Speaker Info

Robert J. Orth
Professor of Marine Science
Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Email: jjorth@vims.edu

Biography:

Bob (JJ) is a professor of Marine Science in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine Science, College of William and Mary. He received his bachelors from Rutgers University, Masters from the University of Virginia and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He has been involved in seagrass research in the Chesapeake Bay region since 1969 and has been involved with restoration issues since 1978. His current emphasis is on habitat restoration and conservation and understanding the principles and processes governing the persistence, alterations, and dynamics of these plant communities. Bob is also head of the VIMS program that maps underwater grasses baywide annually. His program produces a summary report each year which is now available on the web (http://www.vims.edu/bio/sav/). He is heavily involved with management agencies in the development of policies and laws governing the protection of these important underwater grasses in Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Bays.



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Seminar Abstract

Chesapeake Bay support a diverse assemblage of 10-15 species of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) whose distributions are generally constrained by salinity. Two species are found in the higher salinity areas with the remaining species found in the lower salinity and freshwater areas of the region. Because of their sensitivity to water quality changes, SAV are being used by resource managers as a sentinel group to reflect management efforts to improve water quality in this region.

An annual aerial SAV monitoring program has been conducted throughout the Chesapeake Bay and the Delmarva Coastal Bays on an annual basis from 1984 through 2015, except for 1988. Black and white photography was acquired at a scale of 1:24,000, following acquisition timing guidelines that optimize visibility of SAV beds with digital imagery used in 2015. Approximately 170 flight lines were flown each year between May and October, yielding over 2,000 photographs or digital images.

Since the 1984, SAV has exhibited long-term (decadal) increases and decreases, as well as some large, single-year changes. Current SAV coverage for almost all segments in the Chesapeake Bay remain below established restoration targets based on historical coverages for each region, indicating that SAV abundance and associated ecosystem services are currently limited by continued poor water quality, and more recently high summertime temperatures for species in the higher saline regions which also has the potential to alter the species distribution in this region. Results are used often in regulatory matters in the Bay, e.g. aquaculture permits,dredging, dock construction. The utility of the survey results are most important in the state regulatory hierarchy as the results are used to assess improving water quality conditions in the Bay.

Seminar Transcript

>> Okay, well, listen. A lot to be told over the next 45 minutes which we started late. This is an update of what's been going on with the SAV monitoring for the Chesapeake Bay. This is kind of a tag team approach, so I'll be covering up front what's been going on and some interesting components to it. It's not going to be a lot of data, but there's some interesting components. And then Brook's going to follow up and then, of course, Dick Zimmerman's here to give the very interesting talk and some of the light ocean [inaudible] issue. So with that to make sure that we're all on the same page with regard to the SAV monitoring program, we use aerial photographs that cover the entire shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay. This, again, is something that we've been doing since 1984 on an annual basis except 1988. We use aerial imagery with a contractor that flies out of Martinsburg, West Virginia. And fortuitously, they were out yesterday and covered this entire region and then this morning they flew this entire region near the Lower Bay where we have eel grass and widgeon grass. And it's an interesting story the way we work with them because the conditions under which we fly, low wind, minimal cloud, cloud cover, low tide, low turbidity, low sun angle had been getting more complicated as we've moved thru this period of climate change. So whereas we've had several days to fly when the front would go through, we don't get those big fronts coming through anymore bringing big winds. It's just been very little. So we have a complicated story to tell, but need the required conditions. So the first step in this annual monitoring is our acquisition phase. And no matter what kind of sensor you have if the conditions are not like this, I don't care you can, you need the right days. So with that, you know, what we do. As you know, we report SAV data for the entire Bay Region by segments. As you know, there are lots of Bay segments, so in our report and what I'll be showing you today is just kind of a window on some of the segments that I think are really important that we want to follow up. Some that are certainly going to be important for Dick's talk. And we've got them color coded, so we've got, you know, low salinity, high salinity, [inaudible] areas. And with regard to each of these segments, they have a restoration target that was based on the single best year of SAV in that particular segment. So as I roll through these, you'll see the change in SAV in each of these particular segments