Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation

Established in 2005, this Award recognises an individual for their contributions of fundamental science to the conservation of marine and freshwater ecosystems.

A ZSL judging panel, consisting of experts in the field, offer their knowledge and expertise to select an Award winner. The Award recognises work done in the previous year.

(2017 Awards were presented in 2018)

Professor Steven Cooke 2021

Steven, Carleton University, is an applied aquatic ecologist who works in both freshwater and coastal marine ecosystems. Cooke has made many contributions to fundamental and applied aquatic ecology and he has a remarkable 800+ peer reviewed publications (at the age of 46). However, Cooke is equally committed to sharing his work with the public and ensuring that the mission-oriented research he does is of relevance to end users, such as policy makers and conservation practitioners. Cooke has broad interests in all aspects of aquatic ecology, conservation biology, physiological ecology, animal behaviour and environmental science. He has been a pioneer in quantifying the consequences of recreational, commercial and aboriginal fishing practices on fish and fisheries. Beyond documenting problems, his work extends to developing and promoting strategies that reduce stress/injury and increase survival through refinement of fishing practices. Cooke is one of the few scholars that works across aquatic realms. His work has led to a greater understanding of the function of aquatic ecosystems, especially how fish interact with their environment, and has also enhanced our ability to manage, restore and conserve aquatic ecosystems. He is a tireless advocate for aquatic ecosystems and develops partnerships needed to undertake science that has achieved significant conservation impact.  

Previous Winners

David Sims, Marine Biological Association, Plymouth University

David is a leading marine biologist who has undertaken pioneering research on the behaviour, movements and ecology of threatened sharks that has contributed to worldwide conservation outcomes. David’s impact in marine conservation has been to lead the way in using new tracking technologies and analysis approaches to reveal shark movements, behaviour patterns and distributions in relation to environmental changes and anthropogenic threats, and to use these results to improve conservation of sharks by contributing directly to successful proposals for global protection. He is also the founder of an international collaborative project that has mapped the global hotspots of pelagic sharks and quantified how exploited they are. David’s work has been in the forefront of identifying essential habitat for sharks that is a prime target for spatial conservation measures. David has also made significant contributions to understanding of climate change impacts on fish and shark populations

Annette Broderick

Annette’s achievements in marine conservation are extensive and diverse. When still an undergraduate student Annette founded a marine turtle conservation project in Cyprus – a project that is now in its 28th field season! The project provides an extraordinary continual data series on turtles, and has seen over 1000 students from around the world, including a large number from Cyprus itself, trained in research, conservation and environmental education. This work has resulted in five major nesting sites being granted full legal protection, and signs of green turtle population recovery. Annette’s work in UK Overseas Territories in the Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands is characterised by careful stakeholder engagement and partnerships with local government.

This holistic understanding of turtle fisheries, and proposed changes to regulation to promote sustainability, has a very strong focus on the of value traditional rights. Annette has researched Ascension Island’s iconic green turtle nesting population for 20 years, and these data are currently being fed into a management process that will see the UK Government declare a vast marine protected area encompassing at least 50% of the Exclusive Economic Zone around Ascension Island by early 2019 as part of the Blue Belt Initiative. Annette is an inspiring leader, researcher and conservationist.

Sascha Hooker

Sascha is a leading marine mammal ecologist who has made a number of significant advances since she began her research career.  She has conducted pioneering work on the behaviour, ecology and distributions of beaked whales – and was the first to obtain diving data for one of these little-known species, the northern bottlenose whale.  Her work was used to help establish the first offshore site (The Gully) as a marine protected area in Canada. Sascha has strengthened the case for marine protected areas to be established for marine mammal conservation, challenging an embedded orthodoxy that fixed location protected areas could do little to protect mobile species by showing the value of key locations in the life cycles of animals that roam over hundreds, even thousands, of square kilometres. Her reach has extended into the field of physiology and effects of sonar on whales.  Using gas kinetic models, she has helped explore the exceptional diving abilities of beaked whales in terms of their likelihood of decompression sickness. Active engagement with high-level processes such as the Convention on Migratory Species and the World Conservation Union, helps to ensure her work makes a difference for wildlife.

