2022 Seattle Aquarium Ocean Conservation Honors: Recognizing Greatness in Leadership

A large sea star clinging to a rock underwater.

Since 2004, the Seattle Aquarium has honored the work of extraordinary people with these prestigious awards that celebrate their accomplishments. Our annual Ocean Conservation Honors dinner raises the visibility of ocean conservation, highlighting and celebrating the honoree’s aspirations and impact, and sharing the passion for the work and the difference our actions make on behalf of ocean health.

This year, in the interest of health and safety, we’ll be celebrating our honorees through a series of blog posts with hope that we can resume our traditional dinner next year. 

The Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award honors individuals who are leaders and innovators in conservation research, with a particular focus on climate change, plastic pollution, sustainable fisheries and tourism, marine protected areas and socioeconomics. Special consideration is given for researchers working on projects in the Salish Sea or Coral Triangle, who have a special connection to the Seattle Aquarium, and those with strong educational or science communication elements to their work.

Dr. Zhenyu Tian is the recipient of this year’s Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award. Growing up in Bejiing, Dr. Tian was well-acquainted with air pollution at an early age. His curiosity about it led him to study organic pollutants and become an environmental chemist. Today, his research work at the Center for Urban Waters, University of Washington Tacoma, is responsible for identifying the chemical believed to be killing local salmon.

The Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal honors individuals whose leadership and lifetime accomplishments reflect and advance the mission of the Seattle Aquarium: Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment. Formerly the Seattle Aquarium Medal, the award was renamed in 2018, after we presented Dr. Sylvia Earle with our first Seattle Aquarium Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Lisa Graumlich has dedicated her career to the study of global warming and its effect on our oceans, making her the ideal recipient of this year’s Seattle Aquarium Sylvia Earle Medal. Dr. Graumlich, a paleoclimatologist (someone who studies ancient climates), serves as dean emeritus for the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, studying the connection between ecosystems and humans. She’s testified before the U.S. House of Representatives presenting her pioneering work in dendrochronology, the study of tree rings and their relation to climate.

If you’d like to learn more about (and see!) Lisa and Zhenyu’s work, check back soon for our upcoming Q&A blog posts with each of them. 

It’s a pleasure and privilege to celebrate our 2022 award recipients and we look forward to introducing you to them through our in-depth interviews coming soon. 


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