Spring is a season of anticipation and preparation at the PEARL. The emergence of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic puts a dark and distressing twist on this theme. All laboratory employees who can work remotely are now doing so, and I write this note on March 19 from the PEARL lab with only myself and Facilities Manager Jon Farrington on-site. Preparations are now on hold for our Summer 2020 undergraduate student intern program, with this summer’s program now very much in doubt. A total of 27 applications had been received from South Korea, Scotland, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several U.S. states. We anticipated hosting seven highly talented interns who would have supported research projects spanning a wide range of topical areas, including oyster biodeposit resuspension, recreational boating economics, and oyster genomics. Spring is also spawning season in the PEARL oyster hatchery. Dr. Ming Liu has plans to produce a new and improved oys-ter line, continuing his progress in developing a superior oyster that is well-suited for survival and growth in Maryland waters. Currently, we are optimistic that this work can continue with a limited staff, though the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation means that the timeline for this work may need to be extended.
On a more uplifting note, PEARL is very excited to welcome the arrival of our new oyster hatchery manager and shellfish extension specialist — Ms. Brittany Wolfe. Ms. Wolfe comes to the PEARL after completing her Master’s degree in Marine Biol-ogy at the University of North Carolina—Wilmington (UNCW), where she worked as a research technician in the UNCW shellfish hatchery. An added benefit is that Ms. Wolfe is well-versed in oyster genomics research—both through her Master’s thesis at UNCW and previous employment at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. This experience should pay great dividends as she supports Dr. Liu in his genomics re-search.
Another exciting development is the hiring of Dr. Amanda Knobloch, PEARL’s new Education Coordinator. Dr. Knobloch, who replaces long-term employee Richard Lacouture (since 1984!), brings a fresh perspective, a biogeochemist’s background, and a passion for making chemistry fun and exciting. Dr. Knobloch is also working on developing an innovative, interdisciplinary academic program at the PEARL to better connect PEARL to the undergraduate academic framework at Morgan.
I hope you will enjoy the Spring 2020 PEARL newsletter – perhaps it will offer a brief respite from the challenges we are facing. Please stay safe and well during this diffi-cult time. Thank you for reading and for your interest in and support of the Morgan State University PEARL.
Scott Knoche, Ph.D.