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2015 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation Scientific Award Winners

Help us congratulate the 2015 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation Scientific Award winners.

Distinguished Service Award: Dr. Janet Nestlerode, US Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Nestlerode is a Research Ecologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the Gulf Ecology Division in Gulf Breeze, Florida. She is currently leading a project to assess relationships between water quality and ecosystem functioning, which includes examining organism-sediment interactions across stressor gradients using Sediment Profile Imaging. She is also part of the National Aquatic Resource Survey Technical Support Team for the National Wetlands Condition Assessment (NWCA) and is assisting EPA's Office of Water in their assessment of wetland water quality and ecological conditions. She earned her PhD from the College of William & Mary at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Dr. Nestlerode has distinguished herself within the CERF community through her record of service, dedication to student engagement, and development of programs. She has served in key roles on every conference organizing committee since 2005, with roles including organizing student workers, developing education content for scientific programs and implementing the CERF 5K Fun Run, and Silent Auction, the latter two which benefit the student endowment. Nestlerode served on the CERF Governing Board as a Member at Large from 2009-2013, the governing boards of AERS and GERS in evolving capacities since 1996. She also chaired the CERF Education Committee from 2010-2013. She has demonstrated an exemplary level of volunteerism which continues to inspire peers and students across generations to get involved in the work of CERF.

2015 Cronin Award Selection: Autumn Oczkowski, US Environmental Protection Agency

The CERF Cronin Award Committee has selected Autumn J. Oczkowski to receive the 2015 Cronin Award. Dr. Oczkowski is a Research Biologist at the EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division in Narragansett, R.I. Autumn is a classical estuarine scientist, whose strong interdisciplinary background has enabled her to make major contributions to our understanding of anthropogenic impacts on coastal ecosystems, particularly the effects of nutrient loading.

Autumn has applied her understanding of nutrient dynamics across the estuarine landscape to include coastal bays, lagoons, salt marshes, and oyster reefs over two continents. She has effectively used a variety of tools, including stable isotopes, mesocosms, and intensive field monitoring to address questions on the drivers and mechanisms that affect estuarine food webs. Her work has profound societal effects and as one letter of recommendation states “has direct implications for understanding the productivity, resilience, and management of coastal ecosystems”.

Since Autumn’s arrival at EPA, her scientific leadership, positive personality, and boundless energy have resulted in numerous senior- and co-authored publications as well as countless invited and contributed presentations. Her research continues to produce significant contributions and fundamental new knowledge on the role of nutrients and climate on estuarine function that are important for resource management. Recently she has begun working with scientists in Puerto Rico to address complex nutrient loading problems that have profound socioeconomic and health implications for local communities. Her curiosity, ability to work collaboratively, and productivity make an ideal choice for the 2015 Cronin Award.

Odum Award: Joy Zedler, University of Wisconsin

We are pleased to award the 2015 Odum Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Joy Zedler. The Odum Award is named for the three outstanding ecological scientists in the Odum family: Dr. Howard T. Odum; Dr Eugene P. Odum and Dr. William H. Odum III. The award recognizes the lifetime achievements of an outstanding scientist by honoring sustained accomplishments and important contributions to understanding of estuaries and coastal ecosystems. Dr. Zedler is the Aldo Leopold Professor of Restoration Ecology in the Botany Department and Arboretum at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Like the Odums, she is recognized for contributing to a broad-based understanding of coastal marine ecosystems, addressing critical management questions, serving the scientific community, and educating multiple generations of students.

One of the letters in support of Dr. Zedler’s nomination described her as an irrepressible force for better science, conservation and management of estuaries. Dr. Zedler has been instrumental in the metamorphosis of the field of marsh restoration from an art into a science. She is a consummate ecologist who sets wetland science and restoration in the broader context of ecological principals and theories. She has contributed to the fundamental understanding of wetland ecosystems and their restoration with an impressive breadth of issues she has addressed and constituents she has reached. A recent Google Scholar search found over 11,000 citations of Zedler’s nearly 260 scientific publications and an impressive h-index of 58. Her publications include classic works in wetland ecology including her pioneering research published in the paper “Canopy architecture of natural and planted cordgrass marshes: selecting habitat evaluation criteria,” in 1993 in Ecological Applications. This paper represents many years of research, and made a significant contribution to the development of the ecological criteria for managing habitat for clapper rails by tying together plant ecology, hydrology, bird population censuses, and wetland restoration techniques. Dr. Zedler’s books range from ‘Foundations of Restoration Ecology’, considered a must-read for graduate students and restoration ecologists, to a how-to ‘Handbook for Restoring Tidal Wetlands’ to a book on ‘Salt Marsh Secrets’ for middle- and high school students.

