Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wetlands ecologist receives award for significant service

Just earlier this year, we cheered for our colleague Ralph Tiner when his work was recognized among the 30 most influential publications in wetland science over the past 30 years. Well, we’re at it again!

On June 11, Ralph was awarded the Department of Interior Superior Service Award for his contributions in leadership, coordination and expertise to his field and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory program.

We were privy to a letter from our director, Dan Ashe, summarizing Ralph’s never-ending contributions to the NWI Program and to advancing wetland conservation and science regionally and nationally.

If you won’t take our word for it, check out this list of some of his major accomplishments:

  • Directed the Service’s wetland mapping across the Northeast since its inception in 1977 and developed numerous partnerships with states and other agencies to participate and provide millions of dollars to cost-share in completing the mapping for 12 states 

  • Conducted the first regional wetland trends study for the Chesapeake Bay watershed 
  • Served on three national committees as the Service’s technical expert on wetland delineation (1988 to present) and chosen by interagency peers to write the federal interagency wetland delineation manual from existing manuals/approaches and committee discussions – the first manual mandated for use to identify the limits of regulated wetlands throughout the country 

  • Member of Fresh Waters Working Group that prepared a set of environmental indicators for tracking ecosystem condition and use for the first state of the nation’s ecosystems report 

  • Created hydrogeomorphic-type descriptors to enhance the Service’s wetland classification system to facilitate use of NWI data for landscape-level assessment of wetland functions; these descriptors were included in the Federal Geographic Data Committee’s Wetland Mapping Standard and are now used by several states for improving wetland conservation 

  • Authored nearly 200 publications, including:
    • “Wetlands of the United States: Current Status and Recent Trends” (1984) cited in Ann Vileisis’ "Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America’s Wetlands" as one of the most influential publications that helped raise public awareness and stimulated government action to improve wetland conservation
    • “Hydric Soils of New England” (1987) – the first guidebook for identifying hydric soils
    • “Field Guide to Nontidal Wetland Identification” (1988) – the first wetland identification field guide (awarded Blue Pencil Award for outstanding government publication in 1989)
    • NWI wetland reports for seven states
    • Several field wetland field guides and textbooks (e.g., “In Search of Swampland” was recognized as a Best Science Book for Junior High and High School Readers in Energy, Environment and Natural Resources by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1998). 
Needless to say, we treasure Ralph's 40 years of experience and leadership. His contributions began as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, where he worked on the state's wetland inventory. This wasn't easy; he had to walk the state's 15,000 acres of wetlands through all seasons (yes, even in winter), marking the boundaries and recording their location on large-scale aerial photographs.

"I guess you could say that once I got into the swamps, I never came out!" Ralph says. "And over the years, I like to think that my efforts have helped improve the conservation of wetlands, benefiting both wildlife and people."


  1. Congratulations Ralph - way to go. Ron Rozsa

    1. Hi Ron! Thanks so much for your comment. We've moved our blog to We'd love for you to leave your comment on the same post on our new blog:

      Thank you!