News Feature

New York
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, May 17, 2018
MERI announces name change, expanded vision

Dr. Susan Shaw

Dr. Susan Shaw.

Photo courtesy of Shaw Institute

At their spring meeting, the trustees of the Marine & Environmental Research Institute unanimously approved a change of name to the Shaw Institute to acknowledge the institute’s founder, Dr. Susan Shaw, and honor her legacy.

For 30 years, Shaw, an environmental health scientist, marine toxicologist, and professor of public health, has pioneered high-impact environmental research on ocean pollution, climate change, oil spills, and plastics that has influenced public policy. Today, 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 Dr. Shaw and the work of the Institute, and more readily accommodates the expansion of the organization’s research portfolio.

In addition, to acknowledge the support of the greater Blue Hill community that has served as the Institute’s headquarters since its founding in 1990, the Center for Environmental Studies in Blue Hill will now be known as the Blue Hill Research Center. The Institute purchased the historic (c. 1850s) building and established a marine science center in Blue Hill that enabled Shaw to pursue her vision of expanding the Institute’s research and operations in the Gulf of Maine and along the eastern seaboard.

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 in 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 others 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 news release. “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.”