Ming Li receives President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science

May 22, 2023

President Peter Goodwin has awarded the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES)’s annual President’s Award for Excellence in Application of Science to Ming Li, professor and expert in the regional impacts of climate change, sea level rise, storm surge, and estuarine and coastal dynamics. He is recognized for his outstanding contributions and global leadership in applying the best available science to guide managers and policy-makers in making the best decisions for communities.

"Dr. Li is one of the most influential thought leaders of his generation in the field of environmental fluid mechanics spanning coastal resilience and the vulnerability of our coastal ecosystems to changing climate,” said UMCES President Peter Goodwin. “We are fortunate to have him as part of the UMCES community for his outstanding research contributions to coastal dynamics and service the State of Maryland to help sustain its coastlines and enhance the water quality of Chesapeake Bay.”

Li’s research spans several areas in oceanography, including estuarine and coastal dynamics, sea level rise, storm surge, air-sea interaction, and turbulent mixing processes. He is actively engaged in interdisciplinary research to address challenging environmental problems such as hypoxia, ocean acidification, and harmful algal blooms. A major focus of his research is the regional impact of climate change and extreme weather events on estuaries and coastal oceans. 

With over 3,000 miles of tidal shoreline, Maryland is highly vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge. Li has dedicated his recent research towards predicting the impacts of climate change on coastal inundation in Maryland, conducting fundamental research on coastal sea level dynamics as well as applied research to inform decision-making on coastline management.

He is an expert group member and co-author for Updating Sea Level Projections for the State of Maryland reports. In collaboration with faculty and students at Salisbury University, he developed a website on inundation projections, including street-level flood projections for Annapolis, Baltimore, and Eastern Shore of Maryland. To build resilient communities in Baltimore, he is working with Baltimore Urban Waters Partnership and hydrologists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to bridge the gaps between science and regulation. He has worked with social scientists at the University of Maryland, College Park to investigate the human dimensions of sea level rise adaptation, in addition to regular engagement with stakeholders at the state and local agencies through outreach meetings, seminars, and webinars.    

“Dr. Li is a research leader and an exceptional collaborator. His mentoring and guidance of students, postdoctoral researchers, and early career faculty—from UMCES, USM institutions, and beyond—is exemplary,” Goodwin added.

Li is recognized internationally as a leader in the changing quality of coastal waters driven by climate change that includes acidification, deoxygenation, and the increasing occurrence of harmful algal blooms that close recreational beaches and have devastating impacts on the ecosystem. He was selected by the National Science Foundation to lead a signature Coastlines and People Research Coordination Network (CoPe RCN), a collaboration with multiple other universities to investigate the theme of coastal resilience around the world to advance research for building resilient communities and infrastructure in estuaries and bays,.His most recent work with the group focuses on efforts to better understand the consequences of saltwater intrusion in tidal rivers.

In the past three years alone, he has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers in top geoscience and environmental science journals, including two papers in the prestigious journal Nature. He has been active in communicating climate change science to the public, doing countless interviews with environment reporters, being featured in the film “High Tide in Dorchester” and working with students at Morgan State University in producing “A Diminishing Smithville”.     

Li received a B.Eng. from Hohai University in Fluid Mechanics and a Ph.D. in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics from the University of Oxford. He has been Associate Professor and Professor at the Horn Point Laboratory since 2001.