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Awards / Honors

Professor receives Mongolian Ministry's highest award

February 21, 2014

Professor Maria Fernandez-Gimenez has been awarded the Honorable Champion of Agriculture and Food Industry in Mongolia award - the highest honor of its kind given by the Mongolian government.

Professor Maria Fernandez-GimenezOutstanding achievements

The award is presented to individuals working in the agricultural and food industry sector for at least 15 years with consistent good results and outstanding achievements.

In addition to her international award, Fernandez-Gimenez also received the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Society for Range Management Annual Meeting in Orlando on Feb. 12.

Fernandez-Gimenez is a professor in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. She has conducted ongoing research on Mongolia’s social-ecological systems since the 1990s, and has made significant contributions to scientific knowledge of Mongolia’s rangeland systems and pastoralist communities.

International attention

This award was presented to Fernandez-Gimenez in recognition of her 20-plus years of cumulative actionable research and ongoing efforts to collaborate with Mongolian policy makers and communities to strengthen their capacity for sustainable stewardship. Much of Mongolia’s history, livelihoods, and culture revolve around nomadic herding, and Fernandez-Gimenez’s work has drawn international attention to critical issues facing the country such as climate change, pasture land tenure, and land-use policy.

“I don’t do science just because it is fun – even though it is.I am motivated to answer questions that are going to solve problems, sustain ecosystems and improve livelihoods for people,” said Fernandez-Gimenez. “This award was a great surprise and means so much to me. It’s recognition that it all made a difference – that our team has made a meaningful contribution in the eyes of the people benefitting from this science and the students I have worked with.”

The award was presented by Chuluun Togtokh, Science Advisor to the Mongolian Minister of Environment and Green Development, at a Lunar New Year celebration Jan. 31. Togtokh is a School of Global Environmental Sustainability Visiting Fellow at CSU and science directorof the Insitute for Sustainable Development, National University of Mongolia. He has collaborated with Warner College ecology professors and since the early ‘90s and is an affiliate research scientist with the College’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.

Helping Mongolia's scientists

Fernandez-Gimenez has continuously worked on research capacity building for Mongolia’s scientists and young researchers through collaboration on joint research projects, training, hosting visiting scholars from Mongolia, and advising Mongolian graduate students.  She has supported five Mongolian visiting scholars, three post-doctoral researchers, and currently advises three Mongolian Ph.D. students. Fernandez-Gimenez was nominated for the prestigious award by a team of Mongolian colleagues including Batbuyan Batjav and former United Nations Environmental Program officer and current doctoral candidate, Tungaa Ulambayar.

“Maria has given much of herself and sacrificed a great deal of time to dedicate her work to helping the people and country of Mongolia,” said fellow CSU professor Robin Reid.  “Her work is already becoming the classic work by western scholars in Mongolia, and will influence Mongolian and non-Mongolian scholars for generations to come.”

A pillar

One of the reasons Fernandez-Gimenez chose to study at CSU was due to its collaboration on international rangeland ecology issues, and she is now a pillar in a vibrant community of Mongolian partners at CSU. The university is working to strengthen ongoing collaborative opportunities in Mongolia including rangeland ecology research, curriculum development, training, and faculty and student exchange.