that I've chosen today. And I haven't done all those because we would be here for the rest of the morning. So I'm just showing you kind of representative portion of these segments that I think typify types of things that we're seeing here in the Bay right now. No, [inaudible] this one. So this is a typical digital image that we get from the aerial photography, and I'm not sure if you see it. But the area outlined in red is the SAV polygon that we draw. And we use a [inaudible] density scale to identify of those polygons. A classification from low density to high density. And so, yeah, as you can tell here's a scale. These dense areas here are classified as a density four. And then offshore areas that are density one. It's really important because this tells us a lot about what's happening in the particular system. Because not just total numbers are important, it's what happens within the Bay that we feel is crucial to understanding the dynamics of these particular populations. So that's what we see, that's what we get from our contractor that flies out of Martinsburg, West Virginia Air Photographics. And it's a firm that's very receptive to flying under strange conditions like I usually talk to them about 5:30 in the morning when they fly. We talk 9:00, 10:00 at night, Saturday Sunday. Whatever day it is, Memorial Day. When they're flying, we're talking 24/7. And it's the only way we get good imagery because conditions change on a 24 hour basis. So number one step, get good imagery or else the rest of it falls apart from that point on. The data have been used in a lot of different components. Of course, the first one is large regional changes. This is what everyone sees when we put out a report. But we also try to communicate those changes to people because the public is really interested in the Bay. And this is one of those sentinel species Bill and I talk about the canary and the coal mine. After all the work Bill and I have done over the years since we first became colleagues and friends, it's the canary and the coal mine. It's one of those few sentinel species that tells us how what our clarity, what are quality you're doing. And these plants as we're seeing respond really quickly, the changes in water quality. We've also learned a lot about biology and ecology over, you know, the last cupped decades. Importantly, how they spread, how they disperse, and we've got, you know, some research that Dick will be talking about. Some modeling and what are the conditions that are necessary for these plants to continue to grow. And the stresses that are coming to sea residents with the impacts of climate change. And multiple uses. It's not just the public, it's not the managers. I mean, we have many other groups that use aquaculturists, looking at permits. And these annual data are really important for some of these permits which I'll highlight a couple examples when we get towards the end of the talk. So let's start off. This is the Bay-wide picture of what we've been seeing with SAV populations. I've broken down the Bay-wide figure into color codes. So the green are populations of SAV in the poly [inaudible]. And we're going to follow this format through the subsequent six or seven talks, slides. So green is what's happened in the Lower Bay. Yellow is the Mid Bay which is a big chunk of the Bay, and that's where some of the biggest changes are occurring. The dark blue is the illegal [inaudible] area, a much smaller area of the Bay. And then the lighter blue is the tidal freshwater areas like the Susquehanna Flats which has been in the focus of a lot of people's interests over the last few years. So that's the picture. And as you can see, ups and downs with the Bay-wide trends. But, again, if you look at the 2015 data, this was the big year of which we saw the most significant increase in SAV populations. And, of course, what you can see are these dramatic changes. I mean, this is huge. People say how come you see these big changes every single year? Which is what we're going to get to in the talk. Why we see those. And you'll see some of the pictures we see because I look at every single picture, it's been part of my life. I've lived, breathed, ate SAV imagery as well as ate grass. But that's the picture, that's it. So let's look a little bit more at this. And so this is broken down just for your interests by salinity zones, so you can see the data a little more closely as to what happens. So here's the tidal fresh. You know, that's, this is a big change in the Susquehanna Flats, 2011, '12 was the SAV abundance following Irene and Lee. That bed which was studied by Cassey Gerby [phonetic], she just finished her dissertation, you know, showed that the support of the big bed provided the resilience started to keep that bed alive and well. It is slowly coming back. There's the [inaudible] zone. But one thing notice the numbers. Hectare's difference in each of these. So at zero to 10,000, the [inaudible] zero to six, this is, these are [inaudible] to zero to 20,000. That's where the biggest changes are recurring. And it's because of one species which I'll show you is widgeon grass. Think about, I mean, the dynamics of this species is phenomenal, and we're still trying to understand what's contributing to that particular change. The poly [inaudible] areas are really interesting story because you see some very interesting trends going on here. And I put this component high. And I think Dick's going to probably address them, so I'm hoping that might lead into this kind of pay me back by buying me a beer, okay. But, you know, three time periods. We've