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Science Weekend Warriors

Do you love science but can’t quit your day job? Be a weekend warrior for science! Citizen science, also known as crowd-sourced science, is a way for the general public to help scientists in their research. No fancy science degree required, just an interest in science and a bit of training. The available projects range from interpreting historical literature (Science Gossip) to classifying galaxy shapes (Galaxy Zoo) to reporting Harmful Algal Blooms (Water Reporter) and everything in between. Many projects lead to published papers or open-source databases.Algae monitoring

Citizen Science has been used in all areas of research, but especially in environmental science. There are high-profile projects that make the news every year like the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count, and there are international water-related projects such as the World Water Monitoring Challenge and EarthDive.

Take advantage of the many local opportunities to flex your science muscles. Casey Trees in the District of Columbia has several opportunities, including a phenology study and a tree inventory. The Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative uses data from trash pick-up events to track trends in the watershed. You can also assist Virginia Working Landscapes with plant, bird, and pollinator surveys.

Looking to get your kids excited about science and the natural world? PBS SciGirls is a great resource for projects geared towards science warriors-in-training.

You can also satisfy your inner science-geek by becoming a certified Master Naturalist. Many naturalist programs include a citizen science component. Check out your state’s program for more information.

Do you know of a citizen science opportunity in the Potomac river basin? Let us know and check our website regularly for more Citizen Science Warrior opportunities in our area!

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Water Supply Outlook – July, 2016

Precipitation levels have been above normal and are expected to continue at that level. There is a below normal probability of releases from the Washington metropolitan area’s back-up water supply reservoirs for the 2016 summer and fall seasons. Read more…

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About the Basin—Living History along the Potomac

 The Potomac River has served as a strategic avenue of transport since the dawn of river travel. It is no surprise that many forts were built along its banks. This weekend marks the 260th Anniversary of one such stronghold, Fort Frederick in Western Maryland. Built during the French and Indian War, this mid-18th century fort went on to be a strategic post in several future wars. The buildings and state park were restored and rebuilt in the mid-1900s. The State Park runs along a good portion of the Potomac River, providing a variety of recreational opportunities amongst great American relics of the past. This weekend’s anniversary celebration includes living history demonstrations and family activities.

A nice boat ramp leads to Big Pool Lake, a quiet spot for boating or fishing (no gas motors allowed) where you can expect to reel in largemouth bass and catfish. While out on the water, try your hand at birdwatching and log your finds into the Birding Big Year log book at the Visitor Center.

Plenty of rustic campsites along the river are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Picnic tables are available for daytime users.

Opportunities for biking and hiking abound in the park. Along with the C&O Canal trail and paths within the park, the fort is less than a mile from the eastern entrance to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, named one of the top 12 trails in the United States by the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy.

While enjoying the great outdoors, remember to leave no trace. Fort Frederick State Park is a Maryland Green Travel Partner, a Maryland state initiative geared towards reducing the environmental impact of the tourism industry.

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Birding in the Basin

greenheronAs this year’s northern bird migration comes to a close, it’s a great time to get outside and discover our avian friends. Although at times it is hard to believe that there are other birds besides the ubiquitous pigeons and Canadian geese in the Potomac River basin, in fact there is a wide variety of beautiful bird species throughout the area.

Right outside of the District and smack dab in the middle of the Potomac River is Theodore Roosevelt Island. In this oasis outside the city you will see species that are commonly found in swampy and marshy areas, such as green herons and wood ducks. Bald eagles have also been known to nest on the island. For those fans of the movie “The Big Year”, the National Park Service provides a brochure to keep track of your finds.

The Audubon Society of Central Maryland maintains two large wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Frederick County, Maryland. The organization holds monthly hikes throughout the year or you can explore the flora and fauna on your own. The Society’s next walk is scheduled for June 18 and is entitled “Summer Birds”.

At an unexpected haven in the southeast area of Fairfax County, Va., known as Huntley Meadows Park, you will find such striking birds as Eastern Bluebirds, Common Yellowthroats, and the Northern Flicker. The land, which was once owned by Mr. George Mason IV, is now a 1,500 acre park with trails and watch towers for you bird-watching pleasure. This park is known for being a prime birdwatching location. There is a Monday Morning Birdwalk that has been held, rain or shine, for the past 30 years.

With as many as 430 bird species in the area, there are plenty of opportunities for birding. Other local areas known for excellent birding include the Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland, Yankauer Nature Preserve along the Potomac River in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Lorton, Virginia.

Can’t get out to see birds this weekend? Check out our write-up on bird cameras in the Potomac River basin.

