President to honor high-achieving, early career NOAA scientists

September 26, 2011

James A. Morris, Jr.

James A. Morris, Jr.

Erin Oleson

Erin Oleson

David Richardson

David Richardson

(Credit: NOAA)

Three NOAA scientists were named today as recipients of the 2010 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers.

“It is very gratifying that NOAA scientists are honored by this significant award,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We are immensely proud of these three individuals. They represent the best of NOAA science. While they are being lauded for specific work, this award also recognizes the promise of future contributions to science and the nation.”

Recipients are: James A. Morris, Jr., Ph.D., an ecologist at the National Ocean Service’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort, N.C.; Erin Oleson, Ph.D., a whale and dolphin research ecologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu; and David Richardson, Ph.D., a fishery dynamics researcher at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Morris is being honored for his research on invasive species and marine aquaculture. His studies of invasive lionfish in the western Atlantic and Caribbean have helped marine ecologists better understand how lionfish physiology is driving the invasion. His studies have helped define the ecological impact of lionfish on reef fish communities and better understand the global threat lionfish pose to biodiversity. In addition, he has contributed significantly to development and improvement of low-impact aquaculture practices for coastal areas.

Oleson is being recognized for developing innovative ways to study whale and dolphin populations in remote regions of the Pacific where conventional surveys are difficult to conduct. She worked collaboratively to develop and use sound-recording gliders and long-term acoustic recorders to “sense” where these species populate and better understand their interactions with fishing gear. As a result, her work has significantly advanced species conservation and management for dolphins and whales in this region.

Richardson is receiving the award for developing a new method for calculating spawning stock biomass, a critical factor in the fish stock assessments used by fisheries managers to set sustainable levels for fishing. Richardson’s method for calculating an index of Atlantic herring spawning stock biomass has since been applied to Atlantic mackerel, silver hake and pollock – a fishery that alone is worth more than $10 million annually. His work also led to the development of a population model that explains historical patterns of population highs and lows in the Atlantic herring fishery. 

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