Students in the marine science program and related fields of study at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) for years to come will be the beneficiaries of a $1,000,000 federal appropriation secured for the college by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D, 5th), in whose district the College lies. The funds will support a renovation of the College’s 30-year-old aquatic lab, which provides critical laboratory and research opportunities for students and faculty in the biology, chemistry and biochemistry and marine science programs.
“I was pleased to work alongside St. Mary’s College of Maryland to ensure that the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus included significant funding to renovate their aquatic lab,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Investing in our schools is critically important to make sure students have the tools they need to thrive in their fields of study, and I will continue to be a proud advocate of the work that St. Mary’s College of Maryland is doing to enhance programs and research opportunities for those pursuing careers in the sciences.”
“Once again, Congressman Hoyer has come through with vital support for current and future students of St. Mary’s College of Maryland,” said Tuajuanda C. Jordan, PhD, president of SMCM. “The College is fortunate indeed to have such a longtime supporter who recognizes the value in what we provide to Southern Maryland and the nation and world at large.”
The aquatic lab is used for both teaching and research and has the infrastructure to maintain living aquatic organisms. Notably, the lab has both freshwater and saltwater systems, with a flow-through river-water system from the nearby St. Mary’s River providing the opportunity to study the local estuarine system in a laboratory environment.
“From studying tropical oceans to freshwater lake environments, the aquatics lab will allow year-round hands-on learning and research experiences that are crucial for marine science and other majors,” said Randy Larsen, PhD, associate dean of faculty and coordinator for the marine science program. “SMCM’s location and local connections make us uniquely positioned for students who are interested in pursuing a marine science major,” Larsen added. “The Chesapeake Bay is globally renowned and locally cherished.”
Launched in the fall of 2021, the College’s marine science program is the only undergraduate program of its kind in Maryland. In addition to the aquatic laboratory funding, Rep. Hoyer secured an additional $900,000 appropriation in support of the marine science program in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus bill. Those funds are supporting the purchase of a purpose-built research vessel and associated equipment to allow students to study the biological, chemical and physical properties of the St. Mary’s River, Lower Potomac River, and Chesapeake Bay.
Through courses such as Principles of Biology and Invertebrate Zoology, students get hands-on experience with living organisms. Students and faculty have also reared corals that have been used in collaborative research with institutions such as the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. Other faculty research activities in the lab have spawned opportunities for student undergraduate research experiences.