Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science for the past 27 years, is stepping down from the leadership role to focus on research explaining the science behind Chesapeake Bay restoration.
The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents is launching a nationwide search for his successor. Boesch said he plans to step down once a new executive is named.
"Because we're in a strong position with respect to our facilities, leadership and influence, this is the right time," said Boesch, who turns 71 in November. "We're in the strongest position we've ever been."
In a statement, university system Board of Regents Chairman James Brady thanked Boesch for his service.
"Through his passion and dedication to environmental issues, UMCES has had a profoundly positive impact on improving Maryland's environment health, playing a major role in USM's mission to enhance quality of life in Maryland and our region," Brady said.
Over a 35-year career, Boesch has become a leading adviser to the state and federal governments on Chesapeake Bay and environmental issues.
He has served five Maryland governors, the Chesapeake Bay Program and on President Obama's National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
He said he is most proud of the center's reputation "for science that makes a difference in public policy." The institution's research helped focus bay restoration efforts on reducing the load of nitrogen and phosphorus into waterways, for example, he said.
Boesch is a biological oceanographer by training and has conducted research along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, eastern Australia and the East China Sea.
He has written two books and nearly 100 papers on the ecology of estuaries and wetlands, the consequences of oil pollution and nutrient over-enrichment, and on science policy.
Now, Boesch has plans to add to that list of publications. He said he hopes to write two books for a general audience, one about the Chesapeake Bay and another about the Gulf of Mexico, as well as more research papers.
"I think the whole science story behind the issues of the Chesapeake Bay and its restoration hasn't really been told from a scientific perspective," he said. "I feel kind of an obligation to try to do that."
Boesch is a New Orleans native with a bachelor's degree in biology from Tulane University and a doctorate in oceanography from the College of William and Mary.
Before becoming UMCES' fifth president in 1990, he was the first executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, a professor of marine science at Louisiana State University and a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.