The Naturalist of the Year award was established in 1999 by then WSN president Paul Dayton to recognize those unsung heroes who define our future by inspiring young people with the wonders and sheer joy of natural history. The awardees are usually educators, actively working in academia who contribute substantially to teaching their students to love, appreciate and protect the wonders of nature. The Naturalist of the Year gives a featured presentation at the annual meeting about the importance of mentoring natural history at all levels and the internal rewards that one receives when inspiring others to do so.

All current WSN members are eligible to submit a nomination for the Naturalist of the Year award. The nomination must have the name and title of the nominator, the name and title of the nominee, and a half to one page description of why the nominee should be considered (using above description of the Naturalist of the Year award as a guideline). Nominations should be sent as a single pdf to to the WSN Secretariat ( Nominations must be received by 1 July of the award year. The recipient for the award is chosen by the most recent three Naturalists.

Photo Credit: Brittany Jellison and Gabriel Ng

Photo Credit: Brittany Jellison and Gabriel Ng

2022 | David Kushner

David Kushner received his bachelor’s degree in Aquatic Biology from UC Santa Barbara in 1989 and joined the Channel Islands National Park in 1990. David’s career spans more than three decades of service in the National Park Service and he has led the Kelp Forest Monitoring Program, the longest established inventory, and monitoring program in the National Park Service, for a substantial part of that career. In the 4 decades since the KFM program was established in 1982, it has maintained an impressive collection of a breadth of data on kelp forest ecology over a long time series. David has provided significant insights into the impacts of invertebrate fisheries and oceanographic anomalies that would not have been possible without a naturalist’s skills in observation. He has fiercely defended the importance of the program and the data it collects which has contributed significantly to our understanding of large-scale ecological patterns in kelp forest communities. He has had a storied career as a diver, since the age of 16, and in his thousands of dives around the California Channel Islands David has trained generations of divers and introduced them to the unique wonders of the Channel Islands National Park.

2021 | Paul Barber and Peggy Fong

Dr. Peggy Fong and Dr. Paul Barber, both from UCLA were awarded the 2021 Naturalist of the year award in honor of their work on The Diversity Project. The Diversity Project ( is a summer research intensive program focused on building diversity within marine sciences while studying the evolution, ecology, and conservation of coral reef biodiversity. Founded in 2004 through an NSF CAREER award to Dr. Barber, I believe. The Diversity Project has supported numerous students since 2005. From the website, more than 90% of these students are still in science and 65% have gone on to graduate school. I have interviewed and accepted several grad students out of that program who had done summer projects in Moorea. In each case, the students describe it as life changing. And they are very well prepared for grad school.   Until 2012, The Diversity Project employed a traditional top-down research experience for undergraduates (REU) model where students work on a subset of the PI’s research. However, beginning in 2013, TDP implemented a novel bottom-up, student-centered approach that focused on maximizing student engagement, exploration, and excitement. Rather than being assigned projects, students are mentored through the process of scientific inquiry, starting with observations, formulating hypotheses, and ending with designing and conducting their own research to test those hypotheses. Many of these students have gone on to publish their studies. Preliminary research suggests that this bottom-up model results in more students publishing their research, higher participation in national and international scientific conferences, and increased interest in graduate school compared to the traditional top-down REU model. Congratulations to both Dr. Paul Barber and Dr. Peggy Fong for the Naturalist of the Year Award!

2020 | Rosemary Romero



Greater Farallones Association LiMPETS program

Dr. Rosemary Romero’s excitement for seaweeds, the intertidal, ecology and all things science has been a source of inspiration for many students starting their career as marine scientists.  In addition, she is always so willing to help others and share her love of the ocean.  She is the LIMPETS coordinator for the Greater Farallones Association and brings her knowledge of natural history to middle school, high school, and college students as well as members of the public.  Congratulations to Rosemary Romero for the Naturalist of the Year Award!



2019 | Diana Steller

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories,
California State University

Compelled by curiosity driven biology, Diana uses the subtidal environment as a classroom and exploratory research path for students.  She is dedicated to teaching people to comfortably observe underwater and combine natural history interests with quantitative skills to make discoveries.  As a research biologist at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories she teaches subtidal ecology and marine science diving courses and is committed to exploratory field trips as teaching opportunities.   Her collaborative fieldwork on rhodolith bed ecology in the Gulf of California and the Pacific North American coast has contributed to their protection and understanding their biodiversity and role as nursery habitats.



