Meet the experts

These scientists helped build our understanding of oysters

Since its early days as one lab under Dr. Reginald V. Truitt, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science grew into a scientific authority on Chesapeake Bay and trusted scientific adviser to state and national leaders, in part due to its key leadership on oyster restoration in Chesapeake Bay.

Our scientists have built an understanding of how much oysters clean the water by eating algae and removing nitrogen, helped point to the causes when oyster populations declined, and helped draft solutions to restore those populations. Additionally, with an oyster culture facility at Horn Point Laboratory, our scientists have spent years perfecting how to grow new oysters and helped rebuild the oyster reefs both those baby oysters and other key species need to thrive in Chesapeake Bay.

Get to know our oyster experts

Donald Boesch, president of University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science from 1990 to 2017, served on the Maryland Oyster Roundtable and the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission since its inception in 2007. He has observed firsthand the conflicts among oyster harvesters and conservationists over oyster sanctuaries that have recently stymied the Commission.

Jeffrey Cornwell of Horn Point Laboratory is an expert in sediments, water quality, and wetlands, but his work on oysters helped move forward efforts to restore the Bay’s oyster population through insights on the role of oysters in removing nutrients from the water column and how aquaculture impacts the chemistry of sediments and the impact of nutrient and phosphorus pollution on excess algae growth.

Matthew Gray of Horn Point Laboratory is an expert in ecophysiology. His seeks to understand how local environmental factors affect vital physiological rate functions (e.g. eating, breathing, reproducing) that are important controls of healthy and growing oyster populations. Additionally, his work explores how these same physiological functions impact water quality and may improve ecosystem health.

Victor Kennedy, professor emeritus, was the editor of the definitive book on oyster biology and has been a keen observer of oyster management over many decades. He is completing a book on shifting baselines in the Chesapeake Bay in which oysters play a prominent role.

Donald “Mutt” Meritt manages the Oyster Culture Facility at Horn Point, which has produced the vast majority of the oyster spat used in restoration and advancing oyster aquaculture in Maryland. He works closely with the Oyster Recovery Partnership in producing and planting oyster spat and with Dr. Paynter who monitors their survival and growth.  

Elizabeth North of Horn Point Laboratory is an expert on the role that estuarine tides and currents play in the dispersal of larval animals, including fish and oysters. She leads the OysterFutures Project that engages stakeholders to seek a more sustainable future for oyster fisheries.

Kennedy Paynter, whose laboratory is on the College Park campus, is an expert on oyster diseases and has been responsible for most of the monitoring of oyster survival, growth, and disease prevalence for the restoration projects undertaken through the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

Louis Plough is an expert in the population genetics and is focusing on the genetic traits that promote environmental tolerance, disease, and growth. He research is oriented to selecting superior strains for use in oyster aquaculture.

Eric Schott is an expert on diseases of shellfish at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, and, like Dr. Boesch, has served on the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission since its inception in 2007.

Lisa Wainger is an expert in environmental economics and is assessing the economic costs and benefits of oyster conservation and fishery policies. She is a participant in the OysterFutures project and based at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

Donald Webster of University of Maryland Extension is a Sea Grant extension specialists with long experience in promoting and supporting oyster aquaculture.

Michael Wilberg is an expert in assessing the stocks and dynamics of fishery populations based at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. As such work is essential in setting sustainable harvest levels, he is the lead scientist for the stock assessment required by the 2016 Sustainable Oyster Population and Fishery Act. He is also a participant in the OysterFutures Project.