Q&A: Scientist talks about Chesapeake Bay health ahead of lecture in Finksburg

Q&A: Scientist talks about Chesapeake Bay health ahead of lecture in Finksburg
Paul Kazyak, photographed for the Times in 2012, will visit the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library to discuss “The State of Chesapeake Bay and Actions You Can Take to Improve it” on Feb. 11. (DAVE MUNCH / Carroll County Times file)

Editor’s Note: This talk wast postponed from its original date due to weather. The talk will now be held Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m.

Paul Kazyak knows a lot about the Chesapeake Bay.


As a current a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and a retired Maryland DNR scientist, he has spent much of his professional career monitoring water quality and teaching about ecology management.

He also enjoys a day out fishing.

On Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m., he will visit the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library to discuss “The State of Chesapeake Bay and Actions You Can Take to Improve it.”

The Times caught up with Kazyak before his talk to learn about his background and get some facts about the world’s former most productive estuary.

Q: Can you give me a brief idea of the things you focus on professionally?

A: I've been teaching part-time for Johns Hopkins Advanced Academic Programs since 1994. I have taught freshwater ecology and restoration the most, but also taught a water quality assessment course for a number of years and more recently (beginning in 2013) I started teaching courses in applied sustainability, sustainability leadership and coastal ecology and management. And this summer I will start teaching a course in Great Lakes ecology and management. For my “day job,” most of my career at Maryland DNR was spent running the statewide stream survey (Maryland Biological Stream Survey or MBSS) and I also had stints in western Maryland working on the Highlands Action Program and for several years I oversaw water quality monitoring for Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund projects.

Q: What are some of the measurements and indicators you will look at in your presentation that can tell us valuable things about the state of the Bay?

A: In my presentation, I will dissect the components of the Chesapeake Bay report card, but I will go beyond that to look at the status of some things that are not being measured but are critically important. Examples include shellfish other than oysters. I will also examine the effect of continued conversion of forest and farmland to urban land use on Bay restoration goals.

Q: Is Carroll County within the Bay watershed? Are actions that we take in this area important to the health of the Bay?

A: Carroll County is entirely within the Bay watershed, and our actions (and inactions) have a profound effect on the health of the Bay. What most people don't realize is that we all own a piece of the mess that is the current state of Chesapeake Bay.

Q: Is there a specific age group or audience your talk is geared toward?

A: As far as age group for this talk, I would say that most folks in middle school and older. However, grade school students who are environmentally aware and concerned about their future would also benefit from the talk.

Q: Can you tell readers one interesting fact about the Bay that a lot of people don't know?

A: When the earliest residents of St. Mary’s City in southern Maryland harvested oysters for food, they did so by walking into the water and hand-picking them. The size of oysters back then? Thirteen inches! As the town and harvest pressure grew, the average size of an oyster shrank, then grew again when the capital of Maryland was moved to Annapolis and St. Mary’s City became mostly a ghost town.


Q: If someone wants to do more research on the topics you’ll cover in your talk, where can they start?

A: If folks are interested in more information about Chesapeake Bay, a great place to start is to sign of for the Chesapeake Bay Journal that is produced by the Alliance for Chesapeake Bay. To save trees, I recommend that folks sign up for the electronic version rather than the printed one.

Q: In your free time, do you have any Bay-related activities you enjoy?

A: My free-time Bay activities mostly involve fishing, but I also spend time kayaking, canoeing and sailing.I also spend part of my free time each spring and fall planting trees to benefit the Bay, and I have spent a few thousand hours educating young people about the Bay and the environment in general.