President Peter Goodwin reflects on UMCES

September 18, 2023

After a 40-year career in science and higher education culminating in leading Maryland’s university for the environment, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) President Peter Goodwin retires at the end of September. He has been leading the university’s commitment to unbiased scientific research and public service while developing the next generation of environmental scientists since 2017.

An internationally known expert in ecosystem restoration, he has championed bringing together the best available science around issues of coastal resilience, oyster recovery, ecosystem management, and using large-scale environmental data in decision-making to Maryland. As part of UMCES’ longtime role to advise the state on Chesapeake Bay management and restoration programs, he has served an integral role on the Governor’s Chesapeake Bay Cabinet, as well as lead science advisor on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. He been a consistent leading voice associated with expanding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives not only within UMCES but throughout the environmental sciences.

What has being president of UMCES meant to you?
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science is a very special community within a unique institution driven by a common mission driven by truly exceptional researchers and staff.  Given the urgency of the existential threats of climate change, loss of biodiversity, rapidly changing landscapes, UMCES exemplifies how scientific understanding of  the environment can be accelerated to inform action. It has been the honor of a lifetime to lead UMCES toward its second century of impact in Maryland and around the world.

How have you seen science and the work done by researchers at UMCES make an impact?
This is an exceptional institution, and it is different because it has a unique applied research and education mission. Our energy directly goes to addressing pressing environmental challenges and fundamental scientific curiosity about how ecosystems function. Our researchers and students have an extraordinary ability to describe their research in the most complex of terms and then immediately translate the relevance of their research (even the most basic research) to the listener and broader communities. The impact is truly mountains to oceans and genes to ecosystems.

What would you want people know about the university and its work?
I want people to know how important UMCES is to the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland legislature. We are the source of truth for environmental issues—the honest brokers—and we consult regularly with government agencies and non-government groups whose goals are also to keep the Bay and wildlife healthy and sustainable. We work with others —it is our mission—and our researchers welcome scientific collaborations across the University System of Maryland, the United States and the world to foster relations and share experiences that address complex environmental issues.  The recent successes of our researchers to lead large Team Science initiatives is a testament to their status in the scientific community and the transformative nature of their big ideas.

What are you most optimistic about for Maryland and the environment?
There is a reason Maryland leads the nation in many aspects of the response to climate change, the recovery of Chesapeake Bay, and making equity and environmental justice a central tenet. Implementation of science-informed policy and management is embedded in the DNA of this state.  UMCES is the spark that connects fundamental science to inform continued progress in the recovery of Chesapeake Bay and breakthroughs in all components of ecosystem science.

What is next for you?
A blank slate. I leave the leadership of UMCES in the vastly competent and experienced hands of Interim President Bill Dennison, who has been Vice President for Science Application with the university since 2002. I will always follow the state of the Chesapeake Bay and the many ongoing successes for which UMCES is recognized and remains well poised for the next chapter.