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The Prize

Biennially, the SeaDoc Society awards the Salish Sea Science Prize to a prominent scientist or team of scientists whose work has resulted in the marked improvement of management or policy related to the conservation of marine wildlife and the Salish Sea marine ecosystem. Non-scientists who have used science in a substantial way to improve management or policy related to healing the Salish Sea also will be considered. This is the only award of its kind. The recipient(s) does not need to be a resident of Washington or British Columbia as long as their scientific efforts or use of science have led to measurable impacts on the Salish Sea ecosystem. The $2,000 prize comes with no strings attached and is designed to highlight the importance of science in providing a foundation for designing a healthy Salish Sea ecosystem. This award is given in recognition of and to honor Stephanie Wagner, who loved the region and its wildlife.

Selection Criteria

The SeaDoc Society considered all nominees and selected a prizewinner. This is not a lifetime achievement award. Selection was based on the nominee’s production of valuable science that informed management or policy – or – for using science to improve management or policy related to the conservation of marine wildlife and the Salish Sea marine ecosystem.


Fall of the year prior to SSEC Call for Nominations
December of the year prior to SSEC Nominations Due
April SSEC Prize awarded at the Salish Sea Conference, Vancouver, BC

About the SeaDoc Society

The SeaDoc Society is a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, a center of excellence at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. We fund and conduct research and work to ensure that managers and policy makers use science to improve the health of the region’s marine wildlife and ecosystem. Since 2000, the SeaDoc Society has had a regional focus on designing a healthy Salish Sea. For more information or to sign up for free SeaDoc monthly updates, Wildlife Posts, and calls for proposals visit

Past Winners

In 2020, the SeaDoc Society awarded Washington Sea Grant’s European Green Crab Prevention Team the Salish Sea Science Prize. Watch the video award here:

In 2018, we awarded Dr. Nina Bednaršek in honor of her work showing that ocean acidification (OA) is already having an undeniable effect on biological organisms and threatens our ocean ecosystems in a manner that is unprecedented in our lifetime. Her novel research is filling gaps needed to catalyze management actions that will mitigate the harmful effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and will allow water quality managers to identify and mitigate OA hot spots within the Salish Sea under the Clean Water Act.

In 2016 the prize went to a group of NOAA scientists (Drs. Jenifer McIntyre, David Baldwin, and Nathaniel Scholz) whose research on copper and its effect on salmon was instrumental in the passage of landmark legislation in Washington State to phase out the use of copper and other metals in motor vehicle brake pads. This action will benefit salmon recovery and reduce the loadings of toxic metals to the Salish Sea by hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.

In 2014 the Northwest Straits Foundation received the prize for scientifically quantifying the impact of derelict fishing gear and the benefit of its removal. A peer-reviewed manuscript demonstrated the importance of escape cord for reducing Dungeness crab mortality, which spurred Marine Resource Committees to increase efforts to educate recreational crabbers on this topic. Another manuscript quantified the impact of lost nets on marine species helping funders and policy makers to further support net removal. The additional scientific documentation of drop-out and decomposition rates showed that we were underestimating the effect of these nets on marine wildlife. Moreover, that same work documented a cost-benefit ratio for net removal at 1:14.5, demonstrating that derelict net removal not only benefits marine species but also is cost-effective.

In 2011, the Salish Sea Science Prize was awarded to John Elliott for his work documenting the high levels of forest industry derived pollutants, dioxins and furans, in marine birds as well as for his work documenting the deleterious effects of these toxins on reproduction and embryonic development in multiple bird species. In countless meetings and presentations, Elliott worked with industry and regulators to communicate his findings. By doing so he influenced subsequent national and international regulations that halted the use of molecular chlorine bleaching, and restricted the use of chlorophenolic wood preservatives and anti-sap stains.

In 2009, the SeaDoc Society awarded the first ever Salish Sea Science Prize to Ken Balcomb for his research on the population dynamics of southern resident killer whales. His annual census work was the basis for the population assessments that ultimately led to the Canadian and US listing of these whales as endangered. Also, it served as a foundation for our understanding of resident killer whale longevity, toxics loading, and the implications of disease on the long-term viability of this population.