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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOAA 04 - R436
April 22, 2004

CONTACT:

Gail Krueger
(912) 598-2397

GEORGIA MARINE EDUCATOR RECEIVES NOAA
ENVIRONMENTAL HERO AWARD

Distinguished marine educator Hugh Robert Williams received the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Environmental Hero Award on Thursday, April 22 on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Ga. Williams was honored for his work bringing coastal Georgia and the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS) into classrooms all over the nation. GRNMS is managed by NOAA. The award was presented by Department of Commerce, General Counsel and Deputy Secretary Designate Ted Kassinger, a Georgia native, during a dockside ceremony for Williams.

Williams is the distance learning program coordinator at the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium (MECA) and broadcasts science programs about the marine environment, coastal Georgia and Gray’s Reef to classrooms all over Georgia and 12 other states. More than 5,000 students across the nation—many of whom would otherwise have no way to see the sea—now know more about the marine and coastal environment due to Williams’ efforts.

“NOAA and the nation are fortunate to have such dedicated people volunteer so much of their time,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “They set a fine example for others to follow in their communities. America needs more environmental heroes like them.”

Established in 1995 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, the Environmental Hero award is presented to individuals and organizations that volunteer their time and energy to help NOAA carry out its mission.

“On behalf of the 12,500 men and women working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I am pleased to present you with this 2004 Environmental Hero Award,” Lautenbacher wrote in a letter to the recipients. “Your dedicated efforts and outstanding accomplishments greatly benefit the environment and make our nation a better place for all Americans.”

There are a total of 33 winners—30 individuals and three organizations. Visit the NOAA Earth Day Web site at http://www.noaa.gov/earthday to read more about this year’s award winners.

GRNMS is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 17 square nautical miles. The area earned sanctuary designation in 1981. GRNMS consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to ten feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live bottom and ledge habitat support an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community. Loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, also use Gray’s Reef year-round for foraging and resting, and the reef is within the known winter calving ground for the highly endangered Northern Right Whale.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.


On the Web:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
National Ocean Service - http://oceanservice.noaa.gov
National Marine Sanctuary Program - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary – http://www.graysreef.noaa.gov


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