National Wildlife Refuge System

Science Awards

Baron Horiuchi, horticulturalist at Hakalau Forest Refuge, HI, received the 2012 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence.
Credit: USFWS

Congratulations to the winners of the 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Science Awards!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Science Awards recognize outstanding efforts by scientists and technical staff. “As we all face increasingly complex challenges in wildlife management and conservation,” says Service science advisor Gabriela Chavarria, “innovation and excellence in science are crucial to improving the Service’s knowledge and management of fish and wildlife resources.”

Baron Horiuchi has received the Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence. As the Service’s only horticulturalist, his work has been critical to recovery of rare native plants at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on Hawai'i Island. Horiuchi propagates plant species never before propagated, and actively experiments with new ways to germinate, propagate endangered and common native plant species. Native forest birds have returned to an area that was open pasture from cattle grazing just 20 years ago. Many of the common bird species, such as 'apapane, 'i'iwi, 'elepaio, and 'amakihi, are seen regularly within the replanted areas.

Horiuchi has also spearheaded a program with many conservation partners and organized volunteer groups over the past 16 years in the management of the Hakalau Forest Refuge greenhouse operation; volunteer weekends are fully booked a year in advance.   Learn more.


Atlantic puffins are among several focal species monitored and protected at Maine Coastal Islands Refuge Complex.
Credit: USFWS
The Maine Coastal Islands Refuge Staff received the 2012 Rachel Carson Group Award for Scientific Excellence.
Credit: USFWS

Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Staff received the Rachel Carson Award for Groups. Linda Welch, Sara Williams, Michael Langlois, Beth Goettel , James Fortier, Brian Benedict, Teressa Cultrera have been collaborating to better protect and manage the migratory birds of the Gulf of Maine. Many of their focal species breed nowhere else in the United States; climate change and offshore energy development threaten the long-term viability of such species as the Atlantic puffin, razorbill and Arctic terns.

Changes in the marine ecosystem are already having dramatic effects on the reproductive success of these birds. Unfortunately, understanding threats and limiting factors for these birds presents special challenges; they forage in the ocean and little is known about their migration patterns and wintering areas. Refuge staff and partners have monitored Maine’s seabird nesting colonies for 25 years.

Refuge staff also gathered data to help guide offshore development of wind energy away from the areas considered most valuable for these birds.  By 2020, the State of Maine plans to establish five gigawatts of wind power capacity, with a portion of that coming from large offshore wind facilities.
The staff at Maine Coastal Refuge Complex sees that, in the face of today’s challenges, the way forward is to excel in science, collaborate with partners and engage in landscape-level approaches.  Learn more.

Grant Harris, chief of biological sciences in the Southwest Region, won the 2012 Science Leadership Award.
Credit: USFWS
Grant Harris has been awarded the 2012 Science Leadership Award. Under his leadership as the chief of biological sciences in the Southwest Region, his scientific team has grown from two to 12, amplifying the role of science in informing management decisions, habitat acquisition and inventory and monitoring.  Harris has built a strong foundation for science-based wildlife conservation to grow and flourish in the Southwest.

Harris has developed studies to assess the role of mountain lions in bighorn sheep mortality, led the way for novel techniques to monitor wildlife through camera trapping, and helped revamp whooping crane surveys. He has pioneered new techniques to estimate the abundance of animals without marks, techniques that can be applied to endangered animals worldwide.  Learn more.

Last updated: March 22, 2013