VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation recently selected Mark Swingle as the 2023 recipient of the Mary Reid Barrow Wildlife Advocate Award as part of the 13th annual Winter Wildlife Festival.

This award honors someone who contributed by celebrating, advocating and educating others about wildlife.

According to a press release, Swingle trained as a marine biologist and found ways to bridge the gap between scientists, the community and policymakers.

Swingle helped create the Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Program, which has helped over 100,000 stranded sea turtles and marine mammals.

He also assisted in the development of the Sensible Seafood Program and the Aquarium’s Green Team, which helped the Aquarium become one of the state’s first Virginia Green Facilities.

Swingle has retired from the Aquarium but continues his advocacy work with several groups by organizing clean-ups, contributing to conservation projects and efforts that benefit marine life.