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An Internet WebQuest

The Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed


The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest estuary. With an area of 64,000 Wetlandssquare miles residing in six states and the District of Columbia, the Bay provides a home to about 3,600 species of wildlife. The Chesapeake Bay and its watershed are an important natural resource to the region as a source of seafood, a hub for commerce, a natural habitat, and a place for people to enjoy its beauty. But why is a watershed important? How do different types of pollution affect the Chesapeake Bay? What actions are groups recommending that people take to conserve this valuable resource? In this WebQuest, you will explore Virginia’s watersheds and the Chesapeake Bay to find the answers to these questions.



Your job in the WebQuest is to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. You will investigate the Chesapeake Bay and its importance as a key to Virginia’s environmental health. You will answer a set of questions about watersheds and the Chesapeake Bay to demonstrate what you have learned. Once you’ve conducted some research to increase your knowledge of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, you’ll create a brochure of information targeted at a specific audience. The purpose of this brochure is to help the group you select understand the importance of the Chesapeake Bay, become informed about the effects of pollution to this ecosystem, and offer specific steps for conserving the Bay and its watershed.



First, read through the following set of questions before you being your Internet research. As you explore each site, look for answers to the questions.

Questions about the Chesapeake Bay and its Watershed

  1. What are the names of Virginia’s major watersheds? Which watershed do you live in? What tributaries are in your community’s watershed?
  2. Select a Virginia city/county or stream. Search for water quality data collected from that station. Select a station that has had at least three visits for the purpose of collecting water quality data. Analyze information from several different visits to write a description of the water quality sampled at that station over a period of time. How has the water quality at that station changed over time? What parameters are used to evaluate water quality?
  3. What types of pollution have the greatest impact on the Chesapeake Bay? What is being done to reduce their effects on the ecosystem?
  4. What types of animals, plants, and microorganisms are native to the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed? What are nonnative species, and why do they present problems to the Bay’s ecosystem?
  5. What actions are government agencies and citizen groups recommending to improve the conservation of the natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed?

Next, visit the Web sites listed to find more ideas you can use to create a brochure about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed and its importance as a freshwater resource.

Choose a target audience for your information. Some suggestions might be:

  • elementary school students
  • scout groups
  • environmental organizations
  • senior citizen groups
  • new residents to the region

Decide what the focus of your brochure should be. Think about including information related to:

  • the history of the Chesapeake Bay
  • how different types of pollution threaten the Bay and its watershed and steps that can be taken to reduce its impact
  • steps that can be taken to improve the Bay’s water quality
  • how different animal and plant populations affect the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem
  • the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and its watersheds to the economic health of the region

Think about the audience you’ve chosen as you design and write your brochure. Use text, pictures, charts, maps, and graphics to convey your message. Use a writing style and voice that effectively communicates your information to your target audience.



Look at the Web sites given here to find information that will help you answer questions about watersheds (specifically the Chesapeake Bay watershed) and the Chesapeake Bay itself. You will gather this information to use as you design your brochure.

