2013 Ulysses S. Seal Award given to Dr. Lee Simmons

Dr. Lee G. Simmons has been named the 2013 recipient of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) Ulysses S. Seal Award. This award is given to those who exemplify innovation in applying science to conservation.

Ulysses S. Seal was the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group’s founder and first chair. Ulysses S. Seal’s passion and talent was his creative thinking about how new science could be most effectively applied to solving the problems of wildlife conservation. His contributions were amplified by his further ability to recognize, encourage and collaborate with others who were also making such innovative contributions. Since Seal’s death ten years ago, CBSG has honored his legacy through the awarding of the Ulysses S. Seal Award for Innovation in Conservation to an individual who embodies similar qualities.

Dr. Onnie Byers, CBSG Chair said, “Dr. Simmons has influenced the development and progress of conservation through his innovations, his recognition of promising new ideas and his support for the people behind those ideas. His influence will continue through the countless professional colleagues, researchers and zoo visitors he has inspired around the world.”

Some of the projects and ideas that led to Dr. Simmons’ award include:

1. Dr. Simmons’ drive for safer and more reliable ways to anesthetize animals in captivity, as well as in situ, led to his creation of a number of different drug delivery systems that are still in use today.

2. His early recognition of the value of research for conservation, and his willingness to allow hands-on research with Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s collection led to advances the fields of reproductive science and molecular genetics.

3. His support for the Zoo’s genetics department helped make possible the Zoo’s comprehensive program in Madagascar which includes the discovery of 21 new lemur species.

4. Under Dr. Simmons’ mentorship and support, ferns, extinct in the wild, were propagated in Omaha and returned to their natural range in Bermuda and thousands of rare Malagasy orchids have been reintroduced to their natural habitats.

5. Most recently, responding to the IUCN’s urgent call for the international zoo community’s assistance in the face of the amphibian extinction crisis, Dr. Simmons led Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium design and construction of a cutting-edge facility for captive assurance populations.

Dr. Simmons said, “Of all the awards and honors it has been my good fortune to receive, this is very, very special and means a great deal to me because I had the good fortune to work closely with Ulie for 35 years on conservation projects in many sites in the United States and in more than a dozen countries.”

Dr. Simmons joined Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in 1966 as Staff Veterinarian and became Executive Director in 1970, a position he retained for almost 40 years until his retirement in 2009 when he became Chairman of the Omaha Zoo Foundation.