2018 | Andy Lamb

– 49 years of SCUBA diving over 3,300 dives in the Pacific Northwest

– Vancouver Aquarium 1966-1974 Aquarist/Collector

– Department of Fisheries and Oceans 1974-1996 Fish Culturist

– Vancouver Aquarium 1996-2005 School Program Co-ordinator


– Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest

– Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest

– A Field Guide to Common Fishes of the Pacific Northwest

2017 | Jeff Goddard

Marine Science Institute

UC Santa Barbara

I have been hooked on intertidal invertebrates ever since watching shore crabs scurry away from cobbles I had overturned as a kid on the shores of Richardson Bay. I am a Research Associate affiliated with both UCSB’s Marine Science Institute and the California Academy of Sciences and have enjoyed teaching at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the Midland School in the Santa Ynez Valley. My research centers on nudibranchs and their development, prey, climate-related range shifts, and systematics. I have side interests in botany, and am especially fond of endemics. I enjoy photography, am active on Flickr and iNaturalist, and can’t resist requests to identify mystery organisms found by others between Pacific tides.


2016 | Jackie Sones

Bodega Marine Reserve,
UC Davis

Jackie Sones is the Research Coordinator for the Bodega Marine Reserve, a focal research site for many coastal ecologists associated with UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory and beyond. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of New Hampshire and subsequently developed her skills as a broadly trained naturalist working for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey. Since joining UC Davis in 2004, Jackie has actively shared her passion for the flora and fauna of Bodega Head and its vicinity with students, postdocs, faculty, educators, and the general public. Her extensive knowledge of organisms on the Bodega Marine Reserve is legendary, and she is widely regarded as the ‘go-to’ person for anyone who has questions about the biology and ecology of local marine and terrestrial taxa. Jackie furthermore has an artist’s eye for beauty in nature, and transmits her appreciation for biodiversity on an almost daily basis through her immensely popular blog, The Natural History of Bodega Head.

2015 | Milton Love


UC Santa Barbara

Dr. Milton Love is a research biologist at the Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara. He has conducted research on the marine fishes of California for over 40 years and is the author of over 100 publications on the fishes of the Pacific Coast. He is the author of Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast and The Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific. For the past 20 years, and using a manned research submersible, Dr. Love has carried out surveys of the fish populations living around natural reefs and oil/gas platforms throughout the southern California Bight. Proving you can fool some of the people all of the time, in 2007 the American Fisheries Society awarded Dr. Love the Carl R. Sullivan Award for Conservation Resources.

2014 | Steve Lonhart


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA

Steve is a marine ecologist at NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  His background is in the fields of invertebrate zoology, marine ecology, biogeography, and invasion biology.  His initial exposure to the natural history of kelp forests was as an undergraduate at UCLA while enrolled in the Catalina Marine Biology Quarter, which consisted of four marine classes with extensive science diving projects.  Steve turned his undergraduate project on the diel vertical migration of snails on giant kelp into a MS while at CSU Long Beach, then went on to UCSC for his PhD, where he studied the ecology of a whelk that had recently expanded into central California kelp forests.  Although working for NOAA pulls him into a variety of ecosystems and issues, Steve is an active science diver supporting characterization, research, and monitoring of kelp forests in MBNMS and state-implemented marine protected areas.

2013 | Dan Richards


Channel Islands National Park

With a keen interest in natural history, Dan always tried to apply that knowledge to species conservation and habitat protection. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara and Humboldt State University, where he focused on phycology and intertidal ecology, he was fortunate to ‘wash ashore’ as a field biologist at Channel Islands National Park off the coast of southern California, monitoring the marine half of the park.   Dan helped manage the many diverse organisms and habitats around all of the Channel Islands through monitoring kelp forests, rocky intertidal, sand beaches, seabirds, and pinnipeds. Dan was part of the science team during the marine reserve process and was one of the founders of the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe).

2012 | Mark Carr

Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Pete Raimondi

Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz

Carr_and_Raimondi.36095741_stdProfessors Mark Carr and Pete Raimondi have been teaching the Kelp Forest Ecology class at UC Santa Cruz for 15+ years and believe strongly in the value of teaching field courses and exposing students to the natural history of marine ecosystems. Mark reciecved his Master’s degree from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and both Mark and Pete received PhDs from UC Santa Barbara. Their research interests focus on the ecology of kelp forests and rocky intertidal systems.

