Urban Conservation and Diversity

Today, most Americans live in or near cities. Increasing urbanization has implications for how people access and interact with nature, which we know improves public health and well-being.

The National Aquarium is committed to protecting, enhancing and restoring natural resources for the benefit of all people and wildlife. We partner with school systems to give students of all ages and backgrounds opportunities to conduct hands-on scientific exploration and learn about conservation-related careers; we actively restore natural areas that provide resiliency to communities in the wake of severe weather events; and most importantly, we work with communities to understand their issues and design targeted conservation solutions that help address societal issues and benefit the aquatic environment.

Our Focus


Water Quality

Improving water quality in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and beyond is crucial to the health of people and wildlife throughout the region.

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. 

The National Aquarium and partners are working hard to help clean Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed that is home to more than 18 million people and 2,700 species of animals. With the help of community volunteers and students, we are building and maintaining floating wetlands, restoring tidal marshes, planting trees, installing native plant gardens and removing debris from the water and its shorelines. We collaborate with scientists to provide publicly available water quality data through the state of Maryland. We educate all our guests about the importance of clean water, and provide meaningful watershed experiences at our campus through a program called Living Laboratory: What Lives in Your Harbor, made possible by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Experiences through Living Laboratory expose many city students to the Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay watershed for the first time.

Healthy Communities

Collaboratively developing and implementing sustainable environmental stewardship practices to improve public health and environmental resiliency.

Urban communities face overlapping societal challenges such as water quality, food insecurity, energy efficiency and access to green space. Addressing these complex issues requires the insight and leadership of those from a variety of pillar organizations within the community, including schools, faith-based groups, recreation centers, community associations, neighborhood garden cooperatives, youth groups, local government and nonprofits. Identifying and prioritizing neighborhood-specific issues, empowering local leaders and tailoring projects to meet the needs of each community leads to collaborative solutions that are ultimately implemented directly where people are— within their communities.

As part of the South Baltimore Community Engagement and Environmental Stewardship Program, we are working with residents of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay to prevent littering and create wildlife habitats. We focus on education, engagement and empowerment by holding workshops, planting pollinator gardens and enhancing green spaces through public art, debris cleanups and community events.

As a result of the National Aquarium’s outreach and stewardship activities, we are strengthening community connections to the nation’s first U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, which was established with the Aquarium’s assistance, as well as the entire Masonville Cove watershed. Using the approaches that have been successful in South Baltimore and Masonville Cove, the Aquarium will seek to expand our efforts and engage additional communities in the future.

Urban Biodiversity

A wide variety of plants and animals make up healthy ecosystems, and healthy ecosystems are better able to withstand stress.

Increasing green and blue spaces in urban areas has many documented benefits, including economic development, improved health and wellness, stronger connections to nature and improved habitat for pollinators and other species. Community involvement in infrastructure planning and local policies is key to increasing biodiversity throughout city spaces.

One way to help build urban biodiversity is through citizen science, a collaborative process through which scientists and scientific institutions engage members of the general public in scientific investigation. The National Aquarium encourages local students, residents and our guests to “get nerdy with nature” downtown—outside on our waterfront plaza at our monthly Biohut inventories, at Masonville Cove through our annual BioBlitz events and at our biannual Fort McHenry Field Days—and throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


Our Approach


Habitat restoration

Habitat Restoration

Join the Aquarium Conservation Team as we clean up the Chesapeake Bay and restore vital habitats for wildlife. Together we can make a difference!

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Better Baltimore

A Better Baltimore

Baltimore City is not often thought of as a haven for wildlife. In truth, a surprising number of native animals and plants still call this city home.

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Citizen Science

Citizen Science

Contribute to scientific research and conservation projects by recording the plants, animals and insects you find.

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recycle
We’ve engaged 3.5 million students in conservation education, internships and outreach opportunities.*
*as of July 2017

Your Actions




Glossary

Biodiversity: Refers to the variety of genes within a species (genetic diversity), the variety of species within a region (species diversity) and the variety of ecosystems in a given place (ecosystem diversity).
Source: National Aquarium

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A system in which a farm is supported by local consumers who purchase prepaid shares in the farm’s output which they receive periodically throughout the growing season.
Source: Local Harvest

Invasive species: An invasive species can be any kind of living organism—an amphibian, plant, insect, fish, fungus, bacteria, or even an organism’s seeds or eggs—that is not native to an ecosystem and which causes harm.
Source: NWF

Native plants: (also called indigenous plants) are plants that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of that region.
Source: National Aquarium

Resilience: The capacity of a community, business, or natural environment to prevent, withstand, respond to, and recover from a disruption.
Source: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Tidal wetland: Wetlands in which the water level fluctuates with the tide.
Source: NPS

Watershed: The area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. For example, the Chesapeake Bay watershed encompasses parts of six states (NY, PA, DE, MD, WV, VA), along with the District of Columbia.
Source: USGS