By ecoRI News staff
NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Two Rhode Islanders will be recognized Nov. 4 for outstanding achievements in environmental scholarship and education. Steven Reinert of Barrington and the late Jon C. Boothroyd, formerly of Wakefield, will receive Rhode Island Distinguished Naturalist awards from the Rhode Island Natural History Survey at an evening event at the Quonset O Club.
Reinert, who works as a technology research analyst in information services at Lifespan, is being recognized for 40 years of volunteer efforts studying birds and educating people about them. Boothroyd, who was a University of Rhode Island professor, is being recognized for his exceptional skill bridging the gap between academics and the general public, as well as for his many volunteer conservation efforts. He died last October.
The reception begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes speakers, exhibits and a silent auction, to benefit the Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS).
Reinert received two degrees in wildlife biology from URI and worked in a variety of research and conservation jobs before commencing his present career in information technology. He has devoted vast amounts of his personal time to environmental research and education. He has assisted in research and education at nature centers; researched raptors and salt-marsh sparrows, and presented the results at scientific meetings and in ornithological journals; served on the boards of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island and the Barrington Land Conservation Trust; and been the volunteer data manager for the Block Island Bird Banding Station since 1996.
Reinert regularly holds workshops for diverse audiences, mostly through the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. His presentations mix examples, scholarliness and humor, and are characterized by humbleness but also a willingness to inform and to persuade. His efforts with children are especially noteworthy, because he specifically encourages critical-thinking skills.
“Steve is the consummate volunteer educator/naturalist and is certainly deserving of this recognition,” said Larry Taft, executive director of Audubon Society of Rhode Island. “I have observed him talking about birds and birdlife to a wide variety of audiences and have learned a lot while doing so. Whether he is with a group of adults on the Block Island Birding Weekend or is banding birds with a group of middle-school students from Providence, his breadth of knowledge and his way of conveying it to the audience is in front of him is impressive. He knows how to keep his listeners engaged and wanting to learn more.”
Boothroyd received his Ph.D. in 1974 from the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Until his death in 2015, he was widely cited as Rhode Island's foremost expert on glacial history and coastal processes such as beach erosion, coastal inundation and climate change.
Because he was so good at translating scientific knowledge for lay audiences, municipal governments and state environmental agencies frequently called on his expertise for guidance with issues including dredging, shoreline structures, beach management and septic systems. As state geologist, he organized and maintained a vast archive of samples and data from throughout the state.
As a URI professor, Boothroyd was particularly committed to engaging students in geological fieldwork and real-world problems. He also led innumerable walks for the public on which he explained interesting geological features in ways that engaged all kinds of people. He was on the boards of the Rhode Island Natural History Survey and Narrow River Preservation Association, and active with the Friends of Canonchet Farm and the Narragansett Beach Sustainability Committee, among other organizations.
Grover Fugate, executive director of the state Coastal Resources Management Council, said Boothroyd’s impact on CRMC operations was nearly impossible to calculate.
“We’ve relied on Jon for very close to 30 years,” Fugate said. “Jon didn’t get caught up in the jargon. He was constantly imparting his knowledge and he was always an educator ... always willing to talk to any audience.”
As part of its mission to advance public understanding of natural history and the role of naturalists in environmental conservation and management, the RINHS instituted its Distinguished Naturalist Award in 1994. It’s presented annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to the advancement of the scientific knowledge of Rhode Island’s environment and organisms, is recognized as an outstanding teacher and educator about the natural world, and/or has significantly enhanced public awareness of the importance of understanding Rhode Island’s ecosystems.
Since 1994, 19 people have been recognized with a Distinguished Naturalist Award, and 12 people have received a posthumous award.
The Nov. 4 event will feature addresses by Neal Overstrom, director of the Nature Lab at the Rhode Island School of Design, exhibits of art inspired by nature, a preliminary report on the results of the Natural History Survey's BioBlitz biodiversity field day held in Hopkinton in June, and a silent auction and raffle to raise money for the Natural History Survey.