Phil Jackson, carefully walks across marsh with a walking stick as he sets traps for muskrats. Muskrats tunnel beneath the marsh, creating a network of hidden paths beneath the surface, making it hazardous for trappers. Greg Kahn

A 2013 report on sea level rise recommends that the State of Maryland should plan for a rise in sea level of as much as 2 feet by 2050. Led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the report was prepared by a panel of scientific experts in response to Governor Martin O’Malley’s Executive Order on Climate Change and “Coast Smart” Construction. The projections are based on an assessment of the latest climate change science and federal guidelines. Photographer Greg Kahn explores how the small, almost unnoticeable changes now could potentially overtake the small town in as little as 50 years.

All Photos by Greg Kahn


Water from the Chesapeake Bay inches further inland in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Md., creating a jagged coastline. In 50 to 100 years, many of the communities on the edge of the Eastern Shore will be underwater. Greg Kahn

From above, water from the Chesapeake Bay intrudes on the marsh of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, killing trees and drowning the land in its path. Greg Kahn

Water spills onto Hoopers Island Road, up the coast from Crisfield, during high tide. This road, the only one connecting Hoopersville to the mainland is now washed out regularly with high tide and wind out of the south a result of a higher Chesapeake Bay. Greg Kahn

Water spills onto Hoopers Island Road, up the coast from Crisfield, during high tide. The bay is a foot deeper than it was at the start of the 20th century, meaning that storm surges are higher, and land in the region is sinking. Greg Kahn

Deep grooves in the sand on a beach in Crisfield show where the tide had gone out, scraping out pieces of land with it. As the sea level continues to rise, more sediment from marshes along the Eastern Shore end up polluting the Chesapeake Bay, throwing off the environmental balance. Greg Kahn

A dead tree inundated with salt water, is covered by high tide in the Kent Narrows on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Greg Kahn

Percy Purnell, mayor of Crisfield, MD. shows officials from the Department of Natural Resources, areas most affected by sea level rise during an emergency meeting. Tidal gates and maintenance of barrier islands are potential stop gaps for Crisfield to mitigate sea level rise in the immediate future, but few, if any solutions exist for the long term. Greg Kahn

Dying Sorghum in a field destroyed by salt water. High tides are killing thousands of acres of farmland along the Eastern Shore in Maryland. Greg Kahn

Phil Jackson, a longtime muskrat trapper, heads out to set traps in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Jackson says the number of muskrats have declined since the salinity of the water in the marsh has climbed, a consequence of sea level rise. Greg Kahn

A worker, caked in mud, shucks oysters from 4 – 11am weekdays in Crisfield, Md. at MeTompkin Seafood. The more oysters he cracks open, the more money he makes. Some workers can shuck 5,000 oysters a day. Greg Kahn (Greg Kahn/Greg Kahn / GRAIN)

Watermen clean crab pots and nets in Fishing Creek, Md., just north of Hoopersville. As property values plummet from sea level rise and stiffer regulations on what can be caught, young watermen on the Eastern Shore are becoming more of a rarity. Some try to continue the family business, which can date more than six generations, saying they don’t want to be the one to break the tradition. Greg Kahn