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My Time at the South River Federation by Rob PavlikRob

Having never worked at a nonprofit before I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got my internship at SRF; it seemed like an awesome opportunity to learn about restoration and monitoring. The scientist in me was excited to find out what kind of things I would be doing in the field, yet I was also keen on seeing how a nonprofit organization like SRF operates.

I can still remember my first day. I arrived early and found the office dimly lit. I wasn’t sure what to do since there didn’t seem to be anyone there yet, so I sat down and began to look through some of the informational brochures. While reading about the South River’s water quality in one of the report cards, I heard a noise and looked up to find a cute yellow lab coming towards me. As an avid dog lover, nothing could have been more comforting on my first day than to be greeted by a dog. After giving the dog a few good scratches behind the ears, I got up and began walking down the hall with the yellow lab as my tour guide. After peeking into a few empty rooms, I finally met Jennifer and Josh. They were both very welcoming and alleviated any first day nervousness I was still feeling. Josh then took me to a few of the Federation’s restoration projects, some of which were still being constructed. It amazed me to see how many different projects there were, as well as the amount of work and coordination it took to create them.

All About Oysters!

South River Federation recognizes that restoring the South River (and the Bay) is contingent on restoring the native Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, a keystone species that provides critical ecological benefits to the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and creeks!
The Chesapeake Bay's native oyster population has been estimated at less than 1% of historic levels, making restoration critical to help improve the Bay's water quality and increase its economic viability. Oysters are filter feeders and extract access nutrients and suspended sediments and clean the water and support a healthy ecosystem. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day!

Diseases (parasites MSX and Dermo) are a significant factor in the demise of the oyster but historic overharvesting, poor water quality due to influx in nutrients and sediment runoff also play a role in the decline in oyster population.
South River Federation is collaborating with Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and other organizations in the recently announced "10 Billion New Bay Oysters by 2025" Campaign and is committed to working together to accelerate oyster restoration efforts. This multiple year partnership will produce 1 billion spat annually in Maryland and Virginia waters that represents a 15-20 % increase in production. The Federation is the leader in oyster recovery efforts in the South River.

In support of re-establishing these bivalve mollusks, CBF established its Maryland Oyster Restoration Center (ORC) in 2002. The ORC houses several large tanks for use in producing juvenile oysters, called 'spat.' It is also home to CBF's restoration vessel Patricia Campbell. The 60-foot boat transports and places hatchery-produced seed oysters onto sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland waters and carries oyster shell and other materials for reef construction. The ORC serves as the central location for all of CBF's oyster restoration activities in Maryland.
ORC houses several large tanks for use in producing juvenile oysters, called 'spat.' These setting tanks are loaded with oyster shell, and then filled with Bay water. Oyster larvae, usually produced by the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory, are then released into the tanks. After a few days, these larvae attach, or 'set,' onto the old oyster shells, at which point they are called 'spat.' CBF produces millions of spat at ORC each year, and with the help of South River Federation and other watershed organizations, transplant them onto restored sanctuary reefs.The Federation's goals is to put one million spat into the South River in 2018.

Restoration Vessel Patricia Campbell

ORC is also the home port of the innovative oyster restoration vessel Patricia Campbell. With its state-of-the-art technology, it is the most advanced vessel in the Bay being used for oyster restoration. Using the Patricia Campbell, CBF staff builds reefs and plants them with juvenile oysters. Among the vessel's highlights is its custom conveyor belt system for planting reef material and oysters with pin-point accuracy. This helps the crew build oyster reefs to exact specifications. Learn more about the Patricia Campbell.

