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UMCES graduates next generation of environmental leaders

May 28, 2021
A screenshot of a UMCES Zoom Commencement

Watch the Commencement ceremony

Take a look at those around you. You are the future. You are our experts,” said Chesapeake Bay champion and U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, keynote speaker at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Commencement ceremony. “Thank you, UMCES! I know that we are in good hands with this new round of distinguished graduates and professionals.”

Twelve graduate students received joint degrees from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the University of Maryland College Park (UMD) at a virtual ceremony on May 27, 2021. The Commencement 2021 ceremony featured a keynote address from Senator Cardin, distinguished speakers, and the recognition of outstanding faculty, staff and students.

“We are at a consequential time in history for our region, in terms of climate change impacts from rising sea levels and temperatures, shifting migratory patterns for wildlife, extreme rain events … and the list goes on and on. The scientific consensus tells us that we must act now. We cannot back out of our commitment to future generations and this planet Earth. We only get one chance,” said Senator Cardin.

READ Senator Cardin’s keynote address

UMCES is a preeminent environmental research and educational institution that 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 across the state. As an environmental research and graduate institution, UMCES holds a unique and important place among the University System of Maryland’s 12 institutions, leading a nationally ranked graduate program in marine and environmental science.

“These are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary responses informed by the best-available science.  As you close this chapter of your life, Commencement begins the next step in your career,” said UMCES President Peter Goodwin in his charge to the graduates. “Think big, think bold, and inspire the changes we need to better the environment for future generations.”


U.S. Senator Ben Cardin
President Peter Goodwin

Every year, more than 80 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 on to become environmental leaders in both the public and private sectors, research, and environmental advocacy. 

“You have worked side-by-side with your mentors to connect your passion for the environment to a greater good. And despite a challenging year that called for great flexibility and perseverance, you have made it here today,” said Regent Barry Gossett bringing greetings from the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. “UMCES graduates have a reputation for going on to become leaders in both the public and private sectors, research, and environmental advocacy.  I know that despite this unprecedented moment in time, you have been well prepared for success.”

USM Chancellor Perman also shared his enthusiasm for the graduate. “I hope you are extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished because the same qualities that got you through this year will propel you through a lifetime of work that truly makes a difference,” he said.  “As you create the knowledge and develop the innovations that can and will solve our biggest and most complex environmental challenges. That will make a future that is sustainable and vibrant and healthy and equitable.”

Traditionally, each year UMCES gives awards for outstanding faculty, student and staff accomplishments at our Commencement ceremony:

Rosemary Jagus, professor in molecular genetics at UMCES’ Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, was awarded the  President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science for her contributions to increasing the diversity of scientists working in the marine sciences over the past two decades. As the founder and director of the Summer Internship Program at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, as Project Director for NOAA’s Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center, and as a mentor to students in her lab, she has used her eminence in the science field to inspire and rigorously train young scientists from under-served communities to pursue careers in science.

Senior Faculty Research Assistant Anne Gustafson was given the President’s Award for Outstanding Research Support to recognize her professional achievements and unfailing support through 31 years of research projects working with Professor Tom Fisher at UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory. She has provided exceptional contributions to research and outstanding service, played impressive roles in leading innovative research projects, and mentored members of the UMCES community.

Graduate student Christina Goethel was awarded the UMCES Student Service Award for outstanding service. An academic and research standout at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory--culminating most recently in a 2021-2022 Fulbright Fellowship--this award honors her commitment to service across multiple levels. During her tenure as chair of the UMCES Graduate Student Council, she was instrumental in it becoming one of the most active partners in shared governance and helping to advance new initiatives, including mental health, racial equity, and an UMCES Ombuds program.

Associate Professor Jeremy Testa, a marine ecologist studying nutrient cycling in coastal systems, was selected by the graduate student body to receive the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for his dedication to both science and his students. Testa represents what it means to be an exemplary and exceptional mentor through the dedication, investment, and care he provides to each of his students and mentees. Since his arrival as a faculty member at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in 2013, he has mentored more than 15 students and positively impacted the lives of many more, and served on 17 graduate student committees. His students note that he cares about their own personal growth as much as their development as scientists.

Julianna Brush received the UMCES Staff Award for her exceptional job performance as the Contract and Grant Specialist at the Horn Point Laboratory. Her dependableness under pressure coupled with her deep knowledge of funding agency requirements has significantly improved proposals submitted by UMCES. Her exceptional performance and ability to tackle new problems was seen recently in the process of submitting proposals to National Institute of Health relating to COVID-19.

