Duane Nelson, a Corps' contractor at John Martin Dam and Reservoir, received the Rich G. Levad Award Aug. 25 from members of the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (RMBO) near Barr Lake, Colo. The award was presented by the widow of Rich Levad, Karen Lavad, a noted field biologist for whom the award is named. The purpose of the award is to recognize the efforts of individuals who have provided distinguished service, made scholarly contributions, or have shown great enthusiasm regarding bird and habitat conservation throughout the Rocky Mountain Region.

Nelson, a biologist, began working as a contractor with the Corps at John Martin in 2002. Prior to that, he worked for Colorado Division of Wildlife between 1995 and 2002 and RMBO from 1990 to 1993, and all the while he was monitoring endangered and threatened bird species at John Martin, specifically the piping plover and the least tern.

As a Corps' contractor, Nelson spends his time clearing invasive plants from an 8-acre area. In order to successfully breed, both the plover and least tern need sparse shoreline conditions. In fact, Nelson's project is the focus of work that will be done as part of National Public Lands Day at John Martin on Sept. 29. Volunteers will be asked to help continue removal of invasive species along the shoreline in preparation for the 2013 nesting season.

"The result of his effort is astonishing," said Project Manager Karen Downey. "In the 2012 nesting season, we estimate that half of all of the two endangered species nested in this particular area, and eight young plovers and five young terns were found. If not for Duane's committed efforts, it is possible that these birds would no longer be found in Colorado."