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News Archives

Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneur Fellowship (REEF) Program at IMET

Ryan Powell had an inkling early on that he could start his own business.

As a graduate student at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, he developed technology for harvesting algae, an achievement that not only resolved a long-standing problem in making algal biofuels, but also gave him the foundation for his future company.

“What I didn’t want to happen was to develop this technology, publish a paper, and then just hope somebody would pick it up and do something useful with it,” Powell said. “I really wanted to see this technology do good in the world.”

There was just one problem: Turning his scientific success story into full-fledge business wasn’t part of his graduate school training.

Powell was able to find all the tools he needed in 2014 when he participated in the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship (REEF) program at UMCES’ Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET).

With the lessons he learned from REEF, he built the business he runs today, Manta Biofuel. The Baltimore-based company grows and harvests algae to produce a renewable and carbon neutral crude oil that could be used in jets, trucks, and cars.

Every year, IMET hosts the REEF program to teach a select group of students how to think about science with a business perspective. Over the course of a year, participating graduate students will create and develop a business model based on scientific research.

They aren’t required to start a company like Powell did, said Nick Hammond, assistant director and associate vice president for economic development and REEF program instructor. That isn’t the point. The goal is for the students to gain skills beyond what they might get in a lab, such as financial planning and simplifying their science to explain its impact to potential investors.

“One in 10 graduate students today will find themselves on the tenure track, which means they’re not trained for anything else,” Hammond said. “They need to understand how to communicate their research outside the academic environment. This just enables their career no matter what direction it may go.”

The basics of business

Eight students participated in the REEF program for the 2016-17 year. The students met monthly to hone their idea with guidance from Hammond and mentors, such as chief executive officers and local entrepreneurs, who offer real-life experience.

Miranda Marvel, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) graduate student, said she was pleased to find the program wasn’t strictly lectures.

“It was more of an interactive, discussion-based experience, which I think helped me learn more about how to develop a product and start a business than lectures would,” she said.

Lessons were catered to the individual, too, Marvel said.

“Each business topic we discussed was discussed in terms of each person’s individual product idea so that the lessons were personalized and able to be put into a real-world context,” she said. “Even someone like myself, who has no previous background in business or economics, could understand the concepts and apply each lesson to our own project ideas.”

The students are taught to consider every avenue from intellectual property and regulatory issues, to marketing and manufacturing, to determine as early as possible if an idea is commercially viable, financially feasible, and meaningful to society, Hammond said.

“The idea is to kill ideas fast so you don’t spend a lot of time and resources on an idea that wouldn’t have worked,” he said. “Why research this if it’s never going to have a meaningful result in society? Basic research is fine, but you have to think about these concepts as you decide which questions to ask and pursue in the lab.”

At the end of the program, the students pitch their business plan to a panel of local investors who serve as judges that can offer the students praise and advice. The top three pitches win a non-monetary prize.

Mary Larkin, who initially found the idea of starting a business daunting, won Best Pitch this year.

Larkin is an UMCES graduate student who studies under her adviser, Al Place, at IMET. She uses zebrafish as a model species to research diet and inflammation and ways to mitigate inflammation.

For REEF, she imagined a business around the horseshoe crab. She proposed using the facilities at IMET to aquaculture horseshoe crabs because their commercially valuable blood helps test the safety of several biomedical products, including vaccines. She named her business Blue Blood.

This was Larkin’s second year in the program, which allowed her to build on the skills she had learned previously, but she said she still found new lessons to learn.

“One of the most challenging aspects of the program is learning to speak boldly about ourselves, our research, and our business proposals. Many of us are the quiet, introverted, science types,” she said.

That’s the exact type of character that stands to gain the most from REEF, she added. “It is unlike anything else a typical graduate student will experience, and much different from a job interview,” Larkin said. “You have to be confident and succinct. We are taught that the first 30 seconds of the pitch is critical. You need to attempt to establish a personal connection to the investor panel and even evoke a little bit of emotion, if possible, to garner their interest and attention.”

Teaching universal skills

Echoing Hammond, Larkin said it’s important for graduate students to be aware of and prepared for alternative career choices.

“Whether one is managing a university laboratory, working for a company, or launching a business, the concepts taught in REEF are all applicable,” she said. “For those who will remain on an academic track, they will likely pause and consider the patentability of research discoveries before going public with their findings.”

Marvel agreed.

“I didn’t want to limit myself to learning about one field, such as basic science, but get experience in a number of different career opportunities so that I can make a more informed decision about what path I want to take once I graduate,” she said.

Marvel shared second-best pitch with Ryan McDonald, another UMBC student at IMET. Marvel’s proposed business, called AquaGro, would develop a line of fast-growing salmon, genetically selected to exhibit enhanced feeding, food conversion rates, and growth.

“Because of the quick growth of the salmon, they will reach market size faster and reduce costly food, equipment, and electricity expenses for salmon farmers,” she said. “My aim is to increase the amount of locally sourced farmed salmon available to consumers, because salmon is the second most imported seafood to the United States, and constitutes a huge expense that can be saved by raising more local salmon.”

The product mirrored her research as a graduate student under Yonathan Zohar at UMBC. Marvel uses reverse genetics to determine the functions of genes that code for neuropeptides—which are proteins found in the brain and are conserved from fish to humans.

McDonald, a UMBC graduate student who works under Hal Schreier at IMET, planned a business that combined two of his passions—science and art.

He developed scientific kits and school curriculum through the REEF program. One of his products is a bacterial painting kit.

“For this product, I will take advantage of the natural diversity of pigmented bacteria and metabolites they produce to generate a ‘living pallet’ of colors they can create and draw with,” said McDonald, an environmental microbiologist familiar with cultivating and isolating bacteria.

“I think through the integration of art and science we can make science more engaging,” he continued. “It has been shown that scientific engagement at a young age is critical for facilitating and maintain interest and literacy later in life.”

Growing the program

The REEF program started in 2014 with a three-year $600,000 grant from the Radcliffe Foundation. The grant was renewed through 2020.

The program pools graduate students from UMCES; UMBC; and University of Maryland, Baltimore, but has been restricted to only those based at IMET.

Hammond plans to expand REEF to include students based at UMCES’ other laboratories, which include Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, and Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, starting this fall.

Hammond said students who go through the program can apply for a stipend and if they get it, they are encouraged to return a second year to help the first-year students. Accepting a stipend also requires the student undertake an externship.

Hammond helps them imagine their future and then connect them with an institution that would advance their career, whether that’s a small engineering firm or the National Aquarium, where Larkin is completing hers.

“This is another way to help diversify their skillsets and make them well-rounded individuals,” Hammond said.

Members of IMET discuss need to fund science

Baltimore, MD (April 21, 2017)

Several members of IMET, including Director, Dr. Russell Hill, and graduate students Sam Major and Daniela Tizabi, appeared in a segment on WBALTV11 discussing the importance of funding for science and their decisions to participate in the March for Science.

"We really need to communicate the importance of our work and how much society benefits from the investment that they make in science," Hill said.

For a recording of the segment, click here.

IMET teaches students chemistry at Junior Achievement STEM Summit

Pikesville, MD (March, 2017)

Students at Pikesville High School saw science in a new way with some help from the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. Nick Hammond, Assistant Director and Associate Vice President for Economic Development, Lindsay D’Ambrosio, who runs IMET’s business incubator Harbor Launch, and a team representing IMET ran the Chemistry station at the Junior Achievement of Central Maryland’s STEM Summit on Wednesday, April 5. This is the second year IMET ran a station at the summit as part of continued outreach efforts. “There were about 200 students,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s a really great way to be part of 200 students’ first hands-on experience with science.”

When the students arrived at their station, they donned protective gloves and safety glasses. Split up in groups of six, the students each had a turn conducting a polyurethane foam experiment. First, they measured and mixed two liquids together inside a latex glove. Then watched as the liquids became a foam and expanded to 30 times its original size. “When you saw their eyes, they were surprised,” D’Ambrosio said. “Their discovery is the best part.” They were shocked by the sight and again by touching the foam, which turns into a solid material that is polyurethane and became hot, indicating an exothermic reaction. There are many forms of polyurethane, such as fibers, coatings, elastomers, flexible foams, and rigid foams. The students were creating a rigid polyurethane foam like that used in furniture, packaging, insulation, flotation devices and similar items.

The students wrote their name on their gloves to take home as a souvenir from the science experiment. The quick lesson was a good introduction to show the students what science looks like. “It’s exposure to science—and what it’s like to do science—and not just as a subject in school,” D’Ambrosio said.

IMET Director discusses Institute’s role in Baltimore tech scene

Baltimore, MD (March 9, 2017)

IMET Director, Dr. Russell Hill, appeared in a segment on WYPR’s “Why Baltimore” radio show. In this segment, Dr. Hill discusses IMET’s role within the thriving health technology and biotechnology scenes in Baltimore, and how it plans to help prepare and train the next generation of students preparing to enter this space.

For a recording of the segment, click here.

Greetings from Smøla Island in Norway

Smøla Island, Norway (February 8, 2017)

IMET scientists from UMBC's Department of Marine Biotechnology (Dr. Yonathan Zohar, Dr. Keiko Saito, and Dr. Kevin Sowers) made a recent visit to Smøla Island, Norway as part of an ongoing collaboration to help salmon aquaculture in Norway become more environmentally responsible.

Dr. Gerardo Vasta receives Argentine award

Buenos Aires, Argentina (December 6, 2016)

IMET faculty member, Dr. Gerardo Vasta, was honored by the Argentine Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation. He was presented with the Raíces award, which honors scientists that have successfully established themselves abroad, while continuing to actively promote science and technology in Argentina.

