UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory receives transformative gift to study contaminated waterways

August 8, 2023

SOLOMONS, MD (August 8, 2023)—The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (CBL) announces a $1 million gift from Brian Hochheimer and Marjorie Wax to establish the Anthropogenic Changes in Estuarine Systems (ACES) Initiative, a five-year project to study chemicals in waterways that could be having harmful impacts on environmental and human health. The gift, reflecting the family’s long-time close connection to the university’s founding campus dating back to the 1950s, is the largest individual donation to UMCES to date.

Brian Hochheimer and Marjorie Wax donated $1 million to UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory to fund the study of contaminated waterways.

“As a child, I have memories walking around Solomons with my grandfather and going out on the pier at CBL. From there it seemed that Beaven Hall was standing guard over the entire island,” said Brian Hochheimer, a longtime resident of Lusby and Catonsville, Maryland. “Our children grew up with Solomons and CBL, and we look forward to seeing the lab continue its leadership role to protect and improve our environment so that future generations can enjoy all that the Chesapeake Bay has to offer. We feel so fortunate to be able to make this gift to support CBL’s efforts.”

Recognizing the laboratory’s long-standing tradition of working on chemicals of environmental concern, the investment will support the acquisition of new instruments and the development of analytical methods to help UMCES scientists identify harmful contaminants in waterways and assess their risk to environmental and human health. Scientists will collect water samples from the Patuxent River to evaluate the impacts of wastewater facilities discharging into the river, as well as the impact of numerous indirect sources, such as wastewater from septic tanks and runoff from land and agriculture. 

“Human activity has increased the number and amount of chemicals in the environment. Some of these chemicals are concerning for environmental and human health. This generous gift will allow us to measure their concentrations and understand their distributions and transformations in waterways," said Professor and Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Interim Director Carys Mitchelmore, an aquatic toxicologist who studies the presence and impacts of contaminants in the environment. “This new analytical equipment allows us to measure extremely low concentrations of contaminants and their end products in natural systems, an essential step to identify new emerging contaminants of concern.”

Scientists working on the Anthropogenic Changes in Estuarine Systems (ACES) Initiative at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory are pictured with the donors who made the research possible. Left to right: Andrew Heyes, Marjorie Wax, Brian Hochheimer, Michael Gonsior, Carys Mitchelmore, and Tom Miller.

“This is transformative as it provides a major impetus to the careers of the researchers while helping UMCES and the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory develop national recognition for research in how emerging contaminants can be identified, the impact on food webs and ecosystems as well as consequences to people,” said Professor Tom Miller, who led the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory as its director for more than a decade.

Located where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is the oldest publicly supported marine laboratory on the East Coast. Founded in 1925, it has been a national leader in fisheries, estuarine ecology, environmental chemistry, and toxicology. Scientists conduct research from the Chesapeake Bay and around the globe. From advising state and national agencies on sustainable fisheries management and breaking new ground in understanding how chemicals move between the atmosphere, sediments, and water to renowned work on nutrient dynamics and the food web, the lab is developing new scientific approaches to solving the major environmental problems that face our world.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science leads the way toward better management of Maryland’s natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network of laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound evidence and advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century.

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