a woman kneeling down next to a river

Two Weeks with Blue Water Baltimore

By Makenna Bachman

Hello everyone! My name is Makenna Bachman, I just graduated from the Bryn Mawr School, and I worked with Blue Water Baltimore for my senior project. Over the course of two weeks, I got to experience a variety of the organization’s initiatives, thanks to the schedule my supervisor, John “Johno” Marra, assembled for me. Below is a day-by-day outline of my senior project!

Tuesday, May 16: 
Today was the first day of my senior project! After meeting Johno at the office, we visited several BWB sites including Forestry in Druid Hill Park and the Herring Run Nursery. We then went to Faith Presbyterian Church to lead the second stage of a volunteer tree-planting day on a portion of the church’s property that had been converted from a parking-lot to grass. I learned BWB’s tree planting method, which includes digging a hole, removing part of the burlap sack and metal cage from the tree base, exposing the tree’s first structural root, placing the tree in the hole and filling it, adding a water well to funnel water towards the roots, covering with mulch, and finally staking the tree so that it stays upright and sturdy. I helped water the 22 new trees (which took 750 gallons of water!) afterward. 

Thursday, May 18:
We loaded up the van and traveled to Carver Vocational Technical High School for another tree planting day. The students had selected the trees they wanted several months earlier, and we worked with the students today, along with several BWB “super-volunteers” to plant them on several blocks surrounding the school as well as in their courtyard. Replacing hardscapes like cement sidewalks with trees and soil helps reduce the amount of runoff and erosion that pollutes nearby waterways, the harbor, and the bay, and trees also introduce oxygen into the air, provide habitats for animals, and offer shade and natural beauty. 

Friday, May 19:
Today we focused on preparing for the annual plant giveaway at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship. We received several plant orders and then loaded and secured over 900 plants onto a trailer to be transported to Stillmeadow the following morning. 

a woman tending to plants in black pots

Saturday, May 20:
I arrived at Stillmeadow in time to help unload and organize the plants before the plant giveaway began. Pre-order customers arrived first, and once they had received their plants, walk-up customers were allowed to choose from the remaining selection. I really enjoyed seeing everyone so excited to receive free plants and bring them home to their yards and gardens!

Tuesday, May 23:
I joined Sarah for non-tidal monitoring, where we took water quality measurements and collected 6 different samples (in addition to a blank and a duplicate) from various locations along the Lower Gwynns Falls. We then went back to the lab and prepared our samples for bacteria testing. First, we diluted the samples, then added a substance that feeds the bacteria and gives them bioluminescent properties, laminated the solutions, and placed the laminated containers into an oven where they sit for 24 hours.

two people on a boat giving the thumbs up

Wednesday, May 24:
Today Sarah, Johno, Barbara, and I conducted tidal-monitoring. We began the day at the Downtown Sailing Center, where we boarded Blue Water Baltimore’s boat. We then traveled to 13 different sites around the Inner Harbor all the way out the the Key Bridge, and took water quality readings, bacteria, chlorophyll, and nutrient samples, and measured water clarity using a secchi disk. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had so much fun being out on the water! Afterward, we went back to the lab to repeat the same process I conducted yesterday with our bacteria samples, while Sarah worked on processing the chlorophyll samples. Our solutions in the oven from yesterday were also ready, and I got to look at them under black light to see what percentage of the laminated cells were glowing, which indicates the level of bacteria in the water. 

Thursday, May 25: 
The Restoration Team and I planted and watered more trees in the Ash Co East neighborhood today. They are almost done with their spring planting season, and will then spend the summer caring for the growing trees!

Friday, May 26:
This morning I volunteered at BWB’s Herring Run Plant Nursery. I helped relabel old pots donated by previous customers to be reused, and then filled the pots with several different species of seedlings. It was also interesting to watch Rob, the nursery director, suggest various types of plants to customers based on their backyard climate and specific requests. 

Tuesday, May 27:
For my final day of my senior project, I watered all the trees waiting to be planted at Forestry, then helped load up the trailer with trees to be delivered to Ash Co East. We then placed these trees around the area so that the team could come back and plant them later that week. 

My project was a super fun and educational experience! I loved that I was able to be active and outdoors for most of the two weeks and I learned so much interacting with all the different Blue Water Baltimore teams. I also appreciated the opportunity to explore more of Baltimore and fight pollution and climate change in my local community. All of the staff and volunteers were supportive, knowledgeable, and fun to work with – thank you to everyone that helped me out throughout my project! I definitely hope to stay involved with the organization in some way in the future, and would recommend it to others as well!

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