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10 Local Eco Leaders Honored in Corpus Christi

Coastal Bend Bays Foundation honors people who work to protect the Gulf Coast and its environs from pollution. Here, volunteers collect and count plastic straws and lids from local beaches. Prizes were given to the volunteers who collected the most. Courtesy photo

Winners of the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s 17th annual Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Awards will be honored at the foundation’s annual Stewardship Environmental Awards Banquet from 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday, November 12, at the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center, 402 Harbor Drive in Corpus Christi.

The awards recognize outstanding Coastal Bend residents, educators, businesses, governing bodies, and other organizations for their significant contributions to habitat conservation, enhancement, protection, restoration, or preservation of the Coastal Bend’s natural resources. Honorees are also chosen for their work educating the region’s youths and adults about the importance and value of their natural surroundings.

Honored this year are:

Legacy Award

Dr. Wes Tunnell

Professor of biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and endowed chair of Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. He established the Center for Coastal Studies at TAMU-CC and was the heart and soul of the Harte Research Institute.

“He was passionate about science with an unrivaled work ethic, from the academic programs he built to the countless lives he influenced,” reads the foundation’s statement on Tunnell. “Wes’s contributions to the scientific community will be felt for generations to come.”

President’s Award

David Sikes

Outdoors journalist covering the Coastal Bend, formerly for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and currently for the SouthJetty in Port Aransas and other publications. Sikes focuses on conservation issues, including the promotion of freshwater inflows into Texas estuaries, youth recruitment into the outdoors, red snapper management, seagrass protection, reopening of Cedar Bayou, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries management strategies.

President’s Award

The Suter Family

Over the years, Pat and Hans Suter and son Hal have put in thousands of volunteer hours protecting the Coastal Bend environment in several nonprofit organizations. Involvement includes the Coastal Bend Sierra Club, Coastal Bend Audubon Society, Coastal Bend Bays Foundation, and Corpus Christi Botanical Society, among others. A city park, the Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge on Ennis Joslin, was named in their honor.

“The Suters were instrumental in protecting Oso Creek from industrial development,” reads the foundation media release. “Pat Suter, a retired professor of chemistry, has set a high bar for present-day and future environmentalists.”

Coastal Steward, Volunteer

Cliff Schlabach, Surfrider Foundation

Texas Coastal Bend Chapter

Chair for the Surfriders chapter in Corpus Christi. He is involved with several environmental boards and established a partnership with the Surfrider Foundation and the Make Promises Happen Organization of Oklahoma, creating a surf camp for people with disabilities. He aids in at least five beach cleanups per year, partnering with the Big Shell beach cleanup, Adopt-A-Beach, and others.

“Cliff is a stellar steward of the environment,” wrote the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation. “He genuinely cares about the protection of our natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.”

Coastal Steward, Professional

Colleen Simpson

Has worked in environmental education in the Coastal Bend for almost 10 years, first with the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, then with Oso Bay Wetlands, and now with the city of Port Aransas as the Parks and Recreation director. A leader in Port Aransas' Skip the Plastic movement, she works to make Port Aransas a premiere Bird City in the state of Texas. Her efforts are also focused on keeping a healthy habitat by removing invasive plants, fostering nesting areas, and more.

Coastal Community

FlatsWorthy Inc., founded by Chuck Naiser

A nonprofit organization focused on conservation and the fishing community. Members promote responsible behavior of anglers and fishermen stakeholders on the coastal habitat of South Texas through community outreach and peer-to-peer learning about respecting coastal vegetation habitat for fish conservation.

“Chuck’s intuitive sense of the links between coastal ecosystem conservation and the well-being of the fishing and guiding community continues to inspire those young and old to engage in sustainable behavior in our coastal habitat,” wrote the foundation.

Nonprofit Organization

Toby Globy Inc., Humberto Almaraz

Creator of Toby Globy Inc. in 1991. The program features earth-loving mascot Toby Globy, who teaches simple environmental and ecological awareness and solutions to students in prekindergarten through the second grade. The program teaches conscientiousness, responsibility, and respect for the ecosystem.

“Not every child will become an environmental scientist, (but) every child can be an environmentalist, and indeed, make a big difference,” Almarez said.

“Alvarez has a passion and dedication to teach children and their families the critical need of water conservation and environmental stewardship,” wrote the foundation.

Education – K-12

Janice Ainbinder

Flour Bluff Intermediate School

Flour Bluff Intermediate School science teacher. She goes beyond providing kids concepts and tools for learning science to instill the realization that science is everywhere and all the time: Science never takes a break.



A key leader in supporting environmental projects over the past year, including a cleanup on San Jose Island. The company has designed and built large structures at the Amos Rehabilitation Keep at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute to help in the rehabilitation of raptors along the Coastal Bend of Texas.


Transformation Scuba

Dr. Mark McNamara

Started the Project AWARE, Dive Against Debris initiative in 2015 as a way to spread awareness and fight the global problem of marine debris, especially ghost fishing gear. Since its inception, more than 400 pounds of debris have been collected. A local scuba instructor, McNamara teaches people to explore the aquatic world with a focus on conservation.

“His slogan, ‘Transform Yourself-Transform Your Ocean,’ embodies his spirit of teaching divers to love and protect our imperiled ocean planet,” wrote the foundation. “Dr. McNamara gives a portion of the proceeds from every scuba certification to Project AWARE to further support marine conservation efforts on an international level.”

Maclovio Perez, Broadcast Meteorologist for KRIS TV, will serve as master of ceremonies for the November 12 event. Special guest speaker is Eddie Wilcut, team leader of Water and Energy Efficiency Services with Alan Plummer Associates.

The evening begins with drinks, appetizers, and bidding on silent auction items, featuring Southwest Airline tickets, jewelry, and outdoor gear. A drawing will be held for a one-day guided Nilgai Hunt on King Ranch valued at $2,350, a Yeti cooler valued at $400, and Nikon binoculars valued at $270.

Tickets are available online at or by calling CBBF at 361-882-3439. General admission tickets are $50, Friend of the Bay tickets are $100, and sponsored tables start at $1,000.

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