2021 Recovery Champions

Recovery Champions are U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and their partners whose work is advancing the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals.

Pacific Region

Deanna Williams

U.S. Forest Service

Deanna Williams is recognized as a 2021 Recovery Champion for her leadership in the recovery of the federally threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly. Williams spearheaded intensive mapping of host plant “hotspots” and associated studies of female ovipositioning behavior; supported mark-recapture studies to gather data on butterfly movements and survivorship; tested new techniques to restore coastal prairies; and led the development of site-specific bloom calendars to customize localized management approaches. Most importantly, Williams’ innovative thinking pioneered the use of trained detection dogs to successfully locate Oregon silverspot butterfly larvae in the field. Her pilot studies demonstrated that the dogs could locate larvae in situ, a triumph unequaled in over 40 years of research on this species.  

Southwest Region

Endangered Springsnail Team

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Endangered Springsnail Team. Top row, left to right: Jeff Sanchez, Jeff Beauchamp, Floyd Truetken, Lindsey Landowski, Vance Wolf. Bottom row, left to right: Matthew Butler, Frank Weaver, Bill Johnson, Debra Hill, and Paul Tashjian.

Jeffrey Beauchamp

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Matthew Butler

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Debra Hill

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bill Johnson

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Lindsey Landowski

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jeff Sanchez

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Paul Tashjian

Audubon New Mexico 

Floyd Truetken

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Daniel Trujillo

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

Frank Weaver

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Vance Wolf

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Over the past eight years, the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge Endangered Springsnail Team has worked tirelessly to create new, self-sustaining populations of the endangered Roswell’s and Koster’s springsnails in southeastern New Mexico. Beginning in 2013, through the Cooperative Recovery Initiative Grant, the team undertook a project to restore snail habitat by rerouting the degraded Rio Hondo to allow for restoration of viable desert springs suitable for springsnails. Springsnails were subsequently reintroduced into the restoration area and their populations flourished, soon becoming self-sustaining.  Following the river reroute, the team used robust, innovative science to track snail establishment and population growth. This required the development of novel procedures and protocols to ensure data quality and continuity over time, all of which informed a peer reviewed monitoring scheme published in the Natural Areas Journal. During this time, the team also provided critical scientific information to the species’ recovery plan. 

Midwest Region

Running Buffalo Clover Collaborative Team

Marjie Becus (left) and Jenny Finfera (right).

Marjie Becus

Private Citizen

Jenny Finfera

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This past year, the running buffalo clover was successfully delisted due to recovery thanks largely to the tireless efforts and conservation advocacy of Marjie Becus and Jenny Finfera over the years. When the plant was listed as federally endangered in 1987, we knew of a single remaining population. Because of their championship of the species and dedication to its recovery, today there are more than 170 clover populations across five Midwest states. Becus and Finfera have successfully built trusted and lasting relationships with property managers; provided valuable input into the best management actions; conducted monitoring, data collection, and habitat restoration; coordinated volunteers and collaborated with a diverse array of partners; developed numerous management agreements; and communicated the essential value of this species.  

Southeast Region

Carolina Heelsplitter Intra-Service Recovery Initiative

Members of the Carolina heelsplitter Intra-Service Recovery Initiative. Left to Right: Tony Brady, Morgan Wolf, Jonathan Wardell, Somerley Swarm, and Walter "Tripp" Boltin.

Tony Brady

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Walter (Tripp) Boltin

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Somerley Swarm

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jonathan Wardell

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Morgan K. Wolf

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Carolina Heelsplitter Intra-Service Recovery Initiative has been instrumental in key efforts to conserve the endangered freshwater mussel, including propagation, habitat restoration, and reconnection of designated critical habitat.  In 2014, this team oversaw the establishment of the Orangeburg Mussel Conservation Center to propagate Carolina heelsplitters within the historical Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery. Additionally, the team built strong partnerships with private landowners to enhance mussel habitat and reintroduce the propagated mussels onto private lands. Between 2016 and 2021, more than 5,000 Carolina heelsplitters were produced at the center—2,000 of which the team released into the Savannah, Catawba, and Pee Dee River basins. The center’s success also now extends beyond the heelsplitter, supporting propagation efforts for other species like the brook floater and gopher frog.  

Northeast Region

Susi von Oettingen

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Susi von Oettingen is recognized as a 2021 Recovery Champion for her leadership in recovery of the Northeastern North American population of the roseate tern. Over the past decade, von Oettingen’s dedication to communication and sound science has expanded our protection, monitoring, and outreach for this species across the globe, contributing to an estimated 75 percent increase in North American breeding pairs between 2011 and 2021. During her time with the Service, von Oettinen has built new partnerships and improved collaboration with roseate tern colony managers in Canada, Europe and the Caribbean. Your success in building collaborative, grassroots conservation initiatives with power companies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions serves as a model for conservation partnerships across the Service. 

Mountain Prairie Region

Tonie Rocke, Ph.D.

U.S. Geological Survey

Over the past two decades, Dr. Tonie Rocke has made significant contributions to the black-footed ferret recovery effort.  Most notable is Rocke’s work to combat sylvatic plague—the most significant obstacle to black-footed ferret recovery in the wild Rocke created an injectable vaccine for ferrets and wrote vaccine guidance and administration protocols, collectively ensuring that plague vaccination is now standard management practice for the conservation of both captive and wild ferrets. In addition, the method Rocke developed to incorporate plague vaccine into prairie dog bait is an innovative approach toward protecting the ferret’s obligate prey species. Furthermore, her coordination with numerous state, tribal, federal, and private partners to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine in the field was instrumental in its success and acceptance.

Alaska Region

Mary Colligan

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Retired)

Mary Colligan is recognized as a recovery champion for her leadership in the conservation and recovery of polar bears. Over the years, Colligan’s tireless efforts and commitment to partnership building and sound science have significantly improved the conservation frameworks for polar bears globally.  As U.S. Head of Delegation for the Polar Bear Range States, Colligan oversaw the development of the Circumpolar Action Plan, and with her guidance and the Service completed its Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan.  These critical documents established conservation priorities for polar bears at both domestic and international scales. As Assistant Regional Director for the Service’s Alaska Region, Colligan’s unwavering support also enabled the development and implementation of a novel analytical framework to estimate impacts of human activities on bears. Throughout all these efforts, Colligan ensured that her teams employed the highest scientific standards to inform the Service’s regulatory and management actions for polar bear.  

Pacific Southwest Region

Kathryn McEachern, PhD.

U.S. Geological Survey

Dr. Kathryn McEachern is recognized as a recovery champion for her leadership in the recovery of threatened and endangered plants on California’s Channel Islands. For three decades, McEachern has worked under challenging and inhospitable conditions to monitor, survey, and map rare Channel Island plants. McEachern’s research directly informed the Service’s determination to list 13 plant species under the Endangered Species Act in 1997. Following development of the Service’s recovery plan for those species, McEachern helped implement numerous on-the-ground actions, from survival experiments to comparative mapping to support their recovery. Due in part to McEachern's efforts, the Service’s recent Species Status Assessments indicate strides toward recovery for several species, including the island bedstraw and Santa Cruz Island dudleya.