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Margaret R. Mulholland, assistant professor in the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has been elected to membership on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) of the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP).

With expertise encompassing algae blooms and other aspects of biological oceanography, Mulholland will provide guidance to the bay environmental program. CBP is a joint project of the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In a letter informing Mulholland of her election, Carl Hershner, the STAC chair and director of the Center for Coastal Resources Management of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, noted: "Your expertise will add important dimensions to the committee's ongoing provision of advice to the Chesapeake Bay Program partners. We have evolved to be a very active group, and we hope that you will be both personally involved and help in engaging the larger scientific community in STAC activities."

The CBP came into existence in 1983, and the STAC was formed a year later. The committee has 38 members, representing the participating states, as well as entities with interests in the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Federal agencies with representatives as STAC members include the EPA, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Geological Survey.

"I am honored to be asked to serve on the committee," said Mulholland, "and I am committed both professionally and personally to improving water quality and living resources that make the Chesapeake Bay a national resource and treasure." Her election, which was by the STAC membership, was to an at-large seat and a four-year term.

Mulholland, who joined the Old Dominion faculty in 2000, was granted a doctorate in biological oceanography by the University of Maryland in 1998. Her research interests involve various aspects of carbon and nitrogen cycling in aquatic systems.

The Chesapeake Bay is North America's largest and most biologically diverse estuary, home to more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals.

Keeping the bay healthy, however, has proven to be a difficult chore. In the summer of 2005, about 5 percent of the bay became anoxic, or oxygen depleted. This comprised the bay's largest ever "dead zone," and was largely the result of algae blooms.

The blooms can be caused by excessive flows of nutrients from agricultural and urban sources, especially in warm summer waters. They block sunlight from reaching sea grass meadows growing on the sea floor, killing the grasses and robbing the water of the oxygen that plants produce. When the blooms of algae die, they sink and decompose, a process that further consumes the dissolved oxygen in the water.

In addition to the anoxic zones that appeared in the Chesapeake Bay during the unusually warm summer of 2005, there were even larger hypoxic zones-those with significantly reduced oxygen levels. Some experts estimated that about one-third of the bay suffered from a lack of oxygen during 2005's warmest months. Mobile marine creatures can flee an oxygen-depleted zone; stationary creatures, such as oysters, die.

This article was posted on: July 13, 2006

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