noel pavlovic in marram grassOn Thursday, December 12, 2013, at its annual Holiday Open House, Save the Dunes proudly announced its recipient of the 2013 Paul H. Douglas Award – our highest honor.  The Douglas Award is named for the inestimable Senator Paul Douglas without whom there would be no Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We bestow this honor on individuals who demonstrate outstanding service to the cause of preserving and protecting the Indiana Dunes.  We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Noel Pavlovic, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, was selected to receive this honor.

In the past, this award has been given to volunteers, but this year Save the Dunes shifted their focus.  The organization wanted to recognize that there are many kinds of heroes who protect our Indiana dunes – not just volunteers. By selecting an important dunes scientist this year, Save the Dunes tips its hat to say thank you to all the scientists, land managers, planners, employees of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park, staff at land trusts and other conservation organizations, researchers at the US Geological Survey, and so forth – all of whom are paid to save the dunes.

“Some of these people do their job exceptionally well, and when you spend time with them, you quickly sense that their passion for the Indiana dunes is contagious – Noel is exactly like that,” said Nicole Barker, Executive Director. “Even years ago when I worked for the City of Chicago, I knew that Noel Pavlovic was recognized throughout the Chicago Wilderness region for being one of the preeminent scientists and advocates for the biodiversity of the Indiana Dunes; he’s kind of famous scientifically speaking,” she joked.

Dr. Pavlovic has worked at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station in Porter, Indiana for over 30 years. He was born in Pennsylvania, and later moved with his parents to West Virginia where his father was a professor of physics.  Dr. Pavlovic was encouraged by his parents to explore the path of scientific discovery.  He attended Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana where he majored in biology and met his future wife, Sarah White. He was introduced to the botany of the Indiana Dunes on field courses at Earlham.   Noel attended the University of Tennessee where he received his master’s degree for a study of the seed banks of the Great Smoky Mountains and then took a temporary position as a statistician with the Science Division of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  The temporary position lead to eventual appointment as the Division’s statistician and enrollment at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he was awarded his Ph.D. for his study of fame flowers in the Dunes.

In thirty years of scientific investigation in the Dunes, Noel has undertaken many studies of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the plant kingdom at the Dunes investigating species ranging from rare native species such as fame flower and Pitcher’s thistle to rampant invaders such as Oriental bittersweet. He and Sarah raised two fine and adventuresome environmentalists, Nathan and Emily.  Along the way Noel has been an important resource for national parks throughout the Great Lakes as he has become an eminent authority on the plant ecology of the Indiana Dunes and a living encyclopedia of distribution and habits of plants of the Indiana Dunes.

The inestimable Senator Paul Douglas, without whom there would be no Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

For a list of all past recipients, click here.

Written by