CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources announced on Wednesday the passing of its deputy director, Phil Maier.

Maier passed away Tuesday after going through an intense case of a rare and aggressive cancer, according to the agency.

SCDNR said he most recently served as the Deputy Director for Marine Resources after 30 years in the agency.

Maier moved to Charleston in 1986 to begin studies at the College of Charleston and came to SCDNR through his graduate studies on shrimp, joining the agency as a graduate assistant.

Phil worked in every section of the Marine Division over his career with SCDNR. In this undated photo, a younger Phil assists with a fish stocking event.

“Over the intervening decades, he worked in each of the key sections of the Marine Division: research, outreach and fisheries management,” said SCDNR. “He studied the health of South Carolina’s tidal creeks with the long-lived SCECAP (South Carolina Estuarine Coastal Assessment) program, spent summers at sea tagging sea turtles on a pioneering in-water survey, oversaw a National Estuarine Research Reserve in the beautiful ACE Basin and led the division’s education and outreach section until 2019.”

He was described by his colleagues as a deeply respected and loved member of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources family.

Maier became the sixth director of the state’s Marine Division in 2020, officially taking over just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country.

Under his leadership, the agency safely weathered an unprecedented global crisis, the Fort Johnson Marine Center’s footprint grew with the addition of neighboring protected lands, and landmark legislation ensured more funding for the important conservation work he oversaw.

SCDNR’s Blaik Keppler was recently appointed Acting Deputy Director of Marine Resources during his absence. Keppler has been with the agency for nearly 15 years.

She recently served as the head of the Marine Division’s Coastal Reserves and Outreach Section and represents the Division’s first female head.