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Walter B. Jones Memorial Awards for Coastal and Ocean Resource Management

Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM)

The Walter B. Jones Memorial

2012 Selection Criteria and Winners

Innovation, resourcefulness, leadership and a commitment to balancing the human use of America's coastal and ocean resources with the needs of the resources themselves - these are the hallmarks of the Walter B. Jones Memorial Awards.

The Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) of 1972 created a unique and voluntary partnership of federal and state governments to provide a balance between land and water uses and resource conservation along America's 95,000 miles of coastlines, including the Great Lakes. In 1990, as part of the reauthorization of the CZMA, the late Congressman Walter B. Jones provided NOAA with the authority to honor the people and organizations of America for their dedication and outstanding contributions in helping the nation maintain healthy coastal and ocean resources and balance the needs of these resources with human use. 

At that time, Congressman Jones identified three award categories as particularly important–excellence in local government, excellence in marine and coastal graduate study, and coastal steward of the year.

The winners are of the 2012 Walter B. Jones and NOAA Awards for Excellence in Coastal and Ocean Management are listed below.

Coastal Steward of the Year

Honors an individual who has exemplified strong, sustained leadership in finding a balance between the human use of the coast and ocean and the needs of that environment.

Judging Criteria: 


Peter Douglas - Retired - California Coastal Commission

Peter Douglas was a legend in California’s coastal history. Peter was the third executive director in the California Coastal Commission’s 40-year history. He served as its executive director for 26 years and was appointed after seven years as Chief Deputy Director. His 26-year tenure at the Commission was the second longest of any Executive Director in California state history. Before coming to the Commission, he worked as an aide to the California state legislature. In that capacity he co-authored Proposition 20 (The California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972), a successful citizens’ initiative that established the California Coastal Commission. He later became a legislative consultant and was a principal author of the 1976 Coastal Act making permanent California’s coastal management program. In 1973 he participated in drafting regulations implementing the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

Mr. Douglas passed away on April 1, 2012, and was notified of his selection before he died. 

Excellence in Local Government

Is given to local governments that have inspired positive change in the field of coastal management by developing or implementing principles embodied by the CZMA. 

Judging Criteria: 


Port of Anacortes, WA

The Port is being recognized for its innovative approach to restoring the area’s water and waterfront resources.  This area suffered great devastation as a result of historical industry uses.  The area is now cleaner, safer and more accessible to the community and provides much needed habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species.

City of Morro Bay, CA

The City is being recognized for its vision and commitment for the protection of its historic fishing industry and a vibrant harbor while facilitating innovation at the local level.  They led an effort to form a Community Fishing Quota Bank to anchor historical groundfish landings on the Central Coast and focus on the triple bottom line to achieve social, economic, and environmental benefits from local stewardship.  They also developed a strategic plan aimed at economic, social and environmental sustainability in the Morro Bay fisheries and to build community fishing association capacity. 

City of Naples, FL

Under the leadership of the Natural Resources Manager for the City, Naples is being recognized for implementing its visionary plan to become the “Green Jewel of Southwest Florida” through the conception, design and conduct of numerous key projects to improve the environmental health of the area while completing a variety of restoration projects using volunteers and innovative methods.  Oyster reefs were reestablished, mangroves were planted, public awareness programs were created to reduce negative impacts to nesting sea turtles, and a “Green Business Certification Program” was developed. 

Town of Plymouth, NC

Under the leadership of Mayor Brian Roth, Town Manager Ken Creque, the Town Council and other civic leaders, Plymouth has made significant strides in identifying opportunities for economic growth while also working to maintain the environmental quality. The Town is located in a region that has been described as the state’s environmental “crown jewel” by biologists of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission because of its great biodiversity.    Particular accomplishments include the support of addressing infrastructure  needs through encouraging new partnerships and increasing local knowledge to address issues facing the town, including changing climate, developing clean energy and creating new jobs. 


Excellence in Coastal and Marine Graduate Study

Recognizes graduate students whose academic study promises to contribute materially to the development of new or improved approaches to coastal or ocean management. 

Judging Criteria: 


Michelle Brodeur – UNC- Chapel Hill

Michelle Brodeur’s research focuses on pathways toward more effective ecosystem-based management of oyster reef communities.   Using the Rachel Carson National Estuarine Research Reserve as a backdrop, the guiding questions for this work focus on how climate change will interact with other ecosystem-level stressors to affect the fitness, integrity and resiliency of oyster reefs

Michelle Covi - East Carolina University

Michelle Covi’s graduate work investigates communication, policy, and planning related to impacts of severe weather, sea level rise and other climate and climate-change-related effects on coastal North Carolina.  The research is addressing the significant need for citizen education, collaborative planning and effective policy making processes. 