got 2010, 2005, 2010, and 2015 were hot periods, and you can see what's happened with SAV in the Lower Bay we're expecting unfortunately to see that happen this year in 2016. We've already been out to some of those areas ground [inaudible], and we're seeing some of these changes already in terms of minimal populations in some of those areas. So that's the big picture by salinity zone. And we'll move on, and it's getting color coded. This is all in our executive summary, so if you haven't seen it, it's there within the 2015. So let's kind of look at least maybe representative of segments. I did not want to give you, you know, 30 slides to show this because that's not where I want to go with this, and it's not where I want to end because we've got to leave some time for Brook to tell you about the future which is in jeopardy. So here's the GUN Pattern SAV area. I mean, we met the goal a couple years then went down, up and down. You know, these trends are pretty true because, actually, I've been to some of these areas in the GUN pattern. And one year you couldn't get a boat through some of these SAV beds, the next year, gone. So these are pretty good trends, and we're starting to see an enhancement of SAV again. The one thing I want you to notice, though, look at the period from '78 through the mid '80s. Very little SAV because remember Agnes? That's the tipping point of the Bay when we brought populations of SAV to what we called unprecedented decline of SAV in the Bay. So all these pictures, take a look at this part of the graph and then look what's going on in terms of these dramatic changes. But picture many of these cases are still going up. And that's the GUN pattern. This is the Mid Buying a house changed, you can't see, but this is a small area here. Again, there was a big change here in '79, we're not sure what happened. But, generally, low populations, but we're starting to see ups and downs. But the general trends seem to be going up. And the Mid Bay area which is the little section here. And, again, the Y axis is going to change by how much SAV is and then everyone has a goal and everyone has a future. So this is [inaudible] which is why that's blue. This is our favorite section, the Susquehanna Flats. You know, again, very low here. You know, starting to come back and then, wham! It was just like, just took off. It was just crazy. And watching the aerial photography, you know, of all the over those years was just impressive. And we kept on telling people look what's going on in the Flats. And Mike Kemp [phonetic] from the Hornet Point took that as a task and had a really good student, Cassey, who's done some really nice work. But then we have Irene and Lee, boop, you know, back down. But, again, that was big, it was resilient. And that resilience factor is really important. Bigger was better. Not always the case. But now started to rebound through 2015, and that is just incredible. If you haven't been to the Flats, kayak out there. It's incredible. You may not be able to get the kayak through some areas because it's so thick. But the Flats, and we'll talk a little bit about it and Cassey's done some nice work. But that's the Flats. This is the ELK, this is kind of another cool story because right next to the Flats, you know, look at that. Above the restoration target for many, many years, bam! Irene and Lee just knocked it out. And, you know, while the Flats persisted, again, while this is a large amount, these are narrow fringing beds along the entire river. They're not big as the Flats were and got knocked back. But look at the change. Just like, it's phenomenal. I've shown some pictures of how this has changed. Off the charts, really cool. >> Hey, Jay, is that coming back from seeds? >> Well, that. >> Vegetative. >> I believe it's got to be both from seeds and how they disperse. Because this is mostly wile. So oops. >> It's mostly about scenario. >> Okay, here's one small area of the Elk River. Here's the grass beds in 2014, and this was in black and white. You may not be able to see really well, but if you're looking at this on your computer, this is one big, dense bed. That's a one-year time. Now, it's possible that there was some [inaudible] there, but these plants like wild celery and some of the other species that are there, incredibly productive. And they put out seeds. They germinate like really early, like mid-Spring. You know, some of the [inaudible] plants have already started germinating. Their growth rates are phenomenal. So my bet is that a lot of the recovery occurs via seeds. And, you know, we know from meal grass and what we've seen in the Coastal Bays and what we watch in the Bay and now that we know that this is part of the SAV ecology biology that is kind of transfigured all the stuff, it's got to be seeds. And how they disperse, that's the other cool thing, is how these plants do what they do and how quickly they get to those sites is really cool. Which tells us, again, that, you know, if the SAV a not challenged by water quality, bam, they take over. Now, there are some issues that I'm sure you're going to hit upon which is the warming and the acidification. So, you know, I don't want to take any of your thunder. I'll leave it for there. So, again, that's two beers. >> Before you move on, can I just put out, so this is actually one of our younger beds from [inaudible]. And last summer we [inaudible]. It was amazing. Like the number of seed pods, we collected several five gallon buckets. >> Yeah, it's. Yeah, I mean to see this, I mean, again, this is what we see. And I just wish that there was some visual way