Defenders of Wildlife Science Award to Tom Sisk

Congratulations to Dr. Tom Sisk, LCI Director and Olajos-Goslow Chair of Environmental Science and Policy, who received the Spirit of Defenders Science Award from the Defenders of Wildlife this fall. A blog post from Defenders can be found here

Here are Tom’s remarks from the award ceremony:

This recognition means the world to me because it is from an organization that puts wildlife first. Defenders is powered by people who appreciate the beauty, and love the spirit, of wild animals and the places they live. Those values inspired me to pursue a career in science, because I believed that knowing more would help us do better protecting what we loved. And while I never envisioned the current political environment, where established fact and scientific understanding are actively suppressed by many, including some of those entrusted with conserving wildlife and our public lands, I still believe it’s true. Science can make a difference, but it’s clear that it matters most when it becomes part of the public dialog, when it engages, informs, and empowers leaders and the public.

The future of wildlife depends on our ability to grow and diversify the conservation movement. Healthy ecosystems and stable wildlife populations will only persist if the majority of people from across the country have the opportunities to experience, learn about, and value nature. Providing these opportunities for all is one of our greatest challenges. It’s also the source of some of our greatest rewards. When the data on species declines and climate warming get me down, I’m buoyed by the commitment of my colleagues and the enthusiasm of my students, who are engaged in policy and communication – as well as science – and who are determined to tackle the toughest issues with objectivity, passion, and optimism.

Ultimately, the diversity and beauty of life inspires us all. Last weekend I was in the Seven Lakes Basin, in Olympic National Park, with my partner Wendy Palen. Wendy studies declining amphibian populations, and she works with the Park Service and others to design effective conservation strategies. Right now, in that protected place, the huckleberries are round and fat, and the black bears are too, feasting as they romp around the alpine, being bears: unconcerned with our presence, undiminished by worry or grief for what is being lost. We watched two big males one evening as they rolled and wrestled in the berry bushes, then swam in the still lake as dusk settled. The next morning, we woke and watched them shake off their sleep, then return to the task of vacuuming up the sweet fruit and putting on fat for the winter. We saw a dozen more bears that afternoon as we hiked out of the basin, feeling inspired and recommitted to the work ahead. The spirt of those bears gave us a lot to contemplate and appreciate…and, I think, much to emulate.

Thanks, again, for this huge honor.

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