Dr. Colleen Burge joins California Fish and Wildlife
For the past seven years, UMBC/UMB-IMET Assistant Professor Colleen Burge and her students have been studying the interactions between marine pathogens, hosts, and the environment. The Burge Lab has made significant strides in understanding diseases in oysters, eelgrass, and corals. Their findings will help protect marine species from disease. Now, Colleen will bring her expertise to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as a Research Supervisor running the Shellfish Health Lab and the Fisheries Genetics Lab. In this role, she will continue shellfish pathology research while playing a new role in environmental management and policy.
Throughout her time at IMET, Colleen has been a dedicated researcher, educator, and mentor. She and her lab studied the virus OsHV-1, which causes oyster mortalities and poses a threat to oyster aquaculture and ecosystems. In lab and field studies, they have characterized how OsHV-1 spreads and described a new variant of the virus. A recent paper, on which her student Tori Agnew was a co-author, described how different US oyster species and stocks reacted to variants of OsHV-1. This information is particularly helpful for developing best practices in oyster aquaculture and breeding virus-resistant oysters. To expand the reach of this paper and engage a non-scientific audience, the team produced a video abstract, which you can view below:
While Colleen is proud of her contributions to oyster disease research, she said, “My number one accomplishment has been mentoring the four students that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. They’re all really fantastic students who work very hard and are wonderful members of the community.” Tori Agnew, Mariah Kachmar, Chelsea Bergman, and Mingli Zhao (co-mentored with Eric Schott) will all continue research on marine disease ecology, aided by the mentorship they have received from Colleen.
In addition to advising her graduate students, Colleen has contributed to the education of undergraduates and the public. She was instrumental in developing a marine biology track for students at UMBC. She designed curriculum and co-taught a course with Dr. Sook Chung called Marine and Environmental Biotechnology, which combines UMBC undergrads with graduate students in the Marine-Environmental-Estuarine Science program. “Nearly all of the students have told me how much they liked the course,” Colleen said, “and I think it’s because they get a different perspective than they normally do as undergrads. They get to hear from experts and design their own research projects.” She has enjoyed sharing her scientific knowledge with these students as well as with interns in her lab and the public at the annual IMET Open House.
Dr. Colleen Burge will leave a lasting legacy at IMET. She will remain engaged as a scientific collaborator and student committee member even as she moves across the country. At the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, she will continue apply many of the skills she has strengthened while at IMET - contributing to shellfish health through research, advising young scientists, and making valuable contributions to the wider community.