Dr. Michael Kemp. Photo courtesy of UMCES.

Environmentalists Mourn Loss of Pioneering Bay Scientist

Dr. Michael Kemp, a longtime Eastern Shore scientist who was renowned for his research on estuary ecology, has passed away after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Kemp, Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), began his career at the Horn Point Laboratory in 1978, starting as an Assistant Professor and working there for nearly four decades while living in Trappe, Talbot County.

“Michael Kemp made his mark during his long and distinguished career as one of the most outstanding systems ecologists in the world working on coastal marine ecosystems,” says Peter Goodwin, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “He led his field, conducting cutting-edge research that has influenced our understanding and management of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as estuaries around the world.”

Goodwin also praises Dr. Kemp’s “collegiality, scientific curiosity
and his mentorship of early career scientists.”

Dr. Kemp was a pioneering researcher on Chesapeake Bay health and restoration, studying underwater grasses, nutrient cycling in estuaries, and what causes hypoxic waters and declines in aquatic plants in estuaries. Kemp’s research on nitrogen cycling in the 1980s and 1990s contributed to the global understanding of the importance of sediments in nutrient cycling.

Possibly his most important work, the research paper “Eutrophication of
Chesapeake Bay: Historical trends and ecological interactions” is a major contribution to the understanding of humans’ impact on the Chesapeake Bay, UMCES says.

Dr. Kemp was honored with the University System of Maryland’s highest honor, the Regents’ Faculty Award, as well as a lifetime achievement award from the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. With his colleague Walter Boynton, Dr. Kemp provided years of applied research to the Chesapeake Bay Program and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

He retired in 2017, and was appointed an Emeritus Professor before moving to Charleston, S.C. He leaves behind his wife, Laura Murray, who is also a UMCES faculty member, and his son Cullen.

In lieu of flowers a gift can be made to the Michael Kemp Student Fund for the Horn Point Laboratory. A check made to: USM Foundation, note – Michael Kemp Student Fund, and mailed to: UMCES-Horn Point Lab, PO Box 775, Cambridge, MD 21613.

-Meg Walburn Viviano