Freeman Volunteer of the Year Award

This award is named for Robert Mallory Freeman, a former VIMS Council member and supporter who passed away in 2004. Bob was chairman of Signet Bank in Richmond until 1996. He was active with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Environmental Endowment, among many other community leadership activities. At VIMS, Bob was interested in oyster restoration, advancing research with cutting-edge scientific equipment, and helping to leverage resources through his many generous donations.

This year’s Freeman Award goes to Mr. Ed Shepherd, a Yorktown resident, for his exceptional efforts to assist with VIMS’ Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program.

VIMS Dean and Director John Wells and Freeman Volunteer of the Year recipient Ed Shepard.Ed Shepherd is easily recognizable as the “early bird” at many local fishing piers. Ed, however, is more than a fisherman—he also embodies VIMS’ mission of research, education, and advisory service. As a volunteer for the tagging program, Ed has tagged more than 30,000 fishes since 2004. He has been the program’s Top Tagger for the past 8 years and regularly tells people that the tagging program is his “full-time” job, though he retired from the Air Force more than 10 years ago.

Ed volunteers as an expert instructor for the annual workshop for new taggers, who find that his patience and experience make him an appealing and effective tutor. Ed’s expertise extends beyond the classroom as he is often asked to tag and identify other anglers’ catches.

Ed’s frequent interactions with the angling community make him one of the best-known members of our tagging program—a person who leads by example and inspires a conservation ethic in his fellow anglers. Thanks to his outreach, our recapture reporting rate has increased dramatically in areas where anglers previously kept undersized fish.

In addition to his tagging activities, Ed collects data for cooperative research projects such as those for flounder with Mary Fabrizio and speckled trout with Jan McDowell. Ed keeps scientists and anglers up to date by providing regular feedback about recreational catches and environmental conditions.

Ed’s quiet demeanor and knowledge inspire respect and his contributions to the science of the tagging program are unmatched. His commitment to service and science make him a very deserving recipient of the Robert Freeman Volunteer of the Year Award.