2021 Barry A. Long Award Recipient

Leslie McGeorge
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (retired)

In her 39 year career with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Leslie McGeorge was a tireless advocate for the importance of development and implementation of innovative, scientifically based tools for use in water quality management. She recognized that the only way to properly manage this resource was to develop wholistic systems which include goals, targets and indicators to determine water quality status and trends. As such, among her many accomplishments, she was the architect for New Jersey’s very first result-based management system which was recognized by EPA and other organizations as a national model.

In addition to being a visionary related to long term water resource management planning, Leslie was also a pragmatist. She recognized the value of education/training, example by leadership, streamlining day-to-day activities and eliminating unnecessary actions where it was beneficial to do so. She was also explementary at finding creative ways to advance New Jersey’s monitoring and assessment capabilities especially in times of severe resource constraints, personnel reductions and/or travel limitations.

In order to keep New Jersey’s monitoring and assessment programs active and (often) cutting edge, she found avenues to purchase equipment, have staff participate in state, regional or national training opportunities, reduce outsourcing operating activities while – simultaneously – boosting NJDEP monitoring and analysis capacity. Examples of these endeavors include her use of national contacts to bring important training to New Jersey when out-of-state travel was prohibited as well as use of EPA monitoring initiative funding to purchase equipment to allow New Jersey to begin to develop or enhance monitoring activities (such as harmful algal bloom monitoring and analysis capabilities) during times of severe budget deficits.

The value of partnerships was also of paramount importance to her. In addition to the many individual external partners she cultivated over the years to assist NJDEP in developing and enhancing its various water quality monitoring capabilities and management activities, she also encouraged the state to join numerous state, regional and national organizations through which New Jersey’s existing monitoring activities, data collection and assessment information could be best leveraged.

Perhaps her most important partnership-related accomplishment came in 2003 when, in conjunction with the USGS New Jersey Water Science Center, she formed the New Jersey Water Monitoring Council which she co-chaired until her retirement on July 1, 2020. The mission of the Council is to promote and facilitate the coordination, collaboration and communication of scientifically sound, ambient water quality and quantity information to support effective environmental management in New Jersey.

Through partnerships among Council members she was able to accomplish many things including: spearheading development of a statewide recreational response strategy for harmful algal blooms as well as establishment (and later expansion) of the state’s capacity to survey/monitor/analyze for toxins in HABs; development and expansion of a statewide Long Term Monitoring Strategy (which was recognized by EPA as a national model); receipt of various monitoring-related grants by NJDEP and/or other Council members; participation in several national monitoring-related pilots; arranging participation by many Council members as well as the Council itself in multiple national monitoring conferences; as well the establishment a comprehensive monitoring program in both the Barnegat Bay and its freshwater tributaries (as part of a Governor’s initiative).

Her perseverance in the face of adversity, positive outlook in challenging circumstances and commitment to maintaining and improving the quality of New Jersey’s water resources, during her career with NJDEP, are unmatched and her many accomplishments will serve New Jersey’s water community for years to come. For these, as well as many other reasons, Leslie McGeorge is well deserving of the 2021 Barry Alan Long Award.

Barry Long was a hydrologist and water quality specialist with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. In June 2000, Barry was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. His colleagues and supporters were moved by the tremendous perseverance, spirit, and courage he displayed during his long struggle with the disease. Barry continued his career as a tactful advocate for the protection of water resources and through his work on the Council, which included organizing the 2010 National Monitoring Conference in Denver, Colorado. In his memory, the Council established the Barry A. Long award to honor an individual who has demonstrated exceptional perseverance, positive spirit, and significant contributions to water resource protection.