Senior Faculty Research Assistant Casey Hodgkins has been given the President’s Award for Outstanding Research Support to recognize rising above the norms of research responsibilities to include unique leadership, mentorship, and service roles. She has been an integral part of a variety of projects and technical support roles during her 13 years at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.
“Casey Hodgkin’s outstanding contributions to research and mentoring exemplify excellence in supporting scientific research,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin. “Faculty research assistants are critical to our research enterprise and contribute to the graduate experience at UMCES. She has played impressive leadership roles contributing to both research and mentorship of colleagues and students in the scientific process.”
As the manager of Dr. Jeremy Testa’s lab, she has mastered a diverse array of field approaches, laboratory analyses, and quantitative data analysis techniques, and she has never failed to deliver high-quality work in all of these venues. She possesses an attention to detail and organizational skills that not only help research groups operate effectively, but also sets a tone and example for other technicians and students. She goes out of her way to help faculty, staff, and students.
“Casey has served as an exceptional mentor. She has guided me in learning numerous field and laboratory methods, such as conducting sediment incubations and instrumentation analyses imperative to my research,” said Ph.D. student Drew Hobbs. “Throughout all of this, Casey has demonstrated a level of professionalism and patience that continue to help me grow as a young researcher, and her sense of vigor creates a fun and exciting environment in which to work.”
Hodgkins’ contributions to the research endeavors have been extensive. Since 2014, she has participated in 34 cruises aboard the R/V Rachel Carson, serving both as assistant to non-UMCES groups (e.g., the Nature Conservancy, Montgomery County Community College) and as a senior scientist in support of research efforts aimed at understanding ocean acidification, sediment processes in response to nutrient loading changes, and other dynamic processes in the Patuxent River ecosystem. She has a unique role as the manager of the Pier Monitoring Program, leading a collaborative effort to routinely measures the chemical, physical, and biological properties of the Patuxent River, in continuation of a data set dating back to 1938.
A unique aspect of her contributions is her generosity in sharing her experiences and skills to mentor junior FRAs and students. Hodgkins has worked first-hand with students and interns to teach them laboratory and field methods, including maintenance and sample collection for the Pier Monitoring program, impressing upon them the importance of laboratory safety and supervising less experienced individuals in the rigor and care involved in the scientific enterprise. She has leveraged her extensive small boat operating hours (more than 900!) to lead training days for students and FRAs, an effort she independently envisioned, planned, and executed.
“Casey is an amazing FRA. Since I started as a student, Casey has motivated me to get out of my comfort zone, think outside the box, become resourceful, and think quickly to overcome mishaps in the laboratory and the field. Her input and training in the field and the lab have undoubtedly helped me and my research get to where it is today, three years into my graduate degree,” said Ph.D. student Isabel Sanchez-Viruet.
When not in the field, she has made substantial contributions to technical reports and peer-reviewed publications. She was the lead author of technical reports for the Calvert County monitoring program and a primary contributor to reports to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of the Environment, where she also participated in presentations to agency staff. She has not only been a central player in research efforts, but has taken on the additional task of communication of the research to funding agencies.
"Casey is an outstanding colleague and a leader in all aspects of our group's research. Her skills and support help us think big as we envision new research," said UMCES Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Associate Professor Jeremy Testa.
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 for more than 90 years. Our 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.