For more information on the Raíces award, click here. (Spanish)

IMET faculty member highlights the UMBC Life Sciences Research Symposium

Baltimore, MD (October 22, 2016)

Dr. Colleen Burge, a UMBC-IMET Assistant Professor, gave the plenary talk at UMBC’s 19th Undergraduate Research Symposium in Chemical and Biological Sciences. The annual symposium included 647 attendees from various schools across the mid-Atlantic, a record number for the event. Dr. Burge’s talk discussed several of her own areas of research (oysters, eel grass, diseases that affect the marine environment, etc.), as well advice for students on how to pursue the areas of research that they are interested in.

For more information on the Research Symposium, click here.

IMET-UMBC student makes surprise discovery of natural back-up system in fish reproduction

Baltimore, MD (August 1, 2016)

Olivia Spicer, a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Yonathan Zohar’s lab at IMET, has been studying fish reproduction in zebrafish for many years. Using a variety of molecular techniques, Olivia has managed to purposefully mutate specific hormones in her fish. Using these mutations, she was able to breed fish and screen out individuals with the genetic makeup she desired. This process allowed Olivia to breed more fish with the specific knockouts she was looking for, allowing for further examination of the results of knocking out specific genes. The results were surprising, and Olivia and the rest of the Zohar Lab are excited to continue exploring these genes how they can relate back to human development.

IMET-UMBC Administrator recipient of USM Board of Regents’ Staff Award

Adelphi, MD (June 21, 2016)

Mildred Homa, IMET’s UMBC Administrator, is the recipient of a 2016 University System of Maryland Board of Regents’ Staff Award for Effectiveness and Efficiency.

Each year, one exempt employee and one non-exempt employee are honored in each of the following categories: Service to their Institution, Service to Students, Public Service, and Effectiveness and Efficiency. This award is the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Regents to recognize exemplary staff achievement.

Mildred will be recognized at a special breakfast ceremony prior to the start of the next board meeting scheduled for Friday, September 9, 2016 at Towson University.

IMET could not be more proud of Mildred’s incredible achievement.

IMET Faculty Member featured in Economist Article on Aquaculture

Baltimore, MD (June 13, 2016)

Dr. Yonathan Zohar, Professor at IMET and Chair of the Department of Marine Biotechnology at UMBC, was recently featured in article by The Economist on the future of aquaculture.

Dr. Zohar’s land-based marine aquaculture system is completely self-contained, and it could dramatically change how millions of people access fish as a local food source. Localized systems reduce transportation costs and energy usage, and the system includes several core features to maximize sustainability.

Baltimore-area restaurants have already partaken in some of the locally grown fish from Dr. Zohar’s Aquaculture Research Center. “If he succeeds,” Carr writes, “…sushi lovers around the world will be forever in his debt.”

Read the full story on The Economist here.

IMET Director Receives Highest University Award

Adelphi, MD (April 15, 2016)

On April 15th, IMET Director Dr. Russell Hill received the Board of Regents Faculty Award for Mentoring. These awards are the highest honor presented by the USM Board of Regents to exemplary faculty members.

Dr. Hill was noted for his work with the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurial Fellowship (REEF) Program, which helps graduate students develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills outside of their normal curriculum. He was also noted for his work as “an ambassador for the sciences”, helping to inspire and guide students interested in science across all educational levels.

For more information on the 2016 Board of Regents Awards, please click here.

IMET attends WAS Aquaculture 2016

Las Vegas, NV (February 26, 2016)

Several members of IMET, including faculty, staff, and students, attended the World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture 2016 conference in Las Vegas, NV this past week. IMET and Harbor Launch (the new startup incubator located at IMET) were joint sponsors of the event, and exhibited throughout the conference.

Overall, there were 7 talks given by people from IMET. Dr. Yonathan Zohar also chaired a day-long session on Genetic Engineering in Aquaculture.

For more information on Aquaculture 2016, please visit their website here.

Groundbreaking bluefin tuna research at IMET

Baltimore, MD (November 20, 2015)

Researchers at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) have made history by successfully raising Atlantic bluefin tuna from eggs to juvenile stage in a recirculating, land-based mariculture system for the first time in North America. These efforts were led by Yonathan Zohar, Chair of the Department of Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

For more on this story, click here.

IMET student partners with Smithsonian to conduct research in Panama

Panama City, Panama (November 1, 2015)

IMET graduate student, Jan Vicente, recently spent several months conducting research in Panama. Jan was able to partner with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to work on this project, which focused on the collection and testing of two symbiotic sponges to see how they have been affected by climate change. Watch Jan describe the experiment in more detail in the video above.

Dr. Colleen Burge invited to speak at UTA

Arlington, TX (October 22, 2015)

Dr. Colleen Burge, an Assistant Professor at IMET, was invited to give a lecture at the University of Texas at Arlington as part of their colloquium lecture series. Dr. Burge’s lecture, titled “Host-Pathogen Interactions in a Changing Ocean”, discussed her research on diseases in sea stars and oysters, and the effects they have on the marine environment. Please watch the video above for more coverage on Dr. Burge’s lecture.

IMET student wins Harold C. Bold award

Philadelphia, PA (August 13, 2015)

IMET Graduate Student and REEF Fellow, Grant Jones, was named co-recipient of the Harold C. Bold Award at the 2015 Phycological Society of America Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

The Phycological Society of America (PSA) was founded in 1946 to promote research and teaching in all fields of Phycology. The society publishes the Journal of Phycology and the Phycological Newsletter.

The Bold Award was established in 1973 to honor Harold C. Bold, former president of the Phycological Society and has been awarded at PSA annual meetings since 1974. The Award is given for the outstanding graduate student paper(s) presented at the Annual Meeting as determined by the Bold Award Committee. The original funding for this award came from the sale of Contributions in Phycology (1971), edited by Malcolm Brown and Bruce Parker.

For more information on the Phycological Society of America, click here.

NOAA visits IMET and the NAIB

Baltimore, MD (July 29, 2015)

A delegation of senior staff members from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Office of Aquaculture (led by Dr. Michael Rubino, Director, second from left in the above photo) visited the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) and the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB) on Wednesday, July 29 to discuss sustainable aquaculture and seafood. Yonathan Zohar (far left) gave a presentation of IMET’s aquaculture programs and led the group on a tour of the Aquaculture Research Center. The delegates were very impressed with the breadth and depth of IMET’s innovative research in sustainable aquaculture.

LG Global Challenger Program

(From left to right: Sook Chung (IMET), HyeJin Park, HyunJu Lee, ChangWoo Lee, Russell Hill (IMET), and DongWoo Kim) Baltimore, MD (July 29, 2015)

Four senior students from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Dong-A University in Busan, South Korea visited IMET as part of the LG Global Challenger Program. 120 college students (30 teams in total) in Korea are selected to participate each year. The teams propose research topics and develop a plan to visit countries and laboratories that will help them gain global insight to advance their academic and career objectives.

The students were able to tour various parts of IMET’s facility, including the Hill Lab and ARC, as well as meet with several important IMET faculty members to discuss the work taking place here.

For more information on the history of the LG Global Challenger Program, click here.

Algal biofuel start-up could change how we make fuel

Ryan Powelltesttube.jpg

Ryan Powell holds up a vial of water with fingers caked with mud. It is algae extracted from pond choked with a bloom. He is standing on a farm outside of Baltimore, a test site for a new technology he has developed that can harvest algae from open ponds so it can be turned into crude oil. The oil can then be used as jet fuel, fuel oil and diesel fuel.

Last year, Powell earned his Ph.D. at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), where he discovered a technique that could revolutionize the algal biofuel industry by harvesting algae cheaply enough to produce algal biofuels economically. Today, he is an entrepreneur, translating his laboratory work into a Baltimore-based biotechnology firm called Manta Biofuel, and working long hours out in the sun scaling up and fine-tuning his idea to produce renewable crude oil from algae.

"Ryan’s novel technology has the potential to move algal biofuels towards economic viability," said Dr. Russell Hill, director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology and head of the lab where Powell developed the new technique. "This would have huge environmental benefits and is a great example of how IMET’s research can contribute to environmental sustainability and economic development.”

Powell is no stranger to hard work. He grew up on a 2,000-acre grain farm in Ohio, with farms stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction. He eventually wants to bring his idea to back to farmers.

“For algal biofuels to work you have to manage really large tracts of land,” he said. “If you’re going to convince other people to try it, you have to show you’ve taken the risk first.”

There are 500 algal biofuel companies attempting to turn algae into biofuel and well over $2 billion dollars invested worldwide, including by companies like Exxon and BP. So why aren’t we all running our cars on algae right now?

The challenge is to make algal biofuel cost less to produce than crude oil, says Powell. The cost is in the production and the harvesting.

“Algae are small and have to be concentrated 400 fold before making fuel from them,” he said. That means you need a lot of room to produce a lot of algae.

Powell has invented a ferromagnetic bead system—essentially a Roomba for algae—that makes it possible to pull algae out of pond water in seconds. It is inexpensive, fast, and can be used on all kinds of algae species. He signed a license on the technology with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science this year.

“It allows for a new production system that hasn’t been tried so far,” he said. “The key is to make it cost effective by reusing the beads over and over again. This is the first technology cheap enough to harvest algae for fuel.”

Here’s how it works: Build a large above-ground pond by making earthen berms and fill it with water (fresh, brackish, salt—any kind will do.) Add manure (turkey works best, according to Powell) and sunlight. Wait for an algae bloom. Set a Roomba-like piece of equipment loose in the pond to suck up the algae using proprietary magnet technology. Remove the algae, convert it to oil and send to the refinery. Repeat.

Other processes require expensive systems to grow the algae (such as concrete lined ponds) and a lot of water since many current systems require draining the pond to harvest the algae.

According to Powell, using his technology it’s possible to make renewable crude that is cost competitive with traditional crude oil.

“My primary goal is to bring cost competitive renewable crude oil to market,” he said. “Next year, the goal is to produce 20-200 barrels of oil—on 1-10 acres, but ultimately we would like to use this process to produce millions to billions of barrels of renewable oil per year.”

