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Morgan State’s PEARL Nets Nearly $500,000 in Grants Furthering Aquatic Research to Support Chesapeake Bay Vitality

Grants from NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fund Multidisciplinary Programs Spanning Aquaculture, Recreational Boating

BALTIMORE — Morgan State University and its Division of Research and Economic Development (D-RED) are pleased to announce that Morgan’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (PEARL) has secured $471,000 in research grants comprising multiple programs designed to advance the vitality and sustainability of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The grants awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Sea Grant and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), among others, provide critical resources to support specific programs and active research PEARL is now spearheading or supporting in consortia.

“Grants and other funding that underwrite university-level research at Morgan fuel advancement across numerous industries that has real-world application and impacts our everyday life,” said Willie E. May, Ph.D., vice president for research and economic development at Morgan State University. “The research currently underway at PEARL as well as other research units at Morgan speaks not only to our designation as Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University but also our commitment to research that extends beyond the lab providing benefits statewide, with an eye toward affecting global communities.”

Maryland Sea Grant

Among the largest of the recently awarded grants to PEARL came from the Maryland Sea Grant College Program. A state entity tasked with developing best practices for advancing the Chesapeake Bay’s ecology and the coastal economies that depend on it, Maryland Sea Grant has sourced a research grant to Morgan that directly impacts the state’s aquaculture industry. This award totals $140,000 and finances a comprehensive research project that will enable the production of new triploid oyster lines adapted to the environmental conditions in the Maryland portions of the Chesapeake Bay.


Ming Liu, Ph.D., oyster genomics researcher at PEARL, is the principal investigator on the project. Sterile triploid oysters are extensively used in aquaculture because of their fast growth and high meat yield. The two-year project is expected to enhance the sustainability, profitability and resilience of Maryland’s commercial shellfish industry.

“PEARL’s applied research supports those whose livelihoods depend on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay” said Scott Knoche, Ph.D., director of PEARL. “The oyster aquaculture industry will benefit from Dr. Ming Liu’s research to develop oyster lines best suited for Maryland conditions.”

In addition to the Maryland Sea Grant funded oyster genetics research, PEARL is participating in a $1.2-million competitive grant from the NOAA National Sea Grant Office. PEARL will be part of a multistate consortium tasked with studying how to optimally grow Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) in land-based aquaculture systems. Administered regionally by Maryland Sea Grant, the research group will work collaboratively to establish a coordinated network of recirculating Atlantic salmon aquaculture systems designed to recycle water through beneficial microbes, reduce carbon emissions and achieve other desirable outcomes to increase affordability, access and sustainability.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Balance is critical to maintaining a healthy aquatic ecosystem. With an extensive 3,200-mile coastline, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay is a popular destination for recreational boaters. A healthier Chesapeake Bay could mean improved recreational boating experiences and greater regional economic impacts generated by transient boaters.

To assess the adequacy of docking space and supporting amenities for large recreational vessels (26 feet or longer), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) awarded Morgan’s PEARL a $130,000 grant to conduct a two-year study. Led by Dr. Knoche and PEARL Research Associate Kaitlynn Ritchie, the research project will generate information through surveys and stakeholder discussions to better target boating infrastructure enhancement projects for the benefit of Maryland transient boaters.

PEARL is also the recipient of a $70,000 grant from the DNR and NOAA to develop a recreational boating Decision Support System (DSS). The tool will enable a systematic and improved targeting of federal recreational boating infrastructure funds, to provide the greatest benefit to recreational boaters and coastal economies in Maryland.

Dr. Knoche adds, “This project is a core component of multiple projects at Morgan State PEARL supported by the DNR Chesapeake and Coastal Services. It contributes to a growing portfolio of projects at the MSU PEARL that provides resource managers with actionable information at the intersection of economics and the environment.”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA

PEARL’s Dr. Ming Liu is among a group of shellfish geneticists from 12 East Coast universities and government agencies who have been awarded a grant funded by NOAA Fisheries through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The five-year research program will deliver $103,000 to fund the development of new methodologies designed to accelerate and localize selective breeding in support of oyster aquaculture.

Breeding in the program will incorporate both traditional means of artificial selection as well as SNP-chip technology that enables greater specificity in DNA detection from oyster tissue samples to isolate preferred traits such as accelerated maturation and hardier, more tolerant broodstock. PEARL is one of two Maryland institutions participating in the research consortium.

“The collection of grants and funding opportunities that we have recently received continues to build on PEARL’s reputation as a leading multidisciplinary environmental research facility,” said Dr. Knoche. “We’re very excited to kick these projects off, and we look forward to sharing results when available.”

About Morgan

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 125 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.


Larry Jones or Dell Jackson, University PR
(443) 885-3022

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