The New York Council of Trout Unlimited, a national non-profit that conserves, protects and restores North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds, has given UVM professor Ellen Marsden its 2019 Professional Achievement Award.

The group honored Marsden, a wildlife and fisheries biologist in UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, for her decades-long work studying trout populations in Lake Champlain and sea lampreys, their natural predators.

In a ceremony held in the atrium of the George D. Aiken Center on the UVM campus, Bill Wellman, a board member for the Lake Champlain chapter of the New York Council, made the award, presenting Marsden with a commemorative plaque.

“Dr. Marsden is a fantastic researcher and exemplary teacher and a writer who shares her discoveries and insights freely and generously with everyone from the scientific community to toddlers,” Wellman said. “Her professional achievements have been recognized by the many research grants she has received and by the numerous boards and panels she sits on, ranging from the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission to the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force. It's indeed our pleasure to present this award to an outstanding friend of the fisheries and an outstanding friend of New York State Trout Unlimited.”

“We're very proud of Ellen and the long term impact her research has had on Lake Champlain,” said Nancy Mathews, dean of the Rubenstein School, who participated in the ceremony. “It can be felt from undergraduates going on to their own careers in fisheries to the many academic accolades she’s received to actual changes in policy that result from her work.”

In Marsden’s recent work, she is studying the surprising return of wild lake trout to Lake Champlain.

The Professional Achievement Award is awarded by the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited, with one award available annually to  an outstanding professional in the field of fisheries science and conservation. The award typically is given to high achievers in the fields of fishery conservation, such as academics and professionals in the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Environmental Conservation.

The New York State Council of Trout Unlimited is composed of 36 chapters throughout New York State, with over 8,500 members. Marsden was nominated by the Lake Champlain Chapter, located in Plattsburgh N.Y.  Trout Unlimited is America’s oldest and largest cold water conservation organization.

Text of New York Council of Trout Unlimited Professional Achievement Award

Dr. Ellen Marsden has made significant and long-lasting contributions to New York State’s fish and their habitat by her exemplary scholarship, leadership and academic prowess.  Her career is one that has contributed in full measure to the knowledge of the ecology of Lake Champlain, New York State, and the nation as a whole.

Since joining the faculty at the University of Vermont in 1996, Dr. Marsden has made continuous and major contributions to the scientific knowledge of the fisheries of the Great Lakes, and especially to Lake Champlain.  She has been at the forefront of advancing fisheries knowledge on native species restoration efforts and the pernicious influences of invasive species.   Her work has been determinative in examining and explaining the fundamental aspects that regulate ecological structure in large lakes and their dynamics. 

Especially important for New York State conservationists and cold-water anglers, her work has helped unravel the secrets of how lake trout are reproducing in Lake Champlain despite high levels of thiaminase in their diets.  She has been a leader in restoration efforts for this fish utilizing artificial reefs.    Her efforts have contributed significantly to the survival and restoration of this fish in Lake Champlain and in other major water bodies. 

Of equal importance to our fisheries, and to North Country anglers, has been Dr. Marsden’s pioneering work in the modeling of sea lamprey life cycle dynamics in Lake Champlain. This predator has wreaked havoc on generations of lake trout and Atlantic salmon, and at various times has imperiled years of restoration efforts for both species.  Dr. Marsden’s work in this area has yielded major advances in understanding this invader and in developing new approaches to sea lamprey control.  This has been a major advance, not only for Lake Champlain, but also for other major water bodies, such as the Great Lakes and throughout the United States and Canada. 

Dr. Marsden is a fantastic researcher, an exemplary teacher, and a writer who shares her discoveries and insights with others in the scientific community and beyond freely and generously.   Author of over 119 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, she has advised over 23 graduate students and PhD candidates in their academic growth.  Her professional acumen is recognized by the many grants she has received to further the conduct of her research, her many professional achievements as a member of numerous boards and panels, ranging from the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission to the Aquatic Species Nuisance Species Task Force Ballast Water Program Effectiveness and Adequacy Criteria Committee. 

Any such outstanding professional should be recognized by her peers by suitable awards.  Such is indeed the case. Dr. Marsden had received numerous awards from her peers for her outstanding research and the exemplary manner in which it is presented.

The most recent of these major awards was the prestigious Christie-Loftus Award from the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, received in 2019.  In presenting this award, Commissioner Dr. Bill Taylor, of Michigan State University, noted that “Dr. Marsden’s work has, for more than three decades, been at the forefront of science in both the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain Basins.” 

Dr. Marsden is no cloistered academic, unfamiliar with the real world that anglers and conservationists inhabit.  She is a frequent and applauded speaker at our Trout Unlimited chapter, with her presentations drawing some of our largest and most enthusiastic audiences.

Dr. Marsden portrays the best and the brightest in both our academic and conservationist worlds.  Her dedication, talents, and outstanding contributions to fisheries science and to Trout Unlimited make her a most worthy recipient of the 2019 New York State Council of Trout Unlimited Professional Achievement Award.


Jeffrey R. Wakefield