Walter Boynton spent years coasting over Chesapeake Bay and wading into it, each time taking steps to understand more about the health of its ecosystem as a professor and researcher for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
In another part of Maryland was Carl S. Weber, a man on a similar mission who dedicated his own life and work at University of Maryland-Baltimore County to increasing watershed awareness and understanding.
On Friday, Dec. 8, Boynton, now a professor emeritus at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, won the Maryland Water Monitoring Council’s Carl S. Weber Award for sharing Weber’s spirit, vision, and leadership in his own work in Chesapeake Bay.
“It’s a real thrill. I was humbled, delighted,” Boynton said. “A lot of the folks in that group I’ve worked with a long time, so it was pretty neat. It means a lot to me.”
Boynton is the 11th recipient of the award. He was recognized during the MWMC’s 23rd annual conference. After years of attending the council’s annual meeting, Boynton has come to know many others who believe in the value of monitoring as deeply as he does and was proud to earn their praise.
“The Council presents this award in Carl’s name as a lasting reminder of the affection and respect that we hold for Carl and his work, and to inspire others to emulate his passion, dedication, and good humor,” Clark Howells, council chairman, said in his welcome statement.
Walter has had a long and distinguished career at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory over which time he has made important contributions to both our scientific understanding of water quality and to our ability to take actions to improve water quality. It is wonderful to see Walter get this recognition. It is so thoroughly well deserved.
Weber was one of the founding board members for the Maryland Water Monitoring Council and a founding member of the UMBC’s Biological Sciences Department where he taught for nearly 40 years. He led Project Heartbeat, the first program in the United States to train volunteers to collect and analyze benthic macroinvertebrates and to assess physical habitat using EPA’s 1989 Rapid Bioassessment Protocol.
Boynton’s dedication to Maryland’s waters closely reflected that of Weber’s.
“Walter has had a long and distinguished career at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory over which time he has made important contributions to both our scientific understanding of water quality and to our ability to take actions to improve water quality,” CBL Director Thomas Miller said. “It is wonderful to see Walter get this recognition. It is so thoroughly well deserved.”
Early in his career at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Boynton was part of the team that designed, implemented and launched the still-active Chesapeake Bay comprehensive monitoring program in 1984. Through consistent data gathering at dozens of sites in the Bay and its tributaries, the program has helped show the Bay’s status over time and identify trends that could lead to action.
Boynton also helped develop a new monitoring component, Eyes on the Bay, which involves near-real-time continuous water quality monitoring, as well as spatial mapping of key indicators. Through these efforts, he directed routine measurements of key sediment processes throughout the Bay system to better monitor and respond to nutrient loading that leads to eutrophication.
Boynton’s close study of the Bay and collaborations with other scientists helped lead to a broader understanding of the decline of underwater grass and motivated the response that has helped restore Bay grasses. Along with his colleagues, he also helped identify factors causing the striped bass decline and again spur a management practice that led to a resurgence in the population.
Boynton regards monitoring as “our most reliable tool for taking the pulse of the environment.” He pointed to years of U.S. Geological Survey monitoring of rivers that has helped scientists like himself learn how much water, sediment, and nutrients are entering the Chesapeake Bay. That information can be key to answering questions when something happens in the Bay.
“It’s the gold standard for deciding whether things tend to be improving, staying the same or deteriorating,” he said.
During his career, Boynton was also named Admiral of the Chesapeake in 2015 by former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and received the Mathias Medal from the Virginia and Maryland Sea Grant programs and Chesapeake Research Consortium in 2016.
Boynton hopes his receiving the Carl S. Weber Award will inspire others to continue monitoring well into the future.
“Maybe I’ve inspired some people to continue monitoring and do it better than what we were able to do.”