News Release, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

SOLOMONS, MD (June 4, 2020)— Each year the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science gives awards for outstanding faculty accomplishments at our Commencement ceremony. This year at UMCES’s seventh annual Commencement ceremony, which was held virtually on May 29, two faculty and support staff from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory were recognized for their outstanding contributions to science.

Professor Michael Wilberg was awarded the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science for his ongoing and impactful efforts on the science and outstanding communication of oyster management with stakeholders, partners, and policymakers. A professor in fisheries science at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Southern Maryland, he works on understanding population dynamics and management of a range of fish and shellfish species, including oysters and blue crabs.

Michael Wiberg stands on the deck of the Rachel Carson research vessel holding oysters

Oysters are iconic in Maryland and critically important to the culture and the recovery of Chesapeake Bay. Building on the rich tradition of UMCES in fisheries management, Wilberg was invited to lead the first stock assessment done for the State of Maryland 135 years. The assessment was conducted collaboratively with scientists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and resulted in estimates of the abundance and levels of sustainable exploitation to help guide policy on oyster management.

“It is not just about doing great science, it is about communicating that great science to be effective,” said President Peter Goodwin. “He is the textbook example of where the delivery of scientific facts stop and value judgements start on complex and contentious issues.”

Wilberg was also lead modeler for the OysterFutures research program, an experiment in consensus building and testing a new approach for making regulations and policies.

He is recognized as an international expert on stock assessment and has served as technical adviser to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the International Whaling Commission, and South Africa in developing their fisheries management plans.

The President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science was established in 1999 to honor exemplary applications of science that have had a positive impact on environmental protection and management by UMCES faculty members.

Senior Faculty Research Assistant Janet Barnes was given the inaugural President’s Award for Outstanding Research Support at this year’s Commencement ceremony. The award represents an honor bestowed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) to recognize professional achievements of faculty research assistants.Barnes has been a mentor and a positive role model for UMCES’ faculty research assistants, exhibiting long-term commitment to excellence, a genuine scientific curiosity, analytical thinking, and always going above and beyond with support of research and the UMCES community.

“Thank you, President Goodwin, for recognizing the importance of creating this award,” said Barnes. “I’m glad that the substantial contributions of FRAs to UMCES research and outreach will be acknowledged into the future.”

She started at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in summer of 1978 and was the first female mate on a research vessel at UMCES. She helped start the Solomons Harbor Monitoring Project, worked with the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic program coordinating logistics and science support, and led the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation as Chief Operating Officer.

Janet Barnes

She was brought on to help with the Alliance for Coastal Technologies and later the Marine Environment Resource Center to serve as research coordinator, where she does both hands-on science and management, coordinating with private sector and agencies to facilitate the development and adoption of green ship and green port innovations.

Faculty research assistants, or FRAs, conduct much of the day-to-day science that goes on in UMCES’ labs. They are often our primary people doing field sampling and conducting lab analyses. Many UMCES faculty have an FRA that manages their lab for them, as well.

The award, which includes a plaque and a monetary award, will be presented to one individual FRA annually who has made outstanding contributions to achieving the UMCES mission through discovery, integration, application, or teaching.

Located where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is the oldest publicly supported marine laboratory on the East Coast. Founded in 1925, it has been a national leader in fisheries, estuarine ecology, environmental chemistry and toxicology for more than 90 years. Our scientists conduct research from the Chesapeake Bay and around the globe. From advising state and national agencies on sustainable fisheries management and breaking new ground in understanding how chemicals move between the atmosphere, sediments, and water to renowned work on nutrient dynamics and the food web, the lab is developing new scientific approaches to solving the major environmental problems that face our world.