). He also gathers samples to take back to the lab to test for turbidity and other factors not measurable in the field. Since many scientists are intrigued by the long-term nature of the project, Ben also gathers other samples for other scientists. One bottle that we filled on Wednesday, for instance, was for another scientist’s study on the levels of pharmaceuticals in the water. Because Baltimore often allows sewage to overflow into stream water (see below for more on that), pharmaceuticals from human waste can be detected in the water samples we take — this could provide valuable data on what medicine people tend to use, legally or illegally.



I screw the cap closed and check for air bubbles in the bottle holding the water sample for the pharmaceutical study (no air allowed in the bottle, which is tough to accomplish!). Ashley, right, gathers information on the pH and conductivity. The oil barrel, bottom left, is the secret hiding spot for the computer that gathers information about stream water quality for the long-term, and that handheld machine on top of the barrel is our DO probe.


The water quality of the sites varies drastically. One sampling site is located right near the end of I-70, and in the winter, because of all the salt used on the roads (salt lowers water’s freezing point), Ben has recorded water temperatures below freezing, but the water isn’t frozen! At another spot out in Baltimore County, there is almost no trash cluttering the banks, but there is severe erosion on one side of the stream because of a housing development that extends to just a few feet from the water’s edge. On the other side, with no houses, the bank looks perfectly fine and natural. The juxtaposition is stunning, and it was amazing to see how certain factors can dramatically reduce water quality, and thus, the biodiversity.

All along the stream, however, erosion was common, and so were raised sewer outfall locations. Ben explained that sewers were commonly built next to streams back in the day because streams exhibit sites of natural liquid flow (gravity causes the water to flow downstream), so the sewage in the sewers would obviously be able to flow in the same downstream direction, thus reducing the need for expensive pumps to mobilize the sewage.

Indeed, in Baltimore, we’ve been struggling with a lot of sewage overflows into our streams! Repairs are moving along, slowly but surely. At one of the sampling sites, a raised black pipe (thankfully, sealed while we were there) ran down the hill, through the water, and up the other bank. The pipe was temporarily funneling sewage from one location to another while crews fixed the sewage pipes underground.

What a cool experience overall. We ended the day sampling a few sites out in Oregon Ridge Park. These stream sites are used as control areas because of their pristine water quality and little to no nearby urbanization. The forest was calm and serene and the water perfectly clear. It was almost like a reminder of what Baltimore used to look like. Could we potentially restore some of our urban streams to be as pure as this one?

— Claire


Create a better life.

“Black lives matter.”
Has become the motto for citizens all across the country for a few years now.

City after city police have been involved in the deaths of many African American young adults across the country.
“Save our kids.” Right?

Well first we have to take a deeper look into the issue at hand. “Greenleaf” a new show that premiered on OWN, focused on a similar incident involving the death of an African American man while in police custody after being shot by an African American police officer.

Over the past few months Baltimore much like the fictional depiction in the show Greenleaf has experienced that impact of police shootings. However, Greenleaf focused on all sides of the story the job done by the officer as well as the impact of the death on the community. Cases like this are sensitive.. The media provides people with a story, a point of view. But, here’s what to do with situations like this gather all the facts. Make your own view not just one that is presented to you.

So as for Baltimore we are continuing to heal and the process will be slow. We will never forget what happened, however we can use it as a lesson. So let’s learn! Learn how to be more compassionate and loving to one another. We can stop such deaths and save all lives. See Greenleaf said “black deaths matter.” Not just the lives and the media realized when there’s a death more than a life. In closing live your life the best way that you know how.



We want green!! We want green!! Ever wonder why Baltimore does not have as many green spaces as other cities?!?WELL… Not for long! The Department of Planning is working with partner organizations to change that!

On Wednesday we attended a meeting for Green space, the meeting focused on the communities concerns for green spaces. Since this is just the start of the planning process all ideas and concerns were welcomed. The Department of Planning has a timeline for public comment and implementation which can be found on the website! So get involved so that Baltimore can have more green spaces but also respect landmarks and community treasures!
So long,

Arlington Green Team Members Teach Younger Students about the Environment

Green Day Picture

Check out this short video made about Arlington Elementary Middle School’s Green Dayz Project where 8th graders taught preK-3rd graders about environmental issues and greening:

In addition to these events, the students also did multiple campus clean-ups, gardening events and planned out two progressive projects for next year: Recycling and AfterSchool is Cool. These will be coming up in the next school year. All of Arlington’s documents and follow up pictures can be found at this website in preparation for their journey to Green School Certification:


Calverton 5th graders Build Greening Products

On Thursday, June 9th Calverton 5th graders displayed and explained a number of greening products they created in their class.  Teacher Kyair Butts, a member of Urban Teachers, led students through an innovative building project that worked with community partner the Tool Library.  Students divided up in teams and created products to address different issues.  The three projects on display addressed issues such as trash and working on community gardens. After a planning process, students used tools and materials to create their products, prototypes that can be used in the community. These innovations were created to help meet the city’s sustainability goals–particularly recycling. We are striving to get more schools throughout the district to recycle, which has had participation as low as 50% this past year.


