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W&M eagle scientists named 2007 Recovery Champions

Bryan Watts cradles a female bald eagle during field work in the Chesapeake Bay. The eagle is hooded and secured to prevent injury to bird or researchers. Photo courtesy the Center for Conservation BiologyEagle researchers Mitchell Byrd and Bryan Watts of William and Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology were among the recipients of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Recovery Champion awards for 2007.

The announcement of the 16 award winners was made March 28 by H. Dale Hall, director of the federal agency. The Recovery Champion award recognizes outstanding contributions of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and their partners toward recovering threatened and endangered species in the United States.

Byrd and Watts were honored for promoting the recovery of the bald eagle. Together, they founded the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary in 1991. Their research has been used to evaluate development plans that could affect eagle habitat, to understand the ecology of Chesapeake Bay eagles and to establish protected areas for eagles, such as the Mason Neck and James River National Wildlife Refuges.

Byrd is the retired Chancellor Professor of Biology at the College, while Watts is a research professor and current director of the Center for Conservation Biology. They have documented and promoted the recovery of the bald eagle to the Chesapeake Bay region, largely through regular census flights over nesting habitat on the shores of the Bay and its tributaries.

“Doctors Byrd and Watts exemplify leadership in research, advocacy, partnerships and habitat protection directly contributing to the recovery of the bald eagle, particularly in the unique and vital Chesapeake Bay region,” said Marvin E. Moriarty, Northeast Region director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Additional information is available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Champion Web site http://www.fws.gov/endangered/recovery/champions/index.html and at the web site of the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary at http://ccb.wm.edu/, which includes a link to a bald eagle nest monitoring page.