Science in the First Person

UMCES scientists talk about their research and findings

Every month, we ask one of our scientists to offer a snapshot of their research to offer a view of what they are working on here at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Here's a look at they have told us, in their own words.

Greg Silsbe on using drones to study water quality

“Even the best satellites can only measure about 50 square meters resolution and you can only get satellite data when there aren’t any clouds. We can mimic the same sort of measurements that satellites are taking by attaching a similar type of camera to a drone. The advantages of a drone are we don’t have to worry about clouds or when the satellite will be passing, and we can acquire much finer resolution data."

To see how the drone's images translate to data, read more.

Raleigh Hood on jellyfish abundance

“On a global scale, we think jellyfish populations are increasing and that appears to be linked to two factors. One is eutrophication or nutrient pollution, which is causing there to be more algae in the Bay and more food, which is beneficial to the jellyfish and more beneficial to them than to fish. The other factor that we think is contributing to long-term increases in jellyfish is overfishing. When you take the fish out of the water, the fish compete with jellyfish for food, so you’re just making more food available for the jellyfish.

"In Chesapeake Bay, the opposite seems to be happening. The jellyfish are actually declining, and that’s not because we don’t have problems with nutrient pollution and overfishing."

To find out why, read more.

Jamie Pierson on the life and value of copepods

“I study copepods, one of the smallest multicellular animals in the Chesapeake Bay. They are crustaceans, so they are related to crabs, but they eat mostly algae, or single-celled plants.

"Copepod means ‘oar foot’ in Greek. They have appendages that act like oars, like on old rowing ships that have paired oars that move at the same time. Fun fact of the day: the study of copepods goes back to Aristotle, who described a parasitic species."

To learn why copepods are important, read more.

Eric Schott on disease in blue crabs

"There’s a real awakening in the importance of diseases for understanding ecology. I’m working on a virus in the blue crab that was first identified in the mid 1970s. No one understood until recently that it could have a great potential to impact blue crab populations because we didn’t have the molecular tools to study it.   

"Several years ago, the hatchery at IMET produced a couple hundred thousand crabs a year for laboratory and ecological research, but wild crabs brought in as breeding stock were dying, most of them from one particular virus. We’ve now shown that this reovirus is present in one in five crabs along Atlantic Coast, and we want to know if it is as lethal in the wild as it is in aquaculture."

To learn more about how Dr. Schott's studying this disease, read more.

Eric Davidson on starting a career in science

"I remember when I was back in high school I was inspired by a biology teacher who actually got us to go out there in the field in the spring. This was Billings, Montana. I was turning over rocks and picking out mayfly larvae and I looked around me and I thought, wow, I wonder if I can get paid for doing something like this.

"And I realized just becoming privy to the secrets of nature, even if your feet are cold, it's really worth it."

To learn more about Dr. Davidson's path to science, watch the video.