URI Coastal Institute director receives Hawkes Award from R.I. Department of Environmental Management

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 8, 2008 – Peter V. August, a professor of natural resources science and director of the Coastal Institute at the University of Rhode Island, received the 2008 R.I. Department of Environmental Management’s Alfred L. Hawkes Environmental Achievement Award at a luncheon in his honor on June 30.

The award acknowledges those who have “with uncommon effort, immeasurably advanced the preservation, protection and enhancement of the natural resources of our state.” August is the 16th recipient of the annual award.

In presenting the award, DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan said, “Pete August is an accomplished leader and scientist who has been keenly involved in land conservation efforts throughout the region, as well as GIS development, monitoring, mapping and education for decades. He has made the Coastal Institute a nexus for scientific research and environmental problem solving for coastal ecosystems and their watersheds.”

August came to URI in 1981 and has taught in the URI Department of Natural Resources Science since 1985. He initially taught courses in vertebrate biology and later developed curriculum for courses on the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for the analysis of environmental data. His current research projects focus on stewardship of protected lands, measuring human impacts to natural systems, assessing patterns of biodiversity at landscape scales, and developing land acquisition models for the conservation of natural resources. In the late 1980s, he established the first GIS system for the state of Rhode Island, and he continues to conduct GIS-related research and outreach in the URI Environmental Data Center.

Since 2000, August has also directed the URI Coastal Institute, a multidisciplinary effort to address the critical science and public policy issues involving coastal systems locally and around the world. He has also spearheaded the establishment of several statewide environmental initiatives, including the Rhode Island Conservation Stewardship Collaborative and the Rhode Island Environmental Monitoring Collaborative.

“I am honored to have been chosen for this award, and it is somewhat awkward for me because many of the previous recipients are my role models, mentors or heroes,” August said during the awards ceremony. “As gratified and proud as I am over our collective achievements protecting Rhode Island’s environment, the issues before us and the next generation of resource stewards in the state are sobering. We have our work cut out for us if we are to succeed in handling an increasing demand for fresh water, climate change, invasive species, soaring energy costs, and a drastically changing Narragansett Bay ecosystem.”

August serves on the board of directors of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey, the Rhode Island chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association and the Richmond Land Trust, and he recently completed serving as chair of the United States chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecologists. He has contributed nearly 100 articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and other publications on such wide-ranging subjects as bat conservation, invasive species, shoreline changes, and the application of GIS to managing water resources.

Past recipients of the Hawkes Award have included the Champlin Foundations, Sen. John Chafee, URI Professor Frank Golet, Providence forester John Campanini, environmental advocate Peggy Sharpe, and Woonsocket High School teacher Michael Ferry. The award is named for the retired executive director of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, who was its first recipient.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.