Nomination Period is Open. Link At Bottom
Each year at the annual MACNA conference, MASNA presents an award to the person who is considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the marine aquarium hobby. This person is nominated by marine aquarium hobbyists around the world.
The MASNA Aquarist of the Year Award started in 1995, when industry leaders recognized the need for an award to honor those who are helping shape and influence the marine aquarium hobby.
The first Aquarist of the Year Award was presented to Mr. Martin Moe, Jr. for his continued dedication and service to the marine aquarium hobby. It was awarded on September 15, 1995 at MACNA VII, hosted by the Louisville Marine Aquarium Society (LMAS) in Louisville, Kentucky.
A list of all the MASNA Aquarist of the Year award winners can be found on the left side of this page.
The 2016 MASNA Aquarist of the Year
In 2016, Joe Yaiullo was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
Joe received this award due to his continued support of the hobby as well as his pioneering efforts in establishing public aquaria outreach through his 20,000-gallon reef tank at the Long Island Aquarium. Joe remains actively involved in promoting reef keeping and working with hobbyists, he also served as president of the Long Island Reef Association (LIRA) for 12 years.
As a kid, Joe spent much of his childhood maintaining home aquariums and exploring the marine life surrounding Long Island, New York. Now he gets paid to basically do what he did as a kid and has been keeping reef tanks for over 29 years.
Joe earned a B.S. in Marine Science from LIU Southampton College’s marine science program, and worked for 8 years (1987-1995) at the NY Aquarium in Brooklyn, New York as Senior Aquarist. Starting in 1987, Joe pioneered what is now common practice in reef keeping today and upped his game in 1993 with the establishment of a 1400-gallon reef tank, which at the time was the largest successful reef tank in the Western Hemisphere. In 1992, he began to shape his plan for a world-class aquarium on Long Island’s East End. In 2000, after toiling for eight long years, his plans and vision became a reality with the opening of Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead, NY (now known as the Long Island Aquarium). On that day, the public was able to see his 20,000-gallon reef tank, which was the largest closed system reef tank in the Western Hemisphere, and second largest in the world at that time. In 2003, Joe was awarded The Distinguished Alumni Award from Southampton College for his contributions to the community.
Joe, an admitted “Coralaholic”, currently feeds his ever increasing addiction with nurturing his 20,000 gallon reef tank, which contains corals that date back over 26 years. While he has admitted his addiction, he has no plans of seeking a cure and enjoys talking with reef keepers from around the world.
Joe has been featured in many reef keeping books and magazines, and has presented lectures in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, England, Fiji, Monaco, France, The Netherlands, and Italy and throughout the USA including several MACNA’s dating back to 1994.
The Long Island Aquarium is a world-class aquarium, so even though it’s on a larger scale, Curator and Co-founder Joe Yaiullo still considers it his entire “DIY” project.
In 2015, Terry Siegel was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
As both editor and author, Terry strived to publish scientifically accurate content regarding reef aquaria. Siegel says, “I have always insisted throughout the many editorials I wrote that we present to the public information that is more than the smoke from somebody’s opinion pipe or simple anecdotal observations, but information rather that was quantifiable, repeatable, and scientifically accurate. Creatures that we keep in our reef aquariums deserve no less.”
In addition to insuring that accurate data was being presented in his publications, Terry was also instrumental in the development of many of the authors and speakers that we rely on today. If one were to look back on early publications, they would find that these hobby elite published their early works in one of Terry’s many publications.
Terry is also an active aquarist, maintaining both fresh water and marine biotopes. His 500-gallon marine reef was featured in Sprung and Delbeek’s “The Reef Aquarium” series. Siegel commented, “In that aquarium most of the corals had grown considerably, over approximately a dozen years, from coral fragments. Many of the fish including seven surgeonfish managed to stay together in that aquarium for at least a dozen years. In fact one fish, a tomato clown fish, spent 25 years in various reef aquariums of mine.”