of showing to all this. It's impressive to see the annual changes. That's cool, that's cool, it really is. And, again, this is one big, dense bed which has very interesting signatures. So the idea of having a classification system for the signatures is tough because this is like so dense the bed, the plants are at the surface. They're essentially, you know, I'm reflective of all the light. But then as you get in the deeper water, the plants are upright and have a very different signature. So let's move on. That's the Elk, this is our CHO tank. And, again, up and down, up and down. All this is dominated by one species, widgeon grass. Which is the species of the Bay, species of the Bay, species of the future. It dominates the Mid Bay area which is why you see some great changes. But, you know, the CHO tank has been growing really well and in places that we've never seen widgeon grass ever before in the historical survey. So it's really crazy about what the species is doing. And I want to show you this picture. I don't, oh, okay. So this is off Claiborne. Here is SAV in 2014. And it's the whole shoreline is now covered. And that's just one year. Again, this is what we see when people say how can all this happen? It does. And these plants are truly incredible. Now, these are, this again is a native species, but, you know, we see this with a lot of the other species also. So this, my friends, is one of the coolest pictures around. I'm not sure if you can see this, but see all of those little donuts? That's all widgeon grass. So when we do the interpretation, a lot of people say how do you know it's grass? Well, with widgeon grass, when it colonizes and this is a colonizing feature, those are all donuts. Most of you know Rich about his donut stories, so this is in his honor. But these are two different locations. And even places that just have a few of these donuts, it tells us that this is widgeon grass. This is unbelievable. It's just coolest picture I think I've ever seen about how, you know, this species colonizes and grows. And then, of course, once it becomes one big bed, we lose the donut feature. But it's a way that we use to interpret and make sure we understand that what we map is sea grass. And that obviously is something or SAV. It is something that we are concerned about to make sure that we are interpreting our imagery correctly. So that's going to be there, I just love that picture. It's just so neat to watch and to see. So I'm going to have to get that and frame it to rich with a donut. Okay, so now we're going to move down to the [inaudible] areas. And, again, this is the color code. It's Tangier. And you're seeing some interesting trends here because in Tangier Island, we start to pick up our two species, Eel grass and widgeon grass combined. And this is up and down, believe it or not, is coupled to what's been going on with eel grass which I'm going to bring in in a bit in another talk. So, you know, up and down. But here is this big increase because we saw quite a bit of widgeon grass in the Tangier area this year. And, again, dramatic changes in such a short time period. Okay, now we're going to look down to the Lower Bay, the western shore. And this is where we now pick up the Lower Bay eel grass, and this is the concern that we've been highlighting for years where we saw a rapid increase in eel grass over time dropping off again up and down. And then, of course, here's the 2005 time period right there. And it drops off to very little then up and down. Then 2010, another heat situation, drops off. And this repetitive heat, you know, recovery heat recovery is something that concerns us because two years in a row could mean a devastating result for eel grass in the Lower Bay. So that's kind of the big picture. I want to kind of move into some other areas that. Well, I don't want to highlight this because of the importance of this annual monitoring. This is [inaudible] because we are looking at a major concern with the 2016 survey. But I want to highlight a couple things about the biology and ecology component before we move on to the very end. We've done a lot of status and trends work. You know, Bill and I were involved in a kind of NCs program back in 2006 '7 where we looked at the trends based on some of the water quality standards. And we found that for an example in the upper [inaudible] and the lower Potomac, we're all tied to nitrogen loads. So the nitrogen story is really interesting and, unfortunately, that was done in 2006. There have been some local analysis, the Choptank, Susquehanna Flats, Potomac, and some of the sub-estuaries [inaudible]. But there's been no Bay-wide analysis, you know, since 2006. But we think that this holds true. The lower Bay salinity areas we believe is being driven by light. And I'm going to show you why we think that is with eel grass story. So let me tell you about the eel grass story. What we did, we took all the SAV data from Lower Bay. We said, okay, where are the areas that are dominated by eel grass? And we broke it down into these three segments. Lower western shore, lower eastern shore, and Tangier. Compared that with some of the water quality data from that. And said, okay, what's been happening with eel grass in the Lower Bay? Because it is, by far, the dominant, most important species in the Lower Bay. And it's persistent because it has a very significant root [inaudible] system that allows it to persist. So here are the trends based on our data. Based on total cover, the mean depth, and the distance of shore. And it's quite obvious to all of you that the amount of eel grass