A 40-year ca­reer comes to a close

CBL’s Boyn­ton lauded as ‘mas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor’

Maryland Independent - - News - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com

Bay sci­en­tist Wal­ter Boyn­ton re­tired last week af­ter work­ing as an es­tu­ar­ine ecol­o­gist for decades at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Science’s Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory in Solomons.

Not­ing he’s a col­lab­o­ra­tor, Boyn­ton thanked his fam­ily, friends and col­leagues in the au­di­ence gath­ered next to CBL’s vis­i­tor cen­ter Fri­day af­ter­noon to celebrate his 40 years of ca­reer.

“I’ve had this in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to have and live a fas­ci­nat­ing life at CBL,” Boyn­ton said in a short speech. “I think it’s in­cred­i­bly ac­cu­rate when I say I have done al­most lit­er­ally noth­ing by my­self.”

With a Mas­sachusetts ac­cent, Boyn­ton re­counted that he first came to Mary­land as “a pretty young guy from Bos­ton mov­ing into what my dad called the Deep South,” draw­ing laughs from the au­di­ence.

Boyn­ton said there were fun times dur­ing his time at the lab­o­ra­tory, but he would not char­ac­ter­ize his ex­is­tence there as merely fun.

“Try­ing to fig­ure out how na­ture works is an awe­some chal­lenge,” Boyn­ton said. “So many of my days here were spent scratch­ing my head. I’m sur­prised I have any hair at all,” draw­ing an­other wave of laughs from the at­ten­dees.

Boyn­ton’s bay re­search and his abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate science to dif­fer­ent au­di­ences ef­fec­tively es­tab­lished him as one of the lead­ing sci­en­tists in the re­gion.

Be­ing a fac­ulty mem­ber at CBL since 1975, Boyn­ton’s re­search on the de­cline of striped bass in the bay con­trib­uted to the adop­tion of a fish­ing mora­to­rium, which helped the pop­u­la­tion to rebound, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity. He also worked on in­form­ing pol­icy makers to mon­i­tor nu­tri­ents in the bay and take ac­tions to re­duce nu­tri­ent loads.

Over the span of more than 40 years, Boyn­ton pub­lished more than 100 sci­en­tific pa­pers and many more re­ports re­lated to wa­ter qual­ity, habi­tat and restora­tion.

In De­cem­ber, Boyn­ton re­ceived one of the most pres­ti­gious awards in the field — the Mathias Medal.

Es­tab­lished in 1990, only six peo­ple have been awarded the medal, in­clud­ing Eu­gene Cronin, a pi­o­neer in bay science who hired Boyn­ton for his first job at the lab­o­ra­tory when Cronin was the lab’s di­rec­tor in late 1960s, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity.

“It was enor­mously ful­fill­ing; it was in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing,” Boyn­ton said, sum­ma­riz­ing his ca­reer.

“The univer­sity, they hand you more than enough rope to hang your­self,” he said. “In other words, there’s this ir­re­place­able free­dom to, in a sense, fol­low your nose, fol­low your in­stincts, fol­low the ques­tions to see what you can find out.”

Boyn­ton’s col­leagues said he has spo­ken in front of Con­gress, the state’s leg­is­la­ture and other lo­cal boards, and he is known for his com­mu­ni­ca­tion style.

“Wal­ter has the un­usual abil­ity to trans­late science into sim­ple lan­guage that you can un­der­stand and also a pas­sion so you want to un­der­stand,” said Ann Swan­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Com­mis­sion, call­ing Boyn­ton a “mas­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tor.”

Laws and poli­cies are in­formed by science, Swan­son said. “He’s taken the science of the folks all around him and made science as a col­lec­tive sum ac­ces­si­ble, di­gestible and un­der­stand­able to other peo­ple.”

Don Boesch, pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s en­vi­ron­men­tal science cen­ter, echoed Swan­son’s point.

Boesch said he learned from Boyn­ton’s col­leagues about his abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate well and one sci­en­tist said, “I envy Wal­ter for hav­ing that abil­ity to be able to have that hu­mil­ity and grace which makes him, first of all, so easy to work with and makes peo­ple lis­ten.”

Janet Barnes, a pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor at CBL who worked with Boyn­ton for years, said Boyn­ton is the “best sto­ry­teller” who also

has a sense of hu­mor and a laid-back at­ti­tude.

“Ev­ery­body loves him,” Barnes said. “He didn’t care if you have a Ph.D or not. He al­ways in­cluded us in ev­ery step of the way.”

Call­ing Fri­day’s cel­e­bra­tion a “bit­ter­sweet” mo­ment, CBL’s di­rec­tor, Tom Miller, gave Boyn­ton two gifts — a framed ver­sion of a Con­gres­sional record that Rep. Steny Hoyer (DMd., 5th) en­tered at the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives cel­e­brat­ing Boyn­ton’s ca­reer and his con­tri­bu­tion to the bay; and a no­tice that said a con­fer­ence room has been named af­ter him.

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