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MRC 2020 Conservation Achievement Awards: Nominees

The 19th Annual MRC Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet honors extraordinary Indian River Lagoon conservation heroes. Voting is underway for MRC members in good standing.

If you would like to renew your membership or become a member to cast your vote, please click here. (Members will receive an email with access to the voting platform.)

When: Saturday, February 22, 2020 • 5:00 pm–8:00 pm
Where: The Hilton Melbourne Beach Oceanfront Hotel
3003 N. Highway A1A
Melbourne, FL 32903
Fee: Limited $125 early bird tickets now available. Event is open to the public. Tickets are available on first come first serve basis.

Click Here to Purchase Tickets Now

The Nominees

Albert Tuttle Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service to the Indian River Lagoon Nominees

Paul Fafeita is the President and one of the founders of the Treasure Coast Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association and also a Vice-President on the Florida State Board of the Coastal Conservation Association. Paul has taken his message of restoring the Indian River Lagoon through improved wastewater treatment, safe bio-solid disposal, no-discharge zones for boats and a clean and sufficient supply of potable water for current and future generations to the public through speaking engagements at the Environmental Learning Center, Vero Beach Exchange Club, Vero Beach City Council, Indian River County Commission, the Sebastian City Council and local state legislators. Paul has been instrumental in working with other organizations in helping to create a legislative packet, starting a water sampling program and other lagoon and water related projects.

Brevard County Citizen Oversight Committee of the Save Our Indian River Lagoon PlanBrevard County Citizen Oversight Committee of the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Plan. This group of volunteers was nominated for their rigorous work to assure that tax dollars being collected through the voter approved half-cent sales tax are managed effectively. The COC monitors data on timeliness of project delivery, actual and updated project costs, actual nutrient removal effectiveness, reviews new literature and local studies on the types of projects included in the plan and potential alternative project types, evaluates alternative project proposals received from the community, and recommends annual adjustments to the plan.

Gayle RyanGayle Ryan became active in environmental issues in 2013 and increased her environmental knowledge through attending many meetings and events sponsored by area environmental groups. In 2018 Gayle was elected the Executive Director of the Indian RiverKeeper Board of Directors and in 2019 Gayle was honored at the EVCO Conference with the Environmental Activist award. Gayle advocates for the environment through the many meetings and events with the many organizations she supports but also sets an example by living an environmentally friendly life style by recycling, buying environmental friendly products and promoting solar products.

Indian River Lagoon Project of the Year Award Nominations

Indian River Lagoon Clam Restoration ProjectIndian River Lagoon Clam Restoration Project. Spearheaded by local celebrity fisherman Capt. Blair Wiggins in collaboration with Coastal Conservation Association, University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory, Addictive Fishing Television, keep America fishing, FWC, IRLNEP, Brevard Tourism Board, and Starbrite to create a clam hatchery program to aid in restoring shellfish populations in the IRL. This effort will improve the reliability and feasibility of utilizing filter-feeders to restore water quality, and to reestablish IRL clam populations. With 30 native Mosquito Lagoon Super Clams, this project has successfully spawned and is releasing over 4 million clams back into the Northern IRL. Aiding native shellfish populations to overcome hurdles such as low reproductive success caused by diminished brood stock and reduced ability for spawning can have significant positive effects on ecosystem health due to increased water filtration and nutrient retention.

Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan UpdateIndian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan Update. This is a significant revision from the 2008 CCMP update and looks ahead to the year 2030. It responds to the dramatic water quality changes, seagrass losses, and declining fisheries that the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) has faced since the 2011 superbloom. This IRL CCMP revision looks beyond the defined IRL watershed to consider connected waters and watersheds more explicitly. The document promotes long-term protection of the lagoon which is threatened by pollution, development, and overuse. The plan’s recommended restoration is to be implemented through collaborative and voluntary efforts by local, city, state, federal, private, and interest group stakeholders.

