Chesapeake Bay's Independent Newspaper ~ Since 1993
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Volume XVII, Issue 49 ~ December 3 - December 9, 2009

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eCruiser owner Russell Rankin behind the wheel with passengers Sarah Zelonis and Mark Bennett, both of Chicago, and Andrew Washington and Catherine Matthews of Houston.

Catch a Holiday Lift in Historic Annapolis

E-cruisers give an e-xemplary ride

Imagine a ride that was free, smart and good for the environment. Sound like a dream?

No, it’s on the road, carrying passengers around historic Annapolis. And you can’t beat the price.

Catch a ride on weekends and during holiday events — Midnight Madness, the Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights and Bring New Year’s into Port.

The little buggies run on 100 percent electricity and recharge at Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. One four- to six-hour charge gives 25 miles to these small eco-ficient cruisers.

With a fleet of eCruisers offering free rides from historic Annapolis to Eastport, Russell Rankin is the sandman of this dream. He started herding eCruisers in Ocean City.

“I just saw the need for a niche where people simply needed to get from point A to point B,” he said.

Point A was the bay side of the city; point B was the ocean side.

“Everybody just loved the idea of a free ride,” he said. “It took out so many inconveniences from their routine.”

Rankin left his construction job of 30 years to follow his dream. With the help of friends and loans, he introduced the little buggies to Ocean City.

From that start, Rankin came to Annapolis, where his fleet of 10 buggies ply downtown’s streets, supported by local restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Catching a ride is easy. Flag down the next buggy you see and climb aboard, courtesy of the sponsor. It is, however, customary to tip the unsalaried driver.

One buggy, serving Loews Annapolis Hotel, is restricted to customers.

Of the 10 cruisers, one stands out from the other nine yellow-and-white buggies. The Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau has adopted the 10th, branded it Come Sail Away and painted it blue and white.

Flag down blue-and-white Come Sail Away, and along with the cheap ride, you also get a driver who’s a knowledgeable guide full of tips on all there is to do and see in Maryland’s capital city.

Tourists are happy to hear about a free ride that is also earth-friendly. “I already drive a hybrid so I would definitely use transportation that was good for the environment,” said Christine Migton — visiting from Morristown, N.J.

Locals also ride free.

“It sounds fantastic,” said Sarah Fry, who works at Hard Bean Coffee and Book Sellers. “I get tired of taking taxis, so it would really save people a lot of money, especially in this economy.”

Paul Murphy of Annapolis said the eCruisers are a good idea to take cars off the road. “It’s a safe way for bar hoppers to get home.”

–Jessica Wunsch

Ecologists Walter Boynton and Michael Kemp receive the Odum Lifetime Achievement Award for estuarine science, top. The two have collaborated on improving Chesapeake Bay for years, Kemp, lower left, from Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, and Boynton, lower right, from Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons.

Detectives of the Deep

Two Bay scientists shine
prize-winning light

For a quarter of a century, ecologists Walter Boynton and Michael Kemp have worked together to reveal the mysteries of the Chesapeake.

Where there was darkness, they’ve shown light.

“They’ve laid a foundation for a lot of Chesapeake Bay science,” says Christopher Conner, spokesman for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “That basic understanding allows us to know the restoration programs we’re undertaking can be a success — provided we can do them on a big enough scale.”

Now, Boynton’s and Kemp’s work has won them the Oscar of coastal and estuarine science: The Odum Lifetime Achievement Award. The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation bestows that award every two years.

Boynton and Kemp began their prize-winning collaboration as graduate students at the University of Florida, studying under Howard T. Odum — the namesake — and his scientist-brother Eugene, of the big prize. They’ve been lab partners at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science since 1972 — though they collaborate from across the Bay: Boynton works at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons and Kemp at Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge. When one is stumped, the other seems to have the answer, according to Boynton.

“I’m glad we won this award together because it lets people understand the importance of teamwork,” says Boynton.

Kemp agrees: “Our ready-made Boynton-Kemp collaboration has been a foundation for a lot of the collaborations that have gone on for the last three decades in our institution, having different specialists working together on complex environmental problems.”

Boynton, the son of a commercial fisherman in Massachusetts, calls his biggest achievement looking at the Bay’s dead zones, areas of water without oxygen, and learning about their origins and effects on the ecosystem.

“That and the loss of sea grasses in coastal waters,” says Kemp. “That loss has consequences in loss of habitat for blue crabs and a variety of fish that have thrived historically in the Bay.”

When the scientist partners began looking at sea grasses, they had a mystery on their hands. “All we knew was that they were dying or already gone,” Kemp says. Out of many clues as to what might be the cause, they linked it to excess nutrient pollution: “The overfeeding of the Bay,” Kemp explains, “was turning the water to green and brown and blocking the light.”

The Boynton-Kemp collaboration that began while the two were graduate students — looking beyond surface problems to discover the big picture — has inspired scientists around the nation.

“We’ve provided an explanation for a widespread phenomenon, the loss of sea grasses and formation of dead zones all over world,” Kemp says. “Ours was some of earliest research in this field, and others have used the Bay example to apply to their situations.”

He’s particularly proud of the young talent he’s inspired. “Many of our graduate students,” Kemp says, “have gone on to do equally exciting things in their own areas and regions.”

That’s prize-worthy.

–Jessica Wunsch

This week’s Creature Feature

Turtles Join the Technological Age

Loggerhead turtles are late in joining the WiFi generation, but scientists hope that a technological upgrade will replenish their diminishing numbers.

Researchers with Northeast Fisheries Science Center Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., have equipped two loggerhead turtles — listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act — with satellite-linked data loggers in hopes that studying their movements will help them understand turtle behavior.

The scientists aren’t interested in turtle gossip. Rather they hope to track behavior patterns of turtles in commercial fishing areas. This knowledge will in turn help the scientists find ways to keep turtles out of fishing nets.

Scientists are also spying on several non-tagged loggerheads with the assistance of ROVs — remotely operated vehicles — that follow the reptiles as they swim. No word yet on what the turtles think of their new robotic companions.

–Diana Beechener