in these segments is going down. If you look at the mean depth, it's getting into shallower locations. And if you look at the kind of squiggly lines, it is happening in all of the three segments that we have. And mean distance from shore. So it's moving from deeper water into shallow water. We've offshore, inshore. Those data are real, and that's what concerns us about the future of eel grass in the Bay because it's being driven by what else but light. Now, these are the water quality data, and I will just mention that the gentleman that's here with me, Jon Lefcheck, is now working on this as part of a first status entrance paper about what's been happening with eel grass. But generally, the light's been getting much worse. So here's the total Bay. Lower eastern shore, lower western shore, and Tangier. And you can see the light characteristics are all in one direction. Although it's a lot of noise, the general direction is down. And I know that this issue is going to be part of a big workshop that Rich has put together. And I'm hoping that by that point of time, it will have this worked up, out to a journal, and we're going to be looking at the Bay-wide data on top of that. The other big issue facing eel grass, temperature. You know, this is the Bay-wide temperature. Eel grass is a species that likes the cold. Those two hot summers really screwed it up. And we had the 15 that was also not as much of a concern because there's still quite a bit of eel grass. We had the die back in 2005. There wasn't hardly a blade of eel grass left around the Bay. Now, it recovered from seed, and there were some maristems [phonetic] that survived, so it came back from both. But the seeds were the big picture. And, of course, knowing that it takes two years for a seed to get to a flowering plant through seeds, two years back to back hurting of eel grass really will be devastating to the populations. Because we're going to be losing the seed bank. And we know that again because, again, we spent a lot of time understanding the biology, the ecology. Not just of eel grass, but some of the other species. So big issue there. So, yeah, so there's the graphic. There are the three time periods, and you can see, you know, what happens when you had that heat. Drops off quickly. And, again, this is total Bay, but it does include here widgeon grass. But the big picture is because this is all tied to the amount of eel grass down there. So with that. Okay, so another thing that we do because, you know, the imagery doesn't tell us what the species are, okay. That [inaudible] file that we put together was based on our best knowledge of where the grass goes. But we also want to know what's happening on the ground. So, you know, we used a lot of ground data from the citizens, and want to comment on thing that Brook is doing. We're trying to bring in all the river keepers, all the observers this year. Brook's going to have a workshop, it's fantastic. We've got a lot of input from people who want to participate, and we're going to try to collect a lot of ground data. It's kind of the what Bill and I talked about many, many years ago, the SAV quest. And we've done some of that, but this is on the ground work. So as part of this, we have a group that we go out, and we call it our mini SAV quest. It's, I guess I should give Bill the honor of giving that title before he went down under and we lost him for a few years. Came back because he just loves the Bay. So what we've done, we have 24 transects that are spread across the Bay. We have some here on the western shore there which is closer to home so we can get to them. We've got a few over on the eastern shore. And we've got a bunch up here on the [inaudible] just below Weedville. And what we do every year is, you know, we do transects. We run from inshore to offshore until the bed goes to almost nothing. And so some of our transects will be as short as 200 meters. One of our longest transects is 800, 1800 meters. It's a little over a mile. And so every ten meters we make an observation of percent cover. And, again, we use a [inaudible] scale, very rapid assessment of what's there in terms of whether it's widgeon grass or eel grass or a combined both. And all these observations are made accurately the same spot every single year. We use a tremble, everything's marked. And so we're looking at the exact same spot every single year. And this is also being embedded in a paper that we're going to be writing up. Again, element two of our status and trends, it's going to be kind of cool. So let's look at a few of these transects because, again, widgeon grass and eel grass do strange things. So here's one, 2008 to 2015, eel grass as well in green, but it's kind of blue. And the widgeon grass is in red. So when we started the transects in '08 which is two years after the die back, we had quite a bit of eel grass. But look what's happened over time with back river, this one transect. It's gone almost completely from eel grass and widgeon grass, and especially in this inner area all the way down off the 2015, 2011 was following the die back. But we're also starting to see some changes even before that. And now look it, almost all widgeon grass. If the eel grass persists. And, actually, this is an interesting transect because it goes across the shallow, deep, shallow, deep. So in these deep areas here are where we're still finding eel grass because it's a little bit cooler. This shallow area where we used to have it is maybe a foot [inaudible] water. So that's one, that's back river, that's just off Langley Air Force Base. Now, here's another