Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm takes helm at UMCES

July 1, 2024

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) welcomes its seventh president in its 100-year history, Dr. Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm. A renowned ecosystem hydrologist, Dr. Miralles-Wilhelm has a career of over 30 years in academic leadership, bringing together his expertise with government, private sector, and international development organizations, most recently as dean of the College of Science at George Mason University. He will also serve as the University System of Maryland’s vice chancellor for sustainability.

“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.” 

President Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

He envisions UMCES playing a key role 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, such as food insecurity, public health impacts, and economic stagnation. 

His scientific portfolio intersects with UMCES’ core research areas—water resources and watersheds, ecosystem restoration, biodiversity, conservation science—and his extensive work with organizations outside academia mirrors UMCES’ own mission: creating actionable science that provides a basis for local, national, and global decision-making.

Prior to joining UMCES, Dr. Miralles-Wilhelm served as dean and professor at the College of Science at George Mason University, and where he was responsible for 12 academic departments, 20 research centers, 350 full-time teaching and research faculty, 160 staff, and 4,500 students. Before that he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), where he directed the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC). He 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) for over six years.

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 over his career.

He has served as advisor to the World Bank, steering investments in agriculture, energy, and water and sanitation across Africa, Central and South Asia, and South America. He is principal investigator on a project co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), guiding multisector planning at the nexus of water, energy, and food in the Amazon River Basin. 

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 Ph.D. 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.

In January 2023, 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.