Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 16, 2022


Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 522-3681,
Jim Williams, (352) 672-7298,

Southeast Freshwater Champion Receives 2022 E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Award

Jim Williams Wins Award for Outstanding Science, Advocacy

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Jim Williams, Ph.D, an icon of research and advocacy for endangered species in the American Southeast, is the 2022 recipient of the Center for Biological Diversity’s annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation.

“The rivers of the Southeast and the vast diversity they harbor have had a lifelong and tireless champion in Jim Williams,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director at the Center. “It’s a joy for us to recognize his monumental contribution to describing and protecting freshwater species.”

As a biologist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Endangered Species, Williams wrote many of the earliest Endangered Species Act listing decisions for freshwater mussels and fishes, including the snail darter declared recovered earlier this year. He went on to become chief of the biodiversity branch of the Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey.

“E.O. Wilson’s call for scientists to act to protect biodiversity resonated with my own passion for safeguarding underappreciated wildlife,” said Williams. “I am honored to receive this award named for a fellow Alabaman naturalist and nature defender.”

A force to be reckoned with well into his retirement, Williams continues to advocate for endangered species, dam removal, better invasive-species control, and scientific integrity.

Williams is a primary author of the key tomes describing the diversity of the Southeast, including “Freshwater Mussels of Alabama and the Mobile Basin,” “Freshwater Mussels of Florida,” and “Fishes in the Fresh Waters of Florida.” He volunteers with the Florida Museum of Natural History, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, and is active with conservation groups like the Southeastern Fishes Council.

In 2011 Williams was awarded the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2000 he was honored with the American Fisheries Society Distinguished Service Award.


The Center presents the E.O. Wilson Award annually to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to conservation. It is named after renowned scientist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University, known as “the father of biodiversity.” Wilson’s career was focused on inspiring people to understand and protect plant and animal diversity worldwide, and he was the world’s leading authority on ants.

The E.O Wilson Award consists of a handcrafted metal ant sculpture by Anne Bujold of Riveted Rabbit Studio, along with a $1,000 cash prize.

The seven previous recipients of the award were Naomi Fraga for her advocacy for plants, ornithologist and poet J. Drew Lanham for his work to make conservation more relevant and inclusive, Rebecca Hernandez for advancing sustainable renewable energy; the late Lincoln Brower for monarch butterfly conservation; Aradhna Tripati for groundbreaking research on climate change; Tyrone Hayes for safeguarding people and wildlife from pesticides; and the late James Deacon for protecting freshwater desert species.

(From left to right) E.O. Wilson, Herbert Boschung, and Jim Williams in 2014. Credit: C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr. Image is available for media use.
2022 E.O. Wilson Award for Biodiversity Conservation statue.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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