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Cooperative Oxford Lab

Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research

NOAA Studies Shed New Light on Bacterial Disease Affecting Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass Population


On April 24, 2010, the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory in Oxford, MD, will host an open house 12:30 to 3:30 to celebrate the lab's 50th anniversary.

904 S. Morris St.
Oxford, Maryland 21654-1323

Celebrating 50 Years of Science on the Bay


Microscopy conducted at COL shed new light on diseases of mollusks, crustaceans, and fish during the era of discovery.

The Cooperative Oxford Laboratory (COL), located in Oxford, MD, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this April.  From oyster disease to dead zones, even today COL research remains critical to Chesapeake Bay restoration.

During the 1950s, a parasite known as MSX was devastating the regional oyster industry in Delaware and Maryland. In 1957, the parasite wiped out 90-95 percent of the oyster population in the lower Delaware Bay.  Discovery of MSX in the Chesapeake two years later prompted the Department of Interior to establish the laboratory in Oxford.

Scientists at the laboratory would eventually become world-renowned experts in detecting shellfish diseases and helping to prevent their spread. COL guided the development of international regulations for shellfish import/export and regulations to prevent the introduction of invasive species.  Today, COL supports efforts to restore oysters to the Chesapeake Bay.

Science conducted at the lab also played a critical role in identifying factors in the collapse of the Chesapeake Bay’s striped bass population in the early 1980s.  Although the numbers of striped bass are up, high levels of disease and dwindling prey for this top predator remain cause for concern.  COL researchers are working to understand the causes and consequences of these dynamics for the striped bass fishery.

fish research

A leader in striped bass disease research since 1980s, COL monitors the health fish populations and investigates mortalities of aquatic animals.

Today, COL scientists not only study important species like oysters and striped bass, they are also producing cutting-edge research on the impact of land use on water quality that will help states prioritize restoration dollars for the highest possible impact.  Studies of the Magothy, Corsica, and Rhode watersheds are due to be released within the next six months.  These studies will provide the first detailed look at how different kinds of development, from agriculture to urbanization, has affected these watersheds. 

COL is a partnership between NOAA, the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Coast Guard.