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About the Research Site

SERC's main campus encompasses 2,800 acres of land along the Rhode River, a subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay, and includes forest, cropland, pasture, freshwater wetlands, tidal marshes, and estuaries. Much of our research focuses on this subestuary and its 12-square-mile watershed as a representative model system for the enormous (64,000-square-mile) Chesapeake drainage basin.

As a highly visible and fragile ecosystem on the doorstep of the nation's capital, the Chesapeake Bay has become indicative of the complex environmental issues facing the world.

Like all of the Chesapeake watershed, the Rhode River site has been impacted by human activities such as agriculture, forestry, and extensive commercial fishing, with an influx of diffuse pollutants in the tributaries and estuarine basin. The Research Center serves as a natural laboratory and a focal point for long-term monitoring programs and research projects.

The watershed was settled by Europeans in the 1650's and cleared for agriculture. Prior to that time, it was occupied intermittently by Indian villages for several thousand years. No area larger than a few hectares can be typified as having only one land use category.

The coastal Plain of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Land Use Change
Major habitats include:  

-Wetlands
-Riparian ecosystems and forest
-Estuarine ecosystems, along the Rhode River
-Agriculture

Representative species include:  

-Macroinvertebrates and Fish
-Vertebrates
-Insects