Campus News

International Sea Turtle Society honors UGA ecologist with lifetime achievement award

James I. Richardson

Athens, Ga. – James I. Richardson, instructor and undergraduate coordinator in the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology, recently received the International Sea Turtle Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 34th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in New Orleans.

Because of Richardson’s work, “the way we manage sea turtles on a global basis has evolved and become more effective,” said Sally Murphy, the society’s awards committee chair.

The ISTS is a global organization dedicated to ensuring healthy sea turtle populations worldwide. The lifetime achievement award, established in 2008, recognizes individuals who have had a significant impact on sea turtle biology and conservation through the course of their careers.

Richardson has been working with threatened and endangered sea turtles since 1964, when he started studying nesting loggerhead sea turtles on Little Cumberland Island. In 1986, he began a study of nesting hawksbill sea turtles in Jumby Bay Island, Antigua, West Indies.

These projects involved developing long-term intensive tagging programs that have had a major impact on sea turtle conservation. Data from the studies have informed endangered species protection legislation in the U.S. as well as international arbitration under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Murphy, who presented the award, portrayed Richardson as a pioneer whose work has made a difference.

“Jim’s studies with loggerhead turtles included many firsts: population models, satellite tracking, nest site selection and reproductive output, remigration intervals and the need to mitigate bycatch mortality,” she said. “Jim’s tagging data and his population model helped us understand the true impact of mortality of juvenile and adult sea turtles at sea compared to eggs and hatchlings on nesting beaches.”

Richardson, together with his late wife Thelma, was instrumental in establishing the International Sea Turtle Society’s annual symposium in 1981. They served as hosts of three of the early gatherings and worked successfully to increase international participation in the organization.

Richardson has advised national and international government agencies and conservation organizations about sea turtle conservation. He was the first director of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network and has served as endangered species specialist with the state of Georgia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. National Park Service and the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service and as a scientific adviser for the Republic of Palau’s Division of Marine Resources.

He also is known as a talented teacher who has inspired countless students to pursue science and conservation careers. He has been honored by his colleagues at the Odum School and by UGA for outstanding teaching on several occasions.

In 1998, Richardson was recognized for his decades of teaching and conservation efforts with endangered sea turtles with the title of Officer of the Order of the Golden Ark by H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands in an investiture ceremony held at Paleis Soestdijk, Netherlands.

For more information on the Odum School of Ecology, see