Behind the Science

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Citizen science helps Dr. Bailey track dolphins in Chesapeake Bay

After years of studying dolphins and their movements, Helen Bailey, a scientist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, wanted to take her research to a new level. Earlier this summer, she oversaw the launch of a web-based application to kick-off Chesapeake DolphinWatch, a citizen science-driven project aimed at helping her find some answers.

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Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to go straight to the source. Our scientists go out for field studies, travel the state, nation, and globe, work in the lab, teach the next generation of scientists, and share their data with managers and policymakers. As a result, they have the best points of view. These podcasts and radio interviews become a window into their world, so we can sit back and listen to the experts weigh in.

Aboard R/V Rachel Carson with her crew of two

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Research Fleet is the backbone of the Center’s coastal science research programs and Research Vessel Rachel Carson is the flagship of that UMCES fleet. But a ship is nothing without her crew.

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The history behind UMCES' President's Award

When Don Boesch started the President’s Award 18 years ago for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, he considered there are many awards faculty can receive for research and teaching.

“But," he recalled thinking, "we don’t celebrate and reward people for what most people in Maryland think we’re there for, and that is to provide good science that can be used.”

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Does Science Matter? More than you know.

Proposed funding cuts and debate over climate change is questioning a subject that has given us a variety of technological and other advances from cell phones to modern medicine. We asked some of our scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to discuss why science matters, not just to them, but to our world and everyone in it. They cite examples from history and even our labs, and discuss the unforeseen values of discovery.

Women in science share stories of inspiration

Choosing a career in science is becoming more common for women. According to the National Science Foundation, nearly 11,000 women held doctoral degrees in science and engineering in 1973, compared to more than 100,000 in 2010. Science wasn’t always regarded as a career for women, however. Some faced obstacles they had to overcome to stay competitive. Some were encouraged instead to be wives and mothers, a notion that hasn’t wholly disappeared. These women often became role models for the next generation of scientists, including many at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. For Women’s History Month, eight women from UMCES shared their stories about family, colleagues, teachers, and even brief acquaintances who inspired them.

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Horn Point Laboratory on WHCP 101.5

Six scientists from Horn Point Laboratory were featured on WHCP 101.5 FM, Cambridge's community radio station, on Diane Marquette's MidShore MidDay show. Graduate students Melanie Jackson, Blake Clark, and Jacqueline Tay, and faculty members Raleigh Hood, Victoria Coles, and Sairah Malkin shared stories about how they got into their fields, discoveries that stood out to them, and what they want the public to know about the work they do and why they do it.

Graduate student Melanie Jackson on oysters as water filters

Melanie Jackson spoke about her efforts to understand how much nitrogen that oysters, a known filter, can pull from the water.

"We know that the oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, and they're removing algae from the water. That's their normal food source, and those algae are filled with pollution, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. The oysters are consuming those algae and bringing all of that stuff to the sediment and storing it there on the bottom, so that our waters aren't as polluted."

Professor Raleigh Hood & graduate student Jacqueline Tay on jellyfish in Chesapeake Bay

Graduate student Jacqueline Tay, who has been studying jellyfish alongside her adviser, Raleigh Hood,  answered some commonly asked questions, such as "What are jellyfish good for? "and "How many are there in Chesapeake Bay?"

"In the Chesapeake Bay, we have one of the longest records of jellyfish in the world," Tay says. "It started in the 1960s at our sister laboratory, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, in Solomons, Maryland. It consisted of a scientist named Dave Cargo going out every day, walking along a pier, and counting how many jellyfish are there. And that's how we know most of what we know about natural populations of jellyfish."

Assistant Professor Sairah Malkin on bacteria found around the world

Sairah Malkin, a microbial ecologist, discussed microorganisms that do their part to help Chesapeake Bay and how she studies something that can't readily be seen without a microscope.

"There's an expression in microbial ecology that says, 'Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects.' What that means is that we probably have all the genes of all the bacturia just about found all over the Earth, so if we go to the deep sea in the Pacific Ocean, or Chesapeake Bay, or we go to a lake in Wisconsin, we'll be able to find all the different components that make up all of the microbes. But in every location, the environment will narrow down what's actually found and can thrive there by the temperature, by the oxygen concentration, and everything else that creates the environment."

Graduate student Blake Clark on the wonder of wetlands

Blake Clark talks about his graduate studies at Horn Point Laboratory, including his research about wetlands and estuaries and the chemistry of each and how they interact.

"Wetlands are very productive. We live in Dorchester County, and we have one of the coolest wetlands out there: Blackwater Wildlife Refuge... These wetlands grow every year. They get massive. What they're doing is taking a bunch of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and making it into organic matter, or living tissue... That's why the wetland grows. You go out there, and it has a bunch of peat. Well, peat is dead plant matter, for the most part. I'm interested in what happens when you have tidal water that comes into the wetland and that peat loses some of its organic matter in the form of this stuff called dissolved organic carbon. It is why the Blackwater is black."

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Associate Professor Victoria Coles on approaching climate change as a scientist

Victoria Coles spoke about her training as a physical oceanographer, her transition over time to focus more to chemistry and biology, and her discoveries of climate change both around the world and at Chesapeake Bay.

"Probably my most famous discovery happened really early, and that's partly because over time we understand more about the importance of the things that we find, and so what seems kind of neat at the beginning could turn out to have even more importance later on. We were seeing really large changes in the properties of the ocean near the Arctic. At the time we weren't sure if that was due to climate change, and now we know it was."

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