Field testing begins on innovative technology to clean PCB-contaminated sediments

Dr. SowersDSC06191.jpg

Dr. Kevin Sowers, professor at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore, has started a pilot scale demonstration to test an innovative technology to clean up highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) from the environment. The technology, which employs naturally occurring PCB-degrading microorganisms, has the potential to be an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective alternative to conventional remediation technologies to treat PCB-impacted sediments.

“If we are willing to wait centuries or decades, PCBs will go away naturally,” said Dr. Sowers. “In the lab we found we could get 80% degradation in as few as 90 days.” The commercial production of PCBs started in 1929 but their use has been banned or restricted in many countries since the 1970s because of risks to human health and the environment. They are known endocrine disrupters, neurotoxins and carcinogens. As they leach out of sediments and into the water, they can make their way up the food chain, from insects to fish to people.

PCBs naturally biodegrade, but it can take centuries, and contaminated sediments continually leach PCBs into waterways. Sowers and his colleagues have identified which microrganisms naturally degrade PCBs in sediments and discovered a way to increase their numbers and effectively deliver them to sediments in waterways to speed up the process.

“We see it as another tool that is a sustainable and a less expensive ‘green’ approach,” Sowers said. “It’s not going to replace the other remediation methods, but it’s a good complement.”

The conventional technologies for remediation of PCB-contaminated sediments are dredging and transfer to landfills or capping with clean sediments. This approach is cost-prohibitive for large areas of contamination in rivers, lakes and coastal sediments, and disruptive to environmentally sensitive areas, such as wetlands. The new ”green” remediation system developed by Dr. Sowers and his colleagues enhances natural microbial activity in sediments and provides a more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable means of treating persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs.

The team is testing the process for the first time outside of the lab in a watershed drainage creek on the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia this summer. The project, funded by the Department of Defense-Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, is the culmination of more than 20 years of laboratory research to identify microorganisms that dechlorinate PCBs in the natural environment by Drs. Kevin Sowers at IMET and the Department of Marine Biotechnology at UMBC; Harold May at the Medical University of South Carolina; and Upal Ghosh in the UMBC Department of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering.

PCBs are made-made materials made by adding chorine atoms to molecules to make them more stable and heat resistant. The microorganisms identified by Sowers and his team naturally remove those extra atoms so PCBs break down into harmless molecules.

“We found that there are anaerobes [micoroorganisms that can live without oxygen] that can remove chlorine,” said Sowers. “They literally breathe PCBs.”

The PCB-degrading microorganisms are sprayed onto pellets made of sand and clay that contain activated carbon particles, the same kind of carbon you find in your kitchen water filter. The pellets, developed by a startup called Sediment Solutions, sink to the bottom of the waterways and fall apart in the contaminated sediment, where bottom dwelling organisms like worms work the microorganisms deep into the mud.

“Right now in the field there is nothing like this, so if it works there could be a tremendous market,” said Dr. Russell Hill, Director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. “This is a great example of how the fundamental research at IMET can lead to practical solutions and provide economic benefits. Given Kevin’s outstanding research and his persistence, I’m confident that his technology will succeed in the real world as well as the laboratory”

IMET Celebrates 5th Birthday


Baltimore, MD (July 1, 2015)

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) celebrates its 5th birthday today, having been reformed from what was once the Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB) and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) in 2010.

Led by current Director, Dr. Russell Hill, IMET has become one of the world leaders in both marine science and marine biotechnology. IMET is housed in the Columbus Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. IMET has 20 faculty members, ca. 150 staff, and 42 research laboratories providing more than 160,000 sq. ft. of well-equipped research space. This includes a 20,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art Aquaculture Research Center, a Bioanalytical Services Laboratory and an Extremophile Scale-up Facility.

Part of IMET's mission has been to not only inform the public about the important work going on at our facility, but also to make the public more aware about the environment and specifically the Chesapeake Bay region as a whole. IMET has looked to achieve this goal by hosting student visitors, setting up booths for the public during events in the Inner Harbor, attending workshops and student gatherings, and more.

Everyone at IMET looks forward to our continued success with both our world-class, industry-leading research efforts, and our community-focused efforts to spread knowledge about the about the environment we all live in.

High School Intern from Place Lab recipient of multiple awards


Baltimore, MD (May 28, 2015)

Valentina Lohr, a rising Junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA, worked with IMET Professor Allen Place to investigate her idea for controlling the toxic fresh-water alga Microcystis aeruginosa. Valentina’s novel approach was to use an inhibitor of the mycosporine amino acid shinorine to make Microcystis aeruginosa more prone to photo-oxidation (“sunburn”) in nature.

Valentina's work culminated in a paper titled: "Targeted Nonlethal Disruption of Ultraviolet Photoprotection in Microcystis aeruginosa". In the category Microbiology and Cell Biology, Valentina received the Ann M. Hancock Cellular Biology award for outstanding work in Cellular Biology, the Virginia Sea Grant Award for environmental research, the Virginia Academy of Sciences award for best research paper as determined by the senior members of VAS, and the Erle Thompson Memorial Endowment Fund Award to pay for presentation of her paper at a national conference in Washington DC in February. At the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, she received an award for outstanding work in environmental science.

IMET pleased to host Dr. Fred Ausubel as part of Distinguished Seminar Series


Baltimore, MD (May 20, 2015)

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) welcomed Dr. Fred Ausubel (Harvard Medical School) as part of the IMET Distinguished Seminar Series on Wednesday, May 20. Dr. Ausubel's talk, titled “Using Caenorhabditis elegans to Elucidate Immune Response Pathways and to Identify Novel Anti-Infective and Immuno-Stimulatory Compounds”, was given to a packed house at the Columbus Center. IMET would like to thank Dr.'s Eric Schott (one of Dr. Ausubel's former students) and Shiladitya DasSarma, and of course Dr. Fred Ausubel, for helping make this seminar possible.

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine were joint-sponsors of this event.

For a link to the Ausubel Lab website, click here.

High School Intern in Vasta Lab wins Science Fair

Sam%20Zarcone%20at%20the%20STEM%20Science%20Fair%202015.jpg IMG_0192.JPG

Baltimore, MD (April 16, 2015)

High school student Sam Zarcone was awarded first prize at the 2015 HCPSS STEM Science Fair, which brings together students from all across Howard County. The science fair was held in Columbia, MD on Saturday, April 11, and was attended by over 135 middle and high school students and their families.

Sam served as a student intern in the laboratory of Dr. Gerardo Vasta at IMET during the most recent semester.

For more information on the HCPSS STEM Science Fair, click here.

Researchers from IMET and UMBC begin field testing bioremediation technology for removing PCBs in Altavista, VA


Altavista, VA (March 30, 2015)

After more than a decade of laboratory research on PCB dechlorination by Dr. Kevin Sowers at UMBC-IMET, and in-situ remediation of PCBs by Dr. Upal Ghosh in the UMBC Dept. of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering, field tests have started, aimed at providing the first practical microbial in-situ treatment system for PCBs.

A large pilot scale demonstration was initiated on 17 March to test an innovative technology to clean up PCBs in a former wastewater treatment pond in Altavista VA. The technology, which employs naturally occurring PCB degrading microorganisms, addresses the current need for an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective alternative to current remediation technologies of dredging and capping to treat PCB impacted sediments throughout the U.S.

The most widely applied technologies for remediation of PCB-contaminated sediments are dredging and transfer to landfills or capping with clean sediments. In addition to being cost prohibitive for large areas of contamination in rivers, lakes and coastal sediments, these technologies are disruptive to environmentally sensitive areas such as marshes and wetlands. Recent in-situ studies have demonstrated the feasibility of PCB bioavailability reduction using activated carbon as an amendment. While these studies have been effective in reducing PCB bioavailability in sediments at sites with high concentrations of PCBs, a more desirable goal is to ultimately reduce the inventory of legacy PCBs in sediments while also reducing bioavailability to the food chain. Development of an in situ treatment system that enhances natural microbial activity, bioaugmentation, would provide a more cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable means of treating persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs. Such a system would eliminate high costs associated with dredging and removal and would have minimal negative impact on the environment since it employs communities of naturally occurring microorganisms.

This project is the culmination of more than a decade of laboratory research on PCB dechlorination by Dr. Kevin Sowers at UMBC-IMET, and in-situ remediation of PCBs by Dr. Upal Ghosh in the UMBC Dept. of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering, that is now ready for synergistic implementation in the field. The innovative aspect of the technology is the development of a bioamended activated carbon pellet seeded with PCB- degrading microorganisms to reduce the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediments. Combining PCB dechlorinating and degrading microorganisms with SediMite(TM), a solid substrate which includes activated carbon particles, has been shown in the laboratory to achieve two major objectives: 1) rapid reduction of PCB levels that are bioavailable to the aquatic food chain through sequestration on the carbon surface, and 2) permanent reduction of total PCB concentrations in impacted sediments by microbial dechlorination and subsequent aerobic biodegradation of contaminants.

The field test is being conducted in a six-acre former wastewater treatment pond that contains PCB impacted sediments that resulted from decades old industrial waste streams released into the pond when it was active. A small in-situ study initiated in the pond in 2012 showed up to 80 % reduction in PCBs levels using this bioremediation technology. Based on these results the large-scale field test was begun in 10 foot diameter steel caissons placed in the pond by the Town of Altavista to demonstrate the efficacy of the technology for treating a large area. Successful validation of this technology in Altavista would provide the first tractable microbial in-situ treatment system for PCBs. In addition to lower cost, bioremediation would have a significantly reduced environmental impact compared with dredging by reducing the health risks associated with sediment disruption, reducing overall energy use and negating the requirement for extensive waste management and substantial habitat restoration.

