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Twilley Honored by Environmental Law Institute

Robert Twilley (center, standing)

Louisiana Sea Grant executive director Robert Twilley is the recipient of the 2017 National Wetlands Award for Science Research from the Environmental Law Institute (ELI). He will receive his award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 18 at the U.S. Botanic Gardens.

“(Robert) is a world-class wetlands researcher who has been conducting vital research for 35-plus years focused on some of the most impressive global wetland ecosystems,” said John White, who nominated Twilley for the award. “He has conducted research on submerged aquatic vegetation beds in the Chesapeake Bay, on mangrove forests in the southwest Florida Everglades and had participated in both scientific and management positions related to the massive coastal wetland losses of the Mississippi River Delta,” added White, a professor in the College of the Coast and Environment at Louisiana State University.

Over his career, Twilley has produced 150 peer review publications, which generated hundreds of citations. Of note, his work includes the first global carbon budget and a blue carbon value of mangroves. As a defender of wetlands and a leader in wetland science, he has pioneered a variety of research partnerships, collaborations and outreach projects. He has also testified in several U.S. House and Senate subcommittee hearings and delivered briefings to a variety of other departments in the U.S. government.

“Robert is the entire package – more than just about anyone I can think of in academia,” said Charles Hopkinson, professor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. “Not only has he been in university administration, but he has maintained a rigorous and productive scientific research program at the same time.”

“Not only does he do cutting-edge new research, but he also puts equivalent effort into extending that research, in communicating the results to communities and groups that need answers to their questions, and to applying those results to the preservation and restoration of critical wetland habitats of the Americas,” he added in his nomination support letter. Hopkinson also extolled Twilley’s leadership role in forming the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which resulted in the state’s first-ever master plan for coastal restoration.

“One of the greatest contributions we can make as scientists is cultivating the next generation of scientists who will pick up the torch from us and continue into the future, building on the historical work of folks long gone,” said K.R. Reddy, graduate research professor and chair of the Soil and Water Sciences Department at the University of Florida. “Dr. Twilley believes strongly in this philosophy and has graduated more than 20 graduate students who are working on wetland issues all over the United States. In addition, he has mentored five international graduate students who have taken their wetland lessons into the international arena,” Reddy stated in his nomination support letter.

“Personally, when I first arrived at LSU about 13 years ago as an assistant professor, Dr. Twilley was the first one to meet with me and pledge his support and mentoring,” added White. “This was a remarkable gesture given I had only met him once as a student at a conference, where he was only too happy to discuss my research.”

Twilley earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from East Carolina University in biology. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in plant ecology/systems ecology. He is a professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at LSU, and was named Louisiana Sea Grant College Program executive director in 2012.

“Robert is passionate about extending locally important research to the myriad of stakeholder groups in coastal Louisiana. I think he’s taken an already good Sea Grant program to the next level of excellence,” added Hopkinson.

Now in its 28th year, the National Wetlands Awards has recognized more than 200 individuals from across the country for their exceptional and innovative contributions to wetland conservation.

“The recipients of the 2017 Awards are on the fore-front of protecting wetland resources in the face of climate change and development,” said ELI president Scott Fulton. “Through their dedication and achievements, they inspire wetlands protection across the country and worldwide.”

With its non-partisan, independent approach, ELI promotes solutions to tough environmental problems. The Institute’s unparalleled research and highly respected publications inform the public debate and build the institutions needed to advance sustainable development. For more information on other 2017 National Wetlands Award winners, visit

Since its establishment in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant has worked to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach programs critical to the cultural, economic and environmental health of Louisiana’s coastal zone. Louisiana Sea Grant, based at Louisiana State University, is part of the National Sea Grant Program, a network of 33 programs in each of the U.S. coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands.