Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Northeast Region



July 30, 2009
Vol.39, no. 324
For further information, contact Joanna Wilson, Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

DNREC Honors Soil Scientist as 2009 Wetland Warrior

Today at the Delaware State Fair, Governor Jack Markell and DNREC secretary Collin O’Mara honored the 2009 Wetland Warrior: Al Rizzo of Milton, a soil scientist and Partners for Fish and Wildlife Coordinator for Delaware and Maryland with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office.

The award is presented annually to a citizen, organization, business or other group that has demonstrated exemplary efforts to benefit Delaware wetlands in the areas of outreach and education, monitoring and assessment, or restoration and protection.
Described as “a soil scientist of the highest caliber,” Rizzo has worked on projects and research with colleagues on the DNREC wetlands staff and Natural Resource Conservation Service for the past 15 years. During that time he is credited with advancing the state of wetland science and improving thousands of acres of degraded and former wetlands.

The exact acreage and number of projects that Al has worked on is hard to determine, because he has lent his expertise to so many in various capacities,” said DNREC Wetlands Team leader Amy Jacobs. “Al is also widely known for innovative design that emulates natural wetlands. Instead of smooth wetlands pools, he uses a model of humps and bump referred to as microtopography and throws in old logs and stumps typically found in the natural landscape. These techniques provide essential habitat for a greater variety of bugs, birds, frogs and plants.”

Through his work with the USFWS and as an instructor with the Mid-Atlantic Hydric Soils Committee, Rizzo shares his knowledge by training other scientists on innovative techniques, as well as educating the public on the vital importance and value of wetlands through presentations, public forums, and everyday interaction.

Rizzo recalls noticing environmental degradation around him from a young age, an awareness that inspired his future work. “I could not imagine doing anything but working with the natural environment,” Rizzo said. With his education in soil science and wildlife biology, he moved from the coal industry to environmental consulting to wastewater disposal before finding his true calling. “I began to recognize the beauty of wetlands and the complexity of wetlands,” said Rizzo.

Today the Delaware native said he enjoys bringing his expertise to the team effort that goes into the constantly evolving science of wetland restoration work, and feels humbled and honored by the recognition of his peers.” I’m especially proud to be able to do this work for the State of Delaware and effect positive change in my home state.” Rizzo said.

Last updated: January 6, 2011