2018 Presidential Award winners named – I. Fernandez – 2018 Presidential Public Service Achievement Award.
A fisheries scientist whose research informs commercial and recreational resource management, a popular mechanical engineering professor whose classroom contributions include development of new curricula and educational software, and a soil scientist whose leadership and expertise benefit policymakers and the public are the recipients of the University of Maine’s top faculty honors this year.
Yong Chen, professor of fisheries population dynamics, will receive the 2018 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award. Senthil Vel, the Arthur O. Willey Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will receive the 2018 Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award. Ivan Fernandez, professor of soil sciences and forest resources, will receive the 2018 Presidential Public Service Achievement Award.
The awards will be presented at the annual Faculty Recognition Luncheon May 12 beginning at noon in Wells Conference Center.
Fernandez has more than 30 years of distinguished service as a well-known professor and respected researcher who shares his extensive expertise in soil science, forest resources and environmental sciences with collaborators in his field, and with lawmakers, the public and media, and school students and teachers. He has appointments in the School of Forest Resources, the Climate Change Institute, and the School of Food and Agriculture.
His internationally recognized research, rooted in the effects of acid rain and climate change in Maine, has informed national policy regarding air, water and soil pollution; climate change; and human-ecosystem connections. Fernandez’s work on soil acidification and impact on forest landscapes, and on climate change, has provided information, interpretation, sound scientific judgment and strategic planning for state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, citizen groups and industry.
Fernandez led the initiative in the 1990s through two legislative sessions to establish the Chesuncook soil series as the official state soil, signed into law by then Gov. Angus King, that has been widely used to promote awareness of soil resources. He has served on the Maine Board of Certification for Geologists and Soil Scientists for over two decades.
Fernandez was appointed by then Gov. John Baldacci to co-lead the development of seminal science and policy reports on climate change — Maine’s Climate Future, published in 2009 and 2015.
His most recent initiatives include the creation of the Maine Climate and Agriculture Network to enhance information access about agriculture in a changing climate. Fernandez participated in the creation of Maine Climate News, in cooperation with University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant.
In his work, Fernandez advocates for cost-effective, evidence-based climate change adaptation strategies in a wide range of issues — from coastal community planning in the face of sea level rise and ocean acidification, to participating in the development of climate adaptation planning for Acadia National Park, to development of technologies to enhance Maine’s pollen monitoring network in recognition of the rising human health threats.
In addition to his service with numerous state, regional and national organizations, Fernandez has served on a number of panels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board over the past two decades. He is currently a member of the EPA SAB’s chartered Clean Air Science Advisory Committee and chairs the Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards Review Panel for Oxides of Nitrogen and Sulfur. He also currently serves as the UMaine representative of the USDA Northeast Climate Hub.
Fernandez received a Ph.D. in forest resources from UMaine and after a few years working in the forest products industry, returned to UMaine in 1983 to start teaching and develop his research program. His numerous honors include being named the 2008 Carnegie Professor of the Year for Maine and UMaine’s 2007 Distinguished Maine Professor.