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Ashley Schiff

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Professors Gil Hanson and Malcolm Bowman are awarded the Guardian of the Glade certificate by Paul Siegel, center, for their many years of work to ensure that the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve remains forever wild. Photo from Joe Ryder

By Carolann Ryan

The Fourth Annual “Fire and Water” Party and Membership Reception was held on Thursday, Sept. 24, at Stony Brook University, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve.

This special event was presented by The Friends of Ashley Schiff Park Preserve — a membership organization dedicated to the managing and promoting of the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve — for its educational and research value with students, faculty, staff, and the community.

The reception recognized students and several members of the community for their efforts to continue the legacy of Dr. Ashley Schiff.

Schiff was a dedicated professor of political science and avowed naturalist in the early days of Stony Brook University. In the early fall of 1969, at the age of 37, he died suddenly and unexpectedly. To honor him, in 1970, a 26-acre woodland often walked by Professor Schiff and his students, was set aside and dedicated in his memory to be “forever wild.”

The reception, held at the Simons Center Café on Stony Brook’s campus, began at 5:30 p.m. This year’s awardees included Drs. Susan and Daniel O’Leary, Malcolm Bowman, and Gil Hanson, as well as the presentation of undergraduate scholarships to Stony Brook students involved with promoting the preserve.

Following the welcome and introductions, the awards ceremony commenced.

To begin, two Stony Brook undergraduate students were awarded the 2015 Ashley Schiff Scholarship Awards. Alexandrea Van Loo and Andrew Fiorenza participated in a yearlong project where they installed cameras throughout the nature preserve to detect foot traffic patterns from both humans and animals to determine how much the preserve is used.

This year’s Appreciation Award was presented to Drs. Susan and Daniel O’Leary for their contributed time and resources in efforts to beautify the area surrounding Stony Brook’s psychology building. Both psychology professors at Stony Brook, the O’Learys planted azaleas and spruce trees, the same plants Schiff had planted with his students in 1969 around the then-new Roth Pond. Presenting the award was Schiff’s wife.

The final award of the evening, the Guardians of the Glade, was presented to both Bowman and Hanson. They were recognized for their heroic efforts in raising awareness for the Ashley Schiff Park Preserve. Professor Bowman, who teaches at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook, has worked for more than 15 years writing articles and forming committees in order to raise public awareness about the preserve. Professor Hanson, from the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook, used the preserve as a place to mentor graduate students in their studies of environmental and geological systems on Long Island for many years. These men were honored for keeping Schiff’s legacy alive.

Following the awards, invited guest speaker Carl Safina to speak and sign copies of his book. The ceremony was preceded by a wine and cheese reception. The event was free, but donations were gratefully accepted.

The preserve is located in the southern campus between Roth Quad and the Marine Science Research Center. It can be easily accessed through pathways located across South Loop road from Roth Quad and just north of Nassau Hall, near the Marine Sciences Research Center.

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