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2024 Distinguished Service Award

Distinguished Service Award

2024 Winner: Betsy Colburn

Betsy A. Colburn is an aquatic ecologist and an Associate of the Harvard Forest, where she has conducted research on headwater streams and vernal pools and worked on conservation-related issues. Prior to that, Betsy worked for 18 years as an Aquatic Ecologist and a Water Resources Specialist at the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Recently, she has been assessing potential water-quality impacts of proposals to make New England more self-sufficient in food production by bringing much of the land formerly occupied by small farms back into agricultural use. She has a longstanding interest in regulatory approaches to water quality protection, as well as a commitment to broader, non-regulatory, landscape-scale efforts to protect land and water resources. Betsy’s book, “Vernal Pools: Natural History and Conservation,” remains the only comprehensive overview of the seasonal woodland ponds that provide important breeding habitat for frogs, salamanders, and a host of invertebrate species in eastern North America. Betsy has taught comparative physiology, endocrinology, seminar on salt glands, and winter-term field course in Death Valley at Williams College; limnology, water quality, and groundwater hydrology and protection at Antioch-New England Graduate School, and “Water, Land-Water Interactions, and Aquatic Ecology” in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She has also served on numerous state and federal committees dealing with water resources regulations and policy. Currently, she is preparing her collections of aquatic macroinvertebrates for archiving in a museum, so that they will be available for future researchers to study.

At SFS (and as NABS before it), Betsy became involved with the Science Policy Committee, co-chairing with Bob Hughes for several years, and most recently served as chair of the Finance Committee for five years, following several years as a FinCom committee member. From Betsy’s nomination for the Distinguished Service Award:

Betsy’s steadfast dedication to the society was evident in her meticulous analysis of the annual budget, her efforts to dive into the details of accounts and records from previous decades, her priority to make the budget more transparent, and her regular expressions of gratitude to her committee members for their time and energy. Betsy transformed the approach of the Committee to tracking, reporting, and forecasting the society’s budget and finances. Betsy’s efforts toward increased transparency in the SFS budget has empowered the members, especially those involved with leadership and committees, to advocate for and support important initiatives (e.g., InStars) while ensuring that the financial foundation of the society remained strong during a particularly difficult time with a global pandemic and national inflation. As FinCom Chair, Betsy has been a consistent and strong voice for wise and careful stewardship of SFS’s financial resources. As such, she has definitively contributed to the ongoing and long-term financial health and stability of our cherished society.

About the Award

The SFS Distinguished Service Award is awarded to a Society member who has made a genuine and lasting contribution to the betterment of the Society. Nominations of people from underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to increase the diversity of SFS Awardees. Read about prior Distinguished Service Award winners and find the nomination form here.