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From the Field: Kim Hernandez

Photo of: Kayakers at Mallows Bay

Mallows Bay; by Kim Hernandez

When Kim Hernandez moved to the East Coast after graduating from the University of Kansas, she became known among her Atlantic coast peers as “the girl from Kansas who’s going to save the oceans.”

Although she grew up in the landlocked Midwest, Hernandez wasn’t isolated from the water. She frequented the Gulf of Mexico while visiting family in Texas, where she developed a lifelong passion for preserving America’s coastal waters and shorelines.

Photo of: Kim in front of river in fall


After graduation she earned her master’s degree from Duke University. From there, Hernandez was introduced to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources when she was selected from a nationwide pool of applicants to serve as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Management Fellow.

At the department, Hernandez wears a lot of hats within the Chesapeake and Coastal Service, where she is an ocean and coastal planner. When asked to be interviewed for this From the Field series, she replied that her “field” is likely different from others profiled.

“While I do occasionally get to muck around in a river, a forest or wetlands, you can more often find me attending workshops and participating in all-day meetings across the region,” Hernandez said.

For example, over the past three years, she has been helping guide efforts to designate the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. This historic site in Charles County may become the first national marine sanctuary in the state, joining a network of only 13 other around the country. The bulk of her work has been in meetings among federal, state and local partners to work through how the site will be managed.

In addition to working through the federal designation process, Hernandez has participated in and led numerous kayak tours of the site as well as helped coordinate annual volunteer cleanups.

Another bulk of her time is concentrated on regional ocean planning work with the intergovernmental Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body and the multistate Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean. She’s part of a team supporting Maryland’s role, along with other state, federal and tribal partners, to foster healthy ecosystems and promote sustainable uses of the ocean.

“I lead the state’s efforts to reduce marine debris, as well as help advance the work to identify ecologically rich areas,” Hernandez said. She noted again that while this isn’t field work in a traditional sense, her representation of Maryland stakeholder needs is an essential part of this effort’s progress and success.

Hernandez also helps gather data and information key to the state’s decisions about offshore energy, ensuring the best available data is used, especially concerning marine mammals, birds and fish.

With a focus on her ocean work, Hernandez has come full circle, now supervising the department’s current coastal management fellow, who is working to find ways to beneficially use dredged material for shoreline restoration projects.
If she came from Kansas to save the ocean, Kim Hernandez seems to have landed in just the right place.

Article by Gregg Bortz—chief public information officer. Appears in Vol. 21, No. 1 of the Maryland Natural Resource magazine, winter 2018.