Shamrock Shindig at the Columbus Center


Baltimore, MD (March 15, 2015)

IMET joined the Waterfront Partnership to help sponsor the 4th Annual Shamrock Shindig, held in Pierce's Park, just behind the Columbus Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Despite some blustery weather, IMET was able to set up a booth displaying a bit of the interesting research going on there. Participants were able to see live blue crabs, examine blue crab molting, and see the process to generate algal biofuel. In addition, several IMET scientists and students were on hand to answer questions and describe their work. IMET is looking forward to participating in this great event again next year.

For more information on the Shamrock Shindig, click here.

IMET-Partner Institutions Seed Grant Program


Baltimore, MD (March 13, 2015)

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) initiated their IMET-Partner Institutions Seed Grant Program last spring, with the selection committee choosing to fund four projects in the first cycle for $100,000 each. The program stipulates that projects must include members from IMET and at least one of their partner institutions, which include University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). “Our seed grant program is an excellent example of the way that IMET can serve as a catalyst for collaboration among our partner institutions,” said IMET Director Russell Hill.

To read more about this program, click here..

Russell Hill Chosen for Leadership Maryland Class of 2015


Annapolis, MD (February 26, 2015)

Leadership Maryland announced today that Prof. Russell T. Hill, director of the Institute Marine Environmental Science and professor at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, has been chosen to participate in the professional development program dedicated to building a stronger Maryland by educating, cultivating and connecting our state’s brightest leaders. Professor Hill is one of 50 Maryland leaders chosen for Leadership Maryland’s 23rd class – the Class of 2015 – who will complete the eight-month hands-on learning program focused on the state’s most vital social, economic and environmental issues.

Following a two-day opening retreat in April, the class will attend five two-day intense sessions focusing on Maryland’s economic development, education, health and human services, criminal justice, the environment, and multi-culturalism/diversity. These sessions will be followed by a one-day closing retreat in November and a graduation celebration in December. More than 100 experts representing business, government, education, and the non-profit community will serve as panelists and guest speakers.

“The selection process for the Class of 2015 was very competitive this year, as we had an extraordinary pool of diverse and experienced applicants to choose from,” said Renée M. Winsky ‘05, president and Chief Executive Officer, Leadership Maryland. “The 50 selected participants represent a broad spectrum of highly-qualified executives from across the state, and we are confident that their Leadership Maryland experience will help them to play an even greater role in our unified effort to shape the future of our state.”

Leadership Maryland is open to senior-level executives with significant achievements in either their careers and/or their communities. Ideal Leadership Maryland members have a desire to learn more about Maryland’s most critical issues and a personal commitment to be a force for positive change in their organizations, their communities, and their state. For more information about Leadership Maryland, please visit, call 410-841-2101 or email

About Leadership Maryland
Leadership Maryland is a professional development program dedicated to building a stronger Maryland by educating, cultivating and connecting our state’s brightest leaders. Each year, as many as 52 diverse and accomplished executives from Maryland’s public and private sectors are selected to come together as a class for an eight-month hands-on learning program focused on the state’s most vital social, economic and environmental issues. The first Leadership Maryland class graduated in 1993, and the organization’s alumni network now consists of more than 1,000 leaders from all industries and regions of the state. To learn more, please call Leadership Maryland at 410-841-2101 or visit

IMET congratulates Matt Moore on being named UMBC Employee of the Quarter


Baltimore, MD (February 10, 2015)

Matt Moore, Facilities Manager for the Columbus Center Operations, has been named one of University of Maryland Baltimore County's (UMBC) Employees of the Quarter. Matt started his career as the Assistant Facilities Manager for the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) Columbus Center in 1996. He was later promoted to Manager and became a UMBC employee after the 2010 University of Maryland System reorganization. This award recognizes Matt for "outstanding qualities and contributions ... towards departmental and UMBC's goals and mission." No one is more deserving of this award than Matt, and IMET would like to thank him for his tireless efforts.

For more information on UMBC's Employee of the Quarter Award, click here.

Environmental entrepreneurs complete first semester of program that brings students and business leaders together at IMET


BALTIMORE, MD (January 26, 2015)

Graduate students at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor recently completed the first semester of an entrepreneurial boot camp focusing on basic business principles, venture capital and entrepreneurism. The Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program was established in June 2014 with funding from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation to help young scientists cultivate the leadership and business skills necessary to bring their bench research into commercial markets.

During the past semester, the Program featured a veritable who’s who of experts from Baltimore’s innovative science and technology community. These included Steve Dubin, of SDA Ventures and former CEO of Martek; Ted Olsen of PathSensors; Paul Silber of Blu Venture Investors; Jason Brooke of Vasoptic Medical. The program brought in real world experts as such as patent attorneys Nick Landau of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Gianna Arnold of Saul, Ewing LLP. Jamie Lacey-Moreira of Press Comm Public Relations and Jennifer Dodson of Adashmore Creative led activities on strategic marketing. Ken Malone, CEO of Early Charm Ventures, who has launched several companies in Maryland and in other states, provided advice to the program throughout the semester.

“This is just the beginning,” said Russell Hill, Director and Professor at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. “We believe that this entrepreneurship program is going to have a demonstrable impact on our students by broadening their career horizons. We also anticipate that the program will help to recruit new students in biotechnology who want to exercise their scientific skills within a business framework. We are grateful to the Ratcliffe Foundation for making these opportunities possible.”

The program runs over the course of two semesters with the Spring semester catalyzing the learnings of the Fall semester in the form of business plans and investor pitches. The Spring semester will host a number of prominent business leaders from Maryland, such as Rachel King of GlycoMimentics, Steve Davey of DSM Nutritional Products, and Blake Paterson of Cerecor.

“The program includes stipend support for two students, short course programs over four weekends for a cohort of eight students as well as externship opportunities,” said Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program Director Nick Hammond. “We also have a pool of seed funds available to students who wish to launch their own businesses. One student has already received a seed grant to support his start up concept.”

Recognizing that careers in academia are limited for scientists, the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship Program prepares students to gain a more informed appreciation of the potential business implications of their research discoveries. This effort is helping some students start their own small businesses in environmental science and helping others to prepare for careers in large companies working on such issues at nutritional supplements, aquaculture, environmental health and alternative fuel development.

IMET scientist receives continued support from anonymous donor to advance research in sustainable aquaculture

BALTIMORE, MD (January 23, 2015)

A local donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has made a generous philanthropic gift to support the sustainable aquaculture work of marine biologist Yonathan “Yoni” Zohar at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The contribution of $380,000 will support Dr. Zohar’s work as chair of the Department of Marine Biotechnology at UMBC. He also leads the Aquaculture Research Center at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore.

“I continue to be gratified and inspired by the tremendous outpouring of support from local and national funders who have demonstrated confidence in our efforts to advance sustainable aquaculture,” said Zohar. “Together, we are expanding the possibilities for providing long-term sources of food to sustainably feed the planet. As the oceans’ fisheries continue to show signs of dramatic depletion, solutions to provide a consistent supply of healthy seafood will become increasingly more important.”

IMET is a global leader in sustainable aquaculture research. Past support from individuals and foundations has catalyzed new and innovative research on a variety of species, including Mediterranean sea bream, sea bass (Bronzini) and bluefin tuna. Zohar’s research, well known worldwide, has discovered ways to close the life cycle of a variety of species in pristine, environmentally responsible ways. He and his team have developed efficient and sustainable hatchery and farming technologies for commercially and ecologically important marine fish. The most recent funding is supporting Dr. Zohar’s research on bluefin tuna, one of the most valuable marine commodities in the world.

“Tuna are a highly valuable across the globe, but unfortunately they are severely overfished,” said Zohar. “We have brought tuna eggs to IMET’s Aquaculture Research Center in an effort to grow these fish to juvenile stages, thus overcoming the main hurdle to their farming. Our efforts have made considerable progress, but more research is needed to ensure that we can sustain this important species for generations to come.”

IMET scientists are at the leading edge of efforts to manage commercial fishing, restore natural stocks and produce marine fish through sustainable aquaculture. In response to the decline in fisheries resources, Zohar notes that marine aquaculture has been steadily growing. However many current aquaculture practices are not environmentally responsible or optimal for fish.

“The generosity of many individuals, foundations and corporations is making a long-term, demonstrable impact to advance critical research in aquaculture,” said IMET Director Russell Hill. “We are grateful for their support and foresight in addressing this important environmental issue and we are proud of the excellent research being conducted by Dr. Zohar and his team.”

IMET attends MD Waterman's Expo


OCEAN CITY, MD (January 19, 2015)

A team of IMET scientists participated in the East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City last weekend. IMET developed and staffed an exhibition booth at the Expo focusing on its blue crab hatchery program. Posters, live broodstock, and hatchery-produced juvenile crabs were displayed. The booth attracted significant interest among Mid-Atlantic watermen, aquaculturists, biologists, state/federal resource managers, and the teaching community.

For more information on the Maryland Waterman's Expo, click here.

IMET joins the Maryland Business Incubation Association


BALTIMORE, MD (January 7, 2015)

The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET)'s Environmental Biotechnology Incubator (EBI) program has officially joined the Maryland Business Incubation Association (MBIA). This collaboration will greatly aid in informing Maryland startups about the EBI program at IMET, as well as providing a new partner that can contribute to the growth of the program as a whole.

The MBIA was founded in 2002 to advance business incubation in Maryland. Representing 22 incubators, MBIA supports nearly 550 companies across the state in both urban and rural areas. Since its inception, their incubators have generated 11,800 jobs, making it equivalent to one of the state’s largest employers.

The EBI program at IMET serves as a business incubator for young companies working to promote the development of products and services having a positive impact on the environment and human health. The scientists at IMET create technologies designed to foster the protection and restoration of coastal marine systems, sustainable use of their resources and improvement of human health. Incubation of small businesses focused on this mission will further IMET’s important role in economic development, protection of marine systems, and the promotion of human health.

For a detailed look at the EBI program at IMET, click here.

To see more on this in the Baltimore Business Journal, click here.

