Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Watershed Stewards

flowers with a bee on one

Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and smaller watersheds across Maryland would be nearly impossible without the hard work of volunteers all around the state. Maryland Sea Grant supports citizens who take leadership roles in their communities in projects to clean up streams and restore natural ecosystems.

To that end, our Extension watershed restoration specialists have partnered with watershed restoration groups to advise and help organize watershed stewards academies. These academies train the next generation of local environmental stewards, volunteers who lead these projects. The academies teach students how to encourage their friends and neighbors to care about and take part in watershed restoration activities.

Although requirements vary from region to region, academy students must attend weekly classes for about 5 months to earn their master watershed steward certification. These programs have certified more than 300 master watershed stewards in Maryland and the District of Columbia, Here's what prospective stewards gain from academy courses:

  • Watershed stewards learn from a variety of experts how to install projects that will improve the water quality in their community. These include rain gardens, rain barrels, and conservation landscaping. All of these capture urban storm water, the runoff that washes over hard surfaces during big rains and carries pollution to local streams and rivers.
  • Stewards become connected to a wide network of resources for funding green design projects.
  • They complete a “capstone” project within a short time after graduating to put their classwork into practice.
  • Stewards work to teach other stewards these same sets of skills. This “train-the-trainer” approach ensures that many Marylanders, not just those who take classes, will gain the tools they need to restore the Bay watershed.

There are currently six watershed stewards academies operating in Maryland. They’re located in Anne Arundel, Cecil, Harford, Howard, and St. Mary's Counties and in the National Capital region, which includes Montgomery and Prince Georges counties plus the District of Columbia. More academies are planned for the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.

For questions about these programs and how to apply, contact the watershed restoration specialist in your area of Maryland.

Or visit the following sites:

What's it like to attend one of these academies? Read these posts on Maryland Sea Grant's blog On the Bay about the Cecil County Watershed Stewards Academy ...

... and listen to our podcast about work by participants in the National Capital Region Watershed Stewards Academy:

 

participants in the Cecil County Watershed Stewards Academy inspect a flooded parking lot
Participants in the Cecil County Watershed Stewards Academy inspect stormwater in a parking lot. Academy participants are taught to evaluate sites and plan projects to reduce stormwater runoff. Second from right is Jen Dindinger, one of the academy instructors and Maryland Sea Grant Extension's Watershed Restoration Specialist for the Lower Eastern Shore. Photo: Daniel Pendick