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USGS Chesapeake Bay Highlights for FY2020

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) works with Federal, State, local, and academic science partners to conduct monitoring and research in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, the Nation’s largest estuary, and other critical ecosystems across the country. The USGS interacts through the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) to apply science for restoration and conservation decisions.

Role of the USGS in the Chesapeake Bay Program

Vicki Blazer, fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, removes kidney of euthanized fish collected from the South Branch
Vicki Blazer, fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, removes kidney of euthanized fish collected from the South Branch of the Potomac River. The organ was to be analyzed to assess whether it was affecting the ability of the fish to fight off disease. Studies have found that PFAS can affect the immune system of lab animals. (Credit: Heather Walsh, USGS Leetown Science Center)‘Forever chemicals’ found in Chesapeake region's freshwater fish

The CBP consists of the Federal Government, six states, and the District of Columbia, to make progress toward achieving the goals in the Chesapeake Watershed Agreement (2014-25). The agreement goals range from sustaining fisheries, improving water quality, recovering habitats, conserving healthy watersheds and vital lands, engaging citizens, and addressing climate resiliency.

USGS Chesapeake studies are organized around four science themes:

  • Theme 1: Develop an integrated understanding of the factors affecting stream health, fish habitat, and aquatic conditions.
  • Theme 2: Assess the risks to coastal habitat and migratory waterbirds.
  • Theme 3: Characterize land use to assess the vulnerability and resiliency of habitats and healthy watersheds. 
  • Theme 4: Integrate science and inform decision making. 

USGS Chesapeake studies are supported by multiple Mission Areas (Ecosystems, Water, Core Science Systems, and Hazards), collectively providing $14.85 million, which included a $2 million increase in 2020. USGS worked during the pandemic to expand activities under the science themes and developed protocols for safe-distance sampling, so field work could carry on. Monitoring and projects are carried out by multiple USGS Science Centers.


Theme 1: Factors affecting stream health, fish habitat, and aquatic conditions

Alyssa Thornton
Alyssa Thornton (USGS VA-WV WSC) collecting a water-quality sample from the James River at Cartersville, VA using a DH-2 sampler.(Credit: Chelsea Delsack, USGS VA-WV WSC)USGS updates trends for nutrients and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Stream Health

Fish Habitat

Image shows USGS field crew conducting measurements on flooding streams
USGS hydrologic technician Logan Jeffries uses a hand-held instrument called an Acoustic Doppler Velocimeter to measure streamflow following tropical storm Isaias on Tenmile Creek near Clarksburg, Maryland. (Credit: Matt Baker, USGS MD-DE-DC WSC)USGS Field Crews Document Isaias' Effects Along Atlantic Coast

Aquatic Conditions


Theme 2: Coastal habitats and water birds


Theme 3: Watershed vulnerability and resiliency


Theme 4: Integrate science and inform decision making


For additional information

The publications for all of these items and additional ones released in FY2020 can be found under Publications.

Scott Phillips, USGS Chesapeake Bay Coordinator, Office: (443) 498-5552, Cell: (410) 925-8098

Ken Hyer, USGS Chesapeake Bay Associate Coordinator, Office: (804) 261-2636, Cell: (804) 382-7111

Posted October 8, 2020


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