Chattanooga, Tenn. (March 17, 2009) – The Tennessee Wildlife Federation will present their 2009 Conservation Achievement Awards tonight at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville. More than one dozen honorees will be recognized for their exemplary leadership in conserving the natural resources of the state of Tennessee. Among those being honored is Chattanoogan Bill Haley who has been named Conservation Educator of the Year.
When the Tennessee Aquarium opened its doors in 1992, Bill Haley was one of the first to sign up as a volunteer. Less than one year later, Haley shifted gears going from full-time graphic artist to full-time Aquarium educator. Haley’s role at the Aquarium has grown over the years. In 1999, he co-founded the Aquarium’s Bug Club. Since then, Haley has served many roles within the Aquarium’s accredited education department including his present position as education outreach coordinator.
“Mr. Bill,” as everyone has come to know him over the years, is out in the community nearly every day. He brings the fascinating world of nature directly to students by offering fun, interactive outreach programs on topics ranging from “Creepy Crawlies” to lessons focused on freshwater conservation. In the past ten years, Haley has reached over 250,000 people with environmental programs in schools, public libraries and other venues within 125 miles of the Tennessee Aquarium.
When Haley is not on the road or leading children on bug searches as part of the Tennessee Aquarium Future Entomologists, he is busy with other conservation or education efforts.
Haley has been manning the Soddy Mountain Hawk Watch for 14 years. He has also served five years as the Southeastern Regional Coordinator for the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). Haley has helped build a baseline of data on Tennessee’s birds through his 20 years of work with the Tennessee Ornithological Society. He also participates in at least three Audubon Christmas Bird Counts every winter and has done so since 1989.
Haley also shares his love of butterflies with others. He has been actively involved in the North American Butterfly Association for 15 years and is the Lepidoptera and Odonata taxon leader for the local BioBlitz. He also serves on the Board of Directors at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
Ten years ago, Haley realized there wasn’t enough on his plate and he joined the Tennessee Amphibian Monitoring Program, surveying local frog populations, leading others on frog surveys and teaching the art of recognizing well-camouflaged frogs by their call.
Bill Haley doesn’t just talk the talk. He lives his life very simply and inspires conservation in those around him. Since 1985, he has made hand-made, woven baskets from found plant material, mostly invasive species. Each is numbered and labeled so the proud owner can identify its weedy origins. Commonly referred to as his “kudzu baskets,” Haley incorporates other plant material including honeysuckle, wisteria, privet and willow. In 23 years, he has quietly taught more than 500 people the art of eradicating invasive plants through basketry.
Haley walks to work every day from his North Chattanooga home which features a certified wildlife habitat. His yard was number 8,280 of well over 100,000 backyards to be certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
Haley says he is honored to be named Conservation Educator of the Year by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation. He is also touched by the nomination letter which was written by Andrew Boyd, a former Bug Club member and current Aquarium volunteer. “For more than 20 years, Bill has instilled a passion for conservation in young people like me through his classroom programs and mountain top hikes and while wading through streams across Tennessee,” wrote Boyd. “Bill has played a significant role in inspiring my own decision to pursue an education and career in marine biology. He is a true conservation educator in every aspect of his life.”
The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $21.95 per adult and $14.95 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $8.50 per adult and $6.00 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $27.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. Excursions aboard the new River Gorge Explorer depart daily into “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon.” Cruise tickets are $29.00 per adult and $21.50 per child (3-12). Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.