Eleanor Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award:
The recipient of the Eleanor Fletcher Award exemplifies a lifelong, extraordinary commitment to marine conservation education through their work or volunteer activities similar to Loggerhead Marinelife Center Founder Eleanor Fletcher.
Dr. Edith (Edie) Widder - Award Recipient
The ocean is home to many fascinating and elusive creatures. The deepest waters are still largely unexplored and hold many mysteries. Dr. Edith (Edie) Widder has devoted her career to the exploration of these waters, has developed innovative scientific equipment and founded a scientific based conservation non-profit. She has explored the great ocean depths and discovered the natural environment of the elusive giant squid. A specialist in bioluminescence, studying how and why ocean organisms create light in the darkness of the sea. She has
explored the ocean inside tiny submersible submarines, Atmospheric Diving suits, and by using remote deep-sea cameras. Dr. Widder is a scientific pioneer who thrives on exploration and discovery-“I think I have the best job in the world. Seventy-one percent of the planet is covered by water, we've explored less than five percent of the ocean, and there are so many fabulous discoveries that have yet to be made.”
Her interest in ocean science began at 11 years old during a family trip to Fiji. Edie was fascinated by the reefs and the beautiful and amazing creatures living in and around them, such as giant clams, blue starfish and colorful exotic fish. This encounter sparked an interest that lead to a lifetime of learning and studying the ocean.
Graduating Magna cum laude from Tufts with a BS degree in Biology, she earned a Master Degree in Biochemistry and a PhD in Neurobiology awarded by the University of California in Santa Barbara. Dr. Widder became certified as a Scientific Research Pilot for Atmospheric Diving Systems and holds certifications that qualify her to dive in the deep roving suit WASP and the single-person untethered submersibles DEEP ROVER and DEP WORKER, in addition, she has made over 250 dives in the JOHNSON-SEA-LINK submersible. The research conducted by Dr. Widder involving submersibles has been featured on the Discovery Channel, BBC, PBS and National Geographic.
Dr. Edie Widder was a senior scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute from 1989 to 2005. In 2005 she founded the Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA), a scientific based conservation nonprofit. She established ORCA to lead the effort of translating complex scientific issues into technological solutions, to foster a greater understanding of ocean life as a means to better and more informed stewardship. “Our focus is on reversing the trend of oceanic and near-shore marine ecosystem degradation using the scientific integrity of a research institute,” said Dr. Widder.
Dr. Edie Widder founded ORCA because she realized the status quo of ocean conservation was losing ground, our waters were being besieged by an many invading species, unseen pollutants and toxic algae. She concluded that the traditional land conservation strategies (buying acreage, “No Trespassing” signs) would not work for saving bodies of water. ORCA has envisioned a fundamentally new approach to ocean conservation focusing on improving the quality of water and that the precious habitat fish, marine mammals, marine life and other wildlife depend on for survival. It is the nation’s first technology-based marine conservation organization, their unique niche in responding to large-scale deterioration of the marine environment is to:
- Collect accurate and scientifically defensible data on water quality and its impact on marine ecosystems.
- Provide the data to public and decision makers in an easily accessible and understandable format.
- Engage communities in marine conservation actions, with positive reinforcement for their efforts through feedback involving easily understandable scientific data.
Dr. Edie Widder’s organization-ORCA- has combined innovative technology, community outreach, and applied science to lead the way in conservation and protection of valuable coast lines and marine LE bathyphotometer was conceived of by Dr. Widder. Working with engineers she built this device and many others that allow humans to view beneath the waves. HIDEX is the U.S. Navy standard for measuring bioluminescence providing crucial information for hiding submarines. The innovative LoLAR was built by Dr. Widder. This device is an ultrasensitive deep-sea light meter that measures light in the deep ocean including dim down-welling sunlight and bioluminescence. These are important determinants of patterns of animal distribution. ORCA’s Eye-in-the-Sea (EITS), a remotely operated deep-sea camera system is another pioneering device created by Dr. Widder. When EITS is deployed on the ocean floor it automatically detects and measures bioluminescence of organisms. This device has produced footage of rare species of sharks, jellyfish, and discovered a new species of a large, over six feet long squid. The Discovery Channel series Midwater Mysteries and NOVA ScienceNow on PBS has
The summer of 2012 yielded a historic moment when Dr. Widder, along with several other scientists filmed a giant squid in its natural habitat, off Japan’s Ogasawara archipelago for the very first time. For this expedition she developed Medusa-a new camera system that uses red light and an optical lure in the form of LED lights that resembles a bioluminescent jellyfish. She hypothesized that the lights and sounds of remote-operated vehicles and submarines were scaring large sea creatures which prevented them from being observed in their environment. This footage aired on the Discovery Channel in 2013. For this innovative work she received the 2018 Explorers Club Citation of Merit. Dr. Widder became one of only six women to earn this honor.