transect that we actually had data from 1978, one of the original transects that we did. And you can see here eel grass is persistent over time. Now, this is a Lower Bay, eastern shore, close enough to the Bay. If you know something about circulation, water comes up on the east side, spreads out. So we're getting a lot of cool water. So eel grass is persistent. We've had some widgeon grass pop every so often, but then it disappears. So it's really crazy species. So. >> What about salt? >> Could be. But, you know, this is so close to the mouth of the Bay, I don't think the salinity has an issue in this particular transect. >> No, I'm just thinking about the eastern shore [inaudible]. >> Well, yeah, it could be. But I do know that when you look at the depth distribution, it's always deeper on the Bay side than it is on the western shore which I think is more light than anything else. So I think a lot of what you're doing really is very relevant. So that's Hungars [inaudible]. Now, the last transect, this is kind of an interesting place because this Brown's Bay is where I basically teethed on grass and used it as dental floss for many, many years. But this is 1978, '94, '96, '98, 2000, 2006. And what you can see is lots of eel grass. A little bit here but nothing offshore. But '94 had spread off to the deeper areas persisting. And there are some little issues here with some of the data because we had it instead of 10 meters, 20 meters. But eel grass persisted but, you know, this is in the '06 time period. Eel grass basically disappeared and while I was trying to come back this, again, disappeared. So it's really almost no part of the Brown's Bay transect anymore. And even widgeon grass. I mean, this was like 2015 there was almost no grass there. So this is another site. Now, this is just three of the 24, all 24 are really weird. But it shows some of the dynamics that occur which we need to know not just the aerial coverage, but what's happened within a bed. Because we talk about widgeon grass being the species of the future. Well, what's happened here? It's not even there. And this is really shallow. I mean, this is a place where I did my dissertation work and lived, breathed, died eel grass for many a year. Spent many an hour with my head under the water as, you know, anyone who does any sea grass work, you got to be under water. Winter, summer. So, yeah, I mean this area. As a matter of fact I said, you know, when I die I want my ashes spread over Brown's Bay eel grass [laughs]. There may not be any eel grass there. So, yeah, it's kind of a cool place. But, yeah, our concern there. So that's just three of the 24 really because we have the Bay-wide data, but now we're getting species information, and we've talked to Bill maybe trying to bring back the [inaudible]. Brook, they do some transects in the Upper Bay, but we may want to reconsider that. And it's not a lot of work. This takes us two weeks. We may want to reconsider that, and it's not a lot of work. This takes us two weeks to do 24 transects, okay. We got four people, we break up the transect, we've hired some summer interns, and we'll [inaudible]. It works like a charm. You know, you pick a site. This is not that hard to do. It is so easy. And the amount of data we get is just awesome. And it shows exactly some of the concerns that we have. Not just the change in the species composition, but also the loss of some of our species. So let's talk about multiple uses before we get into Brook. You know, we've talked about, you know, just the Bay-wide coverage and all of that. But, you know, there are a lot of groups that use our data. Two of those are, one, there's a lot of interest in aquaculture if you don't have any knowledge of what's going on. Aquaculture is just taken off in the Bay. This is clam aquaculture on the Bay side of Cherrystone. Go to Google Earth, go to Cape Charles. Just cruise up and down up until you get. This is everywhere, everywhere. And now we're having lots of oyster aquaculture. Go to the Choptank. We see where aquaculture is occurring. It shows up every year. And there's a lot of conflict among where grass is because of the fact that Virginia basically many years ago said, okay, we're not going to allow anymore aquaculture permits in areas with existing SAV. And Maryland has the same thing about using our survey to be really careful about where permits are allowed. Or even where dredging for clam is allowed. You know, and so, you know, believe it or not, we get on average about two requests a week from VMRC. They want to know from us what our best, you know, impression is from our data of where grass is. And they will deny now permits. Now, all these permits you saw there in areas that have grass are grandfathered. There's nothing we can do about it. But we play a big role because not, from the annual monitoring, you know, what we try to do is work with aquaculture, so while we say no in existing grass, there are places that have sand bars and edges that don't have grass. So we have told VMRC and the aquaculture people we're here to help you, but we need the annual monitoring to help us make those decisions for VMRC. And I believe Brook does the same thing. So one big issue now. The last, there's a lot of other things going on, but that's one use of that data. You know, not. Having the annual data looks because it changes so much, you know, some. And actually this happened. Here's a good case in point. Many years ago, we saw the imageries that, God, there's aquaculture nets in the area that had grass. We go out with an officer and all the managers. And they say there's