Jim Oris


If you asked Jim what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would always say “Jacques Cousteau”. Most of his activities in his childhood and adolescent years revolved around being in or under the water. Becoming a marine biologist was not easy growing up in Ohio, so in college he pursued freshwater ecology. Jim Oris became interested in the effects of oil spills and fossil fuels in freshwater and marine systems after the Amaco Cadiz oil spill occurred off the coast of France in 1977.


In graduate school at the University of Georgia and Michigan State University, Jim studied a newly uncovered interaction between the ultraviolet rays in sunshine and certain chemicals found in oil, coal, and fossil fuel combustion products. The phenomenon, called photo-induced toxicity, occurs when aquatic organisms are exposed simultaneously to both fossil fuel chemicals and sunlight. His research shattered the notion that, in the absence of slicks, oil or fossil fuel combustion products were not toxic at environmentally relevant concentrations.


Jim received his PhD in Environmental Toxicology from Michigan State University and has been a faculty member in the Department of Biology at Miami University (Ohio) since 1986. He currently is a University Distinguished Professor and serves as the university’s chief research officer and dean of the graduate school. He studied the long-term impacts of oil from the Exxon-Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon oil spills, and his work at Lake Tahoe in the late 1990’s resulted in a policy prohibiting 2-cycle engines in motorized water craft.


Jim is an internationally known expert in environmental toxicology and has published over 130 scientific papers and has nearly 300 scientific presentations. He has served on editorial or review boards of 8 journals, 6 books and 9 granting agencies. He was elected as President of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America. He served as a member of the Ecological Processes and Effects committee of the U.S. EPA’s Science Advisory Board and was a member of the National Academies of Science Committee on Human and Environmental Exposure Science in the 21st Century.


Jim and his wife Lori (also a PhD research scientist) have a son and daughter and twin granddaughters. In his spare time, he loves to travel, backpack in the Sierra Mountains, Scuba dive, and shoot nature photography.

Get your wetsuit on and dive with JIm Oris in Ladder Bay to analyze the effects that oil spills can have on our marine ecosystem! UV light from the sun can harm our marine species (not just humans) when oil is present in the water. Learn more at Sea & Learn this year!


We will be updating our calendar with activity dates and times as we continue to coordinate our event. Stay tuned!

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