CERF Award Presentation

Bill Dennison ·
7 November 2017

Margeret A. Davidson. The Margaret A. Davidson Stewardship Award was named after her. Image credit here

The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) holds a conference every alternating year. At this conference, coastal and estuarine scientists and resource managers gather to share knowledge. This year’s CERF conference theme was ‘Coastal Science Inflection Point: Celebrating Successes, Learning from Challenges’. The CERF 2017 Conference was held in Providence, Rhode Island, the third time that CERF conferences were held in Providence due to the popularity of this venue.

As part of each CERF conference, a suite of awards is presented in the opening plenary. The 2017 CERF Scientific Awards included the Odum Award for Lifetime Achievement (Jim Cloern), Cronin Award for Early Achievement (Damien Maher), William A. Niering for Outstanding Educator (Drew Talley), Donald W. Pritchard Award for Physical Oceanography Paper (David Ralston eg al.), Distinguished Service Award (Veronica Berounsky). These awards are regularly given at CERF conferences. Two new awards, focused on stewardship, were created this year. One is the Coastal Stewardship Award for Stewardship for an organization (Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium of Tampa Bay; National Estuary Program). The other was the Margaret A. Davidson Award for Stewardship, which was presented to me.

My remarks were the following:

“I am very honored to receive the Margaret A. Davidson Stewardship award from CERF. The fact that Robert Twilley, my wonderful friend and colleague, is presenting me this award is particularly special to me.

I am also honored to be in the company of esteemed scientists and other wonderful people who are also receiving CERF awards this year. But what I am most excited about is that CERF has created the Margaret A. Davidson Stewardship Award.

I love the name for two reasons. First, I was fortunate to have experienced some of the magic of Margaret Davidson. Margaret’s shining intellect, combined with her insightful, candid, and often hilarious observations made every conversation with her stimulating and thought-provoking. Her vision and her ability to enact her vision within a federal agency was astonishing. I particularly miss Margaret’s wit and honesty in the current political milieu.

And second, a stewardship award that acknowledges the importance of helping to solve, not just study, environmental problems, is a welcome addition to the constellation of CERF awards. The origin of the term ‘stewardship’ derives from the Middle English word meaning ‘House guardian’. If you consider the coasts and estuaries and mountains and oceans as one gigantic house that we call earth, then working to safeguard this house is a worthwhile enterprise that we in CERF should all dedicate ourselves to protecting. An example of this is earlier today, when we had a workshop on diversity and inclusion that addressed the need to welcome everyone into this house we are trying to safeguard.

As for thank you’s, I have had a couple of great Science Application mentors in my career—Paul Greenfield at the University of Queensland and Don Boesch at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Paul and Don showed me how to make science relevant to management, speaking truth to power while maintaining their scientific integrity.

Don Boesch, former President of UMCES and mentor of Bill Dennison. Image credit here

I also would like to thank the faculty at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science for their vision to create the Integration and Application Network (or IAN) and the position that I now hold. Over the years, I have been blessed to work with an incredibly committed and talented team of scientists and science communicators, first with the Marine Botany Group at the University of Queensland, and now with the Integration and Application Network at UMCES.

I have had great colleagues in Chesapeake Bay research and management, in particular, my science colleague Bob Orth and resource management colleague Rich Batiuk.

And finally, my sometimes colleague, but always friend and lovely wife, Judy O’Neil, has inspired me for three decades, and produced two wonderful daughters. When I received the call from Robert with the news that I had received an award that I didn’t even know existed, my response was “Holy cow, did they make a mistake?” However, Judy’s immediate response was “It’s about time!” Judy always has my back.

Bill and Judy together.
Bill and Judy together.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you Robert Twilley and CERF, Paul Greenfield and Don Boesch, JJ Orth and Rich Batiuk, Marine Botany and IAN, and two special women: Margaret Davidson and Judy O’Neil.

I hope that all of us in CERF can live up to the aspiration embodied by the Margaret Davidson Stewardship Award of guarding this amazing house, the Earth that we all love.”

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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