The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton

The Environment in Focus is a weekly perspective on the issues and people changing Maryland's natural world.  There's a story behind every bend of the Chesapeake Bay's 11,684 miles of shoreline, in every abandoned coal mine in the Appalachian Mountains, in every exotic beetle menacing our forests and in every loophole snuck into pollution control laws in Annapolis. Tom Pelton gives you a tour of this landscape every Wednesday morning at 9:35 a.m. and 5:45 p.m.  He describes the people behind the news and discusses the broader government policies and trends shaping our ecology -- our land, our air and our Bay.

Tom Pelton is senior writer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  From 1997 until 2008, he was a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, where he won national awards for his environmental reporting.  He's hosted "The Environment in Focus" since 2007.

The Environment in Focus is sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, which conserves the lands and waters on which all life depends. In Maryland, our work spans from the Chesapeake Bay to our western forests, protecting clean water and air, preserving recreational opportunities and saving our natural legacy for future generations.  Learn more at nature.org/Maryland.

Program Days: 
Wednesday
Short Program: 
Only Archive

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


On tiny, rapidly eroding Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay, the gravestone of a 13-year-old girl rises beneath a gnarled hackberry tree. Jessie Marsh, a boat captain who lives on a similar island nearby, Smith Island, is determined not to forget Effie Wilson and the other residents of Holland Island. The two islands are among dozens of Bay islands being consumed in part by rising seas levels caused by climate change.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


The National Flood Insurance Program is $24 billion in debt because it was swamped by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. With climate change driving up sea levels, critics argue the government should abolish the program and stop subsidizing waterfront development that is inevitably going to be washed away. (Credit: NOAA)

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


A crash in the Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population was reversed from 2008 to 2012 in part by a ban on dredging for pregnant female crabs while they hibernate in the southern Bay during the winter. But after that brief recovery, now the Bay's iconic species has fallen again--and Virginia could make things worse by a proposal to re-open the winter crab dredging industry. (Photo of blue crab from Chesapeake Bay Program)

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


Biki Takashima-Uebelhoer, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health, dedicated herself to studying the causes of cancer after her childhood pet died of canine malignant lymphoma and her parents became ill.  Her study, published in the journal Environmental Research, concluded that the use of lawn pesticides is associated with a 70 percent higher risk of dogs contracting this fatal disease. Other research suggests that pesticides can raise the risk of cancer for humans, too.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and partners have launched a fleet of underwater robots to monitor water temperatures in and around hurricanes.  As climate change warms the oceans, these tiny submarines help scientists analyze the possible link between rising water temperatures and more intense storms.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines blanketed the Earth with a haze of sulfur dioxide that temporarily cooled global temperatures by one degree Fahrenheit. Some scientists now see the intentional injection of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere as a potentially cheap and easy way to counteract global warming. Others warn, however, of potentially deadly unintended consequences.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


Sales of electric cars in the U.S. have doubled so far this year, after tripling in 2012 compared to 2011.  The growth in green driving is being driven by cheaper and more powerful batteries, federal tax incentives, and tighter national fuel efficiency standards for car makers.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.


While the government has been working to reduce the amount of lead and other toxic metals in the environment, scientists have been finding these metals right under our noses, in makeup.  Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered not only lead but also chromium and aluminum in lipstick. Dr. Clifford Mitchell (above), a director at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, holds a facial lightening cream that contained dangerous amounts of mercury.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Jim%20Uphoff%20with%20yellow%20perch.JPG
Yellow perch are a popular sport fish that lay long, golden strings of eggs  that look like silk stockings.  But Jim Uphoff, a biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and fellow researchers have discovered that perch eggs become deformed and fail to hatch when more than 10 percent of the drainage area surrounding a stream is covered in blacktop and buildings.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

PotomacRiverChesapeakeBayProgram.jpg
A recent canoe trip down the Potomac River in Western Maryland revealed a strange scene: tufts of dark algae clinging to the tops of aquatic grasses to make them look like black roses.  The toxic blue-green algal bloom is an illustration of why we need government regulation of fertilizer, which is feeding similar blooms around the world.


Contact Tom Pelton at pelton.tom@gmail.com