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Honoring Research Fishery Biologist Dr. Joan Browder

July 05, 2024

As part of the Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, we’re honoring Dr. Joan Browder.

A large group of people gathered at the shoreline of a beach in a black and white photo. Dr. Joan Browder among Southeast Fisheries Science Center staff in Miami, Florida. Joan is standing between the third and fourth kneeling person from the right side. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Joan Browder led a distinguished four-decade career at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, where she pioneered many of our scientific programs. She tirelessly applied her considerable expertise in support of Biscayne Bay and Everglades restoration projects. Dr. Browder was a huge part of the success of those programs and the young scientists she mentored. More importantly, she was a kind, genuine, and considerate person. 

In this In Memoriam edition of our Faces of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center series, we hope you enjoy learning more about Joan and the impacts she made throughout her 46-year career.

Meet Joan

A smiling headshot of a woman with silver hair wearing a pink top.
Dr. Joan Browder. Photo courtesy of Joan Browder

Joan was born in Oklahoma and lived in Kansas and Arkansas before moving to Amarillo, Texas, on the panhandle.

Joan obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Amarillo College. She then pursued a Bachelor of Science in Biology, beginning at West Texas State College and finishing at the University of Miami. She remained at the University of Miami to obtain her Master of Science in Biology. Then she attended the University of Florida for a Ph.D. at the School of Environmental Engineering, in the Systems Ecology Program. Joan obtained her Ph.D. under the guidance of Dr. Howard T. Odum, a distinguished ecologist. For both her master’s and doctoral degrees, Joan studied cattle egrets and wood storks. Her dissertation was titled "Water, Wetlands, and Wood Storks in Southwest Florida.”

Prior to coming to the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Joan was a research assistant professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. She was then hired by the center, initially to write fishery management plans. From there, her work expanded to leading ecological research to inform restoration planning in South Florida’s ecosystems. 

Joan’s Work

During Joan’s accomplished career at the center, her work included research on:

A woman, young boy, and man stand happily in wetlands in an old black and white photo.
Dr. Joan Browder (left) in the field. Photo courtesy of Joan’s son, Monte Browder.

Numerous Notable Achievements

Black and white magnified photos of a diatom.
Proschkinia browderiana, the diatom named after Dr. Joan Browder. Credit: European Journal of Phycology

One of her most notable legacies was created when the scientific community named a new species of diatom— a type of algae—in her honor. Among her many achievements, Joan received the 2016 Robert Porter Allen Award from Florida Audubon for protecting Florida Bay through science. She was named a “Dame of the Everglades”—an honor shared with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas—by the Everglades Foundation for her contribution to Everglades restoration. 

Joan also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition posthumously. The Biscayne Bay Watershed Management Advisory Board also named the Joan Browder Wetlands Protection Plan in her honor.

In an oral history interview from 2022, Dr. Joan Browder discussed her work in the field and its impact on Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. In addition to following her early life and initial interest in birding, Joan discussed her research on water levels in estuaries and wood stork feeding patterns. Dr. Browder also shared some advice on environmental optimism and the impact of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

Joan passed away in May 2024. She is deeply missed by her friends and colleagues at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and across the marine science community.

A group of smiling people stand displaying a plaque.
Southeast Fisheries Science Center staff gathered to present Joan Browder's son with her lifetime achievement award from the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Last updated by Southeast Fisheries Science Center on July 11, 2024