BLUE HILL — Meeting in New York City last month, the trustees of the Marine & Environmental Research Institute unanimously approved a change of name to the Shaw Institute to acknowledge the organization’s founder, Susan Shaw.
An environmental health scientist, marine toxicologist and professor of public health, Shaw has pioneered high-impact environmental research on ocean pollution, climate change, oil spills and plastics that has influenced public policy. Now, the institute is leading the search for environmental causes of disease, including cancer, using advanced biotechnology in high-risk populations.
The new name conveys the fundamental association between Shaw and the work of the institute, and better accommodates the expansion of the organization’s research portfolio.
To acknowledge the support of the community that has served as the institute’s headquarters since its founding in 1990, the Center for Environmental Studies will now be known as the Blue Hill Research Center. The institute purchased the historic building on Main Street in Blue Hill and established a marine science center that enabled Shaw to pursue her vision of expanding the organization’s research and operations in the Gulf of Maine and along the Eastern Seaboard.
Over three decades, Shaw and her team of scientists have pioneered a large body of cutting-edge, high-impact research on ocean pollution, marine mammal sentinels, plastics, and climate change that has fueled public policy at the local, regional and national level.
In Maine, the institute continues to research changing conditions in Blue Hill Bay and protects the health of the region by reporting spikes in coliform bacteria on swimming beaches and harmful algal blooms (red tide) that poison shellfish.
Today, the institute’s research projects and partnerships have expanded both geographically and scientifically, to include:
- A multi-year cancer biomarker study California and Texas to expose the specific links between toxic exposure and cancer in the nation’s firefighters.
- An international collaboration with Sweden, Greenland and Iceland to discover the compound impacts of pollution by flame retardant chemicals and climate change on marine mammals from three oceans.
- Microplastics research with collaborative partners and universities in Maine, Colorado, Tennessee, California and elsewhere across the country and the world.
“We are living with the consequences of the fossil fuel age — the planet is heating up and becoming more toxic, our oceans are choking with plastic,” Shaw said in a recent statement. “There is an urgent need to understand how complex stresses — toxic chemicals, plastics, global warming — are affecting the environment and human health. This is the frontier, the moral imperative of science today that can improve life in the future.”