The hardest work starts now.
It was the subtle message below the charges that leaders in the science field gave the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Class of 2018 during their commencement ceremony.
Graduates were encouraged to be decision-makers, face problems head on, create a legacy of work that outlives them, and overall, to continue to be the great scientists that UMCES shaped them to be.
“As you move out into your professional career, it is the commencement of lifelong learning and networking, as your personal influence and network grows in the coming years – and I guarantee it will as a graduate of UMCES,” President Peter Goodwin told the students to close the ceremony.
The graduates’ family, professors, and fellow students filled seats in a pavilion along the Choptank River at Horn Point Laboratory for the 2018 commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 15. Seven students earned their doctoral degrees and eight received their master’s degrees.
The next generation of environmental leaders
For the six students that participated in the ceremony, faculty shared fond memories of their time together before each was adorned with their graduation hood and moved their tassel.
Tom Miller, director of Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, thanked his student, Hillary Lane Glandon, for teaching him some valuable lessons as well.
Glandon earned her doctorate for her work examining effects of climate change on juvenile blue crabs in the Patuxent River.
“My discussions with her went from, in the very early days, ‘What do you think I should do?’ to very shortly, ‘I think I’m going to do this. What do you think?’ to ultimately, ‘I’m going to do this,’” Miller said with a smile. “She has been tremendously successful and an absolute joy to work with.”
Professor Michael Wilberg honored masters recipient Emily Liljestrand who studied mortality and movement of Atlantic menhaden under his guidance at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.
“She took a species that is one of the most contentious in the Bay and has really helped make major changes to our understanding of its ecology,” Wilberg said.
Horn Point Laboratory Professor Pat Glibert spoke for both a student she loses to graduation and another who she will gain through post-doctoral research.
She has been advisor for Ph.D. recipient Chih-Hsien “Michelle” Lin, who focused her research on Karlodinium veneficum, a harmful algae that has been found in Chesapeake Bay.“One of the best things about having a student is to watch them grow into independent scientists and I can’t wait to see what Michelle tackles next,” Glibert said. “She has multiple skills. She’s obviously going to be unstoppable in whatever direction her career takes her.”
Glibert also stood in for her colleague Ming Li, who couldn’t attend the ceremony, to share his remarks for his graduating student and her own future post-doc, Ph.D. recipient Fan Zhang. Under Li, Zhang studied response of the coastal ocean and estuaries to tropical cyclones. Glibert said Fan was one of Li’s most productive graduate students, having published five papers.
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Professor David Secor won a laugh from the audience and his student, Ph.D. recipient Erin Markin, when he called her “sturgeon general.” Markin worked at Horn Point to study environmental stressors on Atlantic sturgeon in Chesapeake Bay.
Her work “redeemed” him, he said, thinking back to when he prematurely concluded sturgeon were gone from the Bay.
“Thanks for helping us sleuth that out with your careful rearing experiment,” Secor said.
Horn Point Laboratory Research Professor Lou Codispoti called working with his student, masters recipient Christopher Paver a “tremendous pleasure.” Paver did his thesis work on insufficient flushing of oceanographic sampling bottles.
“I had an idea that we weren’t, in many cases, getting proper water samples from the ocean, particularly in salt stratified places like the Arctic Ocean and Chris nailed it down. I think the publication that emerges from his thesis will measurably improve the quality of data that goes into databases,” Codispoti said.
We, the world, need you and your engagement and your leadership to ensure the survival of our planet. We wish you well in your endeavors and my own personal heartfelt congratulations.
In his address to the graduates, William “Will” Shorter, Jr., student regent for the University System of Maryland, quoted George Bernard Shaw in saying, “Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it to future generations.”
He added: “Your knowledge will serve as a splendid torch to help solve some of our most complex problems. And just as your hard work, persistence, and dedication led you to today’s achievement, so too will your next great moment require the same amount of passion and endurance.”
The keynote address came from Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, retired U.S. Navy and Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
Gallaudet built upon Shorter’s message in his charge to the graduates.
“You can be either be that flickering candle or you can be that solar bright sun. What do you want to be? My charge to you is to be that solar bright sun.”
Admiring the intimate setting for commencement, Gallaudet customized his introduction to recognize each of the participating graduates and highlighted the value of their scientific research at UMCES.
During his address, he discussed the value of interdisciplinary research and need going forward to raise individuals with knowledge across areas and disciplines and have a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Gallaudet also advised students to become policymakers and decisionmakers as early as they can in their career, a key charge for the graduates whose institution has a history of providing sound advice to help leaders with environmental management decisions.
“Become a policy maker or decision maker, at least for a time. Get out of that comfort zone of pure, straight stick science and get in there and learn how to do that because then you’re going to be able to speak that language and really understand how to convey that important information,” he said. “It doesn’t come from just doing the science; it comes from how policy development occurs and how decision-making occurs.”
Standing on the shoulders of giants
At their commencement, graduates had the unique opportunity to watch as longtime faculty at UMCES were honored with emeritus status.
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory Director Tom Miller honored Walter Boynton, who spent his entire 41-year professional career at the Solomons-based campus.
“Walter is a gifted and passionate and supportive educator,” Miller said. “A whole generation of students who have ingrained in their thinking his integrative and synthetic view of environmental science, students who have taken courses with him and those of us who are lucky enough to have talked with him know him as an amazing teacher and advisor.”
Appalachian Laboratory Director Eric Davidson recognized as emeritus J. Edward Gates, who joined the Frostburg lab as professor in 1976.
“Ed exemplifies our aspiration to blend scientific discovery, integration, and application of science,” Davidson said.
Horn Point Laboratory Director Mike Roman described Michael Kemp as a systems ecologist who is interested in everything, noting his part in understanding why seagrasses disappeared from Chesapeake Bay, the causes of low oxygen zones that threaten Bay species, and the influence of freshwater entering the Bay on the ecosystem.
Roman also spoke of Kemp’s leadership as a faculty member who taught estuarine systems ecology for 40 years.
“He’s advised over 25 graduate students and over a dozen post-docs, and his graduate students, including (now UMCES associate professor) Jeremy Testa, are scattered around the United States and world and they hold very prestigious positions. He’s been a great mentor,” Roman said.
Joann Boughman, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the University System of Maryland, read a resolution from the Board of Regents for former UMCES President Don Boesch, making official his new title as president emeritus.
The resolution noted his 27 years as president, his service as a key member of the governor’s Bay cabinet for three decades (and five governors), his honor as Admiral of the Chesapeake, and his contribution to various committees, including President Obama’s Commission on the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf.
“The Board of Regents gratefully acknowledges the outstanding contributions to UMCES, the University System of Maryland, the state of Maryland and well beyond,” she read. “Further be it resolved with gratitude the Board of Regents appoints Dr. Boesch as President Emeritus of UMCES.”
Shifting the conversation from the giants of the last generation of scientists back to the next, Boughman told the graduates she is confident they will pursue their research as enthusiastically as their predecessors. Then she urged going even farther to engage the public as citizen scientists.
“We, the world, need you and your engagement and your leadership to ensure the survival of our planet. We wish you well in your endeavors and my own personal heartfelt congratulations.”