Dr. Heather Leslie, director of the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, has received the Outstanding Public Service Award from College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture at the University of Maine. The award was presented at the college’s annual Celebration of Excellence, in Orono.
“Exemplary teaching, research and public service leadership provide the cornerstones on which our students’ experiences and our ability to transform discovery into solutions are founded,” says the college’s Dean Fred Servello. “Leslie’s outstanding work embodies the distinction and impact made by the college’s faculty and its role as a part of Maine’s public research university.”
Student and faculty researchers at UMaine work with members of the fishing community to track and understand changes in fisheries and the Gulf of Maine, one of the fastest warming parts of the world ocean. They are also working with shellfish farmers on the Damariscotta River and throughout the state to ensure that Maine’s aquaculture industry grows in a way that benefits both people and nature.
“Scientists at the Darling Center have both a responsibility and many opportunities to make our research more useful to the people of Maine,” Leslie reflected. “As director, I seek to connect people to science every day.”
Since becoming director in 2015, Leslie has worked to define strategic and master plans for the DMC to ensure its vitality in the coming decades. She included community members throughout the process and shared the developing plans with area residents through presentations at Skidompha Library, local selectmen meetings, and Chamber of Commerce sponsored events.
“Heather is a remarkable person for networking at every level within the state, at different agencies and institutions, and regionally,” says Bob Steneck, professor of marine sciences at UMaine and based at the DMC.
Warren Storch, owner of the Walpole Barn, remembers, “when Heather became director of the Darling Center, I felt the doors open. Each year, as her outreach to our community has grown, those metaphorical doors have opened wider. The welcome (along with her infectious smile) has been felt by all of us here in South Bristol.”
“Now that our plans have come into focus, I’m excited to begin implementing our vision for improving the campus and ensuring that our programs are as accessible and relevant to local communities as they can be,” said Leslie.
Leslie also is Libra associate professor in the School of Marine Sciences. Her research focuses on the human and environmental dimensions of coastal fisheries. Together with her students and colleagues at UMaine and community and government partners, she works to create and share information on how coastal Maine communities are adapting to changing conditions and how to leverage that knowledge to help people prepare for and thrive in the future.
A video highlighting Leslie’s work can be viewed at https://youtu.be/UJgkoCoZCmw.
Founded in 1965, the Darling Marine Center’s mission is to connect people to the ocean. The center’s researchers, staff and students work alongside fishermen, aquaculture entrepreneurs, marine industry professionals and other members of the community in Maine and around the world. More information is available at dmc.umaine.edu.