Connecticut Audbon Society
CT Audubon Society Annual Report

The 2023 Dave Engelman Volunteer Benchmark Award: George Amato

George Amato holds the plaque given to him by Board Chair Pamela Fraser, left, for the annual Dave Engelman Volunteer Benchmark Award. Interim Executive Director Joyce Leiz is on the right. Photo by Tomas Koeck.

November 4, 2023 — The Board of Director’s of the Connecticut Audubon Society honored George Amata with its annual Dave Engelman Volunteer Benchmark Award, at the organizations annual meeting today in Fairfield.

George chairs the Milford Point Coastal Center’s regional board, and is a member of Connecticut Audubon’s Board of Directors.

Pamela Fraser, Ph.D., presented the award, which the Board gives annually to one or more people whose volunteer activity has significantly enhanced the organization’s mission. 

The award is named in memory of the late Dave Engelman, a member of the Board of Directors, who epitomized the characteristics of an extraordinary volunteer by helping Connecticut Audubon grow both in spirit and as an organization. 

George’s friend and fellow board member, Gilles Carter, wrote the following appreciation of George’s work, his dedication, his temperament, and his personality.

George Amato’s beaming smile and his readiness to answer virtually any question about birds and the natural world are well-known to visitors to the Coastal Center at Milford Point. For anyone who wants to know which birds have been seen near the Coastal Center building, on the sandbar, or in the Wheeler Marsh, there has been no more reliable or conscientious source. He is legendary at the Coastal Center for having visited every day for a year and then filing eBird reports for every visit: 365 days in a row. 

George Amato peers into one of the Coastal Center’s Purple Martin nest gourds. George serves as chair of the Coastal Center’s regional board. Checking and maintaining martin nests in just one of many of his volunteer activities.

That kind of steadfastness is not an accident. George is director emeritus of genomics for the American Museum of Natural History, and was formerly director of conservation and science at the Wildlife Conservation Society. His research was literally globe-spanning. 

A longtime Milford resident, George serves as chair of the Coastal Center Regional Board and as a member of Connecticut Audubon’s state Board. He is a leader in our work to transform the newly-acquired Stratford Point preserve into a center for conservation research. He has worked diligently on Connecticut Audubon’s efforts towards greater diversity. His board-building and fundraising abilities have helped secure the Coastal Center’s finances. His steady observations and recommendations have helped improve buildings and grounds.  

All of which is not to overlook his willingness to roll up his sleeves and pull on work gloves. No one has worked harder, though often quietly, to help protect the important nesting grounds on site. He is part of a team that prepares, cleans, and monitors the Coastal Center’s thriving Purple Martin colony. When debris or trash needs to be picked up from the beach or marsh grasses, George is there to help. 

The Connecticut Audubon Society has been a grateful beneficiary of this remarkably knowledgeable and cheerful conservation advocate. As every state board member, Coastal Center board member, and staff member will aver, George is a relentlessly hard-working ambassador for Connecticut Audubon and for conservation. His devotion is unparalleled. For this, we thank him.  — Gilles Carter 

 Gilles Carter serves as a member of the executive committee of Connecticut Audubon’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Coastal Center regional board.

Here are the previous winners or the award:

Recipients of the Dave Engelman Volunteer Benchmark Award 
1993:Paul van der Stricht
 Robert Braun
 Uli Hellman
1994:Gloria Barnes
1995:John Tierney
1996:W. Bradley Morehouse
1997:Ann G. Wasmer
 Fred Sibley
1998:Katherine DeWitt
 Richard King
1999:Wright Montgomery
2000:Hugh Smith
2001:Marilyn Duda (Connecticut Audubon Society staff)
2002:Leslie Carothers
2003:Karla Strickland
2004:Dave Engelman
2005:George C. Cartwright
2006:Mrs. Lucie Warren
 Milan Bull (Connecticut Audubon Society staff)
2007:Peter and Carleen Kunkel
 Duffy Schade
2008:Lorne Wilson
 Judy Harper (Connecticut Audubon  Society staff)
2009:Wendell & Alison Davis
 Judith F. Richardson
 Carl Trichka
2010:Benjamin Williams
2011Ross and Barbara Strickland
2012Fred Schroeder
 Carrie Shelton
2013Philip W. Stein
 James G. Denham

Phil Donahue


Toshia Barnett


Diana Atwood Johnson


Walter “Sandy” Sanstrom
Jerid O’Connell
Kathleen Hart
George Dewey
Lawrence J. Lunden

 2017Louise Crocco (Connecticut Audubon  Society staff)
Richard Telford
 Dan Miller
 D.G. Warner
2018Ralph Wood
 Charles Stebbins
 Karen Cowperthwaite
 Read about the 2018 winners here.
2019Charles N. Watson
 Karen Forbes
 Joyce Gillon
 Sandra Brown
 Read about the 2019 winners here.
2020Eleanor Perkins Robinson
 Michael Aurelia
 Frank Mantlik
 Tricia Gregory
 Read about the 2020 winners here.
2021Lori Romick
 Misty Beyer
 Jim Sherwonit
 Tyler Luciani
 Shawn Bay
 Read about the 2021 winners here.
2022Jeanne C. Olivier
 Read aboout the 2022 winner here.
2023George A. Amato





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