During her visit to CBNERR, Reay showed Ward a new activity used to educate students about sea level rise called “Examining Sea Level Rise Scenarios Through Mock Marsh Transects”. With the use of several vertical poles and string, students can see how high water levels have risen during storms such as Hurricane Isabel, as well as future sea level projections.
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Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward visited the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on August 1st to learn about VIMS’ research and advisory services, with a focus on water quality monitoring and the Institute’s role in research, development, and ongoing industry support of oyster aquaculture.
VIMS Dean and Director John Wells kicked off the visit with an overview presentation describing VIMS’ strategy for offering world-class research, education, and advisory service to its students and the Commonwealth. During her day at VIMS, Ward visited researchers who represent several different units on campus, including the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR), Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM), and Aquaculture Genetics & Breeding Technology Center (ABC).
“We were very happy to welcome Secretary Ward to VIMS,” says Wells. “It was a pleasure to introduce her to some of the research being done here, and to discuss ways we can work together to restore and protect Virginia’s natural resources.”
VIMS Associate Dean of Research and Advisory Service Mark Luckenbach says the Secretary’s interest in VIMS’ overall mission was apparent. “We were happy to be able to discuss our research with Secretary Ward,” he says. “She was very engaged and asked a lot of questions about what she can do to help further the work being done here.”
Luckenbach gave a presentation on water quality monitoring with a modeling and simulation overview, followed by a presentation by CCRM’s Assistant Director Kirk Havens on the “microplastics” that are posing a potential threat to marine ecosystems.
Havens’ presentation featured several cosmetic items that served as props to demonstrate the array of everyday products like body wash, deodorant, sunblock, and lip gloss that contain “microbeads”—one of the main sources of microplastics.
Ward says she’s familiar with some of the products that contain microbeads, but was astonished to learn items like mascara and toothpaste contain them. “I had no idea,” she said. “I’m checking my toothpaste’s ingredients for polyethylene and polypropylene as soon as I get home!”
After her visit to CCRM, Ward met with CBNERR Director Willy Reay, Assistant Professor Donglai Gong, Research Professor Jian Shen, and Research Scientist Mac Sisson to learn about water quality monitoring technology, including Gong’s use of underwater gliders to study the movement and properties of coastal waters.
Following a presentation on biosensors by VIMS Associate Professor Michael Unger, Ward took a tour of the Institute’s Oyster Hatchery where she met Director of ABC Stan Allen. Allen introduced Ward to VIMS’ efforts to restore wild oysters and enhance aquaculture, and explained how he and his colleagues provide the training needed to help meet the demand for trained industry staff, and to assist in VIMS’ own oyster-domestication programs.
A native of Hampton, Ward has spent her life on the water fishing, crabbing, and enjoying the natural resources of Virginia. She was elected Mayor of the City of Hampton in 2008, and was elected to a second term in 2012.
As mayor, Ward represented the interests of the city and the Hampton Roads region at the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission on issues related to water quality, Chesapeake Bay, and sea level rise. She also led the bipartisan delegation that persuaded President Obama to make Fort Monroe a National Monument, and has testified in front of Congress and spoken at the Department of the Interior to a nationwide group of conservation leaders on land conservation and the Antiquities Act.
Prior to being nominated to her current position by Governor Terry McAuliffe, Ward served as a Special Assistant to President Obama and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House.
Ward is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary Law School.