Environmental Law Institute to Recognize “Wetland Heroes” at 33rd Annual National Wetlands Awards

April 2022

(Washington, D.C.) — May is American Wetlands Month, and the National Wetlands Awards are right around the corner! The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is pleased to announce the winners of the 33rd Annual National Wetlands Awards, which celebrates extraordinary commitment to the conservation and restoration of our nation’s wetlands. The honorees—Dr. Jessica Hua, Dr. Mark Laska, Mick Micacchion, Zachariah Perry, and Dr. John R. White—will be honored on May 19, 2022, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

“The National Wetlands Awards recognize those that put themselves at the forefront of protecting vital wetland resources, in the face of both development and climate impacts,” said ELI President Jordan Diamond. “Their dedication and achievements inspire wetlands protection across the country and worldwide. After the tumultuous year we’ve experienced, I’m grateful for the optimism, energy, and hope these individuals catalyze.”

The awardees will be recognized for their individual achievements in five categories: Promoting Awareness; Business Leadership; Wetlands Program Development; Local Stewardship; and Scientific Research.

Promoting Awareness—Jessica Hua: Jessica Hua currently is the Principal Investigator of the Hua Lab and Director of the Center for Integrated Watershed Studies at Binghamton University in New York. In both roles, she seeks to understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of human activities on wetland ecosystems, and to broadly communicate research findings via outreach and engagement efforts with community partners at the local, state, national, and international levels. Since 2014, the Hua lab has worked with local school districts, state agencies, local PBS stations, community groups, and science museums across Upstate New York and Pennsylvania’s rural communities to educate and engage diverse audiences in wetlands preservation. In the fall of 2022, Dr. Hua’s lab group is transitioning to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where they will continue pursuing these missions. 

Business Leadership—Mark Laska: Dr. Laska is President, Founder, and CEO of Great Ecology, an ecological consulting group, specializing in planning, restoration, and redevelopment of natural and urban environments through sustainable solutions. He has more than 25 years of post-doctoral experience as an ecological restoration practitioner and has focused his company on improving the health and functionality of wetland, riparian, intertidal, and upland ecosystems, conducting more than 1,000 projects since 2001. This includes projects throughout the world that total well over 100,000 acres of wetlands that have been evaluated, created, enhanced, restored and/or permanently protected. High profile wetland project sites Dr. Laska has been involved with include Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Croton Water Treatment Plant in New York City, Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego, Woodbridge Waterfront Park in New Jersey, and supporting restoration planning after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, among others.

Wetlands Program DevelopmentMick Micacchion: Mick Micacchion, who leads the wetland program at the Midwest Biodiversity Institute (MBI), a non-profit organization, dedicated to the research, monitoring and assessment, restoration, and better understanding of aquatic resources, has played a pivotal role protecting wetlands in his home state of Ohio. He was part of the team that developed the rules that comprise Ohio’s Wetland Water Quality Standards and helped developed assessment tools for more effective wetland reviews. Mick was the lead in development of the Amphibian Index of Biotic Integrity (AmphIBI) and has monitored hundreds of vernal pool wetlands across Ohio in its development. He was also a co-founder of the Ohio Vernal Pool Network, which has been instrumental for the last 20 years in increasing the awareness and protection of vernal pools in Ohio. Mick has also served on the Ohio Interagency [Wetlands] Review Team and the National Wetland Condition Assessment Technical Committee, has worked as a restoration ecologist for the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy’s In-lieu Fee Program, and has been vice-president of the Ohio Wetlands Association for the last nine years.

Local Stewardship—Zachariah Perry: Zac Perry joined Reed College’s groundskeeping team in 1999 to help rehabilitate Reed Canyon, a 28-acre degraded area located in the center of campus. Years later, Zac is credited with taking an area of campus from being a blight, to one that is a highly functional and proudful example of what urban restoration can achieve with community engagement. He managed all aspects of the restoration, including the removal of an old swimming pool that was then converted into a fish ladder system to allow juvenile salmonids to access the headwaters of Crystal Springs Creek. Zac also developed a system of monitoring change over time, and he is responsible for creating lasting partnerships with local agencies and science faculty, which support strategic approaches and adaptive management practices. Now in charge of the Grounds and Maintenance departments for the entire Reed College campus, Zac is able to use his expertise and long-serving partnerships to further support what is now considered the “Gem of the City” and the last free flowing stream system in Portland, Oregon.

Scientific Research—John R. White: John R. White, the John & Catherine Day Professor of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences and Associate Dean of Research for the College of the Coast & Environment at Louisiana State University (LSU), has dedicated his career to wetlands science. Dr. White, who has been conducting wetland research for over 30 years and has written over 125 peer reviewed publications/book chapters focused on natural and anthropogenic impacts on nutrient and contaminant cycling in wetland and aquatic systems, has held several roles serving both the state and the nation. He has served as the Wetland Program chair for the Soil Science Society of America, the Biogeochemistry program chair for the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the Louisiana Governor’s Advisory Committee for the Coastal Master Plan. He is currently serving on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The National Wetlands Awards Program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Natural Resource Conservation Service. A committee of wetland experts representing federal and state agencies, academia, conservation groups, and private-sector organizations selects the Award winners.

The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will be offered virtually and in person, but registration is required. For those planning to attend in person, a reception will begin at 5 pm, followed immediately by the ceremony at 5:30 pm. The ceremony will conclude at 7 pm.

For more information, please visit the National Wetlands Awards website at https://www.eli.org/national-wetlands-awards.