grass here, how come you put your net down? They were going to make that guy take every one of his clams out of there because there were clams. Then he said, wait a minute, I was out here this winter. There wasn't any grass. I said wait a minute, why did you, why in the winter? You know, that's what they do when there's no grass around. So here's what we did. He said, listen, you know, we try to be really good guys. We told the officers and all of it because they were going to have those guys get, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars of clams out of there. So we said, okay, here's what we'll do. Let him go. We know now how quickly eel grass recovers. We said let these guys hang in there for a few years, take those clams out. Once they're finished get the nets out, and then let them come out with us over one year and help us collect seeds. And we'll just help some of the recovery by putting seeds in that area. It came back actually more quickly than we thought. But, again, that's how we like to work with aquaculture people. You know, we're sort of the eye in the sky. We watch every blade of grass, and we report this stuff to people when we see something strange so that's one case. Now, the other one is kind of really cool. We see a lot of propeller scars in the grass beds. This is not as bad in Florida. But look at the scarring. Now, this is that Brown's Bay Area that I told you there's almost no grass. That little spot in there is where I spent three years of my life doing my dissertation work, and there was a lot of healthy grass. But all these propeller scars happened over a short time period. And we said to the, we brought that up to the managers. And they said, oh, my God. What's going on? Well, everyone was being blamed, and the recreational fishermen, they saw an opportunity for them to come to us, use our data to close grass beds from recreational fishing. So we got our project going to see how quickly this recovered. And what we could do to minimize that. So, you know, and we had meetings where people, the officers had to have guns. There was a lot of really nastiness going on because the recreational people wanted it closed because they wanted to fish for speckled trout. The waterman were incensed because they saw [inaudible] essentially coming out, closing these areas where they're hauling. These are all scars from haulsaters [phonetic]. These are the fishermen that bring these big nets. And these are because they bring their boats in, pull their nets in, and then bunt it and put a small area where they then harvest the fish. So these are scars. So over a couple years, we worked very closely, we told the recreational fishermen to watch very closely. We'll watch very closely from the annual survey how these beds recover. And here's the data from one site. This is some of the most impressive data, so we've got to get this published. Put every year and mapped how many meters of scars we saw. So in this year, we saw this many meters. The next year we looked at the same scars. Dropped off. By the third year, there's almost no evidence of that scar. So we looked at all this data and, again, here's that time period where it happened. We then worked with VMRC and they said, okay, let's change the way these watermen work when they haul their nets in to minimize the impact of the propellers. And guess what, bump. You know, if there's some scarring, they do haul those areas. They've got to haul when there's a little bit more water, you know, so they have to report the times they haul. But, you know, again, we've told the recreational fishermen, hey, because they've recovered so fast and because this will change, why do we want to close this? And the watermen were actually really happy about this. I got calls every year from the guys. How's grass doing? Tell me about it. You know, before they start fishing. So, again, we watch this and every year this is crazy. This is just one area. Look at the length of the scars. 40,000 meters of scars. So that's one site. We focused on the site that had the most intense scarring. And the last picture, again, this is the other Brown's Bay. Millions of meters of scarring and [inaudible] thousands of scar length. But, again, once we show these data and show how quickly, bam, you know, it's locked. And every year, you know, and I make a presentation to our commission, VMRC commission. I show them this data, and they provide us some support to keep this program going. Because I basically tell them, you know, you got to watch these guys. I mean, they're out there, they'll do anything they can, you know, to make a buck. And they know we're out there. And I think if we stopped, this would be devastating because no one would be out there watching these characters. And they're nice guys but, you know, again, they're watermen, they want to make a buck. We're looking at them all the time. So if this, again, is probably, you know, two good examples. But there are many more in terms of permits, shoreline alterations, and all that. How are data are being used by managers. And that's the key thing. You know, the biology is really cool, I mean, I love the biology, I love the ecology. I'm very concerned about, you know, what's happening in the Bay. But I also like working with the managers because it means that we're really kind of linking to those people that are the users of our data. And to me it's very rewarding. And enjoy. So I think that's where we are with this, and I think Brook is just going to touch base very quickly on some of her stuff.

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