Note from the Executive Director

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Note from the Executive Director

Dec 21, 2020


This December, we celebrate a decade of research and collaboration at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology and mark the conclusion of a year that has brought many challenges. Over the past ten years, we have made advances in marine and environmental science, educated graduate students and the public, and grown our entrepreneurship programs. While 2020 looked a little different, we maintained our focus on these goals: faculty and students analyzed data and published papers from home, then restarted experiments with many safety precautions in place; our essential workers, to whom we owe so much, cared for animals and our facility throughout; and our staff worked remotely to keep us moving forward. I am grateful for the hard work, flexibility, and compassion of all those in our IMET community.

To adapt to changing conditions in this pandemic, we initially shut down all research activities in March, with a small number of employees managing operations of the building and the Aquaculture Research Center. In May, we adapted our annual Open House to be virtual, sharing activities to spark kids’ interest in science. In June, we welcomed remote interns to our Summer Internship Program, which aims to increase diversity in marine and environmental science and which is supported by Mary Catherine Bunting. In the same month, some research activities restarted in our labs, with advanced cleaning procedures and mask and social distancing requirements.

Classes and our Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneur Fellowship program, which teaches entrepreneurship skills to scientists, started up this fall in a virtual format, which has proved effective and engaging. Throughout this time, we gathered weekly for science talks by prominent scientists. To honor the Year of the Woman in Maryland, we held a special Women in Science seminar series featuring female scientists from Seattle to Baltimore. This year was an unexpected cap on IMET’s first decade, but our ability to adapt demonstrates the resilience and commitment to science education and research that we have built.

In 2010, IMET began as a bold new partnership of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and building on the strengths of our predecessor institute, the Center of Marine Biotechnology. Today, we can hold up IMET as an exemplar of effective inter-university collaboration that will become more common as scientists work toward solutions to increasingly complex and interdisciplinary problems.

This year, we saw multiple crises laid bare, with the pandemic claiming so many lives, with 2020 on track to be the second warmest year on record, and with Black Lives Matter protests and inequities in COVID-19’s effects making clear that there is still much work to do to achieve a just society. We are proud to be part of a community that is working toward solutions to these issues: researchers at UMB have been at the forefront of COVID-19 research, having studied coronaviruses for many years; UMCES scientists are studying coastal and estuarine science to revitalize the Chesapeake Bay; leaders at UMBC have been trailblazers in encouraging student and faculty diversity. As a partner of all three universities, IMET is able to draw on and contribute to all these areas with our own programs focused on animal and human health, sustainable aquaculture production, climate change, and creating a more diverse science workforce.

This year has been challenging to say the least, but I believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is now in view, thanks to the hard work of many scientists working on a vaccine this year (including one of our former interns!), as well as long-term studies of human health and immunity. With hopes for a brighter 2021, I wish you and yours a Healthy and Happy New Year.


Russell Hill