Dr. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm named president of University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

February 20, 2024

Miralles-Wilhelm joins UMCES from current position as dean and professor at George Mason University

The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents has appointed Dr. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm the next president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), the seventh president in its nearly 100-year history. Miralles-Wilhelm is currently professor and dean of the College of Science at George Mason University.

Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm has been named president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

In his 30-year career, Miralles-Wilhelm has combined his duties as a faculty member and administrator with a diversity of roles outside of academia—in the federal government, in the private sector, and with international development organizations. Miralles-Wilhelm’s appointment is effective July 1. He will have the additional role of USM vice chancellor for sustainability.

Miralles-Wilhelm is a renowned ecosystem hydrologist. His scientific portfolio aligns with UMCES’s core research areas, including water resources and watersheds, ecosystem restoration, biodiversity, and conservation science. Miralles-Wilhelm envisions a key role for UMCES at the state, national, and global levels, with work and partnerships that address not only our climate and environmental crisis, but the challenges that accompany it—for instance, food insecurity, public health impacts, and economic stagnation.

He has been a principal investigator on more than $300 million in research sponsored by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and other organizations. He has worked as a researcher and consultant in water resources projects in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Europe for more than 30 years.

USM Regent and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Atticks led the search committee that recommended Miralles-Wilhelm to the full board.

“It’s hard to top Dr. Miralles-Wilhelm’s career credentials—30-plus years of academic leadership; decades of work with the world’s most influential government, NGO, and private organizations; more than $300 million in R&D funding; a project footprint spanning 50 countries,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “And yet all of these achievements—and many more—comprise only one of the reasons the regents selected him. The other, perhaps more important, is that his priorities and his plan for national and international environmental leadership are so well-matched to those we heard from UMCES faculty, staff, and students.”

“I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to lead UMCES and the sustainability portfolio of the USM,” said Miralles-Wilhelm. “The environmental challenges that we are facing as a society are pressing today more than ever, and UMCES and the USM are well positioned to tackle them through research, education, and service across the state, the country, and the world.”

Before joining George Mason, Miralles-Wilhelm served on the faculty at Northeastern University, the University of Miami, Florida International University, and the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). At UMCP, he was professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, where he directed the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites (CICS). At CICS, he directed a multi-institution proposal to lead the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies. The successful proposal received the largest award in UMCP’s history—$175 million over five years.

Miralles-Wilhelm spent five years as a civil servant at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in Washington, DC. He has also served as Lead Scientist at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) since 2018. In a joint project with IADB and TNC, he is principal investigator on a grant to guide multisector planning at the intersection of water, energy, and food in the Amazon River Basin.

In January 2023, then-UMCES President Peter Goodwin announced his plans to retire from the institution. Longtime UMCES Vice President Bill Dennison has served as interim president since September 2023.

Miralles-Wilhelm is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers. He is a registered professional engineer in the states of Massachusetts and Florida.

He earned his PhD in civil and environmental engineering at MIT, an MS in engineering at the University of California, Irvine, and a BS in mechanical engineering at Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela. He is fluent in English and Spanish.