Six conservation heroes reel in prestigious Charlies


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M.J. Waters, left; Dr. Ross Hinkle; Courtney Barker; Vince Lamb, the emcee, a former Charile Corbeil Award recipient and the president of Preserve Brevard; Dr. Llewellyn Ehrhart; Bo Platt; and Tracy Frampton are presented with their Charlie Corbeil Conservation Awards.

Jill Blue

The sixth annual Charlie Corbeil Conservation Awards, sponsored by the Viera Voice and Preserve Brevard, were held April 14 at the Brevard Zoo.

The awards are held each year to recognize the accomplishments of local conservation leaders.

Charlie Corbeil was well-known in the conservation community for years prior to his unexpected death in 2013. He was known as one of the original “Wetlands Rangers” at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands.

In addition, Corbeil’s nature photography is displayed throughout the world and he helped many youths hone their wildlife photography skills as well. Corbeil also held certification as a Florida Master Naturalist.

Corbeil, along with his wife Charlotte, contributed a popular wildlife column each month in the Viera Voice.

The 2019 recipients were:

• Courtney Barker: Barker has served as the city manager for Satellite Beach for six years.

“It’s always been a forefront city in local government on the environment,” Barker said. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve created a sustainability program that has been able, along with the City Council to advocate for the Save Our Lagoon Tax and serve on the Citizen’s Oversight Committee. I’m a great fit for the city because I have a real passion for the environment and I work for a City Council that has the same thing.”

Barker was excited to receive the award.

“This award’s really special because it’s given by colleagues and other people who have done the same work and that’s very important to me,” Barker said. “To be honored by your peers, there’s nothing better I think.”

• Dr. Llewellyn Ehrhart: Ehrhart served as a professor from 1969 to 2004 at the University of Central Florida. According to UCF’s website, Ehrhart “is a vertebrate zoologist whose research program is focused on reproduction, population biology, ecologic geography, and conservation biology of marine turtles.”

Ehrhart says he is perhaps most proud of the work he and his students conducted in the 1980s helping to establish the Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge that is located in southern coastal Brevard County.

Ehrhart also discussed being named a recipient adding that, “I was really honored because I regard it as coming from the Brevard conservation community as a whole for which I have incredible admiration.”

• Tracy Frampton: Frampton is the executive director of the Florida Wildlife Hospital and has served in that role since June 2015.

“We do provide an important service in the area that we never charge and, of course, in doing the work we also need donations because we don’t charge. So, getting our name out more to let them know that we can help, but also that we can use donations. (We’re)  really trying to get our visibility improved in the community,” Frampton said.

Although she said she misses field work after past professional experience that included stints as a zookeeper and has included a trip to Africa to study birds for three months, Frampton is thrilled that she’s able to make a difference in her current role.

“I feel like I am making a difference being in the position that I am because I am able to build relationships with other organizations,” Frampton said.

• Dr. Ross Hinkle:  Hinkle serves on the selection and lands committee with the Environmental Endangered Lands Program. He also is a professor emeritus at UCF.

“I think the thing that I’m really most proud of was the work that I’ve done with the Endangered Lands Program, serving on the selection and lands committee,” Hinkle said. “That, in my opinion, is kind of the highlight of my career.”

Hinkle, who also worked for 25 years at Kennedy Space Center on work relating to life sciences, was delighted to be named as an award recipient.

“I was honored to be honest with you because I’ve known other people that have won the award. I feel it’s an honor to share this type of award with people like that.”

• Bo Platt: Platt serves on the executive steering committee of the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition. He also has been appointed to the prospective 2019 Board of Directors with the Marine Resources Council.

Platt has worked hard to help the lagoon, given his fond memories in and around it while growing up in the Eau Gallie Harbor area.

“I guess my biggest goal is some day in the next 20 or 30 years … little kids, like I was 60 years ago, will be able to go out and play in the lagoon. (They can) enjoy a living, vibrant lagoon and not worry about any health concern or anything like that,” said Platt, who added that it was a “huge honor” to receive the award.

• M.J. Waters:  Waters serves as the president and communications director of the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition.

“I would say the fact that this all-volunteer organization has really done an incredible job of helping to educate and inform and act as a catalyst to the community for more healing of Indian River Lagoon.”

Waters, who said she was “surprised and shocked” when she received the award, said she was proud of what the organization had accomplished since a major fish kill in the lagoon in 2016.

“That’s when we all really mobilized in a big way to try to educate people about what was happening and what could be done from a scientific perspective,” Waters said.