As part of its mission to advance public understanding of natural history and the role of naturalists in environmental conservation and management, the Natural History Survey has instituted awards recognizing accomplishments of individuals from, or working in, Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Natural History Survey Distinguished Naturalist Award

The Rhode Island Natural History Survey Distinguished Naturalist Award is presented by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to advancing our knowledge of Rhode Island’s organisms, geology, and ecosystems. In particular, we want to identify those who have excelled in one or more of the following areas:

  • Made significant contributions in the advancement of scientific knowledge of Rhode Island’s organisms, geology, and ecosystems as evidenced by published books, scientific papers, and monographs
  • Recognized as an outstanding teacher and educator to students and the public on the form, functions, and ecological significance of Rhode Island’s biota and natural systems
  • Made significant contributions in enhancing public awareness of the importance of understanding the natural history of Rhode Island’s ecosystems

How to Nominate a Distinguished Naturalist

Distinguished Naturalists are selected by the Natural History Survey Board of Directors. To nominate someone, send a letter or email to the Survey office marked “Attention: DNA” or contact a member of the Board of Directors. In your correspondence please describe the ways in which your nominee excelled in one or more of the three criteria described above. Please include as much specific detail as possible, as we may not be personally familiar with your nominee’s work. Decisions are made in the spring and announced during the annual Natural History Week Celebration. However, nominations may be made at any time.
Past, unsuccessful nominations are kept and reconsidered every year, so if you’ve nominated someone in the past who did not win, you are not required to re-nominate them. You may wish to provide additional information on your nominee if you feel it would strengthen the nomination.

Golden Eye Award

Established in 2008, the “Golden Eye Award” recognizes a naturalist for reporting an extraordinary field find — a “good catch.” It could be a new species for Rhode Island, a rare or otherwise unusual species, an invasive species, or some other natural historical phenomenon. RINHS staff makes the nomination, and the winner is voted on by the Board of Directors. The award recognizes not just luck, though luck certainly plays a part in many good field finds, but the best naturalists’ skills, including perseverance, taxonomy, biological and ecological knowledge, curation and record keeping, and communication. To paraphrase one board member, “Some people get lucky, a few people make their own luck through hard work, and only a very few people work hard, get lucky, know enough to know how lucky they are, and take the time to share what they found. Those are the people we want to recognize with the Golden Eye Award.”