2022 Natural Areas Association Awards

2022 Natural Areas Conference Award Recipients

The Natural Areas Association (NAA) proudly announces its 2022 award winners. Each year NAA recognizes individuals who demonstrate the highest standards of leadership and achievement in the natural area profession. Through its Awards Committee, the Association has selected recipients for the George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award, Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award, and Rising Leader Award.

Photo credit: Derek Montgomery Photography

Thomas Foti

Congratulations to Thomas Foti

2020 George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

The NAA awards the George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual who exhibits the highest qualities of the profession and has significantly advanced natural area identification, protection, stewardship or research, and the mission of the NAA. This award is the Association's highest and is reserved for exceptional achievements.

Due to COVID-19, the NAA could not award the 2020 recipient, Thomas Foti, Ecologist Emeritus and retired Senior Ecologist at the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. Foti has worked to understand, interpret, protect, and restore Arkansas' natural heritage for over five decades. Tom was instrumental in bringing management to natural areas in Arkansas, convincing skeptical colleagues and administrators that prairies need fire, overstocked woodlands need thinning, and invasive species need removal. Tom has a bold vision and always has creative solutions to complex conservation problems.

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Thomas Meyer standing outside by a sign.

Congratulations to Thomas Meyer

2022 George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Thomas Meyer will celebrate his 39th work anniversary in 2023, starting from a humble beginning in 1984 as a graduate-student intern in the newly created Natural Heritage Program in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Thomas was instrumental in developing the Wisconsin SNA program into one of the country's largest, growing 274 sites and 120,000 acres in 1994 into 692 sites and more than 400,000 acres today. Throughout his long career, colleagues have praised Thomas as the unsung heart of the Wisconsin State Natural Areas program.

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Ellen Jacquart

Congratulations to Ellen Jacquart

2022 Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award Recipient

The NAA awards the Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award in recognition of excellence and achievement in managing the natural resources of reserves, parks, wilderness, and other protected areas. The 2022 award recipient is Ellen Jacquart, president of the Indiana Native Plant Society. Early in her career, Jacquart spearheaded the creation of the Central Indiana Land Trust in 1990, which has protected more than 6,500 acres of natural areas. In addition, Jacquart significantly increased the controlled burning program while a botanist at the Hoosier National Forest. Jacquart also significantly grew the stewardship program with the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy during a time when those programs were shrinking or disappearing across the country. One of Jacquart‘s most notable contributions is her tireless efforts to help Indiana adopt a policy restricting invasive species' sale in nurseries.

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Samuel King wearing helmet and sunglasses.

Congratulations to Samuel King

2022 Rising Leader Award Recipient

The NAA recognizes younger professionals who, early in their careers, demonstrate excellence in research, protection, and stewardship of natural areas. The NAA awards the Rising Leader Award (RLA) to an individual who, in a relatively short amount of time, develops or implements a new idea that addresses an old issue in natural areas research, protection, or stewardship. The 2022 award recipient is Samuel King, an ecologist at Middle Tennessee Stewardship. King‘s steadfast effort to independently conduct prescribed fires on natural land has allowed staff to increase its annual acres from 500 to 2,000. The results of these fires have shown improved ecological outcomes as division personnel can rapidly respond to appropriate fire conditions rather than rely on the availability of partners. Due to King‘s contributions, several large-scale restorations are now underway as a direct result of the division's fire capacity.

Man at podium speaking to an audience at a conference.Photo credit: Derek Montgomery Photography

The Natural Areas Association and its Award Committee recognize these four individuals who have made exceptional contributions to ensure the sustainability of natural areas for future generations, said Lisa Smith, Executive Director for NAA. NAA‘s awards are an opportunity to celebrate those who make extraordinary contributions to the stewardship of ecologically significant lands and waters, and we are grateful for their efforts.

Recipients will be honored at the NAA Awards Dinner held on Thurs., Sept. 8, 2022, in Duluth, MN, during NAA‘s annual conference.

2022 poster presentation and oral presentation awards


1st place: Alissa Iverson

  • Poster title: Soil Seed Bank Composition of an Urban Canal Undergoing Hydrologic Change
  • University of Colorado, Denver, Graduate Student, Teaching Assistant

2nd place: Maggie Anderson

  • Poster title: Highly diverse prairies retain some ecosystem services for pollinators despite experimental warming and drought
  • University of Minnesota , PhD Candidate

3rd place: Abe Stone

  • Poster title: Natural Solutions: Development and Deployment of a Local Polypore as a Myco-biocontrol on Invasive Buckthorn Saplings
  • Michigan Technological University, Student, BS Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Oral Presentations

1st place: Diana Soteropoulos

  • Presentation title: All Plants Big and Small (Gotta Find 'em All)
  • Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Botanist / Collections Manager (ANHC Herbarium) / Arkansas Herbarium Digitization Coordinator

2nd place: Diana Soteropoulos

  • Presentation title: An exploration of the vascular flora of Pine City Natural Area, Monroe Co., Arkansas, U.S.A.
  • Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Botanist / Collections Manager (ANHC Herbarium) / Arkansas Herbarium Digitization Coordinator

3rd place: Ellysa Johnson

  • Presentation title: Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) Response to Variable Rangeland Grazing Strategies During Extreme Drought
  • North Dakota State University, Graduate Research Assistant

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