History was made again on June 2019 from a research ship in the U.S Gulf of Mexico when Dr. Widder and her scientific team captured images of another giant squid in this part of the world. It was during a 15-day expedition funded by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research called Journey Into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone. Dr. Widder’s Medusa camera revealed many unusual deep-ocean creatures and then they spotted the large tentacles first before the entire creature emerged.
Based on her work with ORCA, she awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in September 2006. Dr. Edie Widder has published over 75 peer-reviewed scientific papers and participated in over 65 ocean research expeditions, 39 as chief or co-chief scientist. In 2010 she participated in the prestigious TED Mission Blue Voyage to the Galapagos Islands. This gathering included many other leading thinkers and advocates of ocean conservation. Her TED presentation was recorded from the deck of the ship Endeavor.
Under the leadership of Dr. Edie Widder, ORCA has implemented a Citizens Science Program to educate and engage community members in solving the problems that are leading to the degradation of the Indian River Lagoon. The ORCA scientists and educators train citizen volunteers to participate in various components of their research programs and initiatives. In addition, ORCA’s ONE HEALTH initiative is focused on studying the transfer of toxins from the Indian River Lagoon to humans and animals. They are testing the fish from the Lagoon and surrounding waterways for microcystin, which is the most common toxin in the blue-green algae and are analyzing samples in the lab at the ORCA Center for Citizen Science.
“If we are to be good stewards of the ocean, we need to understand what lives there and how the animals interact with each other and with their environment, which means we need to be constantly seeking new and improved methods for exploration and observation”-Dr. Edie Widder
Jack Hanna - Honoree
Jack Hanna has spent his life and career surrounded by his family while characteristically advocating for animals and their natural habitats. For over four-decades Jack Hannah has transformed awareness and education for animals and our planet. In 1978 Jack Hannah took over as Director of the Columbus Zoo.
He also realized the importance of increasing the profile of the Columbus Zoo in central Ohio to get more public support and funding, and the "everyman"-seeming Hanna proved to be very well-suited to public relations for the zoo. From 1981-83, Hanna hosted a local television program, "Hanna's Ark", which aired on the local CBS affiliate in Columbus, WBNS. Hanna's live animal demonstrations on Good Morning America and David Letterman's talk show incarnations brought national attention to the Columbus Zoo as well as to Hanna himself. Over the course of Hanna's tenure as director, the zoo made the transition from cage-like enclosures to habitat environments, and the grounds were significantly expanded. The annual attendance of the Columbus Zoo increased by over 400% during this time. Hanna was named Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 1992.
