Morgan State University (MSU) at Jefferson Patterson Park (JPPM) was the setting for the annual PEARL Open House. Again this year, self-guided tours of the laboratories was available, a chance to view the research being done. It gave you a chance to speak with the interns, who are doing research for the summer.
The mission of the Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory (PEARL) is to provide society with the knowledge to solve its environmental challenges through research, education and economic development. Research conducted at the state-of-the art facility is designed to increase the understanding of coastal ecosystems so that they may be properly managed and protected. Much of the work is focused on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, such as the Patuxent River.
It was founded in 1967 by The Academy of Natural Sciences and was located in Benedict in Charles County. In 1994 it moved to its current location in St Leonard and in September 2004 became part of Morgan State University.
The research on oysters is an ongoing project. The tremendous decline in the oyster population has dramatically changed the Bay’s ecosystem and the oyster industry. Individual oysters filter 4-34 liters of water per hour, removing phytoplankton, sediments, pollutants, and microorganisms from the water. Historic oyster populations of Chesapeake Bay could filter excess nutrients from the estuary’s entire water system every three to four days. Today, that would take nearly a year.
Spat-on-shell is the most ecologically friendly method of culturing oysters in the Chesapeake region. To make new areas ready for on-bottom spat-on-shell aquaculture, the barren Bay bottom needs to be built up with a hard material that supports the spat-on-shell (a process known as bottom conditioning) and prevents it from sinking into soft muddy bottoms. Historically, old oyster shells were used for this purpose. However, the decline of the Chesapeake Bay region’s oyster industry has led to the scarcity of available oyster shell and using them for bottom building is no longer practical. There is research ongoing to examine the use of recycled concrete from road construction to be used as a base.
PEARL’s annual blue crab population survey was begun by George Abbe in 1968 and has been conducted almost continuously ever since. George was the first scientist hired by the lab in 1967 when it was the Academy of Natural Sciences’ Benedict Estuarine Research Center. The survey is one of the longest running studies on a marine population and is the only fisheries-independent blue crab study in the state. Findings from the survey have been published in well-known academic journals and have helped to shape policy regarding the commercial crab fishery. Dominion Energy Solutions generously supports the continued expansion of this valuable historical data set.
Lt Governor Boyd Rutherford was the guest speaker. He congratulated MSU on their 150th anniversary. Mark Belton, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, and MSU President, Dr David Wilson signed a new educational agreement today that seeks to promote collaborative research, community outreach, economic development and opportunity, and workforce training.
Commissioner Tony O’Donnell, Public Service Commission, introduced Mike Frederick, Vice President LNG Operations, Dominion Energy Cove Point, who presented a $50,000 Dominion Foundation Environmental Stewardship Grant.
This year there were 11 interns, the largest class ever. Dominion Energy supported 2 interns, and the Department of Natural Resources supported 1 for the blue crab research. Carnelious Jones of Oysters Inc supported 2 interns for aquaculture research. Patrick Hudon from True Oyster Restoration also supported 1 for aquaculture research. Chris Washburn supported 1 intern on plankton research. Linda Abbe and Jay and Sandy Hixson supported 1 intern for oyster aquaculture. Department of Natural Resources Natural Fisheries Service supported 1 intern for recreational fishing survey. And the University of Baltimore supported 1 intern for tidal resuspension research.
Please enjoy the picture gallery below.
Margit Miller / Calvert Beacon