By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(April 23, 2020) Just about every corner of Worcester County has been affected in some way by the spread of covid-19, and the nonprofit Maryland Coastal Bays Program is no exception.
The program, which exists to protect the waters and surrounding watershed of the county’s coastal bays, can’t do a complete job because of coronavirus-related work restrictions.
The organization cannot begin recruiting volunteers, while several projects, including Bay Day on Friday, May 1, have also be been canceled or are being considered to for rescheduling.
“We’re still conducting business, although our field activities have been severely curtailed,” said Development and Marketing Coordinator Sandi Smith. “Our water quality monitoring and anything out in the field we’re not able to do right now because we’re following the proper protocol mandated by our government.
“We’re still maintaining our responsibilities to our funding agencies,” she continued. “We’re submitting progress reports and working with our partners to maintain ongoing studies and payments to our contractors are all continuing.”
Although Smith said program employees miss doing their field work, they have been able to keep up with their paperwork, update the website and apply for grants where needed.
There have also been measures made to help recruit volunteers through virtual training.
“We are talking with volunteers and getting them ready for field surveys on horseshoe crabs, oyster gardening and water sampling when the time is right,” Rowan Jeisen said. “We have been making good use of the time that staying at home has allowed.”
The nonprofit also designed a virtual learning page, which can be found on the organization’s website at https://mdcoastalbays.org/virtual-learning, to help keep families informed and entertained.
“Although our plans for spring public events and school activities have been altered, Maryland Coastal Bays Program has taken appropriate measures to ensure continued community engagement opportunities in the form of virtual learning,” Education Coordinator Liz Wist said. “We have been busy creating weekly online learning modules that are now accessible through a combination of our website and social media accounts.”
Within the themes are a feature called “Notes from the Field” that provides multiple links for various activities that can be performed by people of all ages.
“Weekly, we will provide a conglomerate of materials for anyone to use to bulk up their knowledge on the following topics: agriculture, bay-friendly backyards, water, forests, and observations,” Wist said. “Information will be provided through daily postings of relevant websites, lesson plans, videos, and “Ask-an-Expert” question and answer sessions.
There will also be education projects for families with children who may be interested in science or the environment.
Executive Director Kevin Smith encourages families to plant gardens or create bat, bird or butterfly houses as some of these environmentally friendly projects. These houses are some of the many programs the organization raises awareness about while maintaining social distancing.
“We’re also excited to be setting up a few online trainings on different citizen science projects that people can involve themselves in from their own homes and backyards,” Wist said. “Check out projects such as iNaturalist, Merlin, and NOAA’s Marine Debris Tracker app for a jumpstart on your learning.”