Molly Pickel received the UMCES Staff Award for outstanding performance in her role as Assistant to the Executive Director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. She has helped plan and execute events such as IMET’s Open House and a visit by EU Ambassadors. She also shows her passion for IMET and UMCES’ missions through her work on committees and currently serves as co-chair of IMET’s Sustainability Committee, where she helps implement environmentally friendly practices and educational programs.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Class of 2021

Daniel Fucich 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Environmental Molecular Biology and Biotechnology
Toxin antitoxin systems and other stress responses in picocyanobacteria and their ecological implications
Adviser: Dr.Feng Chen, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology 

Jacqueline Tay 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Biological Oceanography 
The population biology and ecosystem effects of the sea nettle, Chrysaora chesapeakei
Adviser: Dr. Raleigh Hood, Horn Point Laboratory 

Hao Wang 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Oceanography 
A numerical investigation of variability in particulate organic matter transport and fate, phytoplankton and  primary production, and denitrification in a partially mixed estuary 
Adviser: Dr. Raleigh Hood, Horn Point Laboratory

Chelsea Wegner Koch 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Earth and Ocean Systems 
The significance of sea ice algae as a resource in the Pacific Arctic determined by highly branched isoprenoid  biomarkers 
Adviser: Dr. Lee Cooper, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory 

Timothy Wynne  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Biological Oceanography  
Phenology of Cyanobacterial blooms in three catchments of the Laurentian Great Lakes 
Adviser: Dr. Raleigh Hood, Horn Point Laboratory  


Lynda Bell  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Environmental Science 
Dynamic equilibrium beach profiles: Forces of offshore sediment transport in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay
Adviser: Dr. Lawrence Sanford, Horn Point Laboratory 

Miles Charles Bolton  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Earth and Oceans Systems 
Evaluating feedbacks between vegetation and sediment dynamics in submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV)  beds and created marshes of living shorelines in Chesapeake Bay 
Adviser: Dr. Cindy Palinkas, Horn Point Laboratory 

Dana Bunnell-Young  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Environmental Science 
Dynamics of Nitrogen and Methane in Ground and Surface Waters 
Adviser: Dr. Thomas Fisher , Horn Point Laboratory  

Annaleise Conway  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Science/ Earth and Ocean Systems 
Determining the toxicity of the UV filter oxybenzone in the hard coral, Galaxea fascicularis 
Adviser: Dr. Carys Mitchelmore, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory  

Alexandra Fireman  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Ecological Foundations  
On the shell of the turtle: Identifying the isotopic niche of hawksbill sea turtles in Antigua, West Indies 
Adviser: Dr. Ryan Woodland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory  

Hunter Hughes  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Earth and Ocean Systems 
Effects of seawater SR/CA variability on coral paleothermometry in the Florida Keys and Virgin Islands re vealed by multiyear continuous monitoring 
Adviser: Drs. Hali Kilbourne and Johan Schijf, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory  

Jerelle Jesse 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Ecological Systems 
Quantifying drivers of mycobacteriosis in Atlantic striped bass and consequences of increased natural mor tality on biological reference points 
Adviser: Dr. Genevieve Nesslage, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory 

Lauren Jonas  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Environmental Molecular Science & Technology
Two marine sponges, Lendelfeldia chondrodes and Hymeniacidion heliophile, and their microbial symbionts: Roles in marine phosphorus cycling 
Adviser: Dr. Russell Hill, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology

Amanda Lawrence 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences /Environmental Molecular Science and Technology 
Investigating morphometric and physiological maturity alongside insulin-like androgenic gland expression and  size of male C. borealis in Southern New England 
Adviser: Dr. J. Sook Chung, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology 

Pinky Liau 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Environmental Molecular Science and Technology
Cable bacteria and their microbial associations in lab-Incubated sediment from Chesapeake Bay
Adviser: Dr. Sairah Malkin, Horn Point Laboratory 

Morgan O’Hara Ross 
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Earth and Ocean Systems 
Nutrients, chlorophyll and emergent harmful algal bloom species in coastal waters of Assateague Island National  Seashore 
Adviser: Dr. Judith M. O’Neil, Horn Point Laboratory 

Zoraida Perez-Delgado  
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Earth and Ocean Systems 
Exploring the temperature and hydrologic response of tropical oceans to volcanic eruptions over the last 400  years using coralgeochemistry 
Adviser: Dr. Hali Kilbourne, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory 

Dylan Taillie
Marine Estuarine and Environmental Sciences/Ecological Systems 
Young forest management for sensitive bird species in Western Maryland 
Adviser: Dr. Andrew Elmore, Appalachian Laboratory