Blue Green Algae Task ForceBlue Green Algae Task Force. Governor Ron DeSantis made a historic commitment to Florida’s environment and affirmed that science would guide Florida’s restoration efforts and created the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, made up of scientists and researchers from around the state, charged to lead the clean up of Florida’s lakes and rivers by recommending solutions for blue-green algae blooms like that suffered by Lake Okeechobee and our estuaries in 2018, and will prioritize projects that target sources contributing to nutrient pollution in our waterways.

Paul Kroegel Award for Outstanding Service to the Indian River Lagoon by a Government Employee Nominees

Vincent EncomioVincent Encomio is the Florida Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension in Martin and St. Lucie counties. He was formerly the Director of Scientific Research at the Florida Oceanographic Society. In his new role, Dr. Encomio develops educational programming related to coastal habitat restoration, water quality and enhancing knowledge of our local coastal habitats. Continuing his previous work, he works with local communities to help plan, design and install “living shorelines,” a phrase that describes shoreline restoration techniques that use natural materials such as oysters, mangroves, marsh grasses, and sea grasses. He has also been involved in storm water education efforts to encourage residents to adopt “estuary-friendly” practices to reduce the impacts of storm water runoff. Harmful algal bloom education has also been incorporated into his extension programming, including working with citizen scientists to expand algae monitoring efforts in the southern Indian River Lagoon. In addition to his habitat restoration efforts, he has conducted research on disease tolerance in oysters and its application to aquaculture, the effects of freshwater releases on wild and cultured shellfish populations, and how oyster reef soundscapes can be used as a non-invasive tool to monitor restoration success and ecosystem health.

Dianne HughesDianne Hughes has been working for Florida’s water quality in state and local government for nearly 30 years. As Senior Ecosystem Specialist with Martin County, she coordinates and reports on water quality, manages projects to reduce pollutant loads to the Indian River Lagoon through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) programs, oversees the investigation of the harmful algal blooms, develops creative public education programs like the Water Ambassador Program and the multi-county Be Floridian Now campaign, and much more.

Jennifer WilsterJennifer Wilster is the Environmental Community Outreach Manager for the City of Melbourne and has been with the city since 1996. During this time, she has served on countless environmental teams for events such as Indian River Lagoon Day, Trash Bash, Hands Across the Lagoon, and much more. Jennifer started the annual Environmental Care and Ownership (ECO) Schools Program in 2015 that continues to grow. She servers as the staff liaison to the Melbourne Beautification and Energy Efficiency Board and is also the vice chair of the Keep Brevard Beautiful board, having been an active member since 2011.

Maggie Bowman Award for Outstanding Service to the Indian River Lagoon by an Elected Official Nominees

Florida Governor Ron DeSantisFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis has begun to focus on environmental and water quality issues that have been harmful to the environment and economy of Florida. He has OK’d $2.5 billion in spending for water quality and Everglades restoration work, appointed two new environmental-related positions — a chief science officer and a chief resiliency officer, called for the resignations of, and later replaced, the entire South Florida Water Management District board, created blue-green algae and red tide task forces and published a water quality monitoring website that tracks water quality in the state’s major waterways and lakes and provides information on blue-green algae blooms and red tide, as well as providing information on key environmental projects.

Florida State Senator Debbie MayfieldFlorida State Senator Debbie Mayfield is an avid advocate for protecting and improving water quality in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) and across Florida. As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government, Senator Mayfield made historic investments in our environment during the 2019 Session by allocating $682.6 million for Everglades and water quality restoration, which will reduce harmful discharges into the St. Lucie Estuary — a major tributary to the southern Indian River Lagoon. In 2019, Senator Mayfield also secured more than $2.6 million to support local water quality research and restoration projects for the Indian River Lagoon. Currently, Senator Mayfield is championing comprehensive legislation, SB 712: The Clean Waterways Act, to address blue-green algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon and in water bodies throughout Florida.