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Staying Safe on the Potomac

Many ICPRB staff spend as much time as we can on the water, and we encourage you to do the same through maps and information that helps you to enjoy our precious resource. A recent rash of drownings and accidents along the river serves as an unfortunate reminder on the importance of safety during water recreation. We have put together some tips on staying safe while cooling down in the Potomac River.paddlersinthemarsh-Large

Prepare for on-water activities by checking the weather and water levels just before venturing out. Call the National Weather Service at (703) 996-2200, check them out online, or download one of the many apps that will provide real-time data on gauge height, discharge, and temperature. Let a family member or friend know your plans, where you will be, and when you expect to be back. Always wear a life vest. And finally, never go out on the river alone.

Whether you are out with your reel, kayak, or inner tube, remembering these simple tips will help ensure a safe and fun day on the river. Enjoy!

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The Potomac Fishing Report

Stocked trout streams in the Shenandoah basin are fishable, with the mountain streams full and clearing. The mainstem is still muddy according to reports. The North Branch Potomac also is stained, but closer to an average flow.

In the upper Potomac, water temperatures are in the mid 70s, with some stained water. The river levels are keeping fish spread out and anglers should target deeper areas with eddies, or seems where stained and clearer water meet. Good reports have come from the area between Lander and Knoxville. Mayfly hatches have been occurring, and fly anglers will be trying to match the hatch.

In the metropolitan Potomac, water is stained and about 78 degrees. Reports of largemouth bass at the Kennedy Center wall, the wall in Washington Channel, and bridge pilings are good bets. Catfish are spawning and can also be taken at bridge pilings.

Further downstream, anglers are having luck in the grass beds at the mouths of tidal creeks and on the mainstem. Largemouth bass fishing has been productive, and the spawning catfish are common.

Near the river’s mouth, anglers are chumming for striped bass, as well as the channel edges around St. George’s Island. Reports of some croaker and a few flatfish round out the catch. Crabbing continues to improve with the warming water.

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Beaching Potomac

Looking to dip your toes in the sand this weekend but can’t stomach the thought of sitting in the Bay Bridge traffic with 500,000 of your closest friends? Switch up your waterfront routine by enjoying one of the many beach-esque options along the Potomac River instead. Listed below are a few of the possibilities along our beautiful Nation’s River.

Aquia Landing Park

Aquia Landing Park

You will find Colonial Beach, Va. Just a quick 1.5 hour drive south of the District. The town is not only an historical gem (don’t you want to visit the birthplace of George Washington?!), but the entire city is spanned by a calm, sandy beach.

Just north of Accokeek Creek lies Aquia Landing Park in Stafford, Va. This family-friendly park features fishing, picnic pavilions, and even sand volleyball courts. It is a quiet beach that is excellent for bird-watching and collecting seashells.

Another sandy spot seeped in American history is the Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Md. Located at the mouth of the Potomac River, this park held more than 50,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Boasting both a museum and a nature center, the park can fill up fast on the weekends so make sure to get there early!

The following beaches are not along the Potomac River but are on this side of this Bay. Flag Ponds Nature Park in Calvert County, Md. is an ideal area for kids of all ages to snag fossils from the Miocene era right out of the sand. Don’t forget your digging gear! A small and little-known beach, Beverly Triton Beach Park, is located outside of Edgewater, Md. It is a great place for both you and your dog to cool off during the sizzling summer heat.

Make sure to tag ICPRB when you are out enjoying the many amenities that the Potomac watershed has to offer!


Photo Credit: Aquia Landing Park by Instragrammer @buddysecor

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Water Supply Outlook – June, 2016

After the majority of the Mid-Atlantic area received higher-than-average rainfall during the month of May, there is a below normal probability of releases from the Washington metropolitan area reservoirs for the upcoming season. Read more in the Water Supply Outlook.

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Quarterly Business Meeting Announcement

The ICPRB quarterly business meeting on June 6 and 7 will be held in Colonial Beach, Virginia. Hosted by theBusiness Meeting Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the Monday portion of the meeting will focus on groundwater resources in Virginia’s coastal plain. Groundwater is the primary drinking water source, and the Commonwealth is working to quantify the resource, which is under increasing demand. The following day includes the quarterly ICPRB business meeting, with reviews of ongoing projects. The meeting is open to the public, but space is limited. Please RSVP if you would like to attend.

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Residential Oil Tanks: What you Need to Know

Image courtesy of David Bonta on Flickr.

Image courtesy of David Bonta on Flickr.

Without proper care, old and rusted heating oil tanks can cause costly leaks and spills. Underground tanks are especially problematic because they can leak for years without notice. Large toxic spills may get all the media-fueled attention, but these silent, slow leaks add up to one major environmental problem for the Potomac River basin and its residents. Read more…