DURHAM, NC –The Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab (MGEL) at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment has received two international awards in recognition of its work producing innovative GIS-based software tools for marine ecosystem-based management.

The Environmental Science Research Institute (ESRI) presented the MGEL with a Special Award in GIS in a ceremony yesterday at the institute’s annual conference in San Diego.  The Nicholas School lab was selected for the honor out of 100,000 organizations evaluated by the institute.  The lab is the only marine-oriented geospatial software lab chosen to receive a Special Award from the institute this year.

Patrick Halpin, director of MGEL and associate professor of marine geospatial ecology, and research analyst Jason Roberts will accept the award at the conference on behalf of the entire MGEL team.

The lab also has received The Wildlife Society’s 2012 Spatial Ecology and Telemetry Working Group Award for outstanding contributions in marine geospatial ecology tool development.  The society has an international membership of about 10,000.

In citing MGEL as this year’s recipient, James Sheppard, chair of The Wildlife Society’s Spatial Ecology and Telemetry Working Group, noted that the lab’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools, a suite of more than 300 free GIS-based plug-in tools developed by Halpin and his team, have significantly enhanced  the field of wildlife conservation and management.   In addition to Halpin, team members cited by the award are lead MGET developer Jason Roberts, Benjamin Best, Daniel Dunn and Eric Treml, who currently is doing postdoctoral research at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

“We’re honored to receive these awards, which recognizes our work to create tools that allow users to take raw data from NASA satellite imagery and turn it into marine environmental indices and variables that display useful information, such as where endangered species are,” says Halpin.  “NASA most recently funded the development of these tools, so we share this honor with them.”