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The Seahawk: A St. Mary's Icon
OUR HISTORIC CAMPUS ON THE CHESAPEAKE
The St. Mary's River is an essential component to the College's history, culture, and ecology, making the College distinctive in higher education. The varsity sailing team has won 15 national collegiate championships and the College hosts the annual Governor's Cup big boat race from Annapolis to St. Mary's City. Additionally, one of the most enjoyable events of the year is the annual Great Bamboo Boat Race on Family Weekend.
More than a place of refuge and relaxation, or of distinction, the river connects us to the larger Chesapeake Bay, a national treasure. Perhaps the world's richest estuary, the Bay is the central hub of commerce, culture and ecology for the Mid-Atlantic. The Chesapeake is home to over 3,500 species of plants and animals, including some of the region's most iconic and commercially prized animals like the oyster (Crassostrea virginica), blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), rockfish (Morone saxitalis) and our very own sea hawk (Pandalion haliatus).
These creatures, along with the cord grass, loblolly pine and sycamore, are iconic. These species have been central to local livelihoods and culture for hundreds of years. The River and the Bay sustains them as it sustained the Acquintanack and Yaocomaco Native Americans, the first English settlers of St. Mary's City, the tobacco farmers, and the watermen. The same river has molded and nurtured the St. Mary's community since the College's inception in 1840.
Yet as famed as the Chesapeake's rich biodiversity and productivity are, it is also currently in a damaged state. The large population of the surrounding area, coupled with industrial waste, agricultural pollution and overharvesting of wildlife all have crippled this unparalleled natural resource.
WOULD LORD CALVERT, MARGARET BRENT, OR MATHIAS DE SOUSA RECOGNIZE THE BAY TODAY?
As the Chesapeake has declined, the College's region has suffered. Although still among the healthiest of Maryland's Potomac tributaries, the St. Mary's River is still subject to anoxic conditions each year, driving away or killing wildlife. Once a prime location for harvesting oyster and crabs, along with the Patuxent, these days the River cannot boast a tenth of its historic population. Though the name "Chesapeake," given to the Bay hundreds of years ago by native peoples, means "great shellfish bay," just 1% of the historic native oyster population remains today.
A degraded Chesapeake threatens not only the region's native wildlife, but the livelihoods of Bay residents and our cultural heritage and history. At St. Mary's College of Maryland we know the importance of the past, and how the stewardship of the present protects the prosperity of the future. We are dedicated to environmental stewardship and the restoration of our local habitat. For as many problems that threaten the Bay, there are equal measures available to combat and surpass them. The College's approach is one of scholarly research, hands on education, institutional responsibility, community outreach and advocacy.
If you would like to get involved, please see the following links:
- St. Mary's River Project
- St. Mary's River Project Education Program
- St. Mary's River Watershed Association
- Eyes on the Bay