Carol Ruckdeschel was named Wild South’s Conservation of the Year. Her lifetime of scientific work on Cumberland Island National Seashore distinguished her from an impressive slate of fellow wilderness warriors. She was noted especially for her work to help defend Cumberland Island’s Wilderness and her 44-year effort to protect the island’s nesting sea turtles.

“Carol is who we all hope to be: an uncompromising, unflinchingly dedicated defender of wild places,” said her presenter at the awards ceremony.

Carol focused her comments on two threats to Cumberland: fire suppression and feral animals. Both are having significant effects on the long-term health of the island.

What is perhaps most inspiring about Carol is how she deflects attention away from herself and toward the island. While she genuinely appreciates the recognition, most important to her is protecting the wild. “I’m selfish,” Carol says. “I can’t help myself. I love what I do. I can’t think of any work that is more fulfilling and more important.”