Meet the experts

These scientists helped build our understanding of oysters

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has been a leader in oyster research and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since its founding nearly 100 years ago. With a unique mandate from the State of Maryland to conduct a comprehensive scientific program for the improvement and preservation of Maryland's physical environment, UMCES’ scientists provide unbiased research to inform public policy.

Get to know our oyster experts

Stephanie Alexander is the manager of the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery based in Cambridge, Maryland.  As one of the largest oyster hatcheries on the East Coast, the Horn Point Hatchery produces a variety of oyster larvae for use in oyster research, restoration, and educational projects.

Jeffrey Cornwell  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  is an expert in ecophysiology. He seeks to understand how local environmental factors affect vital physiological rate functions, such as eating, breathing, reproducing, that are important controls of healthy and growing oyster populations. He applies this knowledge across a variety of research topics ranging from production in hatcheries, oyster-based coastal infrastructure, and ecosystem-scale models of water biofiltration.  

Lora Harris is an internationally respected estuarine ecologist who is known for her research to support science-based management and restoration of estuarine ecosystems, from nutrient dynamics to oysters and tidal wetlands.

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 He is the author of "Shifting Baselines in the Chesapeake Bay: An Environmental History" that details changes in historical reference points used in environmental assessments, in which oysters play a prominent role.  

Tom Miller has been a leader in the development of approaches to manage several Chesapeake Bay species, including crabs and menhaden, combining laboratory, field and modeling approaches to address questions of interest to society. He serves on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Management Committee, and is a scientific advisor to the Potomac River Fisheries.  

Elizabeth North is an expert on the role that tides and currents in estuaries play in the dispersal of larval animals like oysters and blue crabs. She led the OysterFutures Project, an experiment in consensus building funded by the National Science Foundation, that brought together a diverse group of stakeholders from the oyster industry, environmental groups, nonprofits, and government agencies to build recommendations on ways to improve the oyster resource in the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers.

Kennedy Paynter 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 population genetics and is focusing on the genetic traits that promote environmental tolerance, disease, and growth. His research is oriented to selecting superior strains for use in oyster aquaculture and applying new genomic technologies to understand the biology of oyster larvae, dispersal processes in the ocean, and adaptation to environmental change.

Eric Schott is an expert on diseases of shellfish and has served on the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission under Governors O’Malley and Hogan.

Jeremy Testa is an expert in the field of coastal marine ecology, with an emphasis on the processes of eutrophication, nutrient cycling, dissolved oxygen dynamics, and ocean acidification. He has developed a suite of numerical models that represent how oysters affect and are affected by the environment. He is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Program Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee and the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network steering committee.

Michael Wilberg is an expert in assessing the stocks and dynamics of fishery populations. He was the co-leader for the 2018 oyster stock assessment that resulted in estimates of the abundance and levels of sustainable exploitation to help guide policy on oyster management. He was also the lead modeler for the Maryland Oyster Consensus process and the OysterFutures research program to build consensus around new approaches for managing oysters.