Founded in 1990, the Marine & Environmental Research Institute is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! We are proud of the Institute's 25-year legacy of scientific research that drives change and inspires solutions to the pressing environmental issues of our day.
The Institute is dedicated to investigating the impact of chemicals on human and wildlife health, informing legislators and educating the public about the risks they pose, and protecting people and wildlife from the growing quantities of toxic substances in the environment. From flame retardants to plastics, our discoveries have informed public opinion and fueled key legislation which impacts millions of people in Maine and across the country.
In this special milestone year, we look back to our beginnings, when the vision of the human-wildlife connection inspired our unique, dual scope of work. We hold the premise that wildlife – especially the top marine predators such as seals and dolphins – are "sentinels" for human exposure, sending us warnings about the effects of toxic chemicals on our own health.
“From the beginning,” says Institute Founder and President Dr. Susan Shaw, “we envisioned an institute that would conduct focused research on the human-wildlife connection. We share a common environment, are exposed to the same toxic chemicals, and exhibit similar biological responses.”
The Institute's quarter-century journey has led our scientists from studying the sudden die-off of thousands of harbor seals to examining contaminants in the marine food web, understanding the entry and pathways of chemical pollutants from indoor environments to coastal waters, and analyzing the impact of those pollutants on subjects ranging from marine mammals to the nation’s fire fighters.
The Institute's work stands in the tradition of Rachel Carson, whose rigorous scientific studies led her to become a passionate public advocate for the protection of human health and the environment. Carson faced fierce resistance from those who sought to undermine her work, but she stood her ground, confident in the rigor and independence of her own research, which ultimately led to major changes in how America regulates toxic chemicals.
Carson's pioneering studies on DDT, which at the time was thought to be a benefit to both human health and food production, compelled the world to rethink the consequences of the widespread application of toxic chemicals. Today, our research on PCBs, flame retardants, chemical dispersants, plasticizers, and other pervasive toxic chemicals continues the tradition of scientists who insist that their research results become part of an informed public conversation, and who actively promote policies that will improve environmental protection and human health. "People," says Shaw, "have a right and a need to know."
Looking forward, we approach the future with a renewed commitment to advancing knowledge through independent research and providing science-based solutions that will inform consumers, encourage investment in non-toxic alternatives, and support public policies to protect human health and the environment on which it depends.
"Today, Americans carry about 300 chemicals in their bodies that should not be there. We have reached a crossroads in public health – as our wildlife sentinels have been trying to signal us for years."
Our ability to achieve this level of success relies on the continued commitment and investment of our loyal supporters. We are deeply thankful to all those who have helped make our first 25 years possible and productive, and we invite all who believe in the importance of our work to join us for the continuing journey.
Over the course of this milestone year, we will be celebrating our accomplishments with friends and supporters in Maine and around the country. We hope to have the opportunity to celebrate with you!