Our first-ever Alison Haskell Excellence in Herpetofaunal Conservation Award winner (2011) was Alvin R. "Al" Breisch. Al was the Amphibian and Reptile Specialist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for 26 years until he retired in 2009. He is a current National Co-Chair of PARC, and was a founding member of Northeast PARC.
Al Breisch has fostered herpetofaunal conservation for his entire adult life, through his chosen career with the state of New York, as well as in his participation in multiple groups such as PARC, partnerships with universities and other organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society, mentorship of students of all ages, and leadership in numerous efforts to conserve multiple species of herpetofauna within New York and across the country.
From 1980 to his retirement in 2009, Al was a dedicated and well-respected Senior Wildlife Biologist with the New York State Dept of Environmental Conservation. He served as the Amphibian and Reptile Specialist for the Endangered Species Unit from 1983-2009. In that capacity, Al led state-wide efforts for all aspects of herpetofaunal conservation through research, monitoring, regulatory review, teaching and law enforcement. Some of his many accomplishments include:
- Serving as Project Director of the New York Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project
- Serving as a member of a multi-state team to prepare a Timber Rattlesnake Conservation Action Plan for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS);
- Designing and conducting habitat use studies of bog turtles and separately with Blanding's turtles;
- Coordinating New York State's efforts to document distribution and population status of rare and endangered herpetofauna;
- Assisting the Albany County Office of Natural Resource Conservation with planning and design of New York's first amphibian tunnels, constructed in 1999.
Al may be best known for his role as Mentor. He has provided technical assistance to NYDEC staff, students, faculty, and independent contractors with their field studies of various amphibians and reptiles from throughout the Northeast to Texas and to the West Indies. He has taught at SUNY-Cobleskill and has been an invited speaker to numerous colleges and university classes. He has served as thesis advisor and on graduate student committees at the State University of New York at Albany, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, and Bard College. He has led countless school groups, 4-H clubs, scouts, college classes, as well as his two daughters and now his grandchildren, on field trips to show them the natural world, particularly the herpetofauna he loves.
Conservationists young and old, local and nationally known, and from numerous agencies and organizations, have enjoyed working with, and being inspired by, Al's dedication, expertise, gentle nature, and quiet wit. In his retirement Al continues to oversee several projects including the NYS Amphibian and Reptile Atlas, and on many a rainy night, he can be found near the amphibian tunnels built near his home monitoring their effectiveness. PARC congratulates our "unsung hero" Al Breisch as our first-ever Alison Haskell Award winner.
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