U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould today announced the recipients of the Service’s Science Leadership and Rachel Carson awards for 2009. The awards recognize Service employees for significant contributions expanding knowledge in the scientific, conservation and wildlife management fields.
“These award winners exemplify the Fish and Wildlife Service’s commitment to innovative, science-based wildlife management,” said Gould. “The leadership they have shown, and the lasting contributions they have made to conservation, are an inspiration to us all.”
The awards were established to recognize that effective wildlife management and conservation is founded on innovative scientific inquiry and principles. As the Service faces even more complex challenges in the realms of habitat loss and climate change, the value of current scientific information is rapidly increasing. The awards are meant to recognize the outstanding efforts of the agency’s scientists and technical staff.
The Science Leadership award was created to recognize exceptional scientific accomplishments that have lasting influence on the management of fish and wildlife resources. This year’s winner is Dr. John Wenburg, Director of the Service’s Conservation Genetics Laboratory in Alaska for his work on high-priority conservation and resource management issues and numerous investigations requiring collaboration with agency and university staff from the United States and Canada. Dr. Wenburg’s leadership has become recognized for the production of unique and crucial scientific information leading to effective management of important fisheries. He also serves as editor of the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management.
Dr. Wenburg and his staff conducted landmark efforts in using genetic markers to identify mixed runs of chum salmon in the Yukon River. This process has become standard practice and has produced valuable scientific information on which to more effectively manage the fishery resource. He also provides a significant leadership role in Service science endeavors at both the national and regional levels serving as a science advisor and serves on the agency’s Science Committee.
The Rachel Carson awards are bestowed on individuals and groups providing key scientific support for new and innovative conservation initiatives and efforts on behalf of Federal, State, and private conservation organizations. The awards are given in two categories – individual and group.
The individual award was presented to Dr. John Tirpak, a wildlife biologist stationed in Vicksburg, Mississippi whose scientific contributions have significantly advanced the conservation and management of wintering waterfowl. Dr. John Tirpak is a pioneer in the rapidly evolving field of landscape, or large-scale, conservation planning and management. Beginning in the 1990s he has been instrumental in developing methodology used to determine site and landscape scale estimates of land birds in forest habitat. He recently designed a landmark model for wintering waterfowl that is to be applied on the 27-million acre Mississippi Alluvial Plain.
The group award was given to the Branch of Population and Habitat Assessment (BPHA), an organizational component within the Service’s Division of Migratory Bird Management. BPHA’s work over the years has contributed significantly to numerous scientific and technical achievements in the management of waterfowl and other migratory birds, successes that have been widely recognized throughout the wildlife research and management communities.
The Branch of Population and Habitat Assessment has played a major role in making major improvements in the way migratory waterfowl populations are managed since its inception in the 1980’s. The office has supplied critical scientific and technical support for virtually all areas of migratory bird management at one time or another. The office was pivotal in the development and implementation of adaptive management through regulations on harvest of migratory waterfowl since the 1990s, a program which has gained widespread support and recognition from the conservation and wildlife management communities at all levels.
Along with the honors bestowed on the winners, the awards carry a real benefit for their work. The individual winners will each take back $50,000 that will be used at their field stations to support additional scientific work.
The awards are part of an ongoing Service effort to strengthen the agency’s use of science-driven fish and wildlife conservation. As part of this effort, the Service has established a Service Science Committee and launched a number of initiatives, including:
- creation of a new state-of-the-art electronic access system for scientific literature;
- establishment of peer-review procedures and policy that are among the very best in government;
- development of a new and expanding curricula in subjects like structured decision making, modeling, statistical analysis and conservation biology;
- implementation of a Scientific Code of Professional Conduct that clearly articulates the roles and responsibilities of Service scientists and managers in the responsible development and use of scientific documents;
- resurrection of the Service’s scientific publications, which are accepting articles and monographs for peer review and publication; and
- support for and involvement with professional societies like the Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, and the Society for Conservation Biology.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.