“Terry’s accomplishments as an editor (and aquarist) are unparalleled in North America. He has tirelessly advanced the hobby by identifying and cultivating authors… Terry deserves a good deal of credit for bringing several past AoTY authors to prominence…” – Craig Bingman
“Seminal figure dating back to the early days of the North American hobby. Still active today founder and editor of Marine Aquarist, Aquarium Frontiers, and Advanced Aquarist magazines. ” – Randy Donowitz
The 2014 MASNA Aquarist of the Year
In 2014, Richard Ross was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
Richard Ross is a Senior Biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences where he cultures and cares for exotic cephalopods, fish & coral, participates in ongoing field work on coral spawning, animal collection & transport, and manages tropical saltwater displays including the 212,000 Philippine Coral Reef exhibit.
He is a prolific writer and speaker, authoring academic papers and a catalogue of articles on aquarium and reef related educational topics including his Skeptical Reefkeeping series which focuses on critical thinking, responsibility and ethics of aquarium keeping.
The 2013 MASNA Aquarist of the Year
In 2013, Todd Gardner was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
Todd has been keeping fish tanks since he was 6 years old. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology from East Stroudsburg University in 1993 and a Master’s Degree in Biology from Hofstra University in 2004. However, this is just his résumé. The things that Todd has brought to the hobby are varied and plentiful.
Immediately following the completion of his Bachelor’s Degree Todd worked on the National Geographic film Lifestyles of the Wet and Muddy, where he collected and maintained specimens featured in the film. It was during this project that he had his first real successes breeding and rearing marine fishes, even before he starting working at C-quest, under Bill Addison, in the 1990s. However it was during his time at C-quest that he realized, and began preaching about, the benefits of copepod usage in aquaculture. He even wrote an article for FAMA on that topic in 1999, long before the advantages of utilizing copepods as a first food for larval fishes was considered common knowledge to most fish breeders. He left C-quest to pursue his Master’s Degree at Hofstra where he studied survivorship of Hippocampus erectus fry when using Artemia vs copepods as first food. During this time he began working at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead, NY. He was fortunate enough to have the support of his boss, Joe Yaiullo, who encouraged his breeding and provided him with the resources to continue this work. Though he only intended to work there for one year, 11 years later he accepted another position teaching Marine Biology full time at a local community college. Todd has created a close working relationship between Suffolk County Community College and the Long Island Aquarium, developed the school’s first aquaculture course, and has been teaching for 5 years. More on Reefs.com from Ashleigh Gardner!
The 2012 MASNA Aquarist of the Year
In 2012, Kevin Kohen was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
Kevin has been keeping aquariums since the age of 6. “I grew up reading their books, emulating their aquariums, and finding inspiration from their achievements. It’s really like being named ‘baseball player of the year’ by the major league All-Stars in your prized baseball card collection.”
A quick glance at Kevin’s extensive career in the industry exemplifies these criteria. An accomplished marine life photographer, author, and educator, Kevin Kohen has bred and reared nearly 100 species of fresh and saltwater fish, and was one of the early pioneers in the U.S. to maintain live corals in captivity in the early 1980’s. He launched his professional career working in a retail fish store for eight years before advancing to direct operations for over eight more years at one of the Midwest’s largest tropical fish wholesale and import/export businesses.
Kohen joined pet supplier Drs. Foster and Smith in 2002 as Director of their live aquatics division, LiveAquaria.com. In 2004, he proposed starting up an aquaculture coral facility at Drs. Foster & Smith’s headquarters in Rhinelander, WI, designing and directing the initial construction of the Midwest’s most state-of-the-art Aquaculture Coral & Marine Life Facility, which opened in July of 2005. Read more at Doctors Foster and Smith’s Pet Blog!
The 2011 MASNA Aquarist of the Year
In 2011, Dana Riddle was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
Dana’s acceptance speech, including remembrances of his recently passed father and the influence he had on Dana’s aquarium interests, concluded with an emotional, emphatic, and off-mic Japanese toast of BANZAI! BANZAI! BANZAI! that won’t soon be forgotten.
The ocean has fascinated Dana ever since a summer vacation in the early 1960’s that included a visit to the rocky tide pools of Maine. The wonderful sight of marine creatures in a seaweed-filled pool will never be forgotten. Later, trips to the panhandle of Florida were filled with excitement as Dana and his family pulled a seine through the seagrass beds and collected seahorses, pipefishes, cowfishes, and a myriad of other animals. Bringing some of these animals home to a suburb of Atlanta only seemed natural, and so it began.
