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Oyster Restoration Project
In 1995, the Department of Natural Resources succeeded in designating a protected Oyster Sanctuary near Fort Carroll in the Patapsco River. Currently, the site is part of an Oyster Restoration Project designed to improve and increase the number of oysters at this location. As an oyster sanctuary, this site is off limits to oyster fishermen, and may be used for long term study of the oyster population there. The area is of particular interest for several reasons: it has traditionally been relatively free of the diseases devastating the Chesapeake Bay's oysters, there are no other protected restoration sites in the Patapsco River, and there is little research available on Patapsco River oysters. The Oyster Round Table, a statewide panel of experts, agrees that restoration energy should be spent north of the Bay Bridge in areas like the Patapsco River.
Since 1995, students participating in the Living Classrooms Oyster Reef Restoration Project have been helping to restore this northern oyster bed through Living Classrooms shipboard department. Students participating in extended summer and fall programs onboard the historic oystering skipjack, Sigsbee, have become invested in the project by contributing to every phase of restoration: charting the bed, bagging and depositing shell, cultivating oyster larvae in the Horn Point labs, planting over 590,000 seed oysters, assessing associated organisms, and monitoring the oyster population's size, growth, and mortality.
During shipboard day programs, students dredge for oysters at the Fort Carroll site and assist crew with collecting data pertinent to the health of the oyster bed by examining oyster spat and other animals inhabiting the oyster bed community. This is the central part of the Sigsbee curriculum, which also explores water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, salinity, and temperature at the Fort Carroll site. Students make important connections across disciplines, which are quintessential to understanding the challenges faced with revitalization of the oyster habitat within the Chesapeake Bay.
In our continuing effort to educate students about the importance of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, students of the Weinberg Education Center are now a part of the Restoration project as well. Living Classrooms Foundation's staff and students are expanding our knowledge about the overall health of the Patapsco River oysters by testing for Dermo, one of the two parasites which are depleting the oyster population throughout the Chesapeake Bay. In 1999, Living Classrooms began quarterly Dermo testing of the Patapsco River bed along with concurrent water quality testing. The results show that although the Patapsco River Sanctuary oysters do have Dermo, the infection is a light one.
The Patapsco River Oyster Sanctuary surrounds the 3.4 acre manmade island on Sollars Point Flats known as Fort Carroll. This hexagonal fort was designed to protect the Baltimore Harbor from naval attack in the mid 1800's. Work on the fort was begun in 1847 and ended in 1900, but the project was never completed. Not only was the fort difficult to build because the manmade island was constantly settling, but there was also a lack of funding. In addition, naval armament improvements during the many years necessary to build the fort rendered it obsolete. Today, the fort is privately owned. Many ideas have been proposed for the fort's use: a restaurant sustained by slot machines, an outdoor education center, an anchorage for the U.S.S. Constellation, a marina, a tunnel connecting with Fort McHenry, a museum for relics of the Civil and Revolutionary War, and a summer theater. Regardless of the final decision for the future use of Fort Carroll, she will always remain a strong visual reminder of Baltimore harbor's rich military history.

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