Our History

Over 30 Years of Environmental Impact Research

In 1990, Dr. Susan Shaw established the Marine & Environmental Research Institute (MERI), a nonprofit charitable organization with an environmental health research mission. This began her long-term marine sentinels research on contaminants and endocrine-disrupting effects in marine mammals that became a central focus over the next two decades. In 2018, MERI Trustees announced a name change to the Shaw Institute to acknowledge Dr. Shaw and honor her legacy of 30 years of environmental impact research. The new name also accommodates her vision and the organization’s expanded research portfolio. The Center for Environmental Studies was renamed the Blue Hill Research Center in recognition of the Maine community that serves as the organization’s home. Dr. Shaw passed away in 2022 and the Institute today works to further her vision and support the legacy she left behind.


The Shaw Institute continues to focus on understanding exposure levels, sources, pathways, and associations between chemical exposures and health outcomes – for both ocean life and people. We collaborate with environmental and human health researchers on multidisciplinary studies to understand and find solutions to current environmental health problems. We have expertise in the assessment of diverse classes of chemicals in marine mammal and human tissues, including the halogenated flame retardants and perfluorinated chemicals.  Our pioneering studies on these topics are highly cited in environmental literature sources

We have contributed significantly to understanding the impact of pollutants and plasticizer chemicals on highly exposed wildlife and human populations. Our research into PCBs, flame retardants, oil dispersants, and other pervasive toxic chemicals continues the tradition of Rachel Carson and other scientists whose research has become part of an informed public conversation, and who actively promote policies that will improve environmental protection and human health.

Today, the Institute conducts rigorous scientific research in collaboration with scientists and institutions across the country and around the world. We advocate on behalf of a clean environment, wildlife protection and human health, and we make the results of our research widely available through publications, education programs, environmental media, and public testimony. Learn about our research focus, the services we provide and our collaborative projects.

Our late founder, Dr. Susan Shaw, speaks on our 30+ year legacy of innovative science:


Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) original building in 1990
Dr. Susan Shaw established the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI), a nonprofit environmental health research organization, in Brooklin, Maine. MERI began its long-term research on environmental contaminants in marine mammals.
Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) original building in 1990
MERI hosts an international conference called Endocrine Disruptors in the Marine Environment: Impacts on Marine Wildlife and Human Health, bringing 22 scientists from around the world to share findings and recommend solutions. The resulting consensus statement was published in the prestigious NIEHS journal.
building with seal banner
MERI upgraded to a larger space in Blue Hill, Maine, and launched a coastal monitoring program, lecture series, lending library, and education programs.
building with seal banner
The Institute pioneered microplastics research in Blue Hill Bay, creating a Microplastics Research Guide and water sampling protocol that were implemented by many other organizations.
MERI completes one of the earliest studies on firefighter exposure to the toxic chemicals found in our homes and vehicles. These chemicals likely contribute to the high cancer rates in these public servants.
The Marine & Environmental Research Institute is renamed the Shaw Institute to honor Dr. Shaw’s 30-year legacy.
Dr. Susan Shaw dies after a valiant battle with cancer. Shaw Institute continues its mission under the scientific leadership of Dr. Charlie Rolsky and other dedicated staff.
Dr. Charlie Rolsky
Charles (“Charlie”) Rolsky, Ph.D. is named Executive Director after joining the organization as Senior Research Scientist in 2022.
Dr. Charlie Rolsky