Alumni News

17 March 2023

Excellence in Research

The Dean’s Award goes to Jonathan Deenik

Excellence in Research

Jonathan Deenik received his BA in History and Art History (College of Wooster), and then joined the Peace Corps, where he served as a teacher and teacher trainer in a rural community in southern Cameroon (’85-’87) and remote central Nepal (’87-’91). He came to Hawaiʻi in 1992 and completed his MS and PhD degrees at UHM in Soil Science.

Jonathan joined the Dept. of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences in 2003 with a three-way split (Extension, research and instruction). His work focuses on soil nutrient management and soil health across the spectrum of tropical agroecosystems. He works with farmers throughout the Hawaiian Islands and Micronesia. He enjoys collaborating with faculty from a range of disciplines with a history of large projects covering soils and pasture management, basic research in biochar as a soil amendment, irrigation scheduling software and projecting potential evapotranspiration into the future, and the use of rapid soil testing in the field.

Jonathan also continues to enjoy working with the Children’s Healthy Living project addressing nutrition and child health throughout the Pacific. More recently, his work has focused on soil health, where he collaborates with a wide range of faculty and a large network of farmers in Hawaiʻi, across the Pacific, and the Caribbean. His work in soil health has led to large collaborative research efforts investigating the intersection of soil microbes, clay minerals, and carbon and nitrogen cycling. He continues to be inspired by his students and network of faculty and farmers across the globe.

Jonathan was chosen for this yearʻs award based on his outstanding research contributions to the college and to the university during the last three years. From 2020 through 2022, he has garnered $1.96 million in grants as PI, and he has authored or co-authored 12 peer-reviewed publications. Heʻs also been a major contributor to two notable science teams in CTAHR: the Children’s Healthy Living Program and the Soil Health Program. He has proven to be an excellent mentor to many undergraduate and graduate students (31 have graduated during his career, and he is presently on committee of seven graduate students), and he has exhibited notable leadership skills as Chair of the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences since 2019.