IMET chosen as one of the top 10 names to know for Baltimore startups.

Dr. Robert Caret appointed as Chancellor of University System of Maryland


BALTIMORE, MD (December 19, 2014)

Dr. Robert Caret, current President of the University of Massachusetts System, has been appointed the next Chancellor of the University System of Maryland in a press conference taking place at the Columbus Center in Baltimore, MD. Dr. Caret's appointment follows a six-month, extensive national search led by Rick Berndt, chair of the search-and-screening committee, managing partner of Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP (a Baltimore law firm), and a former USM regent.

Dr. Caret has spent 29 years of his career working within the University System of Maryland, most notably spending 25 years at Towson University, including 8 years as President from 2003-2011. Dr. Caret is expected to assume the role of Chancellor effective July 1, 2015. Outgoing Chancellor Dr. Brit Kirwan, who announced he would be leaving the position in May, has served in the role for 12 years.

For more information on Dr. Caret's appointment, click here.

To see comments by Dr. Robert Caret on the appointment, click here.

IMET welcomes Dr. Colleen Burge to our faculty

BALTIMORE, MD (December 8, 2014)

IMET is happy to announce the arrival of Dr. Colleen Burge as our newest faculty member. Dr. Burge joins us from the University of Washington, where she served as a Postdoctoral Research Associate. Dr. Burge's appointment will be split under the UMBC Department of Marine Biotechnology and the UMB Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The broad focus of her research will be centered about molecular biology/genetics of aquatic infectious diseases.

Dr. Vikram Vakharia honored by National University of San Marcos


LIMA, PERU (October 21, 2014)

Vikram Vakharia, professor of molecular biology and virology in the Department of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology is the recipient of a honorary degree from the National University of San Marcos for his pioneering contributions in the development of novel reverse genetic systems and recombinant vaccines for infectious bursal disease virus causing Gumboro disease in chickens, infectious pancreatic necrosis virus causing pancreatic necrosis disease in salmonids, and fish rhanbdoviruses causing hematopoietic necrosis and viral hemorrhagic septicemia in many fish species.

The National University of San Marcos is a public university in Lima, Peru. It was chartered in 1551 by a Royal Decree signed by Charles V of Spain as the Royal and Pontifical University of the City of the Kings of Lima, which makes it the oldest officially established university in the Americas, and as such, one of the oldest universities in the world. Professor Vakharia’s honor was part of the University’s 463rd anniversary celebration.

Click here to see a video of the ceremony.

IMET at the Sowebo Landmark 5k


BALTIMORE, MD (October 6, 2014)

A large group of IMET faculty, staff, and students participated in the 4th Annual Sowebo Landmark 5k race on Sunday, October 5. The race's goal is to increase diverse community engagement, as well as promote healthy living. IMET was proud to serve as an official sponsor of this year's race, and looks forward to supporting it in the future.

IMET had a strong showing in the race, with faculty member Eric Schott finishing 9th place overall, and 1st in his age range. Congratulations to Eric and to everyone else who participated!

Read more about the Sowebo Landmark 5k here.

Ask a Scientist Booth at the Columbus Center


BALTIMORE, MD (September 12-13, 2014)

IMET graduate students and faculty set time aside during the Star Spangled Spectacular (Sept. 12-13, 2014) to run the first of many "Ask a Scientist" booths. The focus of the booth was to not only inform people about the kind of work that IMET does, but also to get them more involved with the environment that they live in. The booth allowed people to explore what is in the Chesapeake Bay, including things like blue crab larvae, sediment from the Bay floor, and more. IMET scientists provided tools such as microscopes and aquarium tanks, combined with their expert knowledge on marine biology, to allow visitors a truly hands-on and up-close look.

IMET also got a little extra patriotic for the event, as its tent space was lit up red, white, and blue for the evening fireworks. We would like to thank everyone involved in this event, including both those of you who stopped by to enjoy the booth, as well as those of you who helped make it possible. Please be on the lookout for our "Ask a Scientist" booth in the future!

IMET @ the Orioles Event

IMG_6654.JPG IMG_6646.JPG

IMET @ the Orioles

Over 40 IMET employees and their families attended the September 4th Orioles game at Camden Yards as part of our IMET @ the Orioles night. It was a beautiful night in Baltimore, and the Orioles managed to complete their series sweep of the Reds, winning 9-7. IMET strongly supports our hometown O's, and we wish them luck in the playoffs!

IMET's bluefin tuna project gaining traction


BALTIMORE, MD (August 6, 2014)

"For me, it's the Holy Grail," said Yonathan Zohar, a professor of marine biotechnology with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and head of the aquaculture research center at the Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) at the Inner Harbor. He is referring to unlocking the secrets of "farming" the Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the most prized and threatened fish in the world. Dr. Zohar and his colleagues have been working tirelessly this summer to nurture newly hatched bluefin tuna larvae (microscopic in size) into juvenile fish.

Dr. Zohar and his team have been getting their fertilized bluefin tuna eggs from a "ranch" on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. Once farmed, these eggs take a 36-hour, 5000+ mile journey to the IMET facility in Baltimore, MD. During this harrowing journey, time is of the essence. If any of the eggs begin to hatch en route, they're lost. Due to the fragile nature of the bluefin tuna eggs and larvae, the first two months are considered the bottleneck period, where attrition levels are high. Once past that point, the fish are much stronger and more stable.

Unable to generate federal funding for the project, Dr. Zohar's team have been able to get support from a foundation, and from several private companies, including BP. The budget for the project is just $450,000, with Dr. Zohar calls "very modest for such a global and a complex project."

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is the largest of all tuna, and can grow to nearly 10 feet and up to 1,600 pounds during its lifetime. It has been listed as a "species of concern" by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), due in large part to over-fishing. Its numbers have declined by nearly two-thirds from their 1970 level.

Dr. Zohar believes that this project can eventually help ease the pressure on wild stocks of bluefin tuna. He imagines seeing mainland hatcheries developed with large recirculating tanks capable of housing 30-40 pound fish, both for the purpose of restocking the ocean and marketing as food.

Read about IMET's bluefin tuna project on NPR here or in the Baltimore Sun here.

IMET partners with DC Central Kitchen to bring fresh fish to the community


BALTIMORE, MD (August 5, 2014)

On July 29th, IMET donated 200 branzino (a European sea bass) to the Culinary Job Training Program at the DC Central Kitchen. The DC Central Kitchen is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to bring healthy food to the community through the provision of low-cost or no-cost meals, and to help eliminate food waste through a combination of their culinary training and food recycling programs.

During a week of hands-on training, students of the program were able to utilize the donated fish to learn and practice new culinary techniques, taught to them by local-area chefs. Both IMET and the DC Central Kitchen believe that this could become a long-standing partnership.

Read more about IMET's donation and the DC Central Kitchen here.

Dr. Sook Chung heads up "Crab Lab" summer program for teens

BALTIMORE, MD (July 23, 2014)

For one week this summer, Dr. Sook Chung, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, led a group of four Baltimore-area teens in studying marine life at what is often referred to as Maryland's "Crab Lab". Dr. Chung recruited the students, now rising 9th graders, to have the chance to study marine biology in one of the country's premier laboratories. The week-long experience will focus on the study of the effects of the environment on Maryland's best-known crustacean; the crab.

Read more.

IMET receives $600,000 Ratcliffe Foundation grant to support program in entrepreneurial leadership

BALTIMORE, MD (July 10, 2014)

The Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation has awarded the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore a three-year, $600,000 grant to initiate the Ratcliffe Environmental Entrepreneurs Fellowship (REEF) Program. This new effort has been formed to help young scientists cultivate the leadership and business skills necessary to bring their bench research into commercial markets.

The REEF Program will prepare students to work with private enterprise and to gain a more informed appreciation of the potential business implications of their research discoveries. This effort will help some students to start their own small businesses in environmental science and better prepare others for careers in large companies.

Read more.

With 'biological sunscreen,' mantis shrimp see the reef in a whole different light


BALTIMORE, MD (July 3, 2014)

In an unexpected discovery, researchers from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have found that the complex eyes of mantis shrimp are equipped with optics that generate ultraviolet (UV) color vision. Mantis shrimp's six UV photoreceptors pick up on different colors within the UV spectrum based on filters made from an ingredient other animals depend on as built-in biological sunscreen, according to research reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 3.

Read more.

Jeanette Davis selected as Class of 2015 Sea Grant Knauss Finalist

Jeanette%20Davis.JPGJeanette Davis, a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology, has been selected a Class of 2015 Sea Grant Knauss Finalist. The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship provides a unique educational experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.

More information on the Sea Grant Knauss Finalists can be found here.

UMBC scientist receives Maryland Innovation grant from TEDCO to advance the development of a vaccine to combat a deadly fish virus

BALTIMORE, MD (May 23, 2014)

Professor Vikram Vakharia, Professor of Marine Biotechnology at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore, received a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII). Vakhria will use the funds to develop a vaccine against viral infections in fish populations. Such viruses can be devastating to fish populations world-wide. A vaccine could have tremendous implications for hatcheries and rearing ponds that provide high-protein fish to tens millions of people.

Many viral diseases in fish have been reported worldwide. Of particular concern is infections caused by nervous necrosis virus (NNV). This virus is of concern because it impacts both warm- and cold-water fish in marine environments. The virus has resulted in severe economic losses in many Asian and European countries, Australia and North America. It is estimated that 5% of loss in the finfish aquaculture industry is due to disease and translates into over $1 billion global annual loses. The disease is associated with high mortality (up to 100 %) particularly in larvae and juvenile fish species. Therefore, technologies are needed to immunize large populations of fish with vaccines that are efficient and economical.

“The health of fish is critical to the aquaculture industry and the countless number of people who consume fish in every corner of the world,” said Vakharia, a global leader in viral diseases of aquaculture. “Nervous necrosis virus (NNV) infects more than 40 fish species and currently, there are no commercial vaccines available to prevent this disease,” Vakharia added.

