The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States and is a cherished, but extensively impacted coastal ecosystem. Once the center of North America’s largest oyster fishery, the Bay now supports roughly 1% of its historic oyster populations. With a growing human population, changes in land use patterns (agriculture, housing and commercial development, and urbanization), increased nutrient loading, pollution and sediment input, disease and overfishing, the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem health is highly stressed. The Bay is also a center of maritime industry, supporting two major U.S. ports: Norfolk-Hampton Roads and Baltimore. These ports and their associated harbors are subject to environmental stresses derived from spatially immediate activities, human activities that occur at some distance (yet inside the Bay’s watershed), or in the case of air pollution and ship-borne invasive species, stresses may originate at distances of hundreds to thousands of kilometers away. Nevertheless, the Chesapeake is among the most studied estuaries in the world; research, environmental monitoring, and habitat restoration efforts here are extensive and therefore provide a wide range of opportunities for cooperative and collaborative research.
Dr. Rochelle Seitz is a Research Professor at the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. She has a B.A. from Colgate University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the College of William & Mary. Her research interests centre around benthic community ecology, particularly changes in benthic invertebrate diversity with environmental stress and anthropogenic influences, effects of shoreline development and hypoxia, predator-prey dynamics, top-down versus bottom-up control of benthic systems, effects of ocean acidification, and conservation biology. Her current research projects continue the emphasis on the research areas noted above, and include the impacts of habitat degradation on faunal communities, restoration of bivalves in Chesapeake Bay, nursery habitat quality for the blue crab in Chesapeake Bay, and food-web dynamics. Additional interests include experimental and theoretical population and community ecology of marine benthic and epibenthic organisms focused towards a quantitative understanding of processes operating in estuaries and the coastal ocean.