South Carolina DNR’s deputy director, Phil Maier, dies of cancer

State - Regional

For three decades, Phil Maier quietly worked behind the scenes at the SCDNR Marine Division to ensure future generations of South Carolinians will be able to appreciate the coastal wildlife and landscapes he so valued. (Photo: E. Weeks/SCDNR)

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

Maier died Tuesday after going through an intense case of a rare and aggressive cancer, the agency 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 study at the College of Charleston and moved on to the DNR as a graduate assistant, where he focused on shrimp.

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,” the DNR said. “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 DNR 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.

Blaik Keppler was recently appointed acting deputy director of Marine Resources during his absence. She has been with the DNR 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.

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