HIMB director Eleanor Sterling honored as outstanding conservationist

Eleanor Sterling, director of the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, will be honored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) as an outstanding conservationist 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 Dr. Madhu Rao, Chair of the IUCN WCPA.

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 the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, 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 over 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. 

More about IUCN and the Packard Award

The IUCN, uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations, is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network, harnessing the knowledge, resources and reach of more than 1,400 Member organizations and some 15,000 experts. It is a leading provider of conservation data, assessments and analysis. 

IUCN provides a neutral space in which diverse stakeholders including governments, non-governmental organizations, scientists, businesses, local communities, indigenous peoples organizations and others can work together to forge and implement solutions to environmental challenges and achieve sustainable development.

The Fred Packard Award is named for the individual who served as Secretary to the IUCN WCPA in the 1970s and is presented by the Commission in recognition of “outstanding service to protected areas.”