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Imagine Excellence: The GWS Awards Program

Roster of Honorees

The 2019 Awardees

The George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence: Louise Johnson and Abigail Miller


  • Louise Johnson, chief of resources management, Olympic National Park (retired). Johnson recently completed a 39-year career in resource management with the National Park Service that is notable for her key roles in several landmark ecological restoration efforts. In 1980, she joined NPS’s vanguard program that restored 100 miles of logging roads in Redwood National Park. Ten years later she was selected to build a similar program in Yosemite National Park. During her tenure there, she helped remove six miles of riprap along the Merced River, set a precedent to restore all fire lines after wildfires, and removed two dams. In 1999, she became chief of resources at Lassen Volcanic National Park, where (among other achievements) she maintained five historic districts and was instrumental in getting several thousand acres of the park designated as wilderness. Beginning in 2010 in Olympic National Park, she led the removal the Elwha and Glines dams, an effort of unprecedented scale that opened up 70 miles of river. Shortly before retiring, she also started a program to remove introduced mountain goats from Olympic. In a remarkable achievement, Johnson left all four parks in which she worked in a more natural condition than when she arrived, and the more than 100 employees she hired and mentored over her career continue to carry on the work she began.


  • Abigail Miller, deputy associate director for natural resource stewardship & science, National Park Service (retired). In Miller’s role at NPS headquarters, her ability to pull together big-picture information and connect it to the practice of natural resource management at the park level allowed her to maximize the role of the Washington office in support of science in parks. She was a major contributor to the design and practical execution of the NPS Natural Resource Challenge, the massive effort at the turn of the millennium to retool national parks to prepare them for the increasing difficulty of protecting natural resources in today’s rapidly changing landscape. Her understanding of the importance of using data to manage parks in the 21st century helped ensure the success of the Inventory and Monitoring Program in more than 270 park units, along with significant increases in research and project funding to protect and preserve park natural resources. Her personal integrity and credibility were key to the funding, implementation, and management of exciting new science programs in parks. Miller’s career continues to make a difference in ensuring that the natural resources of national parks will inspire future generations.


The GWS Cultural Resource Achievement Award: Melia Lane-Kamahele


  • Melia Lane-Kamahele, manager, Pacific Islands Office, National Park Service. For more than 20 years, Lane-Kamahele has distinguished herself as a dedicated, devoted, and inspirational force in public lands management. Her work with the NPS throughout the Pacific (Sāmoa, Hawaiʻi, and elsewhere) has resulted in a much greater appreciation of, and attention to, Indigenous participation in land management activities. She was a key force in securing the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016 in Hawaiʻi. By appointment by the governor of Hawaiʻi, she served two terms on the Hawaiʻi Island Burial Council and continues to be active in Native Hawaiian issues that relate to management and policy, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and other projects of importance to the Indigenous people and diverse cultures of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Basin. Lane-Kamahele continues to provide leadership and mentoring to employees to encourage appreciation of cultures and celebrate diversity.  She serves as a role model for Indigenous people and others interested in park careers and federal service.


The GWS Natural Resource Achievement Award: Anthony Fiorillo and Jeffrey Marion


  • Anthony Fiorillo, Chief Curator and Vice President of Research & Collections, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, Texas. For more than 25 years, Fiorillo has contributed important advances to the science of paleontology in the US national parks. As co-leader of the Morrison Project, a National Park Service-funded project to explore the Jurassic Morrison Formation across several NPS units in the Rocky Mountain Region, he helped discover the first dinosaur skeleton in both Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area. But perhaps his greatest contributions have been to parks in the Alaska Region. At Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve, Fiorillo made the first discovery of dinosaur remains in any Alaskan national park, and went on to establish their presence in three more, including at Denali National Park & Preserve. His recommendations for management of paleontological resources have been used at the park, regional, and service-wide levels. He has co-authored 75 technical papers and two scholarly books on paleontology within NPS units, among other publications.


  • Jeffrey Marion, Station leader and scientist, US Geological Survey, and adjunct professor, Virginia Tech University. Marion is a founder of the field of recreation ecology, the study of environmental impacts caused by recreational use of parks and protected areas. Through the research of Marion and his colleagues, the principles of recreation ecology have been clearly defined. His research established the fundamental relationship between amount of use and impact to vegetation and soils, the understanding of which has profoundly contributed to effective visitor impact management programs. Moreover, Marion has developed numerous methodological advances that have been adopted by many other scientists and that are being used as standardized monitoring protocols by land management staff. He is the author of dozens of papers in the academic and professional literature and has been instrumental in educating and mentoring the next generation of recreation ecologists.



