The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has bestowed its highest science leadership awards on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, AK, biology program; Jeff Williams of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge; and geneticist Jeffrey Olsen in the Service Conservation Genetics Laboratory, AK.

The eight biologists on the Kenai Refuge team received the Rachel Carson group award for consistently leading from the field in developing a scientific approach to deal with climate change. As part of its plan to inventory and monitor biodiversity, the team has documented 1,069 species on the refuge, including one insect family and five insect species new to Alaska, two new sedges for the refuge, and an expansion of the range for Hammond’s flycatcher.

Olsen received the Rachel Carson individual award for his varied and innovative work emphasizing genetic diversity, species identification and estimation of effective population size.

Olsen’s research applies state–of–the–art genetic methods to answer questions related to ecology, conservation and resource management, often at a landscape scale beyond the boundaries of a single refuge.

Jeff Williams, who received the Science Leadership award for exceptional scientific accomplishments, is responsible for inventory, monitoring and research on the 3.3–million–acre Aleutian Islands Unit of Alaska Maritime Refuge. He is also the chief scientist aboard the largest research vessel in the Service, the M/V Tiˆglaˆx, and has collaborated with an incredible array of scientists investigating the marine and terrestrial resources around the Aleutian Islands.

Along with the honors, they will each receive $50,000 to be used at their field stations to support additional scientific work.

Recovery Champions

The Service presented 2011 Recovery Champion awards to 56 teams and nine individuals for their work to conserve endangered species, including two teams and two individuals working on national wildlife refuges:

  • The piping plover team working at national wildlife refuges along the Atlantic Ocean from Maine through Virginia to protect more than 16 percent of the Atlantic breeding population in the United States;

  • Alaska Region wildlife biologist Susi Miller and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge visitor services supervisor Jennifer Reed working to conserve polar bears through partnerships with Alaska Native Villages; and

  • The recovery team that released 24 endangered Nihoa millerbirds on Laysan Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, culminating decades of research and planning to save a species from extinction.