Gainesville man wins Audubon’s Everglades Champion Award

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Audubon Florida honored Gainesville-based Peter Frederick, Ph.D., with the Everglades Champion Award, Jacksonville’s Ann Harwood-Nuss, Ph.D., was recognized as Distinguished Philanthropist, and Michelle Waterman and Allison Conboy of northeast Florida received Special Places Awards. 

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Nearly 600 participants signed on to engage in the 2020 Audubon Florida Virtual Assembly. For decades, Audubon Florida has gathered its staff, members, partners, and other stakeholders under one roof for an in-person celebration of the prior year’s accomplishments and a look ahead at coming priorities. Due to the pandemic, 2020 marked the first time ever the event was held virtually.

In his long career centered in the Gainesville region, Dr. Frederick has striven to protect the Everglades and the water birds that depend on this unique ecosystem. He was highly innovative in his approach to studying the ecology of wading birds. For example, while working for National Audubon’s Tavernier Science Center (now Audubon Florida’s Everglades Science Center) in the late 1980’s, Dr. Frederick developed primitive “trail cams” using old super-8 cameras to examine the feeding behavior of spoonbills. He created decoy alligators to see if wading birds were attracted to a high density of alligators for nesting areas. He pioneered how to use drone aircraft to successfully monitor wading bird nesting activity while minimizing disturbance including documenting the largest wading bird colony in the Everglades.

 Dr. Frederick has mentored numerous young scientists who are now active in resource protection in the Everglades, throughout the state of Florida and around the world. One of those scientists was Jerry Lorenz, Ph.D., Audubon Florida’s state research director, who nominated him for this award.

“I would not have lasted 30 days working in Florida Bay, much less 30 years, if not for Dr. Frederick’s mentorship,” said Lorenz. “His is truly a Champion of the Everglades.”

This year’s Special Places award honors Michelle Waterman, Park Manager at the Talbot Islands State Parks, and Allison Conboy, Park Services Specialist at the Talbot Islands State Parks, for their continued exemplary service in protecting shorebirds and their critical habitat. Waterman and Conboy work in some of Florida’s truly special places.

 The Talbot Island State Parks include no less than seven individual state parks that conserve a range of coastal habitats including strand, hammock, dunes, bluffs, and more. Several of these parks border Nassau Sound, historically one of the most important nesting areas for shorebirds along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Waterman and Conboy, both active members of the Timucuan Shorebird Partnership, have worked tirelessly with partners to help restore shorebird species diversity and productivity in this region. This work includes a multitude of efforts to manage and restore shorebird habitat as well as reduce threats to nesting shorebirds from predation and human disturbance.

Additionally, Waterman and Conboy facilitated the re-establishment of the Nassau Sound Islands Critical Wildlife Area and have been instrumental in protecting this habitat and educating the public about the importance of this nesting area.

Audubon Florida’s Northeast Florida policy analyst Chris Farrell presented the awards.

“Thank you and congratulations to Michelle and Allison!” said Farrell. “We look forward to many more years of partnership working to restore shorebird populations in Northeast Florida.”

Ann Harwood-Nuss, Ph.D., was celebrated as this year’s Distinguished Philanthropist. For eight years, Dr. Harwood-Nuss has invested her time in Audubon’s mission. In 2012, she gave her first gift to Audubon, and since then has remained deeply involved with the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and Audubon Florida.

In 2015, Dr. Harwood-Nuss became a member of the Audubon Florida Board of Directors, where she currently leads the science committee and serves on the development committee. She is always willing to share fundraising ideas with the committee and help Audubon thank generous supporters in the Jacksonville area.

A lot changed during the pandemic, and Dr. Harwood-Nuss stepped up in big ways for the clinic staff by purchasing much needed supplies during the Baby Owl Shower. She is always willing to provide matching funds to help raise more dollars for the Center during their annual fundraising event.

She always goes above and beyond when she can. In addition to her donations, Dr. Harwood-Nuss serves as a member of the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey Advisory Board and helped set up Friends of Eagles, an annual giving society that raises money for the Centers’ EagleWatch program. 

Katie Warner, director for the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, presented the award.

“Ann cares deep down not only about our mission, but about our people,” said Warner.

Many other conservation leaders were similarly recognized during this year’s Assembly, including:

  • ·       Ann Paul received the Guy Bradley Award
  • ·       Maggie Haynes at Audubon’s Center for Birds of Prey received the Volunteer of the Year award
  • ·       Lt. Rob Gerkin with FWC received the Law Enforcement Award

Hosted Oct. 20-24, the event also included learning sessions and panel discussions under the theme “Reimagining Audubon Florida: A Call for Inclusive Conservation,” and  provided virtual field trips to Audubon centers and priority areas in Florida. During the Keynote Presentation, J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D, author, poet, and wildlife biologist, discussed life his experiences as a Black birder, his work in the conservation field, and his vision for the future. 

The awards were presented virtually during the event and plaques were sent to each individual. Registered participants received a copy of Lanham’s book, The Home Place. 

The event was generously sponsored by Darden Restaurants, Florida Power & Light Co., Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, Publix, Vortex, Rayonier, The Merrill G. and Amita E. Hastings Foundation, and Wild Birds Unlimited, with additional support from the Jessie DuPont Ball Foundation. 

Audubon protects birds and the places they need, today and in the future.

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