New leadership team selected at Appalachian Laboratory

July 20, 2021
Dr. Dave Nelson, Director and Professor, Appalachian Laboratory

President Peter Goodwin of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has appointed Dr. David Nelson as the next Director of the Appalachian Laboratory. Dr. Matt Fitzpatrick has been named as the Laboratory’s first Associate Director for Research. Both joined the Appalachian Laboratory faculty in 2009, where they now hold the rank of Professor.

Current Appalachian Laboratory Director Dr. Eric Davidson will be stepping down this summer to serve as a Jefferson Science Fellow with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the Office of Environmental Equality at the U.S. State Department during the 2021-2022 academic year. Upon completion of his sabbatical, he will return to the Appalachian Laboratory as a member of the faculty.

“The Appalachian Laboratory comprises a solid core of complementary scientists who have built a strong national reputation for innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to landscape analysis of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to inform natural resource management,” said President Goodwin. “Dr. Nelson has been an integral part of the collegial Appalachian Laboratory approach that has fostered many of these innovations and he is perfectly prepared to lead the Laboratory to the next level. UMCES is proud to support Dr. Dan Filer and the National Parks Service in administering the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystems Study Unit (CESU) and the combination of Drs. Nelson and Fitzpatrick will ensure the continued success of this highly impactful program.”

Nelson and Fitzpatrick are the first faculty members to serve in administrative roles as part of a new leadership plan that will see faculty rotate through the Director and Associate Director for Research positions on a regular basis. Such a design will enable faculty members to gain greater insight on and experience with administrative matters while also enhancing the current shared governance structure of UMCES.

The new leadership team is looking forward to taking on their new roles, working with faculty, staff, students, and the community in fulfilling the UMCES’ threefold mission of research, teaching and outreach.

“The Appalachian Laboratory is a special place where world-class scientific research is conducted and used to help society solve its environmental challenges, the next generation is trained and mentored, and the public is engaged with science,” said Nelson. “It’s a privilege for me to work with the dedicated faculty and staff here in the coming years.”

“I am honored and excited for the opportunity to help lead the Appalachian Laboratory, especially guiding research towards new opportunities that improve the environment for citizens of Maryland and the world,” said Fitzpatrick. 

Dr. Matt Fitzpatrick, Associate Director for Research and Professor, Appalachian Laboratory

Both Nelson and Fitzpatrick are active in the local community and have engaged in a number of science outreach and other community-based activities during their time at the Lab.

Nelson’s lab has provided research experiences for local undergraduate and high school students and teachers in Garrett and Allegany Counties, and in his off time, he coaches AYSO soccer in Frostburg and Grantsville and tri-county middle school basketball. He and his family are members of the Faith Presbyterian Church in LaVale.

Fitzpatrick has given presentations for local organizations such as the Allegany County Center of Lifelong Learning and the Bishop Walsh School, as well as for the Appalachian Laboratory’s Watershed Moments Community Learning Series, and has conducted climate change training for Maryland state park employees.

Dr. David Nelson, a broadly trained ecologist who uses chemical signatures called stable isotopes to investigate the effects of environmental changes on plants and animals, founded and directs the Central Appalachians Stable Isotope Facility at the Appalachian Laboratory. He has served in leadership positions with the Ecological Society of America, and as vice-chair of the UMCES faculty senate. He received a B.A. in Biology from Trinity Christian College and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Illinois.

Dr. Matt Fitzpatrick is the Director of the Global Change & Biodiversity Lab at the Appalachian Laboratory. He is a former aerospace engineer who studies how natural systems respond to changes in climate over short and long time periods. Fitzpatrick holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University, an M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Montana, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee. 

Nelson and Fitzpatrick will begin their new duties on July 26.