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Environment & Society


Spaced between coursework on campus, Chesapeake Semester students participate in four major “journeys” over the course of the semester. Each journey explores a specific theme.

Journey One

Around the Chesapeake: A Sense of Place and History


This 9-10 day trip will provide an orientation to the geography, physical characteristics and history of the Chesapeake. In a clock-wise circuit starting in Chestertown, the trip will run down the Delmarva Peninsula to Cape Charles. En route to Williamsburg, the itinerary includes a stop in Newport News, Virginia to visit the Mariners Museum. Using Williamsburg as a home base for several days, students will explore the new discoveries at Jamestown, spend time behind the scenes in Colonial Williamsburg, visit a Tidewater plantation and explore the 17th and 18th century history of the area. En route to southern Maryland, the group will explore Maryland’s early history at Historic St. Mary’s City, with a stop to investigate the paleontology at Calvert Marine Museum, and neighboring Flag Ponds State Park where students can scour the shoreline for pre-historic sharks teeth. The class will move to Annapolis where they will take a walking history tour of the baroque planning of the State’s capitol, finishing at the head of the Bay at Havre de Grace. In addition to visiting several museums students will explore the Susquehanna Flats on the historic skipjack Martha Lewis before returning to campus.

Journey Two

Ridge to Ocean


From the mountains of West Virginia to the coastal bays of the Atlantic shoreline, this ecology-themed trip will spend 9-10 days crossing a series of contrasting environments. Using Shenandoah National Park as base camp students will hike through the foothills of Appalachia and canoe down the Shenandoah river for a slow-paced look at the ecology of a river valley. Moving east, the class will stop at Great Falls National Park to explore the unique geological formations that divide the mountains and the Piedmont before returning to Chestertown for a night. Finally back on the Eastern Shore, students will have stop-overs and adventures at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (kayaking in the marsh, exploring sea level rise and invasive species), the Horn Point Marine Laboratory (marine science and oyster recovery program). The trip will end on the Atlantic shore, examining coastal bays and dune formation, development pressures, and sea level rise. On the last full day of the journey, students will join Washington College faculty and staff at the annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival.

Journey Three

Comparative Study in Belize






This video offers a taste of some of the sights and activities we may encounter. It chronicles the experiences of a group of biology students from Cornell College on their trip to South Water Caye. It is a glimpse into some of what we may experience, but it is only just a start. In addition to visiting South Water Caye, we will also spend one week in the rainforest.


Journey Four

Issues & Management: Fisheries, Agriculture, Development & Policy


This itinerary is a collection of short trips, some for a day and others overnight. The objective is to explore some of the major environmental and political issues in the Chesapeake and examine the ways in which policy is made and succeeds or fails. In addition, students will go to work with a waterman, talk with representatives of the Watermen’s Association, and explore a contrasting point of view from sport fishermen. Farming and the threats to a working landscape will be explored with visits to a large grain operation and a small truck farm; an intensive, 24/7 dairy operation and a small grass fed dairy farm; and a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation, as well as an experimental farm. Development pressures, one of the many threats to farms and water quality, will be examined with visits to Middletown, DE and Anne Arundel County, MD, along with discussions with local planning officials from Chestertown and Kent County. Once students have explored these three issues, they will go to Annapolis to explore the ways in which policies are made and administered. Organizations that may be visited include NOAA, the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources and Environment, and, from the advocacy side, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.



Students will have the opportunity to develop relationships and connections with professionals in a number of fields. Participants will be more than “a student on a field trip” and will be viewed and treated as young professionals expected to engage professors, lecturers, guides, and speakers with reciprocal sincerity.  Students should look upon the Chesapeake Semester as a unique opportunity to make connections that will they can utilize during their undergraduate career, during graduate school, and at the beginning of professional careers. Many internship opportunities are available from our partners through the Chesapeake Semester.