Shared solutions to protect shared values

  • Walrus Cows and Yearlings on Ice. Photo credit: USFWS / Joel Garlich-Miller
  • Touring by canoe. Photo creedit: USFWS / Steve Hillebrand
  • Sunrise. Photo credit: USFWS / Steve Hillebrand

Nominations for the 2018 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for Natural Resources

2018 Awards Announced

Marine Mammal Climate Vulnerability Team, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service

The Marine Mammal Climate Vulnerability Team developed the first nation-wide methodology to rapidly assess the vulnerability of marine mammals to climate change. The Team used the methodology to assess the climate vulnerability of 108 marine mammal stocks in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea. The assessment methodology can used to assess the vulnerability of marine mammals to changing climate and ocean conditions within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and beyond. The Team made critical decisions to help develop, refine, and conduct the vulnerability assessment for selected marine mammal stocks. This foundational work and the resultant products will significantly advance NOAA’s capability to make informed decisions concerning conservation and management of marine mammal populations in a changing world.

Building Ecological Solutions to Coastal Community Hazards, Office of Coastal and Land Use Planning, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the partners of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant “Building Ecological Solutions to Coastal Community Hazards” (BESCCH) engaged in outreach and assistance to local governments, professionals, and citizens. The various components of the project included a guide of achievable actions, an educational program for over 4,000 stakeholders, completion of 20 community vulnerability assessments and ten community ecological projects, an ecological monitoring program, a high school module for ecological studies, and a citizen science monitoring program. The grant addressed the needs of communities, tailored to local concerns and abilities, and advanced their ability to support natural resources and resiliency. The partners included the National Wildlife Federation, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Sustainable Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology, NJ Audubon, New Jersey Sea Grant Coalition, Barnegat Bay Partnership, Rutgers University and local governments: Atlantic City, Brigantine Beach, Cape May County, Downe Township, Lower Township, City of Margate, Secaucus, Somers Point, Spring Lake Borough, and Upper Township.

Gerald Wagner, Blackfeet Environmental Office, Blackfeet Nation

Gerald Wagner led the Blackfeet Nation's first-ever climate change adaptation planning initiative, bringing together natural resource managers to complete the Blackfeet Nation Climate Change Adaptation Plan in April 2018. The planning process enhanced tribal managers' capacity to effectively manage fish, forests, wildlife, water resources, agricultural lands, and range lands, while increasing their knowledge about the effects of climate change. Mr. Wagner’s leadership fostered increased cooperation between departments and motivated action to protect fish, wildlife, and plants in a changing climate. Mr. Wagner also created a leading regional communications tool: the Blackfeet Country and Climate Change website and established Climate Warriors—a climate change internship program for students recently graduated from high school—helping to motivate youth to take action on climate change issues.


EcoAdapt was founded in 2008 to create a robust future in the face of climate change. Over the past ten years, it has endeavored to do this through four programs: State of Adaptation, Awareness to Action, Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange, and the National Adaptation Forum. Through these programs, it has helped thousands of practitioners from hundreds of agencies understand, design, and incorporate climate change adaptation solutions into their existing efforts relating to fish, wildlife, and plant conservation and management.

National Coordinating Office, USA National Phenology Network

The USA National Phenology Network collects, stores, and shares phenological data, value-added data products, and information to advance science and to support natural resource decision-making across a variety of spatial and temporal scales. The Network delivers free and readily available phenological data, information, and standardized protocols for the Nation; connects researchers studying how species respond to climate change and managers who need this information to inform adaptive management; and creates a community for diverse stakeholders (including the public) who are interested in detecting, describing, and mitigating climate impacts on fish, wildlife, plants and ecosystems.

Maria Janowiak, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service

Dr. Maria Janowiak is deputy director of the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, led by the USDA Forest Service. She has spent the last ten years helping natural resource professionals understand and adapt to climate change, with particular emphasis on the Upper Midwest, Northeast, and beyond. She has led multiple ecoregional vulnerability assessments, created decision-support tools, taught courses, and provided direct outreach to thousands of people. Maria has aided organizations in turning their real-world projects into more than 75 intentional, explicit, demonstrations of climate adaptation in forest ecosystems. Dr. Janowiak is a role-model and inspiration to applied ecologists and adaptation professionals nationwide.


Federal Government Honorable Mention
Rocky Mountain Research Station, U.S. Forest Service

The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) worked with state and federal partners to provide land managers with methods to evaluate resilience to disturbance and resistance of plant invasion in sagebrush and pinyon-juniper ecosystems; and better predict outcomes from disturbances and management treatments. RMRS and its partners responded to research requests at a time when land managers were struggling with management of sagebrush and pinyon-juniper ecosystems in an ever-changing environment, including large-scale wildfire and expansion of invasive annual grasses. This research prompted profound changes in the way managers assess the health of the Great Basin and determine where to locate management treatments. The products help managers to better understand how the ecosystems they manage will respond to management actions or other disturbances, both now and in the future.

Tribal Government Honorable Mention
Chugach Regional Resources Commission

The Chugach Regional Resources Commission (CRRC) is an inter-tribal consortia composed of seven tribes in the Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska. Concerned with the environmental changes tribal members have witnessed, at the Board’s direction, CRRC developed a Climate Change Program which assists its members tribes in addressing climate change issues. The CRRC created a 3-phased program. They have successfully implemented phase-1, the assessment phase, and are currently spearheading phase-2, the vulnerability assessment. CRRC has begun planning and preparing for phase-3, adaptation plans.

Broad Partnership Honorable Mention
Maine Connectivity Collaborative

Fragmentation of aquatic habitat is a vital concern in Maine, as it is globally. To address this concern, an innovative and effective collaboration has been working since 2007 with partners from over 50 state, federal, tribal, commercial, local and non-governmental organizations. The Collaborative works to increase the pace and quality of restoration. The Maine Connectivity Collaborative represents a variety of flexible working groups pursuing strategies to inventory, prioritize, and correct connectivity problems at thousands of stream crossings. The Collaborative includes biologists, geomorphologists, engineers, culvert manufacturers, landowners, regulators, fishermen, land trusts, and concerned citizens.

Catherine Corbett, Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership

The mission of the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership’s Ecosystem Restoration Program is to recover the biological integrity of the lower Columbia River from the river’s mouth to Bonneville Dam through strategic, well-coordinated, scientifically sound projects. Largely due to the efforts of Ms. Corbett, the Estuary Partnership working with a Science Work Group identified science-based habitat coverage targets that, if met, will protect native species of fish and wildlife from becoming imperiled. Regional partners have protected or restored over 23,195 acres, and the Estuary Partnership has directly funded 76 projects representing 4,159 of those acres. The Estuary Partnership Science Team, led by Ms. Corbett, is now working on testing and integrating climate adaptation measures into restoration techniques used within the program, including enhancing and restoring cold water refuges critical for the protection of cold water species such as Pacific salmon and steelhead and mapping floodplain wetlands vulnerable to future loss through rising sea levels and more intense storms. Ms. Corbett is working with the Science Work Group on approaches to gage how species’ ranges might shift with changing climate conditions so that they can integrate the identification and protection of climate refugia into their land acquisition and restoration activities.

John O’Leary, Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife

Mr. O’Leary is recognized for his exceptional leadership and building collaborations to benefit conservation of fish and wildlife at the state, regional, and national level. After leading the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) for Massachusetts, he worked with the National Wildlife Foundation on the “Scanning the Conservation Horizon” guide and trained resource managers across the United States in developing vulnerability assessments. Additional examples of accomplishments and national service include leading the development of the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool, serving on the Advisory Committee for the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center, and serving on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the review of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.