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NCBO includes two branches: the Ecosystem Science and Synthesis Program and the Environmental Literacy and Partnerships Program.

The Ecosystem Science and Synthesis Program focuses on applied research and monitoring in fisheries and aquatic habitats; synthesis, and analysis to describe and predict Bay ecosystem processes; and the delivery of policy advice and technical assistance to Bay decision makers.

The Environmental Literacy and Partnerships Program focuses on the development of K-12 and higher education environmental science education programs; strategic partnerships with the Chesapeake Bay Program and other government, university, and nonprofit partners toward office priorities; and communication about NOAA products, services, and programs to targeted audiences.

Together, the Office’s programs enable scientists and resource managers to examine the interconnected elements of the Bay ecosystem and ensure that Bay residents can fully understand and appreciate the Chesapeake. Through these programs, NCBO staff focus on four “core” areas and two “cross-cutting” topics.

Fisheries

Recreational and commercial fisheries are among the most valuable economic activities for the coastal communities of the Bay. Fishing pressure, habitat loss, invasive species, degraded water quality, and toxics affect these important fisheries. NOAA supports well-managed Chesapeake Bay fisheries and the habitats they depend on by delivering timely ecosystem-based science and forecasts to science and management partners. This work supports the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal to sustain a healthy blue crab population.

Oysters

The Chesapeake Bay oyster population is estimated to be less than 1 percent of historic levels; the ecosystem functions associated with oyster reefs, including fish habitat and nitrogen removal, are similarly diminished. Small and scattered past restoration efforts demonstrated proof-of-concept and restoration techniques, but were limited in scope. Current work focuses on scaling up to restore entire tributaries with self-sustaining oyster populations and to measure the resulting ecosystem services. NOAA works with partners to plan and implement this tributary-scale restoration. This work supports the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal to restore native oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by the year 2025.

Environmental Literacy

The challenges of maintaining a healthy ecosystem are complex and diffuse; the quality of environmental conditions is affected by the individual actions of every citizen. This complexity requires a thoughtful stewardship strategy that begins in schools with the youngest citizens, building competencies they will use throughout their lives to benefit society. NOAA encourages and supports efforts in K-12 and higher education to develop and implement comprehensive environmental literacy programs. This work supports the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal that students graduate with the knowledge and skills to protect and restore their local watershed.

Observations

The Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is dynamic, and water-quality conditions are driven by highly variable local and regional forces. In order to monitor, understand, forecast, and provide information for science-based decisions, high-quality data needs to be continuously measured and summarized. To meet this need, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office maintains the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, a network of 10 buoys that collects and relays near-real-time data to users. This work supports the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement commitment to maintain a coordinated watershed-wide monitoring and research program.

Coastal Preparedness

Sea-level rise, land subsidence, and other changing conditions are affecting Chesapeake Bay natural systems and human-built communities through immediate events like hurricanes and longer-term issues such as recurrent flooding. Monitoring and modeling these changes and effects is critical in providing guidance to resource managers and community planners. NOAA, working closely with the Chesapeake Bay Program, will help communities become more resilient by providing information and forecasts to protect critical assets such as roads, bridges, buildings, emergency facilities, and private businesses, as well as natural infrastructure. This work supports the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal to increase the resiliency of the watershed to withstand the adverse effects of changing environmental conditions.

Choptank Habitat Focus Area

The Choptank River Complex was selected by NOAA as a Habitat Focus Area—a place where multiple NOAA offices and outside partners focus efforts to achieve healthier habitat. In the Choptank area, NOAA and partners are restoring degraded oyster reef habitat to increase native oyster populations and are rebuilding important fish habitat, researching the benefits of oyster reef ecosystem services, and conducting living resource assessments. This work improves management by encouraging complementary conservation actions across federal, state, and local government and engages local communities to ensure their increased involvement in and ownership of the protection and restoration of coastal habitats.

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