At its recent biennial meeting in San Diego, California, the Sea Grant Extension Assembly—composed of the extension leaders of each of the 34 university-based Sea Grant programs—awarded its William Q. Wick Award for Visionary Career Leadership.
Named for Dr. William Wick, Oregon Sea Grant’s first director and decorated extension specialist, the award recognizes outstanding career achievement, leadership, vision, and contributions to Sea Grant Extension through programming and/or administration by a Sea Grant extension professional. The award was first presented in 1994 and has been awarded to 32 extension professionals from across the United States.
After an extensive peer-review process, the 2023 Wick Award awardee was Dr. Jim Fawcett, Director of Extension, and Marine Transportation and Seaport Specialist at University of Southern (USC) California Sea Grant.
For over three decades, Jim has been a leader in the Sea Grant Extension Network, and has not only shown what it means to be a neutral broker of information via his programming, but has taught or co-taught many Sea Grant extension, education, and communication specialists how to serve in that capacity. Jim served as a vital link between USC campus researchers, the marine transportation industry, the government, and the public on topics including seaport operations and management, movement of marine freight, and environmental impacts of the shipping industry. From his organization of international conferences on shipping issues in the Arctic and the future of cleaner fuels for all ships, to his undergraduate and graduate science policy classes at USC, Jim has embodied Sea Grant extension work in connecting science to education and real-world applications. Alongside a handful of other Sea Grant specialists, Dr. Fawcett pioneered the Sea Grant network’s extension work in the realm of ports and shipping, and has helped many programs better engage with their state’s ports. Jim’s accomplishments supporting a balance between economics and environmental protection is the epitome of successful Sea Grant extension work. He has worked with the largest port complex in the United States to improve air quality, encourage greener fuel research, and create open dialogs and successfully-applied policies with the major global shipping companies using the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Dr. Fawcett has published over 20 issues of the Ship’s Log, one of the few public resources on ports and shipping issues grounded in the best-available science. Jim is the first person from USC Sea Grant to receive this award.
The Sea Grant Extension Assembly also recognized the two additional nominees for the award, Tom Ankerson, Legal Specialist with Florida Sea Grant, and Sarah Fisken, Washington Sea Grant’s Marine Operations Specialist.
For 30 years, Tom Ankersen served as Florida Sea Grant’s legal specialist and Director of the University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Conservation Clinic. This program connected bright, rising legal minds with Florida Sea Grant Extension professionals to respond to the complex growth, development and resource management issues challenging Florida’s coastal communities. The partnership focused on the development of innovative policy models that coastal communities could implement to ensure coastal access, protection and enhancement of commercial and recreational working waterfronts, adaptation to coastal change (especially sea-level rise), and the protection of coastal watersheds and marine ecosystems. Ankersen and his Conservation Clinic students have helped coastal communities in Florida prepare for storms and sea-level rise with living shorelines, oyster-reef restoration and adaptation planning. They’ve helped sea-turtle nesting beaches become more resilient, and their analysis and policy recommendations formed the basis of Florida legislation authorizing a first-of-its kind pilot anchoring and mooring program.
Sarah Fisken was a vanguard in her field of fisheries programming, serving as the key contact for coastal marine communities in Washington State for nearly 40 years. As the first female marine advisory agent at Washington Sea Grant, she became a leader and role model to women in fisheries throughout the West Coast. She was successful in a male-dominated industry, earning the respect and enduring trust of her constituents, while serving as a catalyst for marine education to underserved communities. Proof of her credibility is in her long-term partnerships. As an example, she brought safety training to remote Makah Tribes for decades. Education was always paramount to Sarah. She was rarely in an office—she walked the docks as an educator, talking to captains, getting invited onto boats or inside processing plants and working with fishers, no matter the weather, to meet their marine training needs. She set the bar high.
The Sea Grant Extension Assembly would like to congratulate all three nominees for their inspiring careers and the impacts they had on communities, industries, the economy, and the environment during their expansive careers. A large debt of gratitude goes to those colleagues that nominated these outstanding extension experts and those that reviewed the impressive nominations.