Pete August, RI’s ‘Mr. Map” given high URI Foundation award

Dr. Peter August
Dr. Peter August

Dr. Peter August, known informally in Rhode Island as “Mr. Map,” was recently presented with the URI Foundation’s 2013 Scholarly Excellence Award.

The award was announced as a surprise during a meeting held in the in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences conference room and it will be officially presented in a ceremony May 14. 3-5 p.m. in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium in Swan Hall.

August, a long-time faculty member of the Department of Natural Resources Science, was nominated for the honor by Dr. Arthur Gold, department chair.

“Pete August’s vision and accomplishment have helped transform the academic culture of URI,” wrote Gold in his nomination letter. “The effects of his leadership extend from the way we relate to our local surroundings to new paradigms that embrace integrated approaches for research and graduate education. His contributions extend beyond URI to the Northeast, the nation and the globe and he has received many prestigious awards from his colleagues.”

Gold cited August’s efforts in making URI a global center for excellence for geospatial teaching, research and outreach. He is ‘Mr. Map” in Rhode Island and the Northeast.”

Gold said that August made it possible for computerized maps to be generated and used by students, agencies, business and the general public and recognized the benefits of free access, common platforms, unfettered by charges or organizational barriers, that could unleash the power of place-based information.

President Dr. David Dooley congratulating Dr. Pete August.
President Dr. David Dooley congratulating Dr. Pete August.

August founded the Northeastern ARC/INFO Users Group and created the URI Environmental Data Center. The center is the “silent” source of much of the high-quality information that Rhode Islanders encounter when they use Google Maps, noted Gold.

August was largely responsible for the creation of the RI Geographic Information System that provides detailed maps and information on the terrestrial and marine resources of the state, added Gold.

In the realm of education “Pete embodies all the elements of a highly successful mentor—he is fun to speak with, staggeringly competent, capable of transforming complex problems into a reasonable set of activities, has an open-door policy, loves to connect students to professionals, knows how to create a strong sense of belonging and builds confidence and professionalism in his students,” wrote Gold.

Gold also credits August for his leadership in the six-year Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) project at URI. “Pete was a major force for each and every IGERT student… He showed an amazing talent for seeing the potential in each student and was able to weather their moments of stress or minor lapses in professionalism and always delight in their individual achievements.”

Gold also noted that August took responsibility for coordinating an interdisciplinary professional master’s degree program, called the Master In Environmental Science and Management.

“It has been remarkable to watch him mentor 30 of these students, never failing to give each of them a sense of their potential and their capacity to excel,” wrote Gold.