2011 | Megan Dethier


Research Professor
Friday Harbor Labs, University of Washington

Dr. Megan N. Dethier did her undergraduate work at Carleton College in Minnesota, despite the apparent lack of ocean there, then PhD work under Bob Paine at the University of Washington, near a real ocean. Since ~1978 she has been in residence at the Friday Harbor Labs and is a Research Professor in the Biology Department at U.W., working on shoreline ecology of the Pacific Northwest. Her first love is rocky shores, but she now also works in mud, gravel, and salt marsh habitats.

2010 | Shara Fisler


Executive Director
Ocean Discovery Institute

Shara is committed to generating a spark in young people to discover the world around them. What began as a small study in San Diego Bay with high school interns ultimately shifted Shara’s career goals from pure academia to providing education and opportunities for young people to participate in authentic research. She began teaching as adjunct faculty at the University of San Diego and in 1999 founded Ocean Discovery Institute, a nonprofit organization that uses ocean science to empower young people from urban and diverse backgrounds to become the science and conservation leaders of tomorrow. This organization now engages over 5,000 underserved youth each year. Through activities such as performing experiments that probe plant and animal adaptations, restoring watershed habitats, and working alongside practicing scientists in the lab and field, these students contribute to science while developing the knowledge, skills, and passion that enable them to pursue careers in science and conservation.

2009 | Jenn Caselle


Research Biologist
Marine Science Institute, UC Santa Barbara

Jenn’s love for the natural history of marine organisms, ecosystems and her passion to communicate and inspire others has had a dramatic impact on students in the classroom and outreach to the broader public. All of her work is field oriented and empirical and as such has contributed extensively to our understanding of the natural history of shallow tropical (coral) and temperate (rocky) reef ecosystems. Jenn has overseen the development of a time series study of kelp forest ecosystems in the Northern Channel Islands and mainland Santa Barbara Channel that will be an asset to researchers for generations. Her work on marine protected areas (MPAs) has been especially useful information for management and conservation. The projects she engages students in have been productive, motivated students to further pursue careers studying natural history, and have had a great impact on the academic and professional careers of these young people.

2008 | Terrie Klinger


Associate Professor
School of Marine Affairs
University of Washington

Trained as a benthic ecologist, Terrie taught field courses and performed ecological research at the Friday Harbor Laboratories for a decade before joining the faculty of the School of Marine Affairs at the University of Washington in 2001. Since then, her research and teaching have expanded to include the application of ecological theory to marine environmental policy and management. She serves as the chair of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and is the Governor’s Appointee to the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative.

2007 | Genevieve (Genny) Anderson

Biological Sciences Department
Santa Barbara City College

Shane Anderson

Biology Department
University of California at Santa Barbara

andersonsopt.233204655_stdGenny and Shane are co-awardees, described as “joined at the hip” by their nominator, Dr. Dan Reed. Genny has been the instructor of Marine Biology classes at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) since 1982. Shane has been the Marine Collector/Naturalist at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) since 1975. Both of the Andersons have helped and mentored numerous marine scientists with their education and research. They spend a good part of their life in the field – Genny taking her students on weekly field excursions for laboratory exercises and Shane scuba diving several days a week collecting marine life for classes and research.


2006 | Brian Bingham


Department of Environmental Sciences
Huxley College of the Environment
Western Washington University

Brian Bingham is on the Environmental Science faculty at Western Washington University. His research centers on the effects of larval processes on benthic community structure. Since 1991, Brian has directed the Multicultural Initiative in the Marine Sciences Undergraduate Program (MIMSUP) at the Shannon Point Marine Center. The goal of MIMSUP is to increase the participation of individuals from underrepresented groups in the marine sciences. MIMSUP was recognized as a national model program when the Shannon Point Marine Center received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering Mentoring.


2005 | James M. (Jim) Watanabe


Marine Ecology & Invertebrate Zoology

Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

Jim’s background and research interests lie in the fields of invertebrate zoology and marine ecology, with particular emphasis on kelp forests and rocky intertidal communities. Prior to joining the faculty at Hopkins Marine Station in 1994, he directed the research program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for 10 years. Jim has conducted research on the distribution and abundance of kelp forest invertebrates, the dynamics of sea urchin-mediated deforestations, and the physiological ecology of kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera and Pterygophora californica). These studies have focused on predator-prey interactions, interspecific competition, and the effects of disturbance on marine organisms. He is also interested in the statistical problems of detecting changes in natural populations through time. Dr. Watanabe’s primary responsibility at Hopkins Marine Station is undergraduate teaching. His courses attempt to nurture an appreciation for the natural world through accumulation of detailed knowledge and hands-on experience.