Richard Thompson

Richard is a pioneering marine ecologist who is distinguished for his seminal research contributions bringing to the world’s attention the existence of microscopic plastics in the marine environment and for providing the first studies of the worldwide distribution, ecological effects and environmental impacts of microplastics on species and habitats.

Richard is widely regarded as the founder of this field of research, one that is growing fast internationally and which is also directly affecting policy. His fundamental advice and research has been game-changing in a marine conservation context and it has provided key scientific evidence that has contributed directly to UK legislation on single use carrier bags and on microbeads in cosmetics.

Professor Paul Thompson

Paul is a distinguished marine conservation scientist, with a research focus on how environmental change and human disturbance affect seabird and marine mammal populations. He has an excellent publication record on these topics and is also very active in professional service, giving advice to governments, companies and NGOs on how to avoid and mitigate environmental damage. Paul has sat for a number of years on high-level advisory groups, including Marine Scotland’s Scientific Advisory Panel and NERC’s Special Committee on Seals. He has made a profound difference to the conservation status of Scotland’s marine ecosystems, providing expert advice and scientifically rigorous evidence. He is a positive role model for conservation in a non-confrontational way, and of the merits of an evidence-based approach to policy.

Dr Heather Koldewey

Heather started working for ZSL in 1995, initially as a research scientist, then as curator of the ZSL London Zoo Aquarium, and she currently heads ZSL’s Global Conservation Programmes.

Heather’s work is truly interdisciplinary, and her research sits at the interface between communities and environment. She has made a real impact in many areas, including important reef and open-ocean work in Chagos in the Indian Ocean; the conservation of threatened species, as co-founder of Project Seahorse; and ecosystem management, particularly mangroves.

Heather was instrumental in making the case for the creation of the Marine Protected Area in Chagos, and she led ZSL’s involvement in a collaboration that resulted in the UK government’s decision to establish the world’s largest marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands in March this year. Her activities have spread far and wide in recent years and she is a leading player in a number of marine conservation initiatives.

David Bilton

David is an exceptional researcher whose work has implications for our understanding of large-scale ecological patterns, and conservation. He has a wide range of research interests covering many groups of animals, plus excursions into coastal vegetation. However, it is his expertise and specialism in water beetles that really marks him out as a significant figure in biological conservation. David uniquely uses water beetles as systems for obtaining broader insights and has gained an international reputation in the ecology, conservation biology and biogeography of aquatic organisms. David has developed a comprehensive and truly multidisciplinary research programme that includes molecular ecology, ecophysiology, community structure, macroecology, population genetics and climate change.

David has published over 140 scientific papers, many of which are very highly cited by his peers. He has made seminal contributions to our understanding of historical biogeography, including the recognition of northern refugia for temperate taxa, and more recently has worked extensively on the link between organismal physiology and range size, showing that rare and common species often differ fundamentally in their thermal biology – work which has clear implications for our understanding of responses to global change.

Alex Rogers

Alex Rogers is Professor in Conservation Biology at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Somerville College, having previously held a Readership position at the Institute of Zoology, at the Zoological Society of London.

Much of Alex’s recent policy and advisory work has been very high profile. He has served on numerous major international panels concerned with conservation in the seas, and has often been a driving force for change. Alex brings scientific depth and rigour to the table in this area, particularly from his extensive experience with biodiversity studies across hydrothermal vent fields and sea mounts. His recent discovery of a hydrothermal vent field in Antarctic waters was published as a very significant paper in the top journal PLoS Biology. In his current work, Alex is characterising the incredible fishing damage that is occurring over sea mounts, and pushing for fishing controls. It is his level of scientific expertise that means that Alex’s views are listened to in the international arena.

Brendan Godley

Brendan has provided new insights into marine biodiversity and the complex life histories and migration strategies of marine turtles. The interdisciplinary nature of Brendan’s work is self-evident, as he collaborates with engineers, social scientists, oceanographers, molecular biologists and mathematicians, to collect and analyse valuable long-term ecological data.

