Two Gladys Porter Zoo personnel receive 2014 Harte’s Heroes Award

Two Gladys Porter Zoo personnel receive 2014 Harte’s Heroes Award
Gladys Porter Zoo

POSTED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 8:00pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 8:09pm

The Gladys Porter Zoo is proud to announce that two staff members, Dr. Patrick M. Burchfield, Zoo Director, and Luis Jaime Peña, Curator of Conservation Programs, were each bestowed the prestigious Harte’ Heroes Award.

Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) selected six recipients for their annual Harte’s Heroes Award. The award, presented annually to commemorate World Oceans Day, recognizes individuals and groups that have demonstrated a commitment to protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico. This year, HRI honored those whose efforts have been influential to furthering the recovery of the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

2014 Harte’s Hero award recipient, Dr. Patrick Burchfield, is the Director of the Gladys Porter Zoo as well as the chairman of the Science Advisory Board for Sea Turtle, Inc. at South Padres Island, Texas. Beginning in 1973, he pioneered research for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle and has also been the driving force behind Rancho Nuevo Sea Turtle Project in Tamaulipas, Mexico for more than 30 years. Dr. Burchfield is the coordinator of the United States Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Field Group, which along with Sea Turtle, Inc. has spearheaded the remarkable return of this endangered species.

Luis Jaime Peña, Curator of Conservation Programs for the Gladys Porter Zoo, is another recipient of the 2014 Harte’s Hero Award. In 1987, he made his first trip to the Rancho Nuevo Sea Turtle Camp and worked on nest data management for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. This led to his promotion as the camp’s field crew coordinator. In 2007, Peña became Operations Director for the U.S. Contingent of the Kemp's Ridley Binational Project, which its ultimate goal is to remove the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

“Without the tireless commitment of our ‘Harte’s Heroes’ and other dedicated people and organizations like them, the smallest and rarest of sea turtles would have disappeared from our oceans by now,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, HRI Executive Director.

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