The Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the categories at this year's Ocean Awards, recognises an individual that has taken the lead on globally significant actions, such as policy or advocacy initiatives, for the benefit of ocean health, over an extended period of time. The winner of this award will have shown consistent leadership and vision on ocean issues, going above and beyond others in their commitment to protecting marine life.
James Cook University, Australia
A veteran of tropical reef research, Terry Hughes’ impressive career stretches over four decades. His experience encompasses reef ecology, macroecology and evolution, and he is renowned for his research on global coral bleaching.
Hughes is no stranger to accolades either, having been awarded an Einstein Professorship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2014. In 2016 he was recognised by Nature as one of the “10 people who mattered this year” for his leadership in responding to the global coral bleaching event, while 2018 saw him as a joint winner of the John Maddox Prize, awarded by Nature and Sense about Science.
Academia highlights include a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from the John Hopkins University in 1984 for his ground-breaking research on coral life histories, phase-shifts and the resilience of Caribbean coral reefs. In 2001, Hughes was elected to the Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Science for his contribution to coral reef science. He was appointed Professor in 2000 and established the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in 2005. So far, Hughes has published over 140 peer-reviewed publications.
Hughes has also played a key role in international efforts toward the sustainability of marine ecosystems and coral reefs.
Executive director of Beta Diversidad and CODEMAR
Mario Gómez has always been a conservationist dedicated to ocean protection for his entire life. Over two decades, he has devoted much of his time to promoting the declaration of new protected areas in Mexico. This includes his involvement in creating the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas and broader contributions towards ocean protection and public policy.
Chief among his list of titles include executive director for two conservation NGO’s – Beta Diversidad and CODEMAR, based in Mexico. Beta Diversidad focuses its efforts on conserving the flora and fauna of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Mexico, as well as preventing their deterioration in the future. In September 2015, Beta Diversidad created the Coalition in Defence of the Seas (CODEMAR) with the aim of extending its operational scope and focusing a large part of its efforts on the conservation of Mexico’s marine ecosystems. These ecosystems currently suffer considerable deterioration, mainly due to three factors – fishing overexploitation, pollution, and climate change.
Gómez is a lifelong explorer who has been a leading advocate for marine conservation in Mexico for decades. Not only is he a recognised leader for marine conservation in Mexico, but he is well known across the region and respected within the greater international marine community.
Oregon State University, NOAA
A world-renowned environmental scientist with deep experience in science, academia, and government, Jane Lubchenco served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.
During her time there she oversaw a staff of 12,800 employees, a budget of $5 billion and ensured NOAA carried out its mission “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources”. She was both the first woman and marine ecologist to occupy this post.
Lubchenco was an inaugural member of President Obama’s ‘Science Dream Team’ and from 2014 to 2016 she served as the first U.S. Science Envoy for the Ocean. In February 2021, she was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as deputy director for Climate and Environment in the White House. Lubchenco is a marine ecologist and environmental scientist, with expertise in the ocean, climate change, and interactions between the environment and human well-being with an outstanding legacy in science and public policy.
Famously proposing the ‘20 per cent by 2020 phrase’, Lubchenco recently led an influential study of the science of marine reserves. Her findings showed that reserves result in significant increases in abundance, size and diversity of species within the reserve and some of this bounty spills over to the area outside.
The Ocean Awards is held in partnership with Blue Marine Foundation. View all of this year's Ocean Awards finalists here.