Gov. Jack Markell and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small honored Marlene Mervine, Dr. Danielle Kreeger, and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s science team as Delaware’s 2014 Wetland Warriors July 25 at the Delaware State Fair. The honorees were recognized for their efforts to conserve and restore wetlands while educating Delawareans on their importance. Another well-known wetland volunteer, Mick McLaughlin, was honored posthumously.
“Wetlands contribute to the quality of life in Delaware by providing storage for floodwaters and protecting us from coastal storms, providing habitat for wildlife species, and purifying water by removing pollutants and nutrients from runoff,” said Small. “Efforts to protect, restore, and better understand processes affecting wetlands are critical to enable the continuation of the economically valuable services provided by wetlands. We are proud to recognize Ms. Mervine, Dr. Kreeger and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s science team, and Mr. McLaughlin for their important contributions to protecting and understanding this vital natural resource.”
Bridgeville resident Mervine has dedicated the last 25 years of her professional career to coordinating Delaware’s Adopt-A-Wetland program. From the inception of the program in 1989 through the 120th adopted site in 2013, Mervine has been a voice for wetlands, advocating wetland restoration and protection across Delaware and educating Delawareans on their necessity and value.
“Starting as a volunteer for the Adopt-A-Wetland program, Marlene Mervine has tirelessly traversed the back roads of Delaware, putting thousands of miles on a string of old Buicks, visiting Delaware’s swamps, marshes, vernal pools and bogs to raise awareness about the vital role that wetlands play for our fisheries, wildlife, ecology and economy,” said Aquatic Resource Education Program Coordinator Gary Kreamer of the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
With more than 25 years of experience as an educator and research scientist, Kreeger, of Media, Pa., leads the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s science team’s efforts to restore and protect Delaware wetlands. This past spring alone, she and her team installed four living shorelines, using natural materials to stabilize the beaches and coastal marshes, which in turn protect Delaware’s coast from flooding, storms and sea level rise.
“Dr. Kreeger is a true wetland warrior because she has dedicated her 30-year career to their study and restoration,” said Jennifer Adkins, executive director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. “She is known for her ability to test experimental techniques and then share her discoveries at events like our forthcoming Delaware Estuary Science & Environmental Summit.”
This year, Delaware unexpectedly lost one of its most knowledgeable herpetologists and wetland champions in Mick McLaughlin. He was a steadfast supporter of and volunteer for the Adopt-A-Wetland Program, educating both children and adults about salamanders, frogs, snakes and turtles.
Environmental scientist Amy Nazdrowicz remembers McLaughlin as an inspiring mentor and field partner. “Mick was a true naturalist, knowledgeable about nearly everything from macroinvertebrates to mammals, and especially herpetology, which was his real passion,” Nazdrowicz said. “His other passion was environmental education. Over the years, he volunteered countless hours at local events and programs to offer Delawareans and visitors of all ages an up-close look at a fascinating menagerie of live reptiles and amphibians from the Delmarva Peninsula, and to inspire them to learn more about the natural world.”
DNREC’s Gary Kreamer, a longtime wetlands professional himself, cited personal memories of McLaughlin’s expansive knowledge, old-school awareness of the natural world, and unique spirit and sense of humor. “There will never be another one like him, and I will ever treasure his friendship, loyalty and contributions to our work in wetlands,” he said.
The Wetland Warrior Award, now in its seventh year, is presented annually to a citizen, organization, or business that has demonstrated exemplary efforts to benefit Delaware wetlands in the areas of outreach and education, monitoring and assessment, or restoration and protection.
“We received more nominations this year than in any of the past years, and all of the nominees were so well-qualified and deserving of recognition, we wish we could recognize all of them,” said Maggie Pletta, DNREC Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program. “Although having so many candidates made choosing harder, it is exciting to see so many people across our state working to protect our valuable wetland resources.”
Next year’s call for nominations will be posted in the spring at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Admin/DelawareWetlands/Pages/default.aspx.