Hugh and Carol Nourse, who have chronicled Georgia wildflowers and other plants in stunning photographs, and the EcoFocus Film Festival, which has raised environmental consciousness in Athens through scores of high quality films, are recipients of the 2014 Alec Little Environmental Award.
The Nourses' books, magazine articles and other publications depict wildflowers and other plants, including many rare and protected species, in dramatic color and detail. The couple was instrumental in inventorying plants in the Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area in southeast Clarke County and have been long-time volunteers for several botanical organizations including the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.
The EcoFocus Film Festival, begun in 2007, has screened numerous films that examine the galaxy of environmental issues and threats, ranging from solid waste management, climate change and urban growth to biodiversity, energy conservation and habitat and species protection. Screenings often are accompanied by commentary from film producers and directors and other environmental experts.
The Alec Little Environmental Award was established in 1991 as the first major prize that recognizes individuals and organizations for environmental responsibility in the Athens area. The award is named for the late John A. (Alec) Little, who worked closely with many environmental organizations in Georgia. Thirty-four people and 16 organizations have received the award since it was first presented in 1992.
Winners of the Alec Little Award are chosen by an advisory board composed of past winners and representatives of the organizations that created the award shortly after Alec Little's death from a heart attack in 1991.
Since retiring from the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business in 1995, Hugh Nourse and his wife Carol have devoted themselves to photographing plants and their habitats in Georgia and throughout the Southeast. Their three books (Wildflowers of Georgia, The State Botanical Garden of Georgia and Favorite Wildflower Walks in Georgia) contain photos, descriptions and habitat locations of hundreds of flowers and other plants. Their photos have appeared in other books and in numerous publications and exhibitions.
They began working in 2001 with a research group at the State Botanical Garden to inventory a 35-acre tract off Barnett Shoals Road that contained a diverse array of plants including rare and endangered species. Later, they were involved in a successful effort to obtain a $750,000 grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to expand the preserve, now known as the Rock and Shoals Outcrop Natural Area, to 57 acres. They have inventoried and photographed virtually every kind of plant in the outcrop.
Hugh Nourse is a past president of the Georgia Botanical Society, and the couple were long-time volunteers for the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. They have volunteered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens for many years and Hugh Nourse is co-leader, with Dale Hoyt, of a weekly "ramble" through the garden. The Nourses have received the Garden's Medal for outstanding service and last year were made honorary lifetime members of the Friends of the Garden.
The EcoFocus Film Festival began in UGA's Odum School of Ecology and is now an independent organization sustained by private sponsorships and support from government and units and individuals at UGA. Under the leadership of Sara Beresford, its director from the beginning, the festival has brought to Athens scores of full-length and short films that deal with a broad range of environmental issues and challenges. Many films have received national and international awards, including Oscar nominations.
In addition to examining environmental problems, many films tell inspirational stories of people and organizations that have worked successfully to achieve environmental improvements in cities and communities around the world. Producers, directors and film personalities often speak about their projects, and screenings also include presentations by experts on an issue portrayed in a film.
The festival spotlights a cluster of films during a three-day screening each spring, and presents individual films throughout the year. Beresford and others also work with local schools and teachers to raise environmental awareness in young people by bringing films to classrooms.
Previous individual winners of the Alec Little Environmental Award are Nancy Lindbloom, Laurie Fowler, Walter Cook, Joan Gould, Leo Smith Jr., Al Ike, Pam McClure, Jere Bowden, Charles Carter, Bud and Mary Freeman, Sigrid Sanders, Dick Field, Melanie Ruhlman, Smith Wilson, Dan Hope, Larry Dendy, Beth Gavrilles, Bob Barker, Nancy Stangle, Skipper StipeMaas, Laura Hall, Russ Page, Elizabeth Little, Maureen O'Brien, Carl Jordan, Suzanne Lindsay, Dorothy O'Neill, Craig Page, Eric Waggoner, Gary Crider, David Berle, and the late Ronnie Lukasiewicz and Charles Aguar.
Previous organization winners are Sandy Creek Nature Center, the Broad River Watershed Association, the Community Tree Council, the UGA Environmental Law Association, the Creek Kids, the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society, the Athens Grow Green Coalition, the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, the Athens Land Trust, Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission, BikeAthens, the Oconee River Land Trust, R.E.M., the Newland Family Foundation, the UGA Go Green Alliance and the Hill First Baptist Church Garden Team.
The late University of Georgia ecologist Eugene Odum received a lifetime achievement award.