FWC biologist receives prestigious wildlife conservation award recognizing young professional

Reposted from http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/1262559

Claire Sunquist Blunden, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) employee since 2010, has received the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies’ 2015 Mark J. Reeff Memorial Award that recognizes a young professional for outstanding service in the conservation of fish and wildlife resources.

“This award is a huge honor,” said Commission Chairman Brian S. Yablonski. “Claire has done an excellent job working on the Imperiled Species Management Plan ̶ a first-of-its-kind conservation tool. We are very proud of Claire.”

Blunden’s work was commended by the association for being far-reaching and significant to conservation in Florida, particularly for state and federally listed species.

She was recognized by AFWA for her work in facilitating engagement with stakeholders to obtain valuable feedback on development of the Imperiled Species Management Plan, a strategic comprehensive plan to conserve 57 imperiled species. AFWA noted that relationships she has fostered with partners and stakeholders will be critical when it comes to implementing the plan, scheduled to be finalized and considered for possible FWC approval in 2016.

Initially in her FWC career, Blunden served as a regional volunteer coordinator. She established major volunteer programs where citizen scientists contribute to the research and management of Florida wildlife, including monitoring nest boxes of the southeastern American kestrel and helping organize the Jay Watch partnership to survey populations of the Florida scrub-jay. Currently Blunden is the stakeholder coordinator for imperiled species management planning in the agency’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.

“Claire Sunquist Blunden is a leader in developing successful approaches to conserving Florida’s fish and wildlife,” said Dr. Thomas Eason, FWC’s director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Claire’s skills and enthusiasm as a young wildlife conservation professional are outstanding. I hope her achievements will inspire other young people to help us conserve the beauty and diversity of Florida wildlife for future generations.”

The Reeff award is given annually to a wildlife professional age 35 or younger who overcomes challenges through creativity and personal initiative, while inspiring others to do the same. It honors Mark Reeff, an AFWA staff member who lost his life at 40 due to a long-term illness. He had been able to take a good idea and run with it despite being younger and less experienced than many others in the conservation field.

“It’s a privilege to work with so many talented partners, stakeholders and staff who are motivated to contribute to wildlife conservation in Florida,” said Blunden. “This award represents the hard work and collaboration of the Imperiled Species Management Plan team.”

Read and comment on the draft Imperiled Species Management Plan by going to MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and clicking on “Imperiled Species.”