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Map adapted from T. Saxby, IAN Image Library, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.


The Deal Island Peninsula Area


Deal Island is one of several communities located on the Deal Island peninsula, a 26-square mile area extending into the Chesapeake Bay's Tangier Sound in Somerset County, Maryland. Other communities located here include Oriole, St. Stephens, Dames Quarter, Chance, and Wenona. The landscape consists predominately of marsh interspersed with residential areas, forest, and agricultural lands. With flat open vistas and picturesque Chesapeake landscapes, the beauty of the area is unparalleled. There are about 1,000 people who live on the peninsula, many who take great pride in the peacefulness and natural beauty of their home. Residents also widely celebrate a cultural heritage and local identity rooted in traditional Chesapeake watermen life-ways, which includes strong ethics of independence and self-sufficiency.


The communities of the Deal Island peninsula were first settled by English farmers and fishers in the 17th century. Many families that live here today can trace their ancestry to these early settlements, which by the 20th century had developed into some of Maryland's most prosperous commercial oystering and crabbing communities. Watermen industries remains an important aspect of the local economy today, though the number of working watermen in this area has dwindled substantially from the early 1900s.

The communities here face many challenges due to both environmental and social changes. With an average elevation of only three feet above sea-level, many places around the peninsula are subject to nuisance flooding, erosion, marsh encroachment, and other challenges, which are anticipated to worsen with climate change. In addition, shifts in demographics as more retirees settle here and the socio-economic declines of watermen industries have led to an aging population with many households that struggle economically. Furthermore, these communities - all which are unincorporated - have limited access to government resources, external assistance, and political influence. These factors have weakened the capacities of many Deal Island peninsula residents to effectively address the increasingly problematic environmental changes affecting them.


The Deal Island Peninsula Partnership was initiated in 2012 as a means to bring local community members, researchers, government decision-makers, and NGO staff together to learn from one another through collaborative research. We draw heavily upon collaborative science and collaborative learning approaches to better understand the vulnerabilities associated with socio-environmental changes on the peninsula, and to develop adaptation strategies that enhance community and environmental resilience to these changes. Learn more about how we have integrated collaborative approaches in various projects by visiting our Collaborations tab. 

Satellite imagery courtesy of Terra Metrics and Google Maps, 2016

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