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Local scientist recognized for work with marine life

SOLOMONS, Md. – Dr. Helen Bailey, Associate Research Professor at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory has been honored by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) with the President's Award for Excellence in Application of Science. She was recognized for her working to studying protected species in order to understand their movements and habitat use, and inform conservation and management.

The annual honor aims to recognize UMCES faculty committed to outstanding applications of science that have a positive impact on environmental protection and management.

“Helen is a highly productive scientist in her own right,” said University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin. “Her work has an international profile and is funded by a large range of agencies. Her mentoring of students is demanding and supportive, and her teaching is energizing.”

Bailey has a broad background and experience working on marine mammals, sharks and turtles. She helped develop a tool with NOAA that provides real-time information on where whales travel along the West Coast to reduce potential for threats, such as ship strikes, entanglements and loud underwater sounds. The system, called WhaleWatch, produces monthly maps of blue whale "hotspots" to alert ships where there may be an increased risk of encountering these endangered whales.

After Maryland announced plans for an offshore wind, Bailey spearheaded an institution-wide effort to develop the necessary baseline studies to understand the impact of wind turbine construction on marine life off the coast. In one study, underwater microphones were anchored to the ocean floor to continuously record sounds produced by large whales and other marine mammals to help understand which animals frequent the area and when to help minimize the impact of construction noise and environmental impacts.

Additionally, Bailey worked with The Leatherback Trust to investigate the migration of young leatherback sea turtles between the time they leave their nesting beach and when they reach maturity to help inform decisions about fishing practices to help reduce further deaths of this fragile species. Hoping to educate youth about the threatened species, she later used the research to write a children’s book with The Leatherback Trust called “The Grande Turtle Adventure.”

In 2017, Bailey launched DolphinWatch, a web-based app that relies on citizen scientists to report dolphin sightings in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to better understand where the dolphins are and where they go. To date, more than 2,000 people are registered to report their dolphin sightings.

“Helen's research on dolphins is an important component of UMCES' research portfolio, not because it helps us reach a new audience, but because it helps us meet our legislative mission of conducting environmental research that helps citizens of Maryland or people who make decisions on our behalf to ensure a sustainable future for the state and the nation,” said Tom Miller, director of UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

She joined the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in 2010. She has published 50 journal articles, specializing in marine mammals and sea turtles. She received her B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford, UK, and her M.Sc. in Oceanography from the University of Southampton, UK.  Dr. Bailey was awarded her Ph.D. at the University of Aberdeen (UK) for her work on the habitat use of bottlenose dolphins.

The President's Award was established in 1999 to honor exemplary applications of science that have had a positive impact on environmental protection and management. 

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science unleashes the power of science to transform the way society understands and manages the environment. By conducting cutting-edge research into today's most pressing environmental problems, we are developing new ideas to help guide our state, nation, and world toward a more environmentally sustainable future through five research centers—the Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, the Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology in Baltimore, and the Maryland Sea Grant College in College Park. www.umces.edu

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