Hanna published his autobiography, Monkeys on the Interstate, in 1989. He has published many books for children as well. He has been the host of the syndicated television shows Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures (1993-2008), Jack Hanna's Into the Wild since 2007 and Jack Hanna's Wild Countdown since 2011. Hanna also occasionally contributes commentary as an animal expert on various local and national news programs, and has done guest spots on other shows such as Larry King Live, Nancy Grace, Maury, and The Hollywood Squares. On September 25, 2003, Jack made a special guest appearance on an episode of Blue's Clues (season 5, episode 35, "Animals in Our House?"). He was also named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People" by People magazine in 1996. Hanna also appeared in Neal McCoy's 2005 music video for "Billy's Got His Beer Goggles On" with a hyacinth macaw, a sloth and an albino burmese python. Hanna, along with Emmy-award winning musician Mark Frye, released an album through Virgin Records in 1996 entitled Jack Hanna's World. Jack is a multi Emmy award winning TV host on his very popular TV show, "Jack Hanna's Into the Wild" which features the Hanna family on international treks around the globe to study, advocate for, and save threatened and endangered animals and their sensitive habitats! Jack recognize the importance of collaborating and giving back and has invested thousands of hours in supporting organizations who share a similar mission and vision and has deep connections to non profits in Ohio, Montana, and Florida. Jack and his family have personally invested their time and networks to support Loggerhead Marinelife Center, by helping to support our public events, serving as the Ambassador of Conservation for The Juno Beach Pier (Under the operation of LMC), and shot an episode of the Emmy Award Winning "Jack Hanna Into The Wild" at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in June of 2018 helping to elevate the Center's awareness and viability on the global stage. Jack has spent decades with his family transforming the awareness of animals and our natural world and is very worthy of a lifetime achievement career award.
Duane Silverstein - Honoree
Few people have done more to protect the world’s oceans and marine life than Duane Silverstein. His path to becoming a dedicated conservationist, however, was not a predictable one. Duane grew up in Long Island, New York, where the only fish he ever saw were in the store, and they were dead and grey. Many years later, while attending law school, he had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii to volunteer with native Hawaiians to help protect their threatened ecosystems. This experience was nothing short of life-changing: while there, he tried snorkeling for the first time and discovered a world beneath the ocean’s surface that he had never imagined existed. He also learned a lot from working with the indigenous population about the threats this aquatic world faced and the importance of conservation, not only for the local community, but for the world. Upon his return to New York, he dropped out of law school to dedicate his career to preserving the world’s oceans and seas as well as to supporting the people and cultures dependent on them.
In 1999, Duane became the first Executive Director of Seacology, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting island habitats and cultures. In the past 20 years, he has grown the organization from a small nonprofit with no paid staff and only $16,000 in the bank into a
thriving international environmental organization with a $3 million annual budget and a portfolio of 320 projects in 61 countries throughout the world. Seacology’s project model offers island villages a unique deal: if they agree to create a protected environmental area, Seacology will provide funds for something the village needs, like a schoolhouse or health clinic. For each project, Duane communicates with the local people to make sure they are directly involved in conservation efforts and are committed to becoming long-term stewards of the environment. In his role as Executive Director, Duane has led the efforts that have resulted in the establishment of over 766,000 acres (and counting!) of marine protected areas where fish and coral reefs are safe from exploitation. Many of these locations are home to endangered ocean species such as marine turtles, whale sharks, and corals. Seacology’s work conserving critical ocean environments can be found worldwide, including the Caribbean, Micronesia, the Indian Ocean, and the “Coral Triangle.”
Duane has also been a dedicated diver for over 30 years, logging more than 700 dives, including exploratory dives in the Solomon Islands, swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, and diving with great white sharks in Mexico. Duane has collaborated with leading marine scientists including Dr. Sylvia Earle, and his work has been recognized by Islands Magazine and by Sunset Magazine, where he was named a 2010 Coastal Hero and “superhero of the deep.” Duane’s tireless efforts to protect the world’s oceans have saved countless plants and animals, protected thousands of acres of marine waters, and supported the needs of coastal communities. He is widely considered one of the world's foremost experts on islands and is a National Fellow of The Explorers Club and a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.
Throughout his years of marine conservation work, Duane has met with presidents of the United States, Secretaries-general of the United Nations, kings, heads of state, and indigenous chiefs throughout the world on behalf of the environment. His work has been covered in media such as Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times. Articles he has written have appeared in over a dozen international publications. In 2010 Silverstein was given the Jefferson Award for Public Service. In early 2012, he was invited to give the closing speech on the state of the Earth’s islands for the TEDx conference in South Africa’s Cape Town. In January 2015 His Serene Highness Prince Albert II honored Silverstein on behalf of Seacology for outstanding innovation in a ceremony in Monaco. In 2018, he accepted the United Nations Momentum For Change climate action award on behalf of Seacology.