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2024 Leadership Award

Leadership Award

2024 Winner: Carla Atkinson

Dr. Atkinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama and has been a member of SFS for more than 15 years. Carla has served our society in many capacities, and each has enriched our society. Most notably, Dr. Atkinson is a co-founder and current chair of the Southeast Chapter of SFS. Carla won the 2015 SFS Hynes Award for New Investigators for her paper on tracing consumer-derived nitrogen in riverine food webs (Atkinson et al 2014) and has gone on to become a global leader in the study of freshwater mussels, one of the most threatened faunal groups in aquatic ecosystems, and her work on mussel communities is fundamental to understanding the mechanisms driving declines in native mussel biodiversity (e.g., Atkinson et al. 2012). Carla’s science will guide freshwater research for years to come, but her leadership in freshwater science goes well beyond her scholarship. Her dedication to training the next generation of freshwater scientists is as impressive as it is effective. Dr. Atkinson has also found the time to contribute to SFS despite the effort required to complete the work summarized above. Carla has served on the SFS Student Resources Committee while a PhD student, the Education and Diversity Committee, Public Information and Policy Committee (social media subcommittee), and the 2023 Brisbane Planning Committee. She has also co-organized five special sessions at SFS meetings over the years. Dr. Atkinson has also found the time to lead a wide array of public outreach on behalf of freshwater science and freshwater mussels. Carla serves on multiple state panels focused on mussel conservation and works extensively with the Alabama Biodiversity Center. In addition, she has taken part in more than 40 public outreach activities and/or training workshops. Through these efforts, Dr. Atkinson has proved herself to be a tireless advocate for freshwater mussels, aquatic ecology, and conservation and management of our freshwater ecosystems.

In summary, Dr. Atkinson’s work sets the bar for scientific impact on our field for mid-career members. With more than 70 published works and an equally extensive list of service activities, Carla has firmly established herself as one of our preeminent mid-career scientists and her leadership to date checks all the boxes.

About the Award

Instituted in 2021, the SFS Leadership Award recognizes early or mid-career (<20 years from PhD) SFS members for extraordinary work on behalf of the society. While applications will be accepted annually, the award will only be granted to exceptional nominees and may not be granted annually. Successful nominations will make the case that the nominee has had a positive and demonstrable impact on some aspect of SFS and furthers its mission, especially by expanding the impact of our scientific society and of freshwater science. Read about prior Leadership Award winners and find the nomination form here.