The goal of Vakharia’s research is to develop and evaluate the efficacy of a recombinant NNV vaccine.

“Dr. Vakharia’s research is critically important from both an environmental and economic perspective,” noted Russell Hill, Director of the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET). “The development of a new vaccine will support the aquaculture industry and help provide food for millions of people. We greatly appreciate TEDCO’s support and foresight in addressing this important work through the Maryland Innovation Initiative.”

The Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) was created as a partnership between the State of Maryland and five Maryland academic research institutions (Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore and University of Maryland Baltimore County). The program is designed to promote commercialization of research conducted among the partnership universities and to leverage each institution’s unique strengths.

The Maryland State Legislature created TEDCO in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses in all regions of the State. TEDCO is an independent organization that strives to be Maryland’s lead source for entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy.

Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology is a strategic alliance involving scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular genetic analysis and biotechnology, using marine resources to develop new drug therapies, alternative energy and other innovations to improve public health and economic opportunities. IMET also contributes to sustainable marine aquaculture and fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and other marine ecosystems.

We Remember Prof. Zeev Pancer

Zeev Pancer

pancer.jpgAssociate Professor Zeev Pancer, a faculty member in the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of Maryland School of Medicine died in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 20, 2014. He was 56 years old.
Zeev's work has led to the identification of unique antibodies derived from jawless fish (lamprey and hagfish), representatives of the oldest vertebrate taxa. The structure of these antibodies is unique compared to antibodies of all jawed vertebrates (from shark to man) which consist of immunoglobulins. They consist of many leucine rich repeated sequences and are termed Variable Lymphocyte Receptors (VLRs) and they can target diverse antigens, comparable to that of the human antibodies and T-cell receptors. Zeev earned a B.Sc. in Biology at the Tel Aviv University, Israel in 1985, a M.Sc. in Animal Sciences in 1988 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and a D.Sc. in Comparative Immunology at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in 1994. From 1994 to 2005 Zeev carried out postdoctoral research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel; Mainz University, Germany; the California Institute of Technology and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA.
Zeev and his research staff developed an innovative high-throughput method to isolate antigen-specific binding VLR clones using yeast surface display. At the time of his death he was working to create a “synthetic immune system” by grafting to yeast the essential components of adaptive immunity. This study would retrace the adaptations that are required for an organism to acquire a complex adaptive immune system, providing insights into origins and function of the human immune system.
A memorial seminar will be held on Friday 23 May at 10am to celebrate the life and research of Prof. Pancer. More information on the seminar can be found here.

UMBC scientists receive Maryland Innovation grant from TEDCO to advance bioremediation of PCB-contaminated sediments

BALTIMORE, MD (April 21, 2014)

Professor Kevin Sowers, Professor of Marine Biotechnology at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), and Professor Upal Ghosh, at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, have received a $100,000 grant from the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII). The grant will fund research to that will ameliorate the environmental harms of PCB’s. The program is an initiative of the Technology Council of Maryland (TEDCO) created in 1998 to spur commercialization of scientific research in Maryland as part of the state’s efforts to foster economic development through academic research.

Dr. Sowers is a global leader in environmental science and has pioneered a method that uses activated carbon pellets seeded with microorganisms that degrade the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediments. In recent laboratory experiments, the cultures Sowers created resulted in over 80% reduction in the PCB mass after treatment.

“Our hope is that this method for treating PCB’s will have a tangible impact in restoring previously degraded areas – both on land and in bodies of water,” says Sowers. “PCB’s have long been a harmful and largely intransigent pollutant and our work is intended to address serious health impacts these chemicals have on people, animals and the environment.”

Sowers is collaborating in this work with Upal Ghosh, a professor at the Department of Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering at UMBC. “The magnitude of PCB sediment contamination and associated water quality problems in the United States is reflected in more than 3,200 state and local advisories that have warned the public about of the health impacts of consuming contaminated fish. These warnings cover 24% of total river miles throughout the United States,” Ghosh says. “The advisories include 100% of the Great Lakes and 35% of all other lakes nationwide.” PCBs are frequently reported as the leading contaminants at impacted sites. Current remediation technologies are expensive, destructive to environmentally sensitive areas, and difficult to coordinate with local activities. The technology proposed by Sowers and Ghosh addresses existing challenges and is especially suitable for environmentally sensitive sites such as wetlands and difficult-to-reach areas under-pier structures in contaminated harbors. This technology advances an in-situ remediation approach using activated carbon that has been recently developed by Ghosh and commercialized through a startup company Sediment Solutions.

The Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) was created as a partnership between the State of Maryland and five Maryland academic research institutions (Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore and University of Maryland Baltimore County.) The program is designed to promote commercialization of research conducted between and among the partnership universities and it leverages each institution’s unique strengths.

“The MII program is critically important to our partner universities and the citizens of Maryland,” noted Russell Hill, IMET Director, “because it facilitates the transformation of basic science into practical and far-reaching applications. We are grateful for TEDCO’s support and foresight in addressing this important environmental issue and are proud of the excellent research being done by Dr. Sowers and Dr. Ghosh.”

The Maryland State Legislature created TEDCO in 1998 to facilitate the transfer and commercialization of technology from Maryland’s research universities and federal labs into the marketplace and to assist in the creation and growth of technology-based businesses in all regions of the State. TEDCO is an independent organization that strives to be Maryland’s leading source for entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy.


Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology is a strategic alliance involving scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Scientists are engaged in cutting-edge research in microbiology, molecular genetic analysis and biotechnology, using marine resources to develop new drug therapies, alternative energy and other innovations to improve public health and economic opportunities. IMET also contributes to sustainable marine aquaculture and fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and other marine ecosystems.

IMET wins $500,000 in global innovative carbon use competition

Algae from the Chesapeake Bay could be key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute of Marine and EnvironmentalTechnology (IMET) has been named a winner in the first round of the Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC)’s $35 million international Grand Challenge: Innovative Carbon Uses for its work in using algae to capture carbon dioxide.

Read more.

ARC Mentioned on NPR

The Future Of Clean, Green Fish Farming Could Be Indoor Factories
by Dan Charles
April 07, 2014 5:45 PM ET

Why hasn't fish farming taken off in the U.S.?

It's certainly not for lack of demand for the fish. Slowly but surely, seafood that's grown in aquaculture is taking over the seafood section at your supermarket, and the vast majority is imported.

The shrimp and tilapia typically come from warm-water ponds in southeast Asia and Latin America. Farmed salmon come from big net pens in the coastal waters of Norway or Chile. Read More...

Prof. Zohar's Summer Program in Israel

Israel is home to three of the world’s most diverse marine systems – the Mediterranean, Red and Dead Seas. Although found in rare and remarkable proximity, each is distinguished by unique oceanography, biology, flora and fauna, making Israel a particularly extraordinary destination for students of marine and environmental sciences.

This summer, from June 22 to July 6, Yonathan Zohar, chair of UMBC’s Department of Marine Biotechnology, will lead students on an intensive study of the three Israeli seas at the Ruppin Academic Center, in Netanya, Israel, on the Mediterranean coast. Read more.

UMBC scientist receives major grant from Gudelsky Family Foundation to advance sustainable aquaculture research

For the third consecutive year, The Homer and Martha Gudelsky Family Foundation has made a generous philanthropic gift to support the sustainable aquaculture work of marine biologist Yonathan “Yoni” Zohar at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This year’s grant of $600,000 is the foundation’s largest gift to Professor Zohar, and brings the foundation’s total support of his pioneering research to nearly $1 million.

Read more.

2nd International Symposium on Sponge Microbiology to be held at IMET

IMET is pleased to announce that the 2nd International Symposium on Sponge Microbiology will be held at IMET on October 26-28, 2014. More information, as it becomes available, will be posted to the symposium's website (

Dr. Place Interviewed by the Daily Record

Heavy snows could yield summer algae blooms

IMET hosts LMRCSC Board of Visitors

The Board of Visitors of the Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) met at the Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology on November 4, 2013, for their annual meeting. LMRCSC faculty and graduate students met with the project directors, as well as Jacqueline Rousseau and Meka Laster from NOAA's Educational Partnership Program. The program is funded by NOAA's Educational Partnership Program.


LMRCSC prepares a diverse student body for careers in research, management and public policy that support the sustainable harvest and conservation of our nation's living marine resources. Now in its 13th year of funding, it is a partnership between the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, along with Delaware State University, Hampton University, Savannah State University, Rosensteil School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences, and the University of Oregon. The LMRCSC project director at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is Dr. Rosemary Jagus.

IMET Delegates Attend the 10th Annual IMBC in Australia

UMCES-IMET delegates at the 10th Annual International Marine Biotechnology Conference (IMBC), November 11-15, 2013, in Brisbane, Australia. More than 300 delegates attended the conference from more than 20 countries. IMET Director, Dr. Russell Hill, is the Secretary/Treasurer of the International Marine Biotechnology Association (IMBA) that organizes the IMBCs. IMET Assistant Director, Dr. Nick Hammond, was active at the conference, enrolling founder members in the IMBA. Drs. Tsetso Bachvaroff, Sook Chung and Rose Jagus were among the keynote speakers. Graduate students, Jeanette Davis, Ryan Powell, Jan Vicente and Fan Zhang, gave oral presentations. Jan Vicente was awarded a runner-up prize for his presentation “Diversity and functionality of microbial symbionts associated with a two-sponge symbiosis in the Caribbean”. Breaking news from the conference:
Baltimore has been chosen as the location for the 11th IMBC in 2016, to be hosted by IMET.

UMB's ELM Publication Reports on J-M Cousteau's Visit to IMET

Photos from Jean-Michel Cousteau's Great Ocean Adventure


Photos from the event have been posted to Facebook!

