New research facility honors legendary Maryland environmental scientist Reginald Truitt

In 1918, not long after the Wright brothers’ first flight, a scientist named Reginald Truitt was the first person to fly over Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay and discover from above that the magnificent estuary was all truly connected. It inspired him to borrow a microscope and set up a modest laboratory to study the oysters, crabs and fish that were so plentiful in the Bay. In 1925, it would become the first publically supported marine laboratory on the East Coast. 

On September 10, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons unveiled a new, state-of-the-art building dedicated to the lab’s founding director, Reginald Truitt. The 14,000-square-foot research facility boasts fives state-of-the-art research labs and one-of-a-kind experimental facilities.

“This building provides UMCES with unparalleled capacity. There is not another research lab like this in the region and few with these capabilities nationwide,” said Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Director Tom Miller. “We are lucky to be in a state that supports its universities so well. We are tremendously excited to see what this building can do.”

A reverse osmosis system will take water from the tap for experiments and makes it chemically pure. Fine temperature controls will allow scientists to conduct experiments with Arctic clams in freezing water or coral reef fish in balmy conditions, fine tuning temperatures to one tenth of a degree. Researchers can program lights in the lab to come on like a slow sunrise and turn off to mimic the setting sun to recreate natural conditions in the lab.

“This was the first public marine lab on the East Coast. Now all the coastal states have them, but none as good as this one,” said Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “Conducting excellent science coupled with educating the next generation, we’re producing actionable results that are making the world a better place.”

This is first UMCES building to earn LEED gold certification. Heat leaving the building will be recaptured and recirculated, the air handling system detects when people are in the building and climatizes accordingly. Lights illuminate the research benches when someone walks into the room. The building will house five research groups, seven faculty members, and two conference rooms.

Reginald Truitt’s daughter, Trudy Truitt Guthrie, thanked the crowd for honoring her father at a ribbon cutting ceremony. “I know that he could not be more proud of this lab being put to important work,” she said. “You’ll be racing to solve immediate problems and problems in centuries to come. This is the foundation for the study and preservation of coastal and estuarine systems here and abroad.

Chesapeake Bay crusader Senator Bernie Fowler, renowned for his annual white sneaker walk into the Patuxent River to gauge water quality and born on the year the laboratory was founded, also praised Truitt and Chesapeake Biological Laboratory for its work.

“Had it not been for the vision of Reginald Truitt, this Chesapeake Bay would have been dead 50 years ago, ” said Fowler. “I thank [the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory] for all they’ve done and what they will do to save the greatest estuary in the world. Your mark has been made.”