2021 Distinguished Texas Scientist

Dr. Donna Shaver
National Park Service at Padre Island National Seashore

Dr. Donna Shaver- Chief, DