Ryan Woodland selected by UMCES graduate students as outstanding faculty mentor

May 22, 2023

Associate Professor Ryan Woodland, an ecologist whose research focuses on food web ecology, has been selected by the graduate student body at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to receive the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for his dedication to both science and his students. He is recognized for his commitment to helping and mentoring not just students but many others from inside and outside the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory community in southern Maryland.

“Ryan has had an immense impact on each of his advisees, interns, employees, and the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory community as a whole,” said Graduate Student Council Co-Chair Isabel Sanchez. “We believe this award rightly recognizes his truly outstanding contributions as scientist, professor, and mentor.”

Woodland’s research focuses on coastal food webs and how environmental factors influence species communities and their dynamics in coastal ecosystems. His work informs our understanding of the processes that support the productivity of estuaries and coastal marine ecosystems.

Students say his energy for his work is infectious and despite managing numerous and diverse projects, he has continuously made his students a clear priority. He is remarkably supportive and amicable and, even when delivering criticism, leaves students with a sense of inspiration, encouragement, and confidence in their work. They note his door is always open for methodology questions, discussion of ideas, or just to chat about a new band.

“Ryan’s mentorship style is the gold standard for all faculty and one that I hope to emulate in my own life. His compassion and commitment to science and his students is incredible, and I feel very fortunate to be part of his lab every day,” said graduate student Matt Stefanak.

“He encourages all members of his lab to take on opportunities to allow us to gain important skills and experiences that will go far in our futures and careers,” said Faculty Research Assistant Lael Collins.

“Somehow, Ryan always seems to know exactly the type of individual style of support his mentees need,” said Faculty Research Assistant Theresa Murphy. “Ryan’s unbelievable support is the main reason why I have the confidence and the skills I need to go forward with pursuing graduate studies in the future.”

One of Woodland’s most significant contributions to the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the southern Maryland community is his involvement in organizing and implementing an internship program with the College of Southern Maryland. This program brings local community college students to campus for a semester-long paid internship that provides an opportunity for students who might not normally get laboratory or field work training to be in direct contact with graduate students and faculty.

Woodland has mentored more than 10 undergraduates in the past few years in addition to his graduate and REU students. He also serves as the faculty representative for the campus’ American Association for University Women chapter.

"Ryan is a fantastic boss, mentor, and friend. He's always been there when I've needed guidance and has encouraged me to expand my scientific experiences, helping me to become a more well-rounded scientist. He sees a promising scholar in all the students and staff (even when they don't see it in themselves), providing the just-right amount of guidance for each of us and eventually, we see that promising scholar in ourselves too,” said graduate student Dani Quill.

“The main reason I decided to study in Maryland was because of the trust and genuine interest Ryan showed to help me grow as a professional and as a person. Since day one he has always been attentive to my emotional and economic well-being. He has provided me with so much support while I continue completing my graduate degree. …The feedback that Ryan provides on my work has been of the most useful I have received in my career,” said graduate student Angel Reyes Delgado.