Jean-Michel Cousteau's Great Ocean Adventure

WJZ: Famed 'Ocean Guy' Jean-Michel Cousteau Backs Baltimore Fish Farm

WJZ's story

Drs. Watson & Place in International Aquafeed

International Aquafeed: Veggie diets for cobia
September/October 2013

Dr. Zohar on Midday with Dan Rodricks

Dan Rodricks discusses Maryland Fish Farming on his September 17, 2013 broadcast.
Listen online.

Sir Richard Roberts' Visit to IMET on 9/4/13

Picture1.jpg Sir Richard J. Roberts, Nobel Laureate and Chief Scientific Officer at New England Biolabs, visited the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology on the September 4, 2013 and delivered the first IMET Distinguished Seminar to a packed auditorium at the Columbus Center. In the talk, entitled “Bacterial methylomes”, Dr. Roberts reported on a novel approach to characterizing restriction-modification systems and DNA methylation patterns on a genome-wide basis using single molecule real time (SMRT) sequencing. The implications of his talk were far reaching in the field of biotechnology. Dr. Roberts is well-known for his discovery and characterization of over 100 restriction enzymes. He also discovered introns and mRNA splicing for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1993. The seminar was hosted by Professor Shiladitya DasSarma and co-sponsored by the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Relevant articles by Dr. Roberts:
1. The methylomes of six bacteria
2. Characterization of DNA methyltransferase specificities using single-molecule, real-time DNA Sequencing
3. Genome-wide mapping of methylated adenine residues in pathogenic Escherichia coli using single-molecule real-time sequencing

Special Event: Jean Michel Cousteau to give a Public Lecture at IMET

IMET and Ocean Futures Society Proudly Present

Cousteau%20JM-%20Photo%20%28Web%20Res%20HEADSHOT%20Credit%20to%20Tom%20Ordway%202005%29.jpgJean-Michel Cousteau
"The Great Ocean Adventure"

Wednesday, 9th October, 2013

VIP dinner: 5:00 PM
Lecture: 7:00 PM (general reception to follow)

Rregistration is closed

Since first being “thrown overboard” by his father at the age of seven with newly invented SCUBA gear on his back, Jean-Michel has been exploring the ocean realm. The son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel has investigated the world’s oceans aboard Calypso and Alcyone for much of his life. Honoring his heritage, Jean-Michel founded Ocean Futures Society in 1999 to carry on this pioneering work.

His presentation, "The Great Ocean Adventure," will address the magnitude of challenges facing our oceans and fisheries and touch upon IMET’s work in developing one of the most innovative and environmentally sustainable marine aquaculture technologies today.

Ocean Futures Society, a non-profit marine conservation and education organization, serves as a “Voice for the Ocean” by communicating in all media the critical bond between people and the sea and the importance of wise environmental policy. As Ocean Future’s spokesman, Jean-Michel serves as an impassioned diplomat for the environment, reaching out to the public through a variety of media.

Mr. Cousteau has produced over 80 films, received the Emmy, the Peabody Award, the 7 d’Or, and the Cable Ace Award. In 1989, he became a syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times where his articles appeared in over sixty newspapers worldwide. Reaching millions of people globally through Ocean Futures Society, Jean-Michel continues to produce environmentally oriented adventure programs and television specials, public service announcements, multi-media programs for schools, web-based marine content, books, articles for magazines, newspaper columns, and public lectures.

The Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology (IMET) is home to one of the largest groups of scientists in the world addressing marine and environmental research through molecular approaches. Focusing on the sustainable use of natural resources and enhancement of human health, IMET is a joint University System of Maryland research institute capitalizing on the strengths of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in a state-of-the-art research facility located at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Registration is closed. Tickets to the lecture were $20.


Washington Post Reports on Dr. Watson's Research

Baltimore Researchers Turn Some Carnivorous Fish Into Vegetarians

By: Darryl Fears75756646.jpg
Photo by: Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images
Published: August 11, 2013

Cobia is a sleek and powerful fish that devours flesh and doesn’t apologize for it. Open its belly and anything might pop out — crab, squid, smaller fish, you name it.

Recently, three Baltimore researchers — Aaron Watson, Frederic Barrows and Allen Place — set out to tame this wild and hungry fish sometimes called black salmon. They didn’t want to simply domesticate it; hundreds of fish farmers have already done that. They sought to turn one of the ocean’s greediest carnivores into a vegetarian.

The researchers announced last week that they pulled off the feat at a laboratory in the Columbus Center in downtown Baltimore. Over the course of a four-year study, Watson said, they dabbled with mixtures of plant-based proteins, fatty acids and a powerful amino acid-like substance found in energy drinks until they came up with a combination that cobia and another popular farm fish, gilt-head bream, gobbled down.

The conversion of these carnivorous fish to a completely vegetarian diet is a first, according to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and a key to breaking a cycle in which the ocean’s stocks of small fish — menhaden, anchovies and sardines — are plundered by industrial fishing partly to provide fish feed to aquaculture, one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world.

“It would take the pressure off harvesting the menhaden fishery,” Place said, referring to the bony and oily little fish billed as the most important in the sea. Menhaden, caught off Virginia’s coast, feed a plethora of marine animals, including dolphin, swordfish and birds.

The research was published in this month’s issue of the journal Lipids and is supported by a paper published earlier in the Journal of Fisheries and Aquaculture. It’s part of a race to replace feed from wild-caught fish as the diet of choice for farm-raised fish, set in motion by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Agriculture in 2007.

Feeding both farm fish and more than a billion humans from wild fisheries is environmentally unsustainable, according to NOAA and just about every nonprofit conservation organization that monitors oceans.

Fearing that menhaden are severely overfished by an industry that sells it worldwide for oil, animal feed and sport-fishing bait, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in December sharply reduced the amount that can be harvested.

Aquaculture was once thought to be a solution to overfishing in the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers. After the explosion in the human demand for seafood, the need to feed farm fish started depleting the stocks aquaculture was supposed to save.

But there is a way for people to have abundant fish and eat them, too, said Michael Rust, aquaculture research program manager at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

“All fish — carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore — require about 40 nutrients in the correct ratio,” Rust was quoted as saying on NOAA’s Web site. “It doesn’t matter to the health of the fish where the nutrients come from. By incorporating marine algae, fish processing trimmings, and a variety of plant products, we can formulate high quality fish feeds without relying on wild-caught fish.”

Here is a link to the article.

Dr. Zohar on the Marc Steiner Show

On 30th July 2013, The Marc Steiner Show featured an interview with Dr. Yonathan Zohar regarding ARC at IMET. Listen online here.

City Paper Highlights ARC at IMET

The Economy of Scales
A Baltimore lab aims to take the science of growing clean, healthy salt-water fish to the global marketplace

Article by: Van Smith
Photos by: Christopher Myers
Published July 24, 2013

image_005.jpg The wood-grilled whole dorado, at $34, is the highest-priced dish on the current menu at Pazo, the casually elegant restaurant in Fells Point in Baltimore. Executive chef Mario Cano Catalan gushes about the restaurant’s specimens of the high-value Mediterranean fish, whose market name is gilthead sea bream, a sparkling silver species with a band of yellowish gleam at its head.

The ones Catalan prepares weigh a pound or a little over, he says, and after scaling and gutting them, he seasons them with crushed oregano and sea salt.

“They are cooked slowly,” Catalan explains, “at a medium temperature of about 400 degrees, and the juicy, moist meat gets a nice smoky flavor from cooking with its own juice image_004.jpginside, and the skin gets super-crispy, which is excellent. The customers enjoy it very well.”

But here’s the catch: Pazo’s sea bream are not caught, nor are they from the Mediterranean. They come from a scientific laboratory in the basement of the Columbus Center downtown.


Here is a link to the full article.

IMET Welcomes Assistant Director, Nick Hammond, Ph.D.

Hammond_2.jpgIMET is pleased to introduce Dr. Nick Hammond who joined the team in April, 2013 as IMET’s Assistant Director. Dr. Hammond's role will be to advance the mission of the Institute, in particular regarding technology transfer and economic development in the State of Maryland. Dr. Hammond co-founded Ablitech, Inc. in 2006 as its first CEO, and served as its Chief Technology Officer until becoming the Chief Science Officer in 2011. Hammond catalyzed Ablitech’s move to the University of Maryland BioPark in Baltimore, MD in January of 2012 and was instrumental in raising more than $2.8M from federal grants and contracts, foundations, angel investment, and state agencies for the development of Ablitech’s Versadel delivery technology for gene silencing. Hammond’s past research has involved drug design and development, drug delivery, polymers, gene silencing, basic cell research, and small animal models. Hammond has authored a number of scientific papers, presentations, and patents and has been honored as a National Science Foundation (NSF) IGERT Fellow, an American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) Endowed Fellow, and a Trent Lott National Center of Excellence for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship Fellow. Hammond holds a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from The University of Mississippi and a BS in Biology and Chemistry from Butler University.

Ammar Hanif presents his thesis.

Ammar Hanif, advised by Dr. Eric Schott and co-advised by Dr. Rose
Jagus, presented the results of his master's research to IMET on
11/16/12 and successfully defended his work a few days later. The title
of his thesis is "Development, validation, and application of a
quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay to assess environmental
samples for determining Hematodinium perezei prevalence" and was supported
by the NOAA-EPP funded Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center
(LMRCSC). Recently, Mr. Hanif has been awarded a two-year graduate
fellowship by Maryland SeaGrant entitled "Diet and feeding of menhaden
using barcoding identification based on cox1 sequences to enable the
linking of primary productivity to fisheries". The work will be part of a collaboration
between IMET scientist, Dr. Allen R. Place, and CBL scientist, Dr. Dave
Secor and will be funded in part by seed funding from the LMRCSC.