The GWS Social Science Achievement Award: Steve Lawson


  • Steve Lawson, Senior Director, RSG, Inc. Lawson stands in a unique position at the intersection of theory and practice in public lands planning and management. He has conducted research in some of the US’s most iconic national parks and has published extensively in the field’s most prominent journals, authoring or co-authoring dozens of influential papers. Having secured a tenured faculty position, he chose to transition to a consultancy where he could focus primarily on applied projects, putting ideas into action at national parks, national forests, and other protected lands. Over the past decade, Lawson has built a consulting team within RSG that focuses exclusively on public lands planning and management, and he currently oversees RSG’s multi-year contract with the National Park Service’s Social Science Program. He has generated a body of knowledge for parks that has bridged the gap between traditional recreation research and the transportation and urban planning disciplines. Colleagues at RSG have daily opportunities to observe Lawson’s deep devotion to protected areas and his single-minded focus on high-quality data collection, analysis, and reporting. He is a skilled manager who inspires his team by persuasively articulating the “story” underlying visitor use management principles in protected areas.



The GWS Communications Award: Brenda Barrett


  • Brenda Barrett, editor, Living Landscape Observer. The Observer is an on-line forum and monthly e-newsletter that serves as a key source of news and opinion on contemporary landscape conservation, benefitting practitioners, researchers, and the public. Since its launch in 2012, Barrett has used the Observer as a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and best practices from the U.S. and around the world. The Observer is a go-to destination for students and professionals who want to break out of professional “silos,” keep up with the latest innovations in the conservation field and engage in dialogue with peers. She has also attracted a growing number of contributors with cutting edge perspectives on current conservation topics, often on challenging and controversial issues. In an era where practitioners can be overwhelmed with information, the Observer represents an outstanding contribution to building the knowledge needed for more effective conservation and engaging the next generation of emerging professionals.



GWS Special Achievement Award: Maria Caffrey


  • Maria Caffrey, climate scientist. Dr. Caffrey is being recognized for her numerous contributions to the understanding of climate change impacts on US national parks, particularly those in coastal environments. In conjunction with a variety of co-authors, Caffrey has published important papers on existing and likely future impacts of sea level rise, storm surges, and shoreline erosion, as well as on disaster risk reduction and coastal adaptation strategies. Her work is notable for its forward-thinking aspects, employing scientific analysis and modeling to offer projections of likely climate change impacts that can be used by managers to develop mitigation and adaptation plans to protect vulnerable natural and cultural resources in America’s national parks. She also has made significant scholarly contributions to the use of lacustrine records in paleoclimatic research, some of which is carried out in national parks, thereby helping provide past context to the current magnitude of climate change. By grappling with the most significant problem facing the world’s parks, protected areas, and cultural sites, Caffrey is advancing a fundamental mission of the George Wright Society: to connect research knowledge with management action to conserve these special places.

George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence (established 1992)

1992: Jerry F. Franklin
1995: Robert M. Utley, Jean Matthews, William B. Robertson, Jr. (co-winners)
1997: Bruce M. Kilgore
1999: Bryan Harry
2001: Robert M. Linn, Theodore W. Sudia (co-winners)
2002: Boyd Evison
2003: Daniel Lenihan
2005: John Hope Franklin, Jan van Wagtendonk (co-winners)
2007: George B. Hartzog, Jr.
2009: Michael Soukup
2011: Richard West Sellars
2013: Denis P. Galvin
2015: Alan Latourelle
2017: Loran Fraser

2019: Louise Johnson, Abigail Miller (co-winners)

GWS Cultural Resources Achievement Award (established 1997; prior to 2009, called the GWS Cultural Resources Management Award)
1997: Rowland Bowers
1999: Jerry L. Rogers
2001: Ann Hitchcock
2003: Denzil Verardo
2005: Nora Mitchell
2007: Nelly Margarita Robles Garcia
2009: Edwin Colón
2011: Ernie Gladstone
2013: Hugh C. Miller
2015: Mark Michel
2017: Eddie Cazayoux

2019: Melia Lane-Kamahele

GWS Natural Resources Achievement Award (established 1988; prior to 2009, called the GWS Natural Resources Management Award)
1988: Roland Wauer
1990: Robert Moon
1992: No award given
1995: Robert J. Krumenaker
1997: Russell E. Galipeau, Jr.
1999: R. Gerald Wright
2001: Vincent Santucci
2003: Jerry Mitchell
2005: Linda Drees
2007: Charles van Riper III
2009: Kate Roney Faulkner
2011: David Cole
2013: Robert Winfree
2015: Karen Treviño
2017: John Dennis

2019: Anthony R. Fiorillo, Jeffrey Marion (co-winners)

GWS Social Science Achievement Award (established 2009)
2009: Robert Manning
2011: No award given
2013: Peter Newman
2015: James Gramann
2017: Kerri Cahill

2019: Steve Lawson

GWS Communication Award (established 1999)
1999: Tim Davis
2001: Stephanie Dubois
2003: Jeffrey Cross
2005: David Andrews (on behalf of the staff of Common Ground)
2007: Harry Butowsky
2009: Yvonne Menard (in conjunction with colleagues at The Nature Conservancy)
2011: Paul Schullery
2013: Charles Jacobi
2015: Kurt Repanshek
2017: Rolf Diamant

2019: Brenda Barrett

Special Achievement Award (occasional; given at discretion of GWS Board)
2001: George J. Minnucci, Jr.
2003: Wesley R. Henry, Jr.
2007: Gary E. Machlis
2013: Vernon C. "Tom" Gilbert

2019: Maria Caffrey

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