MFPC’s 2019 President’s Award goes to Aaron Weiskittel

By Gordon Gamble, Wagner Forest Management

The President’s Award is unique in that the criteria evolves with forest industry as perceived by the MFPC President.  It is personal to the President yet relevant to the forest community as a whole. 

We have heard today that though Maine’s Forest Industry is facing many challenges, overall it is still evolving and rebounding vigorously.  This is the result of the efforts of a lot of insightful people throughout academia, government and industry.  It is with this in mind that I chose to recognize Dr. Aaron Weiskittel as one of those outstanding individuals.

Gordon Gamble and Aaron Weiskettel.

Aaron is the professor of Forest Biometrics and Modeling within UMaine’s School of Forest Resources, the Irving Chair of Forest Ecosystem Management, Director of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF), the Director of the Center for Advanced Forestry Systems (CAFS) and Director of Theme 3 within the Northeastern States Research Cooperative (NSRC).  He also serves on the Executive Committee of FOR/MAINE and co-chairs its wood supply committee. 

He has authored a book, written chapters for textbooks and published over 100 research papers. Through his leadership and collaboration with the UNH and UVM, his EPSCOR Phase 2 research proposal to conduct Regional Forest Health Research was recently selected by National Science Foundation to receive a $6.0 million research grant.  This initiative strives “to build a digital framework that integrates, analyzes and visualizes complex data streams across the region’s vast forest.” 

To quote Aaron from the CRSF website “I hope this project can help support and sustain northern New England’s unique working forests, which many rural communities rely on for their livelihoods.”   I think that quote speaks to his dedication to better understand our forests and subsequently help us all to overcome the challenges that we face.

I first met Aaron at a CFRU meeting about 10 years ago.  He was a new faculty member and researcher focused on improving growth and yield modeling of the Acadian Forest.  While I am in no way even remotely proficient in forest modeling, I do realize how vital it is for developing successful management strategies for our forests.  Many of our members’ forest management has benefitted from his research that continues to this day. 

As some of you know, for the last 3 years I have been the chair of the CFRU advisory committee.  CFRU resides within the CRSF, my term began as Aaron began running the CRSF.  Due to a series of university personnel changes, CFRU, while stable, has been involved in a prolonged transition.  Aaron has served as an invaluable advisor and confidant throughout much of my term for both our Program Leader and myself.  I will be forever grateful for his dedication to CFRU’s continued success and his continual collaboration with forest industry community.

As an industry, we are fortunate to have so many beneficial and collaborative relationships within the UMaine system to aid us in facing our challenges.  Aaron epitomizes that relationship.  I have purposefully used acronyms throughout this speech.  Let me define them for you, CRSF-Center for Research on Sustainable Forests; CFRU-Cooperative Forest Research Unit; CAFS- Center for Advanced Forestry Systems; NSRC-Northeastern States Research Cooperative; EPSCOR-Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Each of these acronyms have at least two things in common, the desire to better understand our forests and collaboration.  Aaron is an adept navigator of this sea of acronyms, leveraging each of them to provide a better understanding and a more resilient working forest of Maine. 

It is for these reasons, it is my sincere pleasure to present this year’s President’s Award to Dr. Aaron Weiskittel in recognition of his outstanding leadership and dedication to improving the resiliency and sustainability of Maine’s forests and its forest industry.  His extensive efforts as a researcher, educator and collaborator with academia and the forest industry have significantly enhanced our ability to understand and manage Maine’s forests.