Calverton 5th graders share their creations

This work towards meeting the city’s sustainability goals comes at a  great time when the Baltimore Office of Sustainability is currently redrafting the city’s Sustainability Plan.  A community process is underway that includes the recruitment of 10 Community Ambassadors in 10 districts throughout the city to get input on priority areas and direct the development of the plan.  The plan this time around will be developed with an equity lens and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability has contracted the Associated Black Charities in order to help them do so.  A team of Youth Ambassadors will also be recruited to ensure that the youth voice is integrated into the plan.

Kyair’s students are an example of students that have taken on ambassadorship without knowing it and are actively working to help meet city goals.  We hope that they keep innovating and stay engaged in sustainability projects throughout their time at Calverton.

Floatilla 2016

Hi, guys! Yesterday, Ashley, Pam, and I had the opportunity to participate in Baltimore’s first annual Floatilla. It sounds like a Godzilla movie, but it was actually a rally for clean water and for Baltimore City to fix the sewage pipes to stop raw sewage pollution in our streams and Inner Harbor.

But this wasn’t any ordinary rally in front of City Hall. We kayaked in the Inner Harbor to raise awareness and all gathered in our boats in front of the Maryland Science Center to show off our signs and chant phrases like “Fix the Pipes.” We kayaked as part of a group representing Baltimore Rec & Parks (they provided the boats and gear) and launched from the Tide Point water taxi location, up the street from Fort McHenry and right next to the Under Armour building. It was an early wake-up call for Andrea (she got her coffee, though, so it worked out) but totally worth it!

Because we were part of a group, we didn’t kayak as far as the regular participants who brought their own boats and paddled from Canton Waterfront Park, but we still got in our fair share of mileage — about 2.7 miles roundtrip from Tide Point to the Science Center and back. When we got to the science center, there were about 50 other kayakers (plus our 100 or so) all gathered up near the shore, with more coming in! We also got a special visit from Mr. Trash Wheel, an innovative machine installed by Blue Water Baltimore at the mouth of the Jones Falls in Harbor East that collects trash flowing down the river before it hits the harbor. Mr. Trash Wheel was looking mighty fancy, with his solar-panel-covered back (the solar panels power the water wheel, which moves the conveyor belt lifting the trash up to be processed) and googly eyes on his front. In 2015 alone, Mr. Trash Wheel collected 238.8 tons of trash, including 2.86 million cigarette butts and 98,940 plastic bags! WOW!!



Ashley poses in front of Mr. Trash Wheel.


After a bit of organizing our boats around (we kept drifting due to the water currents), some speakers from Blue Water Baltimore, Waterfront Partnership, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation came and delivered some motivational speeches as part of our rally. After that, we headed back to Tide Point.

But the party wasn’t over yet! After landing in Tide Point, we took the water taxi over to Canton Waterfront Park for the afterparty, complete with free chicken from Nando’s Peri-Peri and two free scoops from Taharka Bros. ice cream. We also got an awesome athletic T-shirt that says “Baltimore Floatilla” and got to listen to a great jazz band.

Overall, it was a wonderful day, and I’m looking forward to participating in next year’s Floatilla. A great way for advocacy for clean water in Baltimore! Baltimore City just went through a new consent degree (basically a legal settlement after a lawsuit) with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reach an agreement about new deadlines for fixing our old sewer pipes. We had original deadlines that expired this past January 2016, but although we made some progress, we were nowhere near to reaching them. Hopefully, this new consent degree can be fulfilled — the first part, involving fixing and closing off pipes that purposefully release overflow sewage into the Jones Falls during rainstorms, has a mandated completion year of 2020. If you’re interested, you can read the consent degree and submit comments HERE.

Thanks, guys! We are continuing in the office over the summer and looking forward to more blogging. 🙂




Pam (left) and I grab a quick selfie while waiting for the rally to start.