Q&A: Penn State’s impact on the Chesapeake Bay, clean water in Pa.

April 19, 2018

Matthew Royer is director of the Agriculture and Environment Center in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. In this role, he works with key stakeholders to proactively build partnerships to improve the health of Pennsylvania’s waterways, and by extension, the pollution problem in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Learn more about efforts to save the Chesapeake.

Q: What challenges are faced by the Chesapeake Bay?

A: The challenges faced by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed really relate to addressing water runoff from the land, which brings with it the pollution to the bay. Much of this runoff comes from Pennsylvania, including its abundant, productive farmland. Our goal at Penn State is to work collaboratively with farmers and other landowners to implement land management practices that can help to clean up water in Pennsylvania before it reaches the Chesapeake Bay.

Q: I live in Pennsylvania, not Maryland or Virginia, so why should I be concerned about the health of the Chesapeake Bay?

A: As Pennsylvanians, we are not directly on the Chesapeake Bay, but many of our rivers and streams drain into the bay. These streams comprise the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Our decisions related to land use here in Pennsylvania affect the health and welfare of our local waterways and of the bay. The Chesapeake Bay -- with its abundant food supplies, including blue crabs and oysters -- is an economic engine for the entire nation. If we clean up Pennsylvania rivers and streams for our own benefit, that will, in turn, have a positive impact and help to restore the Chesapeake Bay downstream.

Q: Could you explain the significance of the Agriculture and Environment Center’s work to the health of the Chesapeake Bay? How has Penn State helped to drive the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts within Pennsylvania?

A: The mission of the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center is to build partnerships with people and organizations who are working on land and water issues. We look for collaborative, innovative solutions to the problems that farmers and other communities within Pennsylvania face in ensuring clean rivers and streams here in Pennsylvania, and in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Penn State is uniquely situated to take on the challenging problem of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Finding the solution to this problem involves aspects of agriculture and environmental science, engineering, politics, law, sociology and business management. With all these areas of expertise and Penn State’s coverage across Pennsylvania, we are uniquely positioned to help resolve the pollution problem in the bay.

Q: As a Pennsylvania resident, what can I do to help improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay?

A: Anyone living within the watershed, whether you have a 1,000-acre farm or very tiny lot in town, can take steps to help control runoff to the watershed – installing rain barrels and planting native plants in your backyard to soak up storm water are a few easy places to start. You can learn more and contact our experts by visiting http://agsci.psu.edu/aec.

Q: What can be done to keep the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay moving in the right direction?

We need to keep investing in land management practices, including the critical work to reduce runoff from farmland. Farmers alone can’t shoulder the cost of implementation. There is a big role for Penn State to play in this - particularly the extension program – in helping farmers to affordably implement water runoff strategies.

Q: How did you arrive in your current role as director of the Agriculture and Environment Center, and what keeps you motivated?

I've always been interested in the environment. I grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania ... that instilled within me an interest in the environment and the stewardship of our landscape, and led to my career within environmental law and policy, and now working to direct the Agriculture and Environment Center here at Penn State.

 

  • Matthew Royer, director of the Agriculture and Environment Center in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State.

    Matthew Royer, director of the Agriculture and Environment Center in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State.

    IMAGE: Patrick Mansell
Last Updated April 26, 2018