Dr. JoAnn Burkholder, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, is the 2009 recipient of the Joint Award for Service to the Environment and Society. The award is given annually by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Natural Resources.
Burkholder, a professor of plant biology and adjunct professor in marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, has made major discoveries from freshwaters to marine coasts. She was the co-discoverer of Pfiesteria, a toxic fish-killing microbe. That discovery a decade ago led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide $220 million to help North Carolina farmers in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary reduce nutrient pollution to surface waters from agricultural runoff. She also discovered that nitrate pollution can kill Zostera marina, the most important aquatic plant habitat species in brackish waters of the northern hemisphere.
As director of the Center for Applied Aquatic Ecology, Burkholder oversaw the design and implementation of the first series of automated platforms for research and monitoring of the state’s estuaries. She developed the N.C. Floating Classroom Program aboard the RV Humphries, the UNC system’s only Coast Guard-certified oceanographic ship. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and recipient of the AAAS Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award, among many others.