2004 | Kathy Ann Miller


Research Associate, University Herbarium
University of California at Berkeley

The year she received the Naturalist of the Year award Kathy Ann was at the Wrigley Marine Science Center, on Santa Catalina Island, where she was in charge of research activities at the lab, taught a course in the natural history of Catalina, and advised independent research for USC (University of Southern California) students. In the fall of 2004 Kathy Ann moved to UC Berkeley to work in the University Herbarium, curating seaweed collections, old and new. She continues to teach field courses, conduct intertidal and subtidal surveys, and study the seaweeds of California.


2003 | Jeanne Bellemin


Professor of Zoology, Natural Science Division
El Camino College, Torrance, California

Jeanne Bellemin is a zoologist with extreme interest in tortoises, other reptiles, insects and other invertebrate animals. Ms. Bellemin received her B. S. in Zoology and her M.S. degrees in Biology from Cal Poly Pomona, and did graduate work at UCLA. As a field biologist her specialty is field classes which include Field Zoology, Field Entomology and the Marine Biology Laboratory. Her other courses include Marine Biology Lecture and Environmental Biology. In 1998 Ms. Bellemin developed the Alondra Park Island Native Plant Garden for her students in Environmental Biology and other students in field and Horticulture classes. She is also part of a team that conducts classes at the Madrona Marsh Nature Center in Environmental Restoration and Nature Interpretation. Jeanne is a spectacular teacher known for taking her students on trips all over the world.

2002 | John M. (Jack) Engle


Associate Research Biologist
Marine Science Institute
University of California, Santa Barbara

Jack has been active in intertidal and subtidal ecology and monitoring programs in California for more than 30 years, based at the USC Marine Lab at Santa Catalina Island (1971-88) and UC Santa Barbara (since 1989). Among his varied marine life surveys, Jack has directed the Channel Islands Research Program (over 175 scuba diving expeditions to the 8 islands) and coordinated the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (90 monitoring sites). Jack is widely respected for his extensive natural history knowledge of marine plants, invertebrates and fishes, for his mentoring of numerous volunteers, students and biologists, and for his assistance in educational wildlife film productions.

2001 | Pamela (Pam) Roe


Professor of Zoology
California State University, Stanislaus

Pam’s interests focus on invertebrates, with emphasis on marine invertebrate natural history and ecology. Pam is co-author of the nemertean chapter for the fourth edition of Light’s Manual: Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon. This book includes keys, descriptions and pictures of the benthic invertebrates of central California’s coastline. The nemertean chapter included some name changes and several additional species. Pam is also researching specimens of deep sea pelagic nemerteans collected off California and Hawaii since fall 1992, and has found many specimens that are almost certainly new species. Pam is recognized for her exceptional ability to provide opportunities for students from Stanislaus State University in California to visit marine habitats where they can experience the real joys of nature.

2000 | Chuck Baxter


From 1961 to 1993 Chuck taught biology at Stanford and Hopkins Marine Station focusing on structure and function of animals, how they evolved, how they operated in natural systems and human impacts on those systems. For a few years around 1980 he was part of the concept and planning group for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. From 1988 to 1996 he had a part time appointment at MBARI doing benthic ecology in the Monterey Canyon. From 1996 to 2003 Chuck did concept and content development for Sea Studios Foundation television production company. In 2004 Chuck participated in the Sea of Cortez Expedition and Education Project doing historical ecology retracing the Steinbeck and Ricketts 1940 cruise. This transitioned into an affiliation with Bill Gilly’s lab on the Dosidicus (squid) enigma, teaching Holistic Biology and cognitive studies on how the mind creates a naturalist.

1999 | Larry Harris


Professor of Zoology, Department of Zoology
University of New Hampshire

As an inspirational teacher with a focus on invertebrate associations and the ecology of marine benthic communities, Larry’s primary focus is on the ecology of species-specific, predator-prey associations and the role of predation in early community succession. His favorite groups for research are cnidarians and nudibranchs, both predators. He also continues some long-term subtidal community studies using both fouling panels and benthic communities. The manipulations involve substrate angle, predator access and depth. Three separate studies have been underway since the late 1970s and are becoming increasingly valuable for observing long-term trends and investigating the roles of new invaders into the Gulf of Maine system. More recently Larry has interested in understanding how sustained species exploitation by man influences community structure. He is presently trying to use this knowledge to develop an integrated approach for enhancing recruitment and growth of sea urchins that might result in a sustainable fishery with healthy benthic communities. Larry is one of the most effective mentors of natural history in the country, his undergraduates give posters and talks at national meetings every year and scores of his undergraduates have gone on to great careers in many disciplines.