  • http://chesapeake.usgs.gov/wetlands.html
    The USGS provides information on its Chesapeake Bay activities at this site. Explore the topics to learn more about the bay.
  • http://www.cnr.vt.edu/PLT/watersheds.html
    Project Learning Tree has an interactive site to help you find out about Virginia’s 14 watersheds. Find the watershed that matches the county you live in.
  • http://www.dcr.state.va.us/sw/wsheds.htm#vawshedsites
    The map and table on this page at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation lists the major tributaries for the 14 Virginia watersheds. Find out which tributaries are in the watershed you live in.
  • http://www.deq.state.va.us/water/monitoring.html
    The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality provides information about natural resources for the state at their Web site. Investigate water quality monitoring data by selecting either monitoring stations by County/City or monitoring stations by stream. Select a city/county or a stream from the pull-down page, then click the “Query” button. Click the link under Station ID to find information about a water quality monitoring station. Then choose the link that says Click here for list of Samples by Date and Time to find specific data collected at that location.
  • http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/FS/fs-027-01/
    Visit this page on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site to learn more about water quality and how this important indicator is measured.
  • http://water.nr.state.ky.us/ww/wcpdo.htm
    The State of Kentucky’s division of water offers information about dissolved oxygen levels in water and why dissolved oxygen is important to aquatic life.
  • http://bcn.boulder.co.us/basin/data/COBWQ/info/index.html
    Learn more about how water quality is monitored by reviewing samples collected from monitoring stations.
  • http://water.usgs.gov/wid/html/chesbay.html
    Read about measures being taken to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site.
  • http://www.chesapeakebay.net/stressor1.htm
    The Chesapeake Bay Program’s site provides information related to bay pollutants. Read about the different types of pollutants affecting the Bay and steps being taken to reduce their impact.
  • http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sotb_2002_index
    This page at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s site describes the effects of nitrogen pollution as well as strategies to reduce the impact of this type of pollution.
  • http://www.acb-online.org/pubs.cfm
    The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay provides specific information about pollution problems the Chesapeake Bay suffers from and strategies for reducing pollution. Scroll down the page to read fact sheets about the history and description of pollution problems and solutions for some of the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries and for the Bay itself.
  • http://www.dnr.state.md.us/baylinks/ecosystem.html
    This page offers specific information about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and environmental factors affecting its health. Read about the human impact on the Chesapeake Bay to understand a historical and current perspective.
  • http://www.chesapeakebay.net/info/baybio1.cfm
    The Chesapeake Bay Project’s site offers information about animals and plants that are native to the Chesapeake Bay. Read about different types of species and how the Bay provides a unique and ideal habitat for these creatures.
  • http://www.mdsg.umd.edu/exotics/workshop/index.html
    Read about the Invasive Species in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed workshop, held in 2002. Follow the links to read about different species of animals and plants that are exotic to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and find out how these populations affect the health of the ecosystem.
  • http://www.dnr.state.md.us/baylinks/index.html
    The Virginia Department of Natural Resources provides information on their Web site about the diversity of animal and plant life in the Chesapeake Bay. Visit each of the links to learn more about the biodiversity of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • http://www.bayjournal.com/02-09/natural.htm
    This article, written for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, describes how nonnative animals and plants have made an impact on the Chesapeake Bay.
  • http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/invnutriafaq.html
    Nutria, rodents considered native to South America, are believed to pose a threat to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Read about this animal and the damage it causes to the ecosystem.
  • http://www.bayjournal.com/03-01/cafo.htm
    This article, at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Web site, describes regulations designed to reduce runoff from animal farms into the Bay.
  • http://www.dcr.state.va.us/sw/adopt.htm
    Read about the Adopt a Stream program, aimed at reducing litter and advancing understanding of the importance of Virginia’s waterways at this page on Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation Web site.
    Visit this page from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, to view real time water quality data from the Fort McHenry Field Station on the Chesapeake Bay.
  • http://cte.jhu.edu/techacademy/fellows/Kelly/webquest/soil.htm
    This article, found at the Center for Technology in Education at the Johns Hopkins University’s Web site, discusses soil conservation strategies that can be used to help conserve the Chesapeake Bay’s natural resources.
  • http://www.dcr.state.va.us/sw/nps.htm
    Read about nonpoint source pollution and strategies to reduce its impact on freshwater environments at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Web site.
  • http://www.chesapeakebay.net/
    The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Web site provides a wealth of information about the Chesapeake Bay.
  • http://www.epa.gov/wateratlas/
    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) devotes this part of its Web site to general information about our nation’s watersheds.
  • http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/huc.cfm?huc_code=02080101
    The EPA’s Surf Your Watershed pages include this informational page about the lower Chesapeake Bay watershed. Click the links to find data from government and citizen organizations.
  • http://www.cbf.org/site/PageServer
    The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is a conservation organization whose mission is to save the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Visit their Web site and click different links to find current information about the watershed.
  • http://www.watershed.interactive-environment.com/main/
    Visit this interactive page to learn more about the different features of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • http://mddnr.chesapeakebay.net/eyesonthebay/index.cfm
    Visit the Eyes on the Bay page to get current data and information about the Chesapeake Bay.

You may use these resources to help you develop your brochure.





1–2 weeks to answer the set of questions and design, write, and produce the brochure



In the process of completing this WebQuest, you’ve learned about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. You have gathered information to answer questions about this topic and have increased your knowledge of the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. You’ve also used your informational writing skills to create a brochure that informs a specific group about the research you’ve conducted and conveys the message effectively. These skills are applicable to many different subject areas as well as to real-world tasks. Your research and brochure will contribute to helping other people be more informed about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, which will help them become more aware of conserving this important natural resource.



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