UMCES graduates next generation of environmental science leaders

May 23, 2019
UMCES celebrated its sixth annual Commencement, awarding doctorate and masters degrees to 10 graduates at a ceremony at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s sixth annual Commencement ceremony was held on May 23 at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Southern Maryland and featured Commencement speaker Professor Vicki Arroyo, J.D., Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center and Assistant Dean for Centers and Institutes at the Georgetown University Law Center.  

Arroyo told graduates, “For major environmental challenges—saving Chesapeake Bay, curbing or preparing for climate change, individual institutions (even relatively small ones like UMCES and Georgetown Climate Center)—can play a vital role. And individual people like each of you graduating today can make a difference.”

Ten master’s and doctorate students were hooded by their faculty mentors at the ceremony this year. Ninety-six graduate students are currently enrolled at UMCES, and 18 graduated this spring.

Every year, nearly 100 graduate students study and work alongside UMCES scientists and faculty members through the Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences (MEES) Program, a nationally eminent interdisciplinary graduate program. Students go on to careers in academia, state and federal government, industry, and non-governmental organizations.

Commencement speaker Arroyo encouraged graduates to engage with policymakers, partners, and the public to help translate their science into policies with public support. Her work focuses on how we can address the uncertainty associated with climate change and make meaningful strides towards preparing our homes and cities for the changes ahead, and her TED talk has amassed more than one million views.

Georgetown Climate Center Executive Director Vicki Arroyo delivered the UMCES 2019 Commencement address.

“Scientific knowledge is absolutely necessary, but it’s not by itself sufficient. Expertly conducted scientific research, effective policy analysis, and good intentions have to be combined with the messy and time-consuming work of public and even political engagement,” she said. “Whether it’s setting pollution standards for Chesapeake Bay, helping communities prepare for climate impacts including heatwaves or rising seas, or curbing emissions from power plants, cars and trucks, it’s not enough to apply what’s taught in formal classes.”

During the ceremony, President Peter Goodwin awarded the annual President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science to Matthew Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor at UMCES’ Appalachian Laboratory, for his outstanding work helping the public understand the impact of climate change. A spatial ecologist, he studies global change and biodiversity, trying to understand what determines where species occur and how climate change may alter where species could live in the future. He combined  climate mapping with the interactive web application to communicate how climate change may impact the lives of a large portion of the population of the United States and Canada. The online tool captured the attention of the increasingly climate savvy public, and he reached more than half a billion people in North America and around the world, helping them understand the implications of climate change.

The second annual Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award was given to Laura Lapham, Associate Professor, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, by Graduate Student Council president Christina Goethel and Graduate Student Drew Hobbs. Lapham is an aquatic biogeochemist with a focus on aquatic gas exchange, particularly methane emissions in environments including the Chesapeake Bay, freshwater Arctic lakes, and hydrocarbon seeps in the Gulf of Mexico. She was recognized for making  mentoring a top priority in her program, including being awarded two Changing the Face of STEM mentoring grants from the L’Oréal USA For Women in Science program to support a hands-on research experience for students from the College of Southern Maryland, part of an effort to change the face of science by advancing STEM interest in community college students.               

President Peter Goodwin left students with a charge; “We hope that this is the start of a life-long connection to your major professors, MEES and UMCES.  The value of this degree from one of the pre-eminent research programs in the world will grow in value over time. Thank you for choosing this career path to contribute to addressing the massive global challenges facing our environment,” he said.           


The following students completed their degrees this year:


Maureen Brooks*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Oceanography
The physical-biological interactions driving the pelagic Sargassumdistribution
Adviser: Dr. Victoria Coles, Horn Point Laboratory

John Blake Clark*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Oceanography
Development of a biogeochemical modeling system to estimate fluxes and controls of estuarine organic matter cycling
Adviser: Dr. Raleigh Hood, Horn Point Laboratory

Saddef Haq
University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate Program in Life Sciences/Toxicology
Beyond the dinoflagellate transcriptome: Validation of protein production via biochemical analysis and mass spectrometry
Adviser: Dr. Allen Place, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

Melanie Jackson*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Earth and Ocean Sciences
Characterization of oyster-associated biogeochemical processes in oyster restoration and aquaculture
Adviser: Dr. Jeffrey Cornwell, Horn Point Laboratory

Mary Larkin
University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate Program in Life Sciences/Toxicology
A role for taurine in food sensitivities in fish
Adviser: Dr. Allen Place, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

Benjamin Oyler
University of Maryland, Baltimore Graduate Program in Life Sciences/Toxicology
Advances in mass spectrometric structural biology techniques for pattern recognition receptor ligands of microbial origin
Adviser: Dr. Allen Place, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

Kelly Pearce
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Ecology
The influence of the river otter (Lontra canadensis) on aquatic conservation in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem: A socio-ecological approach to evaluating conservation flagships.
Adviser: Dr. Cathlyn Stylinski (Thomas Serfass co-advisor), Appalachian Laboratory

Emily Russ*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Oceanography
Sediment connectivity between the lower Susquehanna River and upper Chesapeake Bay
Adviser: Dr. Cindy Palinkas, Horn Point Laboratory

Robert Sabo*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Environmental Science
Shifting inputs and transformations of nitrogen in forested and mixed land use basins: Implications for hydrologic nitrogen loss
Adviser: Dr. Keith Eshleman, Appalachian Laboratory

Suzan Shahrestani*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Fisheries Science
Spatial and temporal population dynamics of the Chesapeake Bay sea nettle
Adviser: Dr. Hongsheng Bi, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory


Caitlin Campbell
Frostburg State University Masters in Biology/Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology
Refining assessment of the geographic origins of animals inferred from stable isotope data
Adviser: Dr. David Nelson, Appalachian Laboratory

Anne Carew*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Environmental Science
Turion size advantage in the restoration of Vallisneria americana: The importance of genetic identity and diversity
Adviser: Dr. Katia Englehardt, Appalachian Laboratory

Kathryn Doering
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Fisheries Science
Patterns of oyster natural mortality in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland during 1991-2017 and its relationships with environmental factors and disease
Adviser: Dr. Michael Wilberg, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

Morgan Kaumeyer
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Ecology
Mercury concentrations in salamanders from streams in Western Maryland
Adviser: Dr. Mark Castro, Appalachian Laboratory

Ginni LaRosa
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Fisheries Science
Trophic ecology and physiological condition of black sea bass Centropristis striata in the Middle Atlantic Bight
Adviser: Dr. Ryan Woodland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

Samuel Major*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Environmental Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
The probiotics of biofuel: A metagenomic study of microalgae grown for fuel production
Adviser: Dr. Russell Hill, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

Matthew Spitznagel*
Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences/Fisheries Science
Mortality and reovirus infection in soft-shell blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) aquaculture
Adviser: Dr. Eric Schott, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

* Participated in Commencement ceremony on May 23.