About the Institute

 

About the Institute

“Through science, we are discovering and exposing the realities of toxic exposure and its effect on people, wildlife, our oceans, and the planet. With 25 years of experience addressing the health effects of toxic chemicals, we are prepared to lead breakthrough research in the years to come.”

—    Dr. Susan Shaw Founder
Founder & Executive Director

The Marine & Environmental Research Institute is a nonprofit scientific organization dedicated to protecting wildlife and people from the harmful impacts of toxic chemical exposure. The Institute produces scientific research that drives change and inspires solutions to the pressing environmental issues of our day.

The Institute’s focus areas include:

  • Human Exposure
  • Plastics & Microplastics
  • Marine Wildlife Exposure
  • Oil Spill Response
  • Maine Coastal Monitoring

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

25 Years of Science and Solutions

The Institute was founded in 1990 by a multidisciplinary team of scientists concerned by the impacts of pollution on marine mammal populations that were experiencing large-scale disease outbreaks and mass mortalities. Advancing understanding of the health impacts of toxic chemicals on marine mammal “sentinels” became the Institute’s research focus over the next two decades. 

Our science focuses on understanding exposure levels, sources, and pathways, and the associations between chemical exposures and health outcomes. We collaborate with environmental chemists, epidemiologists, biologists, and toxicologists to develop multidisciplinary studies with the aim of finding solutions to current environmental health problems. We have expertise in the assessment of diverse classes of chemicals in marine mammal and human tissues, including the halogenated flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals and our pioneering studies on these topics are highly cited in the literature. The Institute has contributed significantly to understanding the impact of organohalogen pollutants and plasticizer chemicals on highly exposed wildlife and human populations. Our recent research includes a biomonitoring study of San Francisco fire fighters, which is the most extensive assessment of chemical exposure in fire fighters to date.

“From flame retardants to plastics,our discoveries have informed public opinion and fueled key legislation in Maine and across the country.”

The Institute’s quarter-century journey has led its scientists from studying the sudden die-off of thousands of European harbor seals to examining contaminants in the marine food web, understanding the entry and pathways of chemical pollutants into coastal waters, and analyzing the impact of those pollutants on subjects ranging from marine mammals to the nation’s fire fighters. Our research into PCBs, flame retardants, oil dispersants, and other pervasive toxic chemicals continues the tradition of Rachel Carson and other scientists who insist that their results become part of an informed public conversation and who actively promote policies that will improve environmental protection and human health.

Today, the foundation of the Institute’s work remains rigorous and independent scientific research, conducted in collaboration with scientists and institutions from across the country and around the world. Together, we have produced a wealth of data on chemical exposure and its impact on wildlife and people. Our determination to inform the public about issues that affect all of us and to advocate on behalf of a clean environment, wildlife protection and human health, drives us to make the results of the work widely available through publications, education programs, the environmental media, and public testimony. 

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.