Noel Pavlovic, a researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Lake Michigan
Ecological Research Station, is this year’s recipient of the prestigious
Paul H. Douglas Award, presented by Save the Dunes to persons who
demonstrate outstanding service to the cause of preserving and protecting
the Indiana Dunes.
The honor is named for the former U.S. Sen. Paul Douglas, D-Ill., without
whose efforts there would be no Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
“In the past, this award has been given to volunteers, but this year Save
the Dunes shifted its focus,” the organization said in a statement released
on Monday. “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 U.S.
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,” Save the Dunes Executive Director
Nicole Barker said. “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,” Barker joked.
Pavlovic has worked at the USGS Lake Michigan Ecological Research Station
for more than 30 years. He was born in Pennsylvania and later moved with his
parents to West Virginia where his father was a professor of physics.
Pavlovic was encouraged by his parents to explore the path of scientific
discovery. He attended Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., 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.
Pavlovic later 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 30 years of scientific investigation in the Dunes, Noel has undertaken
many studies 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,” the statement said. “He
and his wife Sarah raised two fine and adventuresome environmentalists,
Nathan and Emily. Dr. Pavlovic is considered 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.”
“Noel is a living, breathing encyclopedia of the plants of the Dunes and
their ecology,” said Dr. Ralph Grundel, who has worked alongside Dr.
Pavlovic for over 21 years at the U.S. Geological Survey.