Jennifer Cudney-Burch - East Carolina University

Jennifer’s dissertation research has taken a novel approach to addressing the issue of spiny dogfish management along the US East Coast and Canada. Jennifer has used a combination of traditional mark and recapture techniques, acoustic tagging, and direct work with fishermen to understand spiny dogfish behavior as well as the commercial fisher approach to avoiding the species when dogfish are not in season. She maintains a website for commercial and recreational fishers at, where people can learn more about dogfish habits, results of ongoing research, and topics of interest to fishermen.  Through the use of satellite data, ocean buoy data, landings data, and other data sources to dig deeper into the hows and whys of spiny dogfish movements and migrations, she is contributing to wise management and knowledge of this key source of winter income for many in the mid-Atlantic region. 

Timothy Ellis – North Carolina State University

Tim Ellis’s research has focused on spotted seatrout, an economically important fishery that is subject to winter kills which have the potential to influence their vulnerability to anthropogenic activities.  In particular, he has been able to estimate population level demographic rates of spotted seatrout, a necessary piece of information to effectively manage and protect this resource from overfishing.  Tim tagged spotted seatrout with both telemetry and conventional tags throughout the state of North Carolina and with conventional tags in Virginia.  From these data, he modeled robust estimates of fishing and natural mortality rates at a fine temporal scale (bi-monthly) throughout this stock’s purported range.  Following a severe winter kill, Tim’s results were considered by the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries when they made decisions about changes to bag and size limits in early 2011. 

Rachel Kelley Gittman- UNC - Chapel Hill

Rachel Gittman’s research is conducting integrated physical-biological assessments of successes and failures of bulkheads and marsh sills in protecting shorelines from erosion and sustaining coastal habitats.  Measuring changes in shoreline elevation, sediment composition, tidal inundation, marsh community composition, as well as conducting multi-gear sampling of coastal fish and crustaceans will contribute to improving management of critical estuarine habitat by determining how alternative types of shoreline stabilization techniques influence the provision of ecosystem services. 

Melissa Keywood – University of Virginia

Melissa Keywood’s research is in support of a coastal community adaptation initiative to collaborate with and assist coastal communities in addressing adaption to climate change and sea level rise.  Through a series of successful listening sessions held in Virginia Beach that allowed everyone to weigh in on personal experiences and have open dialogue on developing solutions, a subsequent project is helping coastal communities in Virginia Beach, Gloucester County and the Eastern Shore prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.  The engagement of local planning officials, organizations and residents is critical to the success of communities’ efforts to developing appropriate adaptation strategies. 

Katie Laakkonen - FL Gulf Coast University

Katie Laakkonen is merging her City of Naples environmental specialist responsibilities with her graduate research focus to address key components of the restoration activities occurring in Naples Bay.  Under her direction, the design and implementation of water quality sampling, seagrass bed monitoring and mangrove and oyster restoration activities are generating the science-based data that the City is using to improve its management and restoration planning efforts.   

Matthew McCarthy - UNC - Wilmington           

Matthew McCarthy’s research project is an investigation of new satellite imagery products and their usefulness for mapping coastal habitats on Masonboro Island component of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve.  This research is testing a variety of image processing map classification algorithms on new types of imagery such as IKONOS, Quickbird, and Worldview-2, and will assess the accuracy of various classification techniques (unsupervised, supervised, and decision-tree) while also incorporating and testing the usefulness of LIDAR elevation data, pan-sharpening, and texture analysis. The purpose is to identify which types of imagery and which techniques can provide the highest level of mapping, potentially at the species level, and also be spatially accurate.  Once the final maps are completed, a change analysis will be conducted to identify how the habitats have changed through time.

Katherine Sherman - Oregon State University

Kate Sherman’s research is in support of Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan amendment process for renewable energy. Kate’s project has included a variety of tasks, including work on: conducting and summarizing basic research, survey design, survey preparation and conduct, database design, GIS data development, and outreach and education related to Oregon’s public Territorial Sea Plan Amendment Process.  Kate’s research inventory can be used as a model for inventorying the research occurring in those areas that are being considered by other states as they develop marine spatial planning strategies.