Leahy named Interim Associate Dean for Research and Associate Director

A portrait of Associate Dean Leahy. She wears a purple have zip sweater and has short dark hair. She is smiling at the camera. Jessica Leahy has been named Interim Associate Dean for Research of the College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture and Associate Director of the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station (MAFES), effective Jan. 1, 2022.

Leahy joined the School of Forest Resources in 2005. She will retain her faculty position as Henry W. Saunders Distinguished Professor in Forestry, continuing both her teaching and research. Leahy previously served as associate dean and director from Oct. 2016 to Dec. 2017. 

She succeeds Mark Hutton, who has served in the role part time since 2018. Hutton will resume his work as an associate professor and Cooperative Extension vegetable specialist full time effective March 1. Leahy will share her duties as associate dean and director with Christopher Gerbi, who has served in that role part time since 2018.

“Her experience with the college, both as a faculty member and past service in this role, will provide invaluable insight as I get oriented with and chart a renewed course for this core of research and service at the University of Maine,” says Diane Rowland, who assumed leadership as dean of the college and director of MAFES on Aug. 1

Leahy will provide strategic direction for MAFES, which supports approximately 100 faculty who conduct fundamental and applied research to address specific problems of importance to the people of Maine. Her work will include establishing a network to increase communication and collaboration between experiment station farms and forests that stretch across Maine from Presque Isle to Jonesboro to Monmouth. She will also seek opportunities to streamline administration of federal capacity funding and support Dean Rowland’s efforts to enhance stakeholder engagement with MAFES. 

At UMaine, Leahy has taught courses in human dimensions of natural resources, environmental communication, and rural development. Her current research projects focus on family forest landowners, rural prosperity, and the intersection of forestry and public health via tick-borne diseases. 

She is a licensed professional forester, served as President of the Maine Woodland Owners Association from 2017 to 2019 after serving on their board since 2010, and co-manages Wicopy Woods Tree Farm in Sebec that was named Maine’s Outstanding Tree Farm of the Year in 2020. She has also served as the Family Forest Program Leader of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests from 2010-2016, Master of Forestry Program Coordinator in 2015 and 2017-2022, Ecology and Environmental Sciences Graduate Coordinator from 2012-2014 and Ecology and Environmental Sciences Director in 2014. Prior to joining the University of Maine community, Leahy earned her doctorate at the University of Minnesota and master and bachelor degrees from Oregon State University.