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Wilberg, Barnes recognized for contributions to science

Professor Michael Wilberg and senior faculty research assistant Janet Barnes of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons were recently recognized at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Seventh Annual commencement ceremony held May 29.

The virtual ceremony was held in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Wilberg was awarded the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science for his ongoing and impactful efforts on the science and outstanding communication of oyster management with stakeholders, partners and policymakers.

A professor in fisheries science at the UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Southern Maryland, Wilberg works on understanding population dynamics and management of a range of fish and shellfish species, including oysters and blue crabs.

Building on the rich tradition of UMCES in fisheries management, Wilberg was invited to lead the first oyster stock assessment for the state of Maryland in 135 years. The assessment was conducted collaboratively with scientists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and resulted in estimates of the abundance and levels of sustainable exploitation to help guide policy on oyster management.

“It is not just about doing great science, it is about communicating that great science to be effective,” University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin said in a release, and Wilberg "is the textbook example of where the delivery of scientific facts stop and value judgements start on complex and contentious issues.”

Wilberg was also the lead modeler for the OysterFutures research program, an experiment in consensus building and testing a new approach for making regulations and policies.

He is recognized as an international expert on stock assessment and has served as technical adviser to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the International Whaling Commission and South Africa in developing their fisheries management plans.

The President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science was established in 1999 to honor exemplary applications of science that have had a positive impact on environmental protection and management by UMCES faculty members.

Senior faculty research assistant Janet Barnes was awarded the inaugural President’s Award for outstanding research support.

Barnes has been a mentor and a positive role model for UMCES’ faculty research assistants, exhibiting long-term commitment to excellence, a genuine scientific curiosity, analytical thinking and always going above and beyond with support of research and the UMCES community.

“Thank you, President Goodwin, for recognizing the importance of creating this award,” Barnes said in the release. “I’m glad that the substantial contributions of faculty research assistants to UMCES research and outreach will be acknowledged into the future.”

Barnes started at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in 1978 and was the first female mate on a research vessel at UMCES.

She helped start the Solomons Harbor Monitoring Project, worked with the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic program coordinating logistics and science support, and led the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation as Chief Operating Officer.

Barnes was brought on to help with the Alliance for Coastal Technologies and later the Marine Environment Resource Center to serve as research coordinator, where she does both hands-on science and management, coordinating with private sector and agencies to facilitate the development and adoption of green ship and green port innovations.

Faculty research assistants conduct much of the day-to-day science that goes on in the UMCES labs and are often conducting field sampling and lab analyses. Many UMCES faculty members also have faculty research assistants that manage their labs for them.

The award, which consists of a plaque and a monetary award, represents an honor bestowed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to recognize professional achievements of faculty research assistants.

The award will be presented to one individual faculty research assistant annually who has made outstanding contributions to achieving the UMCES mission through discovery, integration, application or teaching.

Founded in 1925, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is the oldest publicly supported marine laboratory on the East Coast and has has been a national leader in fisheries, estuarine ecology, environmental chemistry and toxicology for more than 90 years.

For more information on the laboratory and the work it does, visit