LeRoy Creswell, regional Florida Sea Grant agent for UF/IFAS Extension in the Indian River Lagoon area, has been awarded the inaugural Florida Sea Grant Wheelhouse Award. The award recognizes an individual who has made an important contribution to the management and development of the Florida Sea Grant program.
“I am honored and truly complimented to be the inaugural recipient of the Florida Sea Grant Wheelhouse Award,” Creswell said. “It is gratifying to be part of Florida Sea Grant’s visionary strategic plan.”
In his more than 15 years with Sea Grant, Creswell has managed a volunteer-based program to restore degraded oyster reefs and improve water quality in the Indian River Lagoon. To do so, he partnered with local restaurants that provided used oyster shells to create new oyster reef habitat. Volunteers helped bag and replant the shells while learning about the importance of the filter-feeding oysters to coastal water quality.
“Since the program began in 2009, more than 800 volunteers have participated, enhancing some 28,000 square feet over 14 permitted restoration sites,” said Charles Sidman, Florida Sea Grant associate director of research. “In 2015 alone, Creswell’s oyster habitat outreach program has resulted in the establishment of five new oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon.”
Creswell is a well-known advocate for aquaculture, water quality, and youth and adult environmental education in the area. In 2008, he received the Outstanding Environmental Service Award from the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County, one of the Treasure Coast’s most influential conservation organizations, for his efforts in providing marine education. The group was founded in 1972, and has been instrumental in the acquisition and development of lands for Fort Pierce Inlet State Park and Savannas Preserve State Park.
In the past year, Creswell has developed a series of practical habitat restoration curricula intended to expand the scope of the popular Florida Master Naturalist Program. The curricula offer hands-on learning tutorials that will allow FMNP students to conduct oyster, marshgrass, mangrove and dune restoration activities.
For many years, Creswell has built relationships with fisheries organizations around the state to ensure Florida Sea Grant is included in discussions around fisheries management. Since 2005, he has served on the executive committee and as past president of the National Shellfish Association, receiving the prestigious “Meritorious Award” in 2013, “in appreciation and recognition of his outstanding efforts and leadership on behalf of the NSA.”
Creswell is also the executive secretary of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, an organization that promotes the exchange of current information on the use and management of marine resources in the Gulf and Caribbean region, and past president of the World Aquaculture Society. He currently serves as senior editor of the GCFI Proceedings.
Creswell has been researching the ability to culture ornamental fish and baitfish species and offer new products and market opportunities for the finfish aquaculture industry. He is one of the leaders in implementing the Teach Aquaculture program taught in classrooms across the state to help students improve in science and math while learning aquaculture techniques.
“He is a man who works smartly, strategically and collaboratively with partners and other marine agents to successfully harness financial and human capital in a manner that benefits Florida’s citizens, communities and coastal habitats,” said Sidman. “He helps ensure that Florida Sea Grant remains a program that truly reflects its slogan ‘Science Serving Florida’s Coast,’” Sidman said.
The Wheelhouse Award was donated by Florida Sea Grant marine economics specialist Chuck Adams in memory of his uncle, Richard D. Gallian.