Colorado State University professor Dennis Ojima has been awarded Mongolia’s “Champion of Nature and The Environment” medal, one of the highest honors given by the Mongolian Ministry. Ojima was presented the medal by S. Oyun, Minister of Nature, Environment and Green Development, at a ceremony at the State Palace in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
Ojima is a senior research scientist with the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, both part of CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. He is also university director of the North Central Climate Science Center, and senior scholar at the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment at CSU.
“This award is a fantastic recognition of Dennis’ outstanding work and contributions that are having a worldwide impact on the advancement of natural resource science, education and outreach,” said Joyce Berry, Dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU.
Ojima studies effects of global climate change on ecosystems, carbon accounting methods for forest sequestration, and adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change collaboration. For the past two decades, he has led and supported social-ecological research in Mongolia, focusing on protecting fragile and endangered ecosystems and pastoral ways of life. His collaborative work has helped Mongolian scientists to increase their skills in natural resource research methodology and management, and he has supported Mongolian scientific contributions to research efforts on a global scale.
During the past 20 years, Ojima has taught courses on ecosystem modeling, remote sensing, GIS, and social-ecological approaches to assist the Mongolian Agency of Hydro-Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring in natural resource management. He has supplied computers and GIS/RS/ecosystem software to the agency as well as to the Mongolian Academy of Science’s Biology and Geo-Ecology Institutes. He has also taught Mongolian experts how to use the CENTURY ecosystem model.
Ojima continues his contribution in Mongolia by providing guidance for climate-compatible development strategies and mentoring Mongolian graduate students and young scholars. He is leading a project which seeks to better understand the vulnerability of pastoral communities to climate change and how sustainable development strategies can be used to meet these challenges. He is working closely with his longtime collaborator in Mongolia, Professor Chuluun Togokhyn, science advisor to the Minister of the Environment and Green Development and former director general of Green Development Policy and Planning, as well as an affiliate member of the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.
Togokhyn attended the award ceremony for Ojima in Mongolia. He has been associated with Colorado State University since 1993, when he initially came to work with Ojima and Jim Ellis at the NREL. Since then he has actively developed shared research and training programs between CSU and Mongolian institutions.
Ojima received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in botany from Pomona College and the University of Florida; he completed his Ph.D. in ecosystem science at Colorado State University in 1987. After being awarded his doctorate, he spent three years with the International Geosphere Biosphere Program in Stockholm.
Ojima is an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow and serves on the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change and the Board for International Scientific Organizations for the National Research Council. He received the 2005 Zayed International Prize for the Environment for his involvement in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as part of the International Panel on Climate Change.