Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Supplement 1, pp 97–113 | Cite as

Environmental Models and Public Stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

  • M. PaolissoEmail author
  • J. Trombley
  • R. R. Hood
  • K. G. Sellner


The Chesapeake Bay is not only North America's largest estuary, but it is also home to one of most comprehensive computational modeling efforts that seeks to study and integrate a very large range of the complex socio-ecological dynamics within its watershed. Known as the Chesapeake Bay Modeling System (CBMS), this suite of models are invaluable to scientists, environmental policymakers, resource managers, and local government and community leaders, all of whom are engaged in efforts to reduce the negative impacts of population growth and development in the watershed on the ecosystems and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay. Until recently, the results of the CBMS were used to guide voluntary efforts to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. However, the results are now being used to guide and evaluate the implementation of Watershed Implementation Plans at the state and county levels, which in turn are based on CBMS estimates of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for these sub-watershed regions. The use of the CBMS for these regulatory efforts has also increased the number of public stakeholders who are now able to directly inquire about the how the CBMS works and raise questions about its ability to accurately represent their land use decisions and practices. This "going public" of the CBMS has raised many societal and cultural issues, including the articulation of local expert and scientific knowledge, and modelers, scientists, policymakers, and resource managers are now realizing the need to understand more of the human dimensions arising from the translation and implementation of the CBMS. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to understand these rapidly emerging societal and cultural dimensions of the expanded use of the CBMS. In this paper, we draw upon our collective experience as social and natural scientists, with modeling experience, to describe a range of social, economic, political, and cultural issues that have emerged as a result of the CBMS being used to support mandatory nutrient reduction regulations (TMDL).


Environmental models Chesapeake Bay Stakeholders Cultural models Science and Technology Studies 



The authors express their gratitude to G. Shenk and the Chesapeake Bay Modeling System team at the Chesapeake Bay Program for their assistance in providing model system details and graphics for the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Paolisso
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Trombley
    • 1
  • R. R. Hood
    • 2
  • K. G. Sellner
    • 3
  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Chesapeake Research ConsortiumEdgewaterUSA

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