Monday, August 10, 2020

Episode 537 (8-10-20): Exploring the Story of the Chesapeake’s Condition

Click to listen to episode (4:59)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 8-7-20. 


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of August 10, 2020.

This week, we focus on the Chesapeake Bay, and we start with some original music composed for that large, historic, and complex body of water. Have a listen for about 30 seconds.

MUSIC – ~32 sec – instrumental

You’ve been listening to part of “Chesapeake Bay Ballad,” by Torrin Hallett, a graduate student at Lamont School of Music in Denver.  A ballad is a song that tells a story, and the Chesapeake is rich in stories. One long, complicated Chesapeake story is the condition of the Bay’s water quality, habitats, and aquatic life, as told in various periodic reports by universities, government agencies, and other groups.

A recent overall look at Chesapeake environmental conditions was the May 2020 edition of the annual Chesapeake Bay Watershed Report Card from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.  Like some other Bay health reports, this assessment generates a condition score ranging from zero to 100 by comparing various indicators to established goals.  The 2020 Maryland report examined Bay waters data available in 2019 [Note not in audio: the report released in May 2020 is called the 2019 report] for dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorophyll, water clarity, aquatic grasses, and the benthic, or bottom-dwelling, community.  The overall score was 44, considered by the report as a “C-.” For comparison, the score in 2019—that is, for data from 2018—was 47; the highest score since 1986, when this record began, was 55 in 2002, and the lowest was 36 in 2003.  In their news release about the 2020 report, the Maryland Center asserted that low scores were believed due in part to unusually high rainfall and river flows in 2018 and 19.  The 2020 Maryland report also, for the first time, generated an index score for the overall Bay watershed, that is, beyond the Bay waters.  At that level, the score was 60; the highest scoring sub-watershed was the Upper James in Virginia, at 72; the lowest was the Lower Eastern Shore in Maryland, at 42.

Besides the Maryland Center’s annual report, the Chesapeake Bay Program produces a yearly “Bay Barometer” report; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation produces a biennial “State of the Bay” report; various groups produce reports on individual Bay aspects, such as Blue Crabs and aquatic grasses; and real-time updates on the goals of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement are available from the Bay Program’s “Chesapeake Progress” Web site.

These sources, and more besides, are among the many tellers of the Chesapeake Bay’s story.

Thanks to Torrin Hallett for composing this week’s music for Virginia Water Radio, and we close with the final 15 seconds of “Chesapeake Bay Ballad.”

MUSIC – ~18 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Chesapeake Bay Ballad” is copyright 2020 by Torrin Hallett, used with permission.  Torrin is a 2018 graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio, and a 2020 graduate in Horn Performance from Manhattan School of Music in New York.  As of 2020-21, he is a performance certificate candidate at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.  More information about Torrin is available online at  Thanks very much to Torrin for composing the piece especially for Virginia Water Radio.  To hear the complete piece (51 seconds), please click here.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Summary charts for Chesapeake Bay waters (upper) and watershed (lower) from the “2019 Chesapeake Bay & Watershed Report Card” (covering data through 2019; published in May 2020), University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.  Images accessed from the report PDF, page 3, online at, as of 8-10-20.


Used for Audio

Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake’s grasses hard hit by heat, high flows in 2019; SAV in higher salinity water fared the worst, Bay Journal, 7/8/20.

Karl Blankenship, Heavy rains clobbered water quality, but it wasn’t a total washout, Bay Journal, 7/10/20.

Cambridge Dictionary [Cambridge University], “Ballad,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “State of the Bay 2018,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Bay Barometer,” March 2020 (for 2018-19 data), online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement” (signed June 16, 2014), online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Chesapeake Progress,” online at

Rachel Felver, This year’s Bay Barometer sets a different type of foundation for Bay restoration, Chesapeake Bay Program, 3/25/20.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “Eyes on the Bay,” online at  See for “Data Available for Viewing” (dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, turbidity, algal blooms, and temperature).  See for links to other Bay water-quality data and information sources.

Jake Solyst, Annual Bay report card notes overall watershed health is faring better than the Bay itself, Chesapeake Bay Program, 5/20/20 news release.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, “Chesapeake Bay & Watershed Report Card,” online at (as a PDF) and at

For More Information about the Chesapeake Bay and its Condition

Karl Blankenship, Chesapeake crab population shows resiliency just in time for ‘price war,’ Bay Journal, 5/28/20.

Chesapeake Bay Program, online at

Jeremy Cox, Mercury widespread in Chesapeake Bay headwaters fish, Bay Journal, 7/2/20.  This article refers to the following reference: James J. Willacker et al., Mercury bioaccumulation in freshwater fishes of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Ecotoxicology, Vol. 29, No. 4 (May 2020), pages 459-484; accessed online at (subscription may be required).

Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson, Life in the Chesapeake Bay, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Md., 2006.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “2020 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey,” online at

Timothy Wheeler, Maryland's wild oyster harvest doubles from last year, Bay Journal, 6/16/20.

Timothy Wheeler, PCB cleanup makes uneven progress, Bay Journal, July 2020.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “Bay Info,” online at; and “SAV Monitoring and Restoration,” online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Rivers, Streams, and Other Surface Water” subject category.

Following are links to some other episodes on the Chesapeake Bay.

Bay Barometer and other reports – Episode 305, 2-29-16
Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan – Episode 115, 6-18-12.
Bay TMDL, Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan – Episode 475, 6-3-19.
Chesapeake Bay Commission – Episode 496, 10-28-19.
Estuaries introduction – Episode 326, 7-25-16.
Oysters and nitrogen (Part 1) – Episode 279, 8-24-15 .
Oysters and nitrogen (Part 2) – Episode 280, 9-7-15.
Submerged aquatic vegetation (“Bay grasses”) – Episode 325, 7-18-16

Following are other music pieces composed by Torrin Hallett for Virginia Water Radio, with episodes featuring the music.

“Beetle Ballet” – used in Episode 525, 5-18-20, on aquatic beetles.
“Corona Cue” – used in Episode 517, 3-23-20, on the coronavirus pandemic.
“Geese Piece” – used most recently in Episode 440, 10-1-18, on E-bird.
“Lizard Lied” – used in Episode 514, 3-2-20, on lizards.
“New Year’s Water” – used in Episode 349, 1-2-17, on the New Year.
“Rain Refrain” – used most recently in Episode 455, 1-14-19, on record Virginia precipitation in 2019.
“Spider Strike” – used in Episode 523, 5-4-20, on fishing spiders.
“Tropical Tantrum” – used most recently in Episode 489, 9-9-19, on storm surge and Hurricane Dorian.
“Turkey Tune” – used in Episode 343, 11-21-16, on the Wild Turkey.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio-transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
3.10 – impacts on survival of species, including effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms; effects of human activity on air, water and habitat; and conservation and resource renewal.
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 – living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.5 – food webs.
3.6 – ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
4.5 – ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystems.
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.8 – community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.9 – adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors, including characteristics of land, marine, and freshwater environments.
LS.10 – changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia, with reference to the hydrologic cycle.
ES.10 – ocean processes, interactions, and policies affecting coastal zones, including Chesapeake Bay.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – natural, human, and capital resources.
3.8 – understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.4 – types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.
Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.