February 18, 2016 – The 2016 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards – presented by the National Wildlife Refuge Association -- honor three outstanding individuals and a Friends group exemplifying outstanding conservation management skills and volunteer leadership.
Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year
Keith Weaver, project leader at Central Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is a 31-year veteran of the Refuge System. His career has spanned 11 national wildlife refuges across five states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi and Vermont). An accomplished wildlife biologist, Weaver has successfully integrated a science-driven approach to refuge management.
Cache River Refuge in the Central Arkansas Complex has been identified as the most important wintering area for mallards in the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Weaver has created innovative partnerships to acquire funding and support for the restoration of bottomland hardwood forest habitats for these wintering waterfowl. He is currently working to establish a Friends organization at Cache River Refuge.
Weaver says his accomplishments are possible because of his staff's "outstanding motivation and dedicated service. The award is really the 'Refuge Staff of the Year.'"
Refuge Employee of the Year
Douglas Head II is an assistant zone biologist for multiple refuges in the Southwest (Texas Chenier Plain Refuges Complex, Texas Mid-Coast Refuge Complex, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex).
Head is a problem-solver who demonstrates innovation and ingenuity. He designed a permanent platform system to monitor the effect of sea-level rise on marsh ecosystems. He also streamlined the process of recording field data for the only wild population of whooping cranes (Aransas Refuge).
Head also provided several educational outreach opportunities to urban youth, including a group from Los Angeles. He participates in local public outreach events and most school field trips to coastal refuge complexes. He is also working with Texas Tech graduate students on a marsh project at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Volunteer of the Year
Ann Humphrey’s enthusiasm and commitment to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean earned her the 2016 Volunteer of the Year award. She completed four volunteer tours to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge but also dramatically improved the volunteer program itself.
At Humphrey’s suggestion, program volunteers now serve serve six -month tours, instead of the original two-week to one-month tours. This revision has led to the development of long-term, committed volunteers who become technically savvy and help further achieve the refuge’s mission. Under her direction, the resulting 20-person volunteer corps has provided more than 26,500 hours of service to Midway Atoll since March 2014. This has saved the government hundreds of thousands of dollars in professional services and ensured the refuge’s conservation mission remains fulfilled.
David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, says, “Her willingness to pitch in whenever necessary from reorganizing the volunteer program to data collection makes her an invaluable steward and asset for the refuge.”
Humphrey’s success in biological resource management recently earned her a fulltime position as a biological science technician at Midway Atoll Refuge.
Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year Award
Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge’s most impressive accomplishment was its successful campaign to build the Tamarac Discovery Center. The $800,000 environmental education center was donated to the refuge.
This Friends group has been instrumental in expanding the refuge’s ability to provide familyoriented outdoor experiences. Outreach to the White Earth Reservation community, adjacent to the refuge, includes Tamarac Whispers, a radio show airing on the local tribal station, now in its third year of production by the Friends and refuge staff.
The Friends of Tamarac has developed from a group focused on the local refuge to an organization with a broader awareness and appreciation of the Refuge System’s mission. The group regularly incorporates Refuge System national priorities, such as migratory birds and monarch butterflies, into local events and outreach strategies.