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NOAA Scientist Awarded Commerce Department’s Top Honor for Innovative Whale Research


David Wiley, research coordinator for Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, has been awarded a Gold Medal by the Secretary of Commerce for his leadership in designing and implementing innovative research projects to protect endangered whales in and around the sanctuary.

The Gold Medal is the Commerce Department’s highest honorary award, presented annually for distinguished performance in support of the department’s critical objectives.

Wiley’s groundbreaking research led to the relocation of shipping lanes within the sanctuary and the world’s first real-time system for notifying ships about the locations of whales in their paths. The estimated risk of ships striking whales while using the shipping lanes in the sanctuary has been reduced by 81 percent, including a 58 percent reduction in risk to critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary supports a rich assortment of marine life, including marine mammals, more than 30 species of seabirds, more than 60 species of fishes, and hundreds of marine invertebrates and plants.

Wiley has worked with fishermen to redesign fishing gear to reduce the risk of whale entanglement and pioneered methods to successfully rescue mass stranded whales and dolphins. His techniques are being adopted by NOAA in southern California, and interest has been expressed in replicating his efforts internationally.

"Dr. Wiley is one of the most innovative and dedicated scientists I have met in my career,” said Craig MacDonald, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary superintendent. “Couple that with his extraordinary ability to team and partner with others, and his steadfast focus on mission objective, and you have a formula for great leadership success."

Dave Gold Medal
Joanne Flanders, Ellen Clark, Lauri MacLaughlin & Dave Wiley

Wiley received his PhD in Environmental Studies from Antioch University with a focus on environmental decision-making and conservation biology. He has been investigating the marine environment for over 20 years, and his research has appeared in numerous scientific journals such as Conservation Biology, Animal Behavior, Environmental Management, and Fishery Bulletin.

Dave tag boat  

Wiley is past recipient of a Switzer Environmental Leadership Award, a Gulf of Maine Visionary Award, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Human Hero award, and was a 2007 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Employee of the Year. Wiley and other NOAA honorees will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on November 19.

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