Oyster Gardening

South River Federation's Oyster Growing program allows citizens to grow oysters off their docks in cages over the winter. In 2017, The Federation coordinated approximately 75 growers, taking care of 400 cages of oysters. Gardeners raise the baby oysters from 'spat' to adult (about 7 months), and eventually plant them onto the South River's oyster sanctuary reef. Visit our website for more information and to find out how you can become a South River Oyster Grower.

oyster cages drawing

Thank you Brianna Cairco for your work at the Federation, not only as a summer intern, but also helping us do a deep dive into the data for the annual South River report card. She produced dozens and dozens of graphs for us in response to our many questions on why a particular set of data seemed too high or too low. Thanks to her persistance on figuring out "why", we were prepared to answer all our followers questions at the State of the South River presentation! Below is a brief description of her work with the Federation in her own words:
My name is Briana Cairco, I started volunteering at South River Federation in summer 2017, I helped collect water quality data, sample fish, and enter monitoring data into our database. In January I was hired as a database manager to help organize and analyze data to help us better understand changes and trends in the water quality data we have been collecting over the past 7 years. If you can name it, I’ve probably graphed it! I also worked with Jesse, Sarah, and Nancy to produce the lovely 2017 South River and sub-watershed report cards that were recently unveiled. All the hard work and hours crunching data on the computer paid off! Though my position was temporary, I really valued being part of the family and look forward to watching Federation grow, and as time goes on hopefully the water quality in the South River will reflect the hard work and care we pour in to make this watershed a healthier environment.

Are you passionate about the environment? Do you want to uncover mysteries about the streams in the South River watershed?

Be part of a rapid mobilization stream team!

As part of our Church Creek research project, we need to take water quality measurements simultaneously at several Annapolis streams during a rain event. This will better help us understand where the highest concentrations of pollution are occurring.

Come on May 31st at 10am (Location TBD) to attend the training and orientation. We need about 20 people with flexible schedules during weekdays to hike in teams through urban forested areas to grab water samples.  Each attempt only needs 10 people and will only take an hour or two, but it is likely we will have to do this multiple times. We will send out an email alert a couple days before  each attempt based on the weather forecast. We are hoping to wrap up this stream snapshot by the end of June.

This "snapshot" of Church Creek's streams will be incredibly helpful to our research! Results from this exercise will ultimately help to inform us on how to direct our focus to better reduce and treat polluted runoff.

If you are interested in volunteering for this science expedition, have a flexible schedule, and are unfazed by hiking in the rain, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information!


Last Week, several Federation members reported reddish-brown water in Pocahontas Creek and Church Creek. Federation staff delivered samples from both creeks for analysis to the Maryland Department of Environment which determined the discoloration resulted from a "very large bloom of Prorocentrum minimum" (over 100,000 cells/mL). The samples from the two creeks also contained Karlodinium veneficum. Both P. Minimum and Karlodinium are bloom-forming dinoflagellates. The MD Dept. of Environment further noted that "a bloom of this biomass is something to watch."

Both algae flourish in nutrient over-enriched waters. Perhaps not coincidentally, Pocahontas Creek and Church Creek have both seen large sediment escapes from construction projects in recent months which have contributed large volumes of nutrients to these creeks. Please alert the Federation if you see any mud floods or discolored water near you and we will ensure that the proper authorities are notified.

Our research on the P, Minimum algae reveals that "shellfish toxicity with associated human impacts has been attributed to P. minimum blooms from a variety of coastal environments" [including the USA] and "Detrimental ecosystem effects associated with blooms range from fish and zoobenthic mortalities to shellfish aquaculture mortalities" The Department of Natural resources refers to Karlodinium veneficum as the "fish-killer"because it produces five varieties of ichthyotoxins which resulted in fish kills in the Middle, Gunpowder, and Bird Rivers in recent years. Thankfully, no evidence of fish kills has surfaced in the South River so far.

The creek samples described above were taken on April 26 and 27, but sampling by MDE today, May 1st, 2018 reveals that the two algae types are still persisting even in the River mainstem off Cedar Point and above the Rt 2 bridge at concentrations that indicate a bloom.

Mahoghany Tides can be subtle. At first glance, they look like muddy water after a rain, but the color is a little orange/red to be caused by dirt. 

Here is a photo of what may be mahogany tide, as seen in Bellport Bay in Virginia, on Thursday, May 26, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Photo of what may be mahogany tide, as