Dr. Zedler’s service to the scientific community and dedication to the use of sound science in service to society has also been extraordinary. Dr. Zedler was Vice President of the Estuarine Research Federation from 1987-1989 and has served on Editorial Boards of Estuaries (now Estuaries and Coasts), Restoration Ecology, Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, Ecological Applications, the Journal of Ecotechnology, Wetlands Ecology and Management, and Ecosystems. She has served on 5 National Research Council committees and the National Governing Board of the Nature Conservancy. Dr. Zedler’s advisory activities have ranged from international to local; she is currently a member of an international panel advising South Korea’s National Institute of Ecology and has served on the Wetland Advisory Board for the City of San Diego. Dr. Zedler was previously recognized by CERF as the first recipient of the William A. Niering Outstanding Educator Award in 2001. She has graduated 24 MS and PhD students in the last 15 years alone, and many more during her long and esteemed career.

Pritchard Award - Physical Oceanography Paper: Jennifer Hansen & Matthew Reidenbach, University of Virginia

This award was established to honor Dr. Donald W. Pritchard, whose insightful research on the physical dynamics of coastal systems set the stage for much of the research in physical oceanography that is being conducted today. The Pritchard Award recognizes the authors of the best physical oceanography paper published in Estuaries and Coasts within the two-year interval between CERF conferences.

Hansen and Reidenbach (2013) detailed the influence of seagrass meadows on wave-dominated flows and sediment resuspension in South Bay, Virginia, within the Virginia Coastal Reserve. They deployed acoustic and optical instruments in vegetated and unvegetated sites of the reserve over multiple seasonal periods, while also measuring seagrass characteristics such as shoot density and blade length. They computed wave climate, turbulent quantities, and shear stress at these sites and compared them to suspended-sediment concentration measurements.

They found that seasonal changes in seagrass density altered the turbulence and shear stress regime, as well as sediment resuspension. The positive
feedback between vegetative density, turbulence and shear stress reduction, and decreased sediment resuspension increases light availability for the meadow, thereby contributing to further growth. They also showed that sparse coverage in the winter did not promote sediment stabilization as compared to an unvegetated site, suggesting that there may be a tipping point where low seagrass coverage does not initiate the positive feedback loop.

The novelty of this study lies in the application of advanced hydrodynamic techniques within an ecosystem type, with consideration of seasonal and spatial variability in the ecosystem. The authors quantified an intuitive process with robust measurement techniques and great clarity. Their results will be useful for restoration efforts, model development, and basic understanding of hydrodynamics and sediment transport mechanisms. This study provides a model for future work in estuaries and coastal regions, where quantifying fundamental physical processes is a critical component of interdisciplinary science.

William A. Niering Outstanding Educator Award: Dr. Peggy Fong, UCLA
Dr. Peggy Fong is the recipient of the 2015 William A. Niering Outstanding Educator Award. No one can argue that Dr. Fong is an excellent and influential scholar. Dr. Fong, however, is much, much more to the many individuals that she has directly or indirectly touched at UCLA. As repeatedly mentioned by her former students and colleagues, Dr. Fong is gifted educator, mentor and role model. Undergraduates are captivated by her lessons, which occur in both the classroom and the field. Many of these students were experiencing nature and field science for the first time. As a result of her curriculum and her passion for science, undergraduate students have had the opportunity to see the world through the lens of science, secure their own funding, and publish in leading journals. The beauty of Dr. Fong’s approach is that she shows students that science is within everyone’s reach. Many of these undergraduates have gone on to receive Ph.D. degrees and become leading scientists and communicators of science. Dr. Fong was also a principal investigator on a Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) award so that K-12 students could also be inspired to pursue degrees in science. Outside of academia, Dr. Fong has shown her students that you can have the life that you choose, especially where family is concerned. One former student stated, “Peggy teaches that success is not just the number of publications we have, it is also achieving balance between our work and our families. I hope I can show my own son that you can integrate your family and your career without sacrificing one for the other.” Congratulations Dr. Peggy Fong! 

Previous CERF Award Recipients >>

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