RCUH Outstanding Employees

Twenty exemplary RCUH employees were recognized at the 2023 RCUH Awards Luncheon for their exceptional contributions to the advancement of research, training, and development in Hawai‘i and beyond.

Outstanding Researcher/Project Manager

 1st Place: Derek Risch
UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Derek’s role in the Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab involves diverse skill sets seldom found in the same person. As the lab’s spatial conservation and wildlife planner, Derek and his team developed wild ungulate distribution models that have had a profound impact on conservation, agriculture, and hunting decisions. His contributions have bridged gaps between various communities and fostered co-beneficial relationships, like the Hawai’i Ungulates Working Group.

2nd Place: Matthew Widlansky
UH School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology

Since joining the UH Sea Level Center (UHSLC) in 2017, Matthew has excelled as a researcher, publishing 25 peer-reviewed articles, and securing more than $2.2 million dollars in external funding. Matthew is Associate Director of UHSLC and his pioneering work on sea-level forecasting is used for measuring sea level rise, capturing storm surge, and detecting and providing warnings for tsunamis, all of which are valuable to climate monitoring and public safety.

Outstanding Project Support Staff

1st Place: Jennifer Benitez
UH Maui College

As the backbone of the Upward Bound project, Program Assistant Jennifer Benitez tirelessly supports the team’s efforts throughout the summer and academic year, overseeing procurement for the program’s three grants. Her work plays a pivotal role in changing the lives of low-income and first-generation high school students through the Upward Bound Program. Annually, the UH Maui College program serves about 200 students in Maui County’s seven public high schools.

Outstanding Team

1st Place (tie): Center for Maunakea Stewardship
Oscar Pouoa, Mark Ellis, Tommy Waltjen, Robert Madrigal

This team of rangers has logged hundreds of hours protecting the vast natural, cultural, and historical resources on 11,000 acres of UH-leased land on Maunakea. They play a vital role in keeping visitors safe, including implementing a brake check system for drivers coming down from the summit.

1st Place (tie): Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research
Mia Lamirand, Corinne Amir, Jonny Charendoff, Frances Lichowski

Corinne, Jonnny, Mia, and Frances―also known as the SfM Team―led cutting-edge research and development on a new photogrammetry technology called Structure from Motion, to assess coral reef conditions more efficiently underwater.

2nd Place: Ola HAWAII
Grace Matsuura, Kimberley Spencer-Tolentino, JoAnn Tsark

Now in its second five-year cycle, Ola HAWAII has fostered meaningful connections between researchers and diverse communities in Hawai’i, addressing health disparities and improving indigenous and minority health, particularly among Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Filipinos.

Honorable Mentions

Congratulations to all of the 2023 honorees!