Stan Blum Award for Lifetime Service to the Indian River Lagoon Nominees

M. Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D.M. Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D. is a Research Professor at Harbor Branch, Director of its Marine Ecosystem Health program, and Director of Education. He has more than 30 years of experience in marine biology and ecology, with emphasis on marine plants, particularly macroalgae (seaweeds) and seagrasses. He has worked at Harbor Branch since 1977, conducting research on marine plants in the Indian River Lagoon and in other parts of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean. Dr. Hanisak is the author of more than 70 scientific publications, a frequently invited participant at national and international meetings and workshops, a past President of the International Phycological Society and a past President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Phycological Society of America. He is a co-author of Submersed Plants of the Indian River Lagoon: A Floristic Inventory & Field Guide, a comprehensive floristic compendium for those who wish to increase their botanical or ecological knowledge of Florida’s remarkable Indian River Lagoon. Research in his lab currently focuses on determining the relationships of water quality with seagrass and with algal communities (both benthic seaweeds and phytoplankton) in the Indian River Lagoon and understanding and preventing losses in shallow and deep water coral communities that result from both natural and anthropogenic causes. Other interests include physiological ecology of marine plants (macroalgae and seagrasses), nutrient dynamics, coral reef ecology, biology of deep-water macroalgae, and aquaculture (particularly marine plant cultivation).

Marty BaumMarty Baum, a sixth-generation Floridian, has committed his life to saving the Indian River Lagoon. He grew up covered in river water — fishing, boating, drinking beer on sandbars, soaking in the stars. “The value of everything here we love comes from good clean water,” Baum said. “If the quality of our water goes down, so does the value of life here. The water is what makes us special.” His family’s history includes saving marooned sailors and his modern-day efforts to save the animals, plants and people who live along our lagoon. Marty has been the lagoon’s loudest and most fearless advocate and served as the Indian Riverkeeper from 2012–2019. He has wielded his outgoing public persona to wake up our community to the polluted and dangerous water quality of our coastal waterways, initiating and attending countless speaking engagements, community outreach forums, government meetings, rallies, seminars, classrooms, and has spearheaded many lawsuits, fighting for tougher environmental reforms and policy for the well-being of our water. “Our waterways are in a state of emergency. The only hope we really have to restore the water quality and beauty of our estuary right now is the ballot box.”

Mr. Blair Wickstrom, MRC's 2019 Wave Maker of the Year Award Recipient For Outstanding Advocacy of the Indian River Lagoon

The Marine Resources Council is Pleased to Announce

Mr. Blair Wickstrom

as the 2019 Wave Maker of the Year Award Recipient for Outstanding Advocacy of the Indian River Lagoon.
Congratulations & Thank You for All You Do for Florida’s Waterways.

As publisher of Florida Sportsman magazine, Blair Wickstrom oversees all related media and products associated with the brand, including: television, online, social media, Expos and radio. In addition, beginning in the March 2020 issue Wickstrom will begin writing a regular column in the magazine, Florida Sportsman Watermen, which focuses on water quality issues facing the state. Wickstrom is currently a Board of Director for: Friends of the Everglades, Rivers Coalition, Now or Neverglades coalition and

Wickstrom has tried to use his past involvement as a board member with the Coastal Conservation Association and American Sport Fishing Association to get these fishery focused organizations more involved in the fight for clean and healthy water throughout the state. Without healthy water you don’t have healthy habitat and without that you can’t have a healthy fishery. This was the focus behind the successful launch of Florida Sportsman Watermen, which aired nationally in 2019. In the first season FS Watermen went statewide to address water related issues while working with several key groups such as: Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Captains For Cleanwater, Bullsugar, Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation, Apalachicola River Keeper, St. Johns River Keeper and the Miami Waterkeeper.

Online voting is underway for members; only current MRC Members are eligible to participate in the voting process. If you would like to renew your membership or become a member to cast your vote, please click here. (Members will receive an email with access to the voting platform.)

Find out more on the 2020 Awards page.