In 2004, he collaborated to develop the online Satellite Tracking Analysis Tool (STAT), which a global network now uses, with the help of satellite tags, time-depth recorders and animal-borne cameras, to track over 7000 individuals of 113 species in 300 projects.

Brendan has published over 130 peer-reviewed papers, and has demonstrated an enormous commitment to outreach and the public understanding of science. He is hugely successful in attracting funding for his work, securing almost £4 million of research income in a little over a decade. In recent years he has widened his interests to include sustainable fisheries, and the ecological impacts of marine renewable energy resources and climate change.

Steve Ormerod

Steve is one of the foremost applied freshwater ecologist and conservationist of his generation. His work is unusual in that he has made significant contributions in different fields that are rarely brought together in the work of a single ecologist. He has made seminal contributions to the field of freshwater acidification, including important work on the fate and status of river birds living on acidifying/acidified streams. Steve has developed, empirical models of what stream biology might look like under different scenarios, providing forecasts of biological communities under different land-uses and regimes of acidic deposition. His work has informed policy on land-use, such as the effect of coniferous afforestation and catchment liming.

More recently, Steve has carried out research on the effects on stream communities and conservation of increased sedimentation and, using long term data, detecting biological changes associated with climate warming and climatic excursions associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. In a research career spanning 26 years, he has published well over 200 papers, showing him to be a powerhouse in the field and a prolific and accomplished scientist.

Dr Peter Mumby

Peter has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of coral reef and mangrove ecosystems and the conservation measures needed to slow their loss. His pioneering research on remote sensing has led to a step-change in our ability to monitor reef health. His work demonstrating the linkages between mangrove systems and offshore fish stocks that depend on them as nurseries underscored their role in conservation; and his research on marine protected areas has highlighted their importance to reef resilience in the face of environmental change. In short, Peter has both altered our understanding of tropical marine ecosystems and helped shape innovative, science-driven approaches to their conservation.

Nick Dulvy

Nick has made some fundamentally important contributions to marine conservation through his scientific work on assessing extinction risk in the marine realm. With many fisheries worldwide on the brink of collapse, many marine species are facing extinction, reducing food resources and failing to maximise long-term economic returns.

Nick’s contributions to the science of sustainable management have been critically important, both to policy and conservation practice and span the range from pelagic fisheries to coral reef ecosystems. With many marine species being extremely poorly known, his work on understanding the links between life histories, population dynamics and extinction risk have been important in shaping our understanding of how to identify those species that should be of conservation concern. Finally, he has made important contributions to the emerging body of work looking at how climate change will impact the marine realm in terms of fisheries productivity and extinction risk.

Simon Jennings

Simon works at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. He founded the Ecosystem Effects team at Lowestoft and is now lead scientist for the Environment and Ecosystems Division and a Chair of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. He advises UK Government and international bodies on fisheries and marine conservation issues. As an active research scientist, he is responsible for developing and leading applied science programmes that have influenced policy decisions both nationally and internationally.

Professor Hal Whitehead

Hal has made internationally significant contributions to the conservation of cetaceans through his research on the behaviour, ecology and population biology of sperm and northern bottlenose whales. With his team of researchers, he spends weeks at sea on board the ocean-going cruising boat Balaena (Valiant 40), collecting acoustic, visual, photographic and oceanographic data, before analysing the data in the lab. His work has been a critical source of sober second thought with respect to the effects of military sonar and other anthropogenic sound sources on cetaceans.

Hal has developed behavioural methods of analysis that are now widely used to better understand the social structure of whales.

Professor Ian Boyd

Ian is Professor of Natural History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Natural Environment Research Council Sea Mammal Unit, one of the foremost research institutions on marine mammals. The Unit’s mission is to carry out fundamental research into the biology of upper trophic level predators in the oceans and, through this, to provide support to the Natural Environment Research Council so that it can carry out its statutory duty to advise Government in the UK about the management of seal populations.

Ian’s research interests include the behavioural dynamics of marine predators, management of marine ecosystems and the application of scale-based theoretical and statistical models to examine single- and multi-dimensional behavioural vectors of marine predators, particularly in relation to the distribution of food patches.