Chesapeake Bay Environmental Resources Subject Guide - From the SERC Library

This subject guide points to some of the major sources of environmental information about the Chesapeake Bay area.  Although it contains some general references, this guide focuses on technical resources. It is meant as a resource for Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) staff, researchers, interns involved in the Center’s research projects, as well as anyone interested in science, data, and research related to the Bay.  Most sites are publicly available.  

    Smithsonian Environmental Research Center links

    • Chesapeake Bay Parasite Project
      The parasitic & invasive barnacle, Loxothylacus panopaei (Loxo, for short) infects and castrates White-fingered mud Crabs (Rhithropanopeus harrissi) crabs, which means they can no longer reproduce. The mud crabs are native to the Chesapeake Bay.  They are important predators that play a key role in the food web structure of the Bay ecosystem. This study is examining how Loxo affects the mud crab population—are mud crab populations steady? Or are they declining because Loxo does not let them reproduce?
    • Marine Invasions Research Lab
      SERC's Marine Invasions Lab has laboratories and staff on both the Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco Bay (Tiburon Lab).  These bays are focal points for long-term, intensive research, which spans Pacific and Atlantic shorelines of the Americas --- from polar to tropical latitudes.
    • Global Change Research Wetland (GCREW)
      SERC's Global Change Research Wetland is located in a tributary to the Bay.  Data has been collected in this 70-hectare brackish marsh for decades: the site is home to several long-term experiments designed to unravel the complex ecological processes that confer stability on coastal marshes as they respond to global environmental change, and to predict what the future holds for coastal wetland ecosystems as they cope with accelerated sea-level rise.
    • Chesapeake Bay Barcode Initiative Genetic barcoding is the analysis of a segment of DNA that is used to identify organisms to the species level using just a small bit of tissue, even partially-digested tissue.  The Chesapeake Bay Barcode Initiative is a major effort to develop a genetic 'barcode library' of the fish and macroscopic invertebrate species of Chesapeake Bay, that can be used to identify species sampled in future studies.
    • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center- Education
      SERC's education programs are led by SERC staff and highly-trained volunteers, and emphasize the practices of science – one of the major components of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). While their main activities focus on grades K-12, they also offer programs for organized groups and teacher professional development. Programs are offered year round, with the majority of activities and classes held outside on SERC's 2,600 acre campus and along the Rhode River. They also maintain a fun page of Chesapeake Bay Handouts and Puzzles for young learners.

    Top Chesapeake Bay Resources

    • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC)
      Headquartered on the Chesapeake Bay, SERC sits just south of Annapolis Maryland. Its 2,650-acre campus spans forests, wetlands, marshes and 15 miles of protected shoreline. The site serves as a natural laboratory for long-term and cutting-edge ecological research. Here scientists explore the most pressing issues affecting the environment.
    • Bay Issues Guide-from Maryland Sea Grant
      An overview of the major issues facing the Chesapeake Bay.
    • Chesapeake Bay Program
      The Chesapeake Bay Program is the regional partnership that directs and conducts the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay in the United States.  Partners include the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; the Environmental Protection Agency, representing the federal government; and participating citizen advisory groups.
    • Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC)
      The Chesapeake Research Consortium (CRC) is a non-profit association of seven research and education institutions around the Chesapeake Bay region.

    Data Resources

    Organizations and Agencies

    Government and Research

    • Long Term Ecological Research Network
      Established by the National Science Foundation, LTER is the largest and longest-lived ecological network in the United States. LTER provides the scientific expertise, research platforms, and long- term datasets necessary to document and analyze environmental change.
      • Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES)
        One of 26 research programs established by the National Science Foundation as part of the Long Term Ecological Research Network
    • Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
      The Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 28 protected areas that make up the National Estuarine Research Reserve System established to promote informed management of the Nation's estuaries and coastal habitats.
    • Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
      Part of the University of Maryland system,  the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is the oldest publicly supported marine laboratory on the East Coast.
    • NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office
      The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office works to protect and restore the Bay by focusing its capabilities on four key topics: Education, Fisheries, Habitat, and Observations.
    • USFWS Chesapeake Bay Field Office
      Chesapeake Bay Field Office biologists work to protect endangered and threatened species, migratory birds, freshwater and anadromous fish, and wildlife habitats in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. They also work with many other private and public partners to preserve and protect living resources of the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay ecosystems.
      • Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
        The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation is a private, not-for-profit, and non-partisan Federation with a focus on estuarine and coastal issues.  Its mission is to Promote research in estuarine and coastal ecosystems, and to support education of  and communcition among scientists, decision-makers and the public.  There are seven regionally based Affiliate Societies which encompass all of the coastal regions that border the United States, Canada and Mexico. 

