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Eleanor Sterling collaborating on conservation efforts in Vietnam. (Photo credit: H. Thach/CBC-AMNH)

Eleanor Sterling, director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, will be honored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) as an outstanding conservationist, the Commission’s highest honor, at the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress.

Sterling was selected to receive the Fred Packard Award in recognition of more than 30 years of advancing just and effective conservation and for her extraordinary contributions to conservation in protected areas around the world. An awards ceremony in Vancouver, Canada will take place on February 6.

“These are the highest honours that the Commission can give, and reflect our deep appreciation for the awardees and their tireless, inspirational service to protected areas and the conservation of nature. I want to express my warmest congratulations to Dr. Sterling,” said Madhu Rao, chair of IUCN WCPA.

woman speaking at podium
Sterling speaking at Cold Springs Harbor Lab. (Photo credit: CSH/CBC-AMNH)

As a biologist and social scientist, Sterling’s work focuses on systems approaches to conservation and natural resource management; food systems; the intersection between biodiversity, culture and languages; the factors influencing ecological and social resilience; and the development of indicators of multidimensional well-being.

Prior to becoming director of HIMB in UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), she led the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation for more than two decades. With experience in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, Sterling’s research has built the tools to place Indigenous knowledge at the heart of conservation practice.

“It is such an honor to receive this distinguished Fred Packard award,” said Sterling. “IUCN has made great strides in recognizing that Indigenous and local community voices, rights and stewardship are crucial to Earth’s future.”

Sterling’s work pioneered new approaches to biodiversity monitoring, resulting in more than 120 publications, stronger protected-area management, and the establishment of locally-managed conservation areas in biodiverse and unique ecosystems.

She is an expert in strategic planning from a systems perspective and in implementation and evaluation of capacity development. In particular, she was key to shaping the IUCN WCPA Strategic Framework for Capacity Development at the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney and has since guided the implementation of elements supporting Indigenous peoples and local communities.

For more information, see SOEST’s website.

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