Marine Science Program Team
Regions where oceans and estuaries come into contact with rocks and soil minerals are dynamic, impacting everything from ocean currents and upwellings to nutrient cycling and pollutant transport. Dr. Bowers is a physical geochemist and expert clay scientist who studies fluid-solid interfaces, including the water-mineral interfaces that impact coastal chemistry. His research program is focused on understanding the root physical and chemical behavior that underlie important issues related to energy and the environment, past and present. The main goal in the Bowers group is to provide a better understanding of how ions, H2O, organic matter, and other fluids (such as supercritical CH4 and CO2) move, stick and react at solid-fluid interfaces and in nano-scale confined spaces of heterogeneous materials. They accomplish their goals by studying how chemical parameters of the surface or fluids influence these behaviors through the integration of spectroscopic, thermodynamic, microscopic and molecular modeling tools. Learn more»
Dr. Brownlee studies aquatic plant-like cells called phytoplankton in the Chesapeake Bay. Her research involves understanding how phytoplankton adapt to their rapidly changing environments. In particular, she is interested in mixotrophic organisms that – like a Venus flytrap – can both photosynthesize and consume organic material to acquire energy. She uses modern molecular tools, flow cytometry and traditional plankton ecology methodology.
Dr. Byrd studies the survival of bacteria in estuarine systems. His work includes both estuarine bacteria (e.g., Vibrio vulnificus) and fecal indicator bacteria introduced into the estuarine system (e.g., E. coli)
Dr. Gurbisz studies the ecology of coastal ecosystems. Her research integrates biology, chemistry and physics to understand how environmental factors affect ecosystem structure and functioning. In other words, she “takes the pulse” of coastal systems to better understand the causes and consequences of changes in ecosystem health. She works mostly in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, although she has also studied oyster reefs, oyster aquaculture and salt marshes.
Dr. Hamman studies population and community ecology. Her research integrates mathematical and statistical models with field surveys and experiments. She is particularly interested in understanding spatial variation in ecosystems dominated by biogenic habitats such as coral reefs, salt marshes, oyster reefs and seagrasses. She also works in freshwater rock pools and studies statistical methods.
Dr. Hitchman is a broadly trained aquatic ecologist specializing in both freshwater and marine environments. He is motivated by two realities the world is faced with today: the destruction and/or alteration of habitat by humans and the overwhelming decrease of biodiversity. Scientists need to understand how organisms relate to their environment in order to effectively protect species and conserve biodiversity. Dr. Hitchman’s primary research interests focus on understanding fish species-habitat relationships and biodiversity responses to altered aquatic ecosystems (e.g. marine protected areas, fragmented river systems). His uses a blend of basic and applied sciences and multiple approaches (field sampling, laboratory experiments, geographic information systems, multivariate statistics).
Dr. Susan Langley is an underwater archaeologist who studies submerged cultural resources and their management. These include both pre-contact and historical sites as well as shipwrecks and other aspects of the maritime cultural landscape. She undertakes survey and documentation, sampling and excavation.
Dr. Larsen is an analytical chemist who uses advanced instrumental techniques to study the environment. Current marine science-related research projects include the study of microplastics in the Potomac watershed and the biomolecular response of persistent organic pollutants in Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea virginica). He has recently worked with the county health department to establish an air quality monitoring network and was an adviser for a non-profit group that tested for PFAS in the St. Mary’s River.
Dr. Sherrer is a biochemist whose long-term research goals are to identify and elucidate in vivo functions of proteins shared in multiple DNA processing pathways affected by environmental hazards. Her student-centered research program encompasses interdisciplinary approaches while showing the applicability of research for understanding human health outcomes after environmental exposures. Currently, the Sherrer group is studying the biological outcomes of DNA damage caused by environmental sources. Student projects require both novel and classical techniques, which include but are not limited to chromatography, thermal scanning, molecular cloning, gel electrophoresis and metal-indicating fluorophores. These techniques are used to monitor the molecular and mechanistic details of DNA damage tolerance and repair while connecting genetic mutations to DNA damage and other cellular stresses.