      Tributary-related resources

      For Educators



      • Bay Journal
        The Bay Journal is published by Bay Journal Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to inform the public about issues and events that affect the Chesapeake Bay.
      • Chesapeake Quarterly
        Maryland Sea Grant's print magazine, Chesapeake Quarterly, explores scientific, environmental, and cultural issues relevant to the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
      • Maryland Marine Notes
        Predecessor to the Chesapeake Quarterly: produced from 1982 to 2001

      Invasive Species

      An "invasive species" is defined as a species that is non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health (legal defination per Executive Order 13112).

      There is a lack of resources that focus on invasive species specific to the Chesapeake Bay.  The below resources all contain information about marine and aquatic invasives, and can be culled for information about species that are also found in the bay.

      • SERC's Marine Invasions Research Lab
        SERC's Marine Invasions Lab has laboratories and staff on both the Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco Bay (Tiburon Lab).  These bays are focal points for long-term, intensive research, which spans Pacific and Atlantic shorelines of the Americas --- from polar to tropical latitudes.
      • National Ballast Information Clearinghouse
        Many aquatic invasives are introduced to new ecosystems via ships used for international shipping, in particular though the practice of purging ballast water before taking on cargo.  SERC runs the Clearinghouse, tracking the release of ballast water, in partnership with the United States Coast Guard.
      • Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (University of Florida)
        The UF / IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is a multidisciplinary research, teaching and extension unit directed to develop environmentally sound techniques for the management of aquatic and natural area weed species.
      • University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
        Aquatic Plant Information Retrieval System: more than 90,000 annotated citations to peer-reviewed and gray literature and reports, with aquatic, wetland and natural area invasive plants as the focus
      • Harmful Algae
        Site maintained by the U.S. National Office for Harmful Algal Blooms with funding from the NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, with the goal of serving as a comprehensive resource for information about harmful algal blooms.
      • National Invasive Species Information Center
        The National Invasive Species Information Center (NISIC) was established in 2005 at USDA's National Agricultural Library (NAL) to meet the information needs of users including the National Invasive Species Council. Executive Order 13112 established the Council in 1999.
      • National Invasive Species Council
        The overarching duty of the Council is to provide the high-level vision and leadership necessary to sustain and expand Federal efforts to safeguard interests of the United States by preventing, eradicating, and controlling invasive species, as well as restoring ecosystems and other assets impacted by invasive species.

      Other Species Information

      Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)

      SAV is plants that grow underwater except --in some cases-- for brief exposure to the air at low tides. SAV provides important habitat for small fish and shellfish, and provide ecological services such as absorbing wave energy and oxygen production.

      Libraries, Reference, & Archives

      • National Sea Grant Library
        Sea Grant is a program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is a national network of 33 colleges and universities involved in scientific research, education, training, and extension projects geared toward the conservation and practical use of the coasts, Great Lakes, and other marine areas.  The National Sea Grant Library's catalog contains many references related to the Chesapeake Bay.
      • National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC) Library
        A source and clearinghouse of science information about wetlands in the United States and the world
      • NOAA Central Library
        The Central Library for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is focused on serving NOAA employees and contractors.  However they also provide collection access to to scholars and researchers who are not officially affiliated with NOAA.  Searching their Catalog with the term 'Chesapeake Bay' will net online resources as well as citation information for materials on their shelves.
      • University of Delaware. Marine Studies Library
        The Marine Studies Library, located in Lewes, Delaware, provides a specialized collection of books and reference materials on marine biology and biochemistry; chemical, physical and biological oceanography; marine geology; and aquaculture.  The collections are open to the public to use on-site, but it's a good idea to contact their staff before coming.
      • Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences Hargis Library
        The Hargis Library, provides a rich array of electronic and print collections in the biological, ecological, oceanographic and physical sciences. The Library is open to the public Monday - Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
      • Library of Congress collection: The Capital and the Bay
        This Library of Congress collection of publications is part of a series of local history collections presented by the National Digital Library Program

      Suggestions for additions to this guide are welcome.  Please send comments or questions to Sue Zwicker at zwickers [at]