From where the National Aquarium sits at the Inner Harbor’s edge in downtown Baltimore, the Patapsco River winds its way downstream to the storied Chesapeake Bay, which powers our region and connects us to Earth’s one, global ocean. Our location is an important reminder of our responsibility to our community, region and planet. The Aquarium partners with neighbors throughout Baltimore to protect our city’s waterways and wildlife. We work with volunteers to restore wetlands and remove debris on city shorelines, engage local youth in stewardship projects and plant trees and native gardens in neighborhoods. Through these interactions—and a lens of environmental justice—we help people discover that they are very much a part of, and not apart from, nature. Small actions embraced by many people can and do create real and lasting change.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor was once a natural habitat of shallow mud flats fringed by tidal salt marsh grasses, surrounded by forest. It's a classic example of a shoreline that has been dredged out, paved over and built up—changed and developed in ways that inhibit the natural processes that support clean water. Even in such an intensely urban setting, there are ways to replicate ecosystem functions typically provided by natural tidal wetlands. We are doing just that at our Inner Harbor campus.
Through our waterfront campus project, floating wetlands in the harbor promote healthy water, attract native species and teach visitors about wetland ecosystems. We also collaborate with scientists to provide water quality data through the state of Maryland. We educate guests about the importance of clean water, and provide meaningful watershed experiences at our campus for Baltimore City Public Schools sixth graders through the What Lives in the Harbor program.
The National Aquarium has become part of the fabric of Baltimore’s historic Jonestown community through the Animal Care and Rescue Center on Fayette Street. In addition to opening the ACRC’s doors to Jonestown residents, the Aquarium holds community conservation-focused workshops and cleanups, attends neighborhood events and coordinates activities in the Exeter Street Community Garden by engaging neighbors of all ages in planting, maintaining and cleaning up the garden.
The Aquarium is a key partner in restoring wetland habitats at Masonville Cove and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in south Baltimore.
Masonville Cove on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River is an important habitat and resting stop for wildlife—especially migratory birds—in the mid-Atlantic region and the first certified Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in the U.S. Since 2009, the National Aquarium has collaborated with neighbors from Baltimore’s Brooklyn and Curtis Bay communities as well as the Maryland Port Administration, Maryland Environmental Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Living Classrooms Foundation at Masonville Cove by holding workshops and debris cleanups, planting pollinator gardens and hosting community science events.
Since 1999, we have partnered with the National Park Service to restore wetland habitat for wildlife, remove debris and maintain trails at Fort McHenry, the birthplace of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. This work has created a valuable green space in the heart of Baltimore City used by hundreds of species of birds, reptiles and aquatic species.
We help people in Baltimore discover urban biodiversity through community science, a collaborative process that engages the public in scientific investigation. The National Aquarium encourages local students, residents and our guests to "get nerdy with nature” outside the Aquarium during community science days, at Masonville Cove BioBlitz events and Fort McHenry Field Days, in their neighborhoods through initiatives like the City Nature Challenge and throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.