Homer and Martha Gudelsky Family Foundation Give $250,000 to Support Dr. Zohar’s Sustainable Aquaculture Research

zohar_sm.jpgThe Homer and Martha Gudelsky Family Foundation has made a generous gift of $250,000 to support Dr. Yoni Zohar’s sustainable aquaculture research programs at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology and UMBC's Department of Marine Biotechnology. This gift will support and enhance the important environmentally sustainable marine aquaculture studies done by Yoni Zohar and his research team. Dr. Zohar’s cutting-edge research contributes to closing the life cycle and developing efficient hatchery technologies for commercially and ecologically important marine fish and developing new generations of healthy seafood production methods to feed the growing world population, while protecting our marine and coastal environments. The gift also supports Dr. Zohar’s programs to build sustainable and healthy fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay.

IMET in the News: Baltimore Sun article on ARC and fishfood

The Baltimore Sun's Sunday edition (August 19,2012) ran an article entitled, "Repairing aquaculture's Achilles' heel: UM researchers develop plant-based fish feed to ease pressure on world's fisheries".

This article features IMET's own Dr. Allen Place and Ph.D. candidate Aaron Watson.

To read the full article, please visit the Baltimore Sun's website at:,0,2619180.story

NOAA-EPP Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center Summer Research Day

NOAA-EPP Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) Summer 2012
Interns presented the results of their projects on Friday August 3 at IMET.

This year students were able to participate in the following learning experiences:

Fisheries/stock restoration
Dr. Sook Chung: Measuring environmental and physiological stress and its impact on infection in blue crab by Hematodinium sps.
Dr. Sook Chung/Rose Jagus: Characterization and phylogenetic analysis of the blue crab eIF4Es (Callinectes sapidus).
Dr. Rose Jagus/Adam Tulu: Characterization of CYP19a aromatase from Microgadus tomcod.
Dr. Rose Jagus: Optimization of methods for using RNA/DNA ratios to assess condition factor in menhaden.
Dr. James Pierson: Feeding and growth of doliolids as related to food concentration and temperature: Toward a model of doliolid population dynamics.
Dr. Allen Place: assessment of diet and feeding of menhaden using barcoding identification.

Essential Fish Habitat
Dr. Feng Chen: Analysis of dinoflagellate species and their distribution in the Maryland coastal bays.
Dr.s Rose Jagus/Al Place: Role of eIF4Es in the regulation of gene expression in the dinoflagellate, Karlodinium veneficum.
Dr. Eric Schott: Tracking pathogens of blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) along the northern limit of its range.
Dr. Russell Hill: Aquaculture and microbiology of sponges from the Florida Keys.

Environmentally responsible aquaculture
Dr. Allen Place: Alternative, eco-friendly diets in high density cobia aquaculture.

Learn more about the LMRCSC by visiting:

New IMET Assistant Professor Appointed - Dr. Yantao Li

It is with great enthusiasm that Dr. Russell Hill announces that Dr. Yantao Li will be joining the IMET faculty as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Li's appointment comes after a seven month search process that included a large field of highly qualified candidates.

Dr. Li received his B.S. in Plant Biology from Nanjing University (China) in 2002 and his Ph.D. in Microbial Biotechnology in 2006 from the University of Hong Kong (in conjunction with work done at Arizona State University from 2004 to 2006).

Prior to his appointment with IMET, Dr. Li was an Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Applied Sciences and Mathematics at Arizona State University.

Dr. Li will begin work at IMET in September.

An Article in "What's Up?" Magazine Highlights IMET and ARC

A recent article published in "What's Up?" magazine highlights the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology. The article includes interviews with Dr. Russell Hill (Interim Director of IMET) and Dr. Yonathan Zohar (Director of ARC).

Please read the article, found here:

Dr. Allen Place honored with Presidents Award for Science Application

Dr. Allen Place, a professor and biochemist with the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, has been honored by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science with the President's Award for Science Application. Dr. Place was recognized for his biological research that takes diverse approaches to address many practical problems, from the causes of toxic algal blooms and ways they can be controlled to formulating sustainable foods used to cultivate fish in aquaculture.

"He has focused on real problems, such as harmful algal blooms, and creatively developed and used cutting-edge methods to counteract their effect," said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Dr. Donald Boesch. "He takes his research full circle by working with public agencies and businesses in the application of his solutions."

Place's work has focused on biology at a microscopic level, including investigating the toxic algae Karlodinium, which caused major fish kills in the late 1990s. By determining the cause of some of these fish kills, he was able to provide sound scientific information to Maryland state agencies and head off unfounded public concerns regarding human or ecological health.

More recently, Dr. Place has led a group looking for novel and effective control mechanisms for cyanobacterial blooms that plague freshwater reaches of the Chesapeake Bay. These blooms occur throughout the U.S. and the world and have profound impacts on human and ecological health as well as economic interests. Dr. Place and his team have initiated critical dialogue and partnerships at the state and local government levels, as well as with NGOs and private interests.

"He brings huge energy and enthusiasm to his important work on the microalgae and their toxins in the Chesapeake Bay and other ecosystems worldwide," said Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology Interim Director Dr. Russell Hill. "He has an outstanding track record in applying his considerable scientific talents to solve real world problems of great significance."

The President's Award for Science Application was established in 1999 to honor exemplary service that has an impact upon the state of Maryland.

Dr. Shiladitya DasSarma has received a $100,000 grant to develop an oral vaccine in a salt shaker.

Shiladitya DasSarma, Ph.D. has won a grant from Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He will pursue an innovative global health and development research project titled “Vaccine in a Salt Shaker: A New, Safe, Low-Cost Approach,” with the $100,000 grant.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr. DasSarma’s project is one of more than 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

To receive funding, Dr. DasSarma and other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.

Dr. DasSarma’s project utilizes novel microbes known as Haloarchaea, which can be packaged in salt crystals, as a system for delivery of antigens of pathogenic microorganisms. The approach has certain advantages, such as the ability to produce large quantities of vaccine inexpensively, simple oral administration, no need for refrigeration, and ease of distribution in remote locations worldwide.

He will lead a team of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, along with international collaborators, to develop an inexpensive, safe and effective oral vaccine against invasive Salmonella disease. Dr. DasSarma’s laboratory is located at the University System of Maryland’s Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology in the Columbus Center in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Best Poster Award Given to Prasun Guha at the National Institutes of Health Glyco Meeting

Prasun Guha, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Hafiz Ahmed received the Best Poster Award in the category "Glycoscience and Understanding Cancer" at the NIH Glyco Meeting on June 12th, 2012.

The title of their poster is: "Gene Regulation in Autophagy and Apoptosis Juncture: Increased Expression of eNOS Negatively Regulates autophagy Resulting p62 Accumulation and ROS Sensitized Apoptosis of Cancer Cells Having Stem Like Property".

Graduate Student Awarded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship

Jan Vicente, an IMET and LMRCSC graduate student, was awarded a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship. This Program recognizes outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate level research. Jan is working towards his Ph.D. in the lab of Dr. Russell Hill.

There were 254 applications for this prestigious award and only a very few granted, so it is a major accomplishment by Jan in being selected for this scholarship. The scholarship provides substantial support for Jan's graduate studies over the next three years.

IMET Hosts Symposium on Chesapeake Bay, Human Health and Eco-Toxicology

Environmental leaders gather to discuss the Chesapeake Bay and human health at the Symposium on Chesapeake Bay, Human Health and Eco-Toxicology hosted by the INstitute of Marine and Environmental Technology on May 14th and 15th.

"Stop acting like we're bulletproof" urged Congressman Elijah Cummings at the kick off of a two-day conference on the Chesapeake Bay and human health at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, May 14-15.

Maryland scientists and environmental leaders gathered to discuss the Chesapeake Bay and human health at a statewide symposium. The event brings together leading scientists from the University System of Maryland and policy makers from State and federal agencies to address critical problems in the Bay related to human health, such harmful algal blooms and toxic substances in the Bay.

The opening ceremony included remarks from Dr. Russell Hill, Interim Director, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Dr. Jay Perman, President, University of Maryland Baltimore, Chancellor William "Brit" Kirwan, Chancellor, University System of Maryland, Attorney General Doug Gansler, State of Maryland, Congressman Elijah Cummings, U.S. House of Representatives, Dr. Donald Boesch, President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The symposium takes place in the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), a new University System of Maryland research center at the Inner Harbor. This unique strategic alliance involves scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the University of Maryland Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. IMET's scientists are involved in cutting-edge research in microbiology, genetic analysis and biotechnology, using marine life to develop new drug therapies, alternative energy and other innovations to improve public health and economic opportunities.

Vegetarian Fish? A New Solution for Aquaculture

Fish farming already produces half the word's marketable fish. But is it environmentally friendly? Aaron Watson and Steve Rogers at Baltimore's Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology explain why plant based fish feed and recirculated aquaculture may be the future for farmed fish.

Watch the video here.

Funding for the LMRCSC

The Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) has been re-funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Educational Partnership Program. IMET is a partner in this program, with Dr. Rosemary Jagus directing the UMCES@IMET LMRCSC Program. The LMRCSC was established in 2001 as a partnership with NOAA to 1) increase the number and diversity of students who are trained in NOAA-related sciences and those who receive degrees annually in NOAA core science areas, and 2) increase the number of collaborative research projects and peer-reviewed publications between scientists at MSIs and those at NOAA and other institutions, agencies and laboratories. The latest award funds the Program through 2016.

Technology to Increase Production of High-Quality Seafood Licensed to Maryland Sustainable Mariculture, LLC

University System of Maryland (USM) scientists have developed an environmentally sustainable and cost-efficient system to increase the world's supply of high-quality seafood. The new technology has formed the basis of a licensing agreement to Maryland Sustainable Mariculture (MSM) LLC, a biotechnology start-up company in Baltimore.

Read article here.

Fish farming research to get real-world tryout

A technique developed by University of Maryland scientists for cultivating seafood indoors is slated to get its first real-world tryout under a licensing agreement with a newly formed Baltimore company.

Read article in the Baltimore Sun

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology in the News category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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