A renewed fascination began with the publication of George Smith’s late 1980’s articles in Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (FAMA) concerning the keeping of marine invertebrates and algae. Dana read everything he could get his hands on and once again began keeping marine invertebrates. At that time, a heavy emphasis was placed on technology to keep corals alive. After spending a considerable amount on various devices and obtaining only moderate success, Dana decided to invest in some scientific instruments with the first being a meter to test PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation.) Then, a good PAR meter and underwater sensor cost $1,500.
To Dana’s knowledge, he was the only hobbyist in the US to own such a device at that time. Dana began writing for aquarium hobbyist literature such as SeaScope, Marine Fish Monthly, and FAMA to pay for this equipment. More equipment purchases were made, and Dana went on and wrote for other publications such as MASNA’s newsletter, Breeders’ Registry, Koralle, Récifal, Aquarium Frontiers (and later Advanced Aquarist), Planted Aquaria, Manhattan Reefs, and others. To date, Dana has over 250 articles published over the last 30 years. Dana’s book, The Captive Reef, was published in 1995. Dana’s little laboratory now has $100,000 worth of equipment, including, besides all the standard things, an analytical balance, centrifuge, spectrometer, colorimeter, data loggers, Ocean Optics spectrometers for analyses of light, two PAM fluorometers, drying oven, incubators, water bath, chlorophyll meters, electronic water velocity meter, and so on. These instruments have generated a lot of information and Dana’s writings have become much more technical in nature. Comments on them are coming from serious hobbyists as well as the professional reef science community.
Invitations to speak at clubs around the country began, followed by regional and national conferences. To date, Dana has made over 60 presentations from coast to coast.
Dana has contributed to many aquarium publications and Advance Aquarist articles since the 1990s and is a staple in the marine aquarium hobby. Dana’s MACNA 2016 presentation called “Turbocharge Photosynthesis! Alkalinity, Light, & Water Motion” can be found here.
The 2010 MASNA Aquarist of the Year
In 2010, Dr. Matt Wittenrich was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.
Matt Wittenrich is a marine biologist who has been deeply involved with the aquarium world since the age of 15. A native of western New York, he began breeding saltwater fish in his parent’s basement, successfully raising 13 species by age 18. Matt obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from Long Island University, Southampton College. He has been part of diverse research projects from sex change strategies in pseudochromids, examining if larval clownfish can hear the natal reefs where they hatched, and understanding how larval fishes feed. Matt received his PhD from Florida Institute of Technology looking at marine fish rearing based on larval morphology.
As a senior scientist at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory he was tasked with developing rearing protocols for small egg pelagic spawning species such as angelfishes and butterflyfish. Dr. Wittenrich’s research focused on how tiny marine larvae survive in the wild as well as developing novel methods for rearing them in captivity.
Matt is the author of The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes. The Breeder’s Guide, published in 2007, is a cornerstone publication for the breeding of ornamental marine fish. It provides a compendium of the first 40 years of marine ornamental aquaculture. Dr. Wittenrich gained the most notoriety within the commercial and private aquarium realm by demonstrating that large-scale culture of mandarin dragonets (Synchiropus spp.) was a viable commercial possibility. This forever changed the outlook for this species group, which are among some of the most challenging fish to keep in captivity, but also some of the most-harvested as well.
Matt Pedersen, the 2009 MASNA Aquarist of the year recounts: ” I was beyond privileged to introduce Matt Wittenrich as the 2010 Aquarist of the Year. Standing with the 10 other MASNA award winners and feeling a bit out of place was surreal. For that moment, as I ended my speech, all felt right with the marine aquarium world.”
How to Nominate
MASNA members can post their nominations below for the 2017 Aquarist of the Year. Entries will be tallied and the winner will be selected by a panel of previous recipients. MASNA members may nominate up to three individuals for this award.
The voting process will be open April 2nd through April 30th, 2017. Please complete the entire form for each submission. Incomplete forms will not be accepted.
The 2017 nomination period is open.
Come to MACNA 2017 to meet the winner!