The tenth annual Women & Wildlife Awards were celebrated with a cocktail party and silent auction on Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at Duke Farms. Conserve Wildlife Foundation proudly honored the contributions that three women – MacKenzie Hall, Pat Hamilton, and Tanya Oznowich - have made to wildlife conservation, and the leadership and inspiration they provide for those who strive to make a positive impact on species and habitat protection in New Jersey.
A powerful force behind the conservation of wildlife in New Jersey, MacKenzie Hall began working as a wildlife biologist for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation in 2004 and was been involved with projects spanning bat colonies, migrating amphibians, and grassland birds. What is most remarkable about Ms. Hall, however, is her ability to motivate the public to participate in these projects, inspiring non-scientists of all ages to become passionate conservationists.
Ms. Hall has supported and participated in bat research projects throughout the state. With many bat colonies suffering the effects of White-nose syndrome, she went above and beyond her duties to better understand this devastating disease and develop ways to combat it. Ms. Hall took part in colony monitoring, mist-netting, and banding, working through many nights in order to benefit these enormously important species. In 2012, she launched a “Bats in Buildings” program offering New Jersey homeowners bat-friendly “eviction” resources, as well as free bat houses for displaced colonies. Her dedication to the cause proved contagious. Many homeowners and pest control specialists, initially unsympathetic towards bats, have altered their practices to better accommodate the imperiled species.
In addition to her involvement in bat conservation, Ms. Hall is a passionate advocate for New Jersey’s amphibians and reptiles. She worked to address amphibian mortality on state roads, teaming up with working groups to help species of frogs and salamanders safely cross roads during their spring breeding season. She successfully coordinated amphibian surveys throughout the state, a task requiring road closures, the cooperation of multiple municipalities, the recruitment and training of volunteers, and the willingness to work outdoors overnight on cold, rainy nights!
Ms. Hall is well known for her diplomacy in her interactions with private landowners. In her work to implement conservation programs such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, her keen understanding of the process and positive attitude turned many farmers and landowners alike into dedicated environmental stewards. In turn, these new stewards helped protect at-risk grassland birds in New Jersey’s dwindling farmlands.
Ms. Hall earned her bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources from Paul Smith’s College in 2002. She now works as an assistant zoologist for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program.
Pat Hamilton has worked for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries since 1980, most recently as the Principal Fisheries Biologist. Ms. Hamilton has become a leader in managing and conserving coldwater fisheries throughout the state. She is considered to be the champion for Eastern brook trout, the state’s only native salmonid, and a species once extirpated from over 50% of its historical habitat due to human impacts.
Ms. Hamilton graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine in 1977 and earned her master’s from East Stroudsburg University in 2007. For her Master’s Thesis “Wild Brook Trout Genetics,” she examined the genetic diversity of Eastern brook trout populations in streams throughout the Raritan and Passaic watersheds. In the first study of its kind for the state, Ms. Hamilton determined that the trout present today are part of a lineage dating back to when the last glacier receded from New Jersey - some 16K-18K years ago! Since this landmark study, she has worked to restore and protect not only this ancient fish, but also the pristine habitat on which it depends.
Ms. Hamilton is the principal writer and developer of the Coldwater Fisheries Plan in New Jersey, has contributed to the development of stocking allocation methodology for stocked trout in the state. Ms. Hamilton has also engaged local fishermen to participate in the conservation of native brook trout with the Angler Logbook Program.
Currently, Ms. Hamilton is one of three fisheries biologists in New Jersey endeavoring to strengthen the state regulations to further conserve native brook trout streams. She continues to support and promote stream restoration projects led by federal, state, and non-profit agencies throughout the state. Thanks to her efforts, more than 200 northern New Jersey streams have been designated as Trout Production Streams, which afford the streams higher levels of state protection. Before she retires, Ms. Hamilton aims to create a reintroduction program for trout in streams where the species was extirpated.
Schools across New Jersey are incorporating environmental education into their curriculum, a new movement inspired by a growing awareness of environmental issues and our shared role in understanding and resolving them. To a large degree, this growing prominence is thanks to Tanya Oznowich, Environmental Education Supervisor of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, who has championed environmental education for over three decades.
Ms. Oznowich earned her Bachelor’s degree in Parks and Recreation/Interpretive Sciences from Slippery Rock University in 1981 and her Master’s in Educational Leadership from Delaware Valley College in 2004. She has been engaging the public in natural resources since 1979, when she began working as a seasonal naturalist at Cleveland Metroparks at Chagrin Falls Reservation in Ohio. She went on to become an educator at the Ranger Rick Wildlife Camp in North Carolina, the Program Coordinator and Educator at the Pocono Environmental Education Center in Pennsylvania, and the Director of Education at the Weis Ecology Center in Ringwood, New Jersey. Since beginning her tenure with the NJDEP in 1988, she has dedicated herself to integrating environmental science into New Jersey’s classrooms, from kindergarten to college.
A founding member of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, Ms. Oznowich also contributed to the development of the New Jersey Commission of Environmental Education. In addition, she served as the Environmental Education Liaison for the New Jersey Science Education Leadership Association. She has been a professional member of the North American Environmental Education Association since 1989.
In addition to her role as a program developer, Ms. Oznowich is also a workshop facilitator, public speaker, environmental educator, and a grant writer. For her accomplishments in bringing environmental education to so many classrooms and communities, she has been honored by numerous state and non-profit agencies, including the New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Audubon Society, and the New Jersey Chapter of the Society for Women in Environmental Professions.
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CWF 2015 Annual Report Story Map
Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about CWF’s many projects and partnerships in 2015, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2015 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!