Meeting today at the Florida Public Safety Institute near Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recognized wildlife scientist Joan Berish with the 2013 Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award.
Berish, who has worked for the FWC more than 33 years and lives in Gainesville, has been at the forefront of work involving conserving and managing gopher tortoises, a listed species in Florida. Berish’s work has benefited not only gopher tortoises but also a host of other species that live in and are dependent on active gopher tortoise burrows to survive.
She has authored or co-authored 33 publications on gopher tortoises and has written a chapter on tortoise biology and management for a book on North American tortoises, which is scheduled for publication (John Hopkins Press) this summer.
“The Wildlife Foundation of Florida is proud of all FWC employees and their efforts on behalf of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources. This year’s Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award nominees were all deserving candidates,” said Ken Haddad, chairman of the Wildlife Foundation of Florida and a former FWC executive director.
“Joan Berish is an outstanding wildlife scientist and her 33-plus-year career and commitment to conserving gopher tortoises and upland ecosystems reflects a lifetime achievement.”
Since its inception, Berish has spearheaded and served on the Gopher Tortoise Council, a management team that involves both wildlife scientists and laypeople who have a strong interest in gopher tortoise management. Berish and the council have been instrumental in developing management guidelines, which today guide landowners, developers and others who encounter tortoises on their property or wish to see the species prosper.
The Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award is named after the late Louise Ireland Humphrey, a Leon County resident and owner of Woodfield Springs Plantation, and the first woman appointed to serve on the board of the then-Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in 1984. Humphrey served until 1999 and was recognized as a conservationist, for her love of the land, particularly the Red Hills area north of Tallahassee, and for her leadership style on fish and wildlife issues. The award reflects the mission that guided her and the FWC, which centers on conservation.