Dawn Watson and Rob Spray with the Sydney Long Medal

Sydney Long Medal awarded to marine duo

Thursday 13 November, 2014

Norfolk's most prestigious award for naturalists, the Sydney Long Memorial Medal has been jointly awarded to Rob Spray and Dawn Watson for their outstanding contribution to the promotion of marine conservation.

Bill Jordan, president of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, presented the medal at NWT’s recent Annual General Meeting. The medal is awarded jointly by NWT and the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society every two years for an outstanding contribution to the county's natural history.

Chief Executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Brendan Joyce said: “Dawn Watson and Rob Spray have in the last decade done an immense amount to promote the beauty and richness of our local seas and persuade others of the need to protect this rich and precious habitat. They have been strong advocates for the need to conserve and protect biodiverse areas in the North Sea. Importantly, their work has provided the essential scientific basis for the conservation bodies to put the Cromer Shoal Chalk Beds forward as a Marine Conservation Zone.”

As area co-ordinators for Seasearch they have involved and helped to train other amateur divers to contribute to wildlife recording. They have also worked with marine specialists in the Natural History Museum and other institutions to document the flora, fauna and geology. This has led to many important discoveries including a purple sponge new to science.

Chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society, Tony Leech added: “Dawn and Rob have made a considerable contribution to our knowledge of the seas off the Norfolk coast. In particular, their exploration by scuba diving of the chalk reef between Cley and Trimingham, a hitherto neglected habitat, has led to a realisation that we have the longest chalk reef anywhere in Europe. Their photography has brought this inaccessible underwater world to a much wider public and we are delighted to award them the medal for 2014.”

On receiving the medal, Rob Spray said: “We’re very privileged just to be mentioned in the inspiring company of previous medal holders. Diving on the chalk reef is a pleasure and it is enormously heartening that by sharing our wonder Norfolk has really started to take pride in this beautiful feature. We see the medal as an endorsement of its importance and hope it can take its place amongst the county’s many other wildlife havens. If it didn’t gain protection as an MCZ it would be an absolute travesty, it must be secured for all who will appreciate it in the future.”

The medal is awarded in recognition of Dr Sydney Long, founder of the Norfolk Naturalists Trust in 1926, now the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who died in 1939.
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