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Helping Hands Reach Out to the Chesapeake

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Sue Hu’s passion and energy for the environment have never been in short supply.  A long career as a science teacher was capped off by ten years directing and teaching summer classes for Audubon Naturalist Society and Calvert Marine Museum immersing teenagers in Chesapeake Bay ecology.

Husband, Dick, a retired engineer from the Naval Air Systems Command and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech, has his own ties to the water; plus, “he has to live with me,” Sue teases.

Today, the couple continue to put their passion into practice by helping to jump start an oyster cultivation project at Asbury Solomons in conjunction with the Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society (SMOCS) and Asbury Solomons' management.  This effort helps revitalize the oyster population in Patuxent River and, as a byproduct, clean the surrounding water.

More than 15 residents and staff member are participating in the project, which first began in June 2010 when volunteers from SMOCS came to Asbury Solomons and helped lower eight cages filled with baby oysters on shells – called spat – off the dock.  Over the summer months residents, with the help of an Asbury Solomons staff member, took turns hauling up the cages every two weeks to remove algae build-up. When SMOCS returned last November, the babies had grown from being barely visible to more than three inches and were ready to be planted onto a man-made reef around the Asbury Solomons breakwater.

The initial results were something to take pride in: More than 15,000 new oysters were planted.  Although two diseases, dermo and MSX, have decimated oyster populations for years, the new oysters have shown signs of developing resistance to those diseases. The Hus are hopeful the new batch will survive and thrive.

“A 3-inch oyster can filter up to 55 gallons of water a day,” Sue points out. “Years ago, when oysters were extremely plentiful, all of the water in the bay could be filtered in three days.  By placing oysters in the Patuxent, we are helping the Chesapeake Bay by filtering some of the water feeding into it."

Now working on another round of oysters with fellow Asbury Solomons Go Green Committee members, Sue and Dick are grateful to be able to live where they can not only enjoy the beauty of their river front home, but serve as caretakers for its health as well. This is a great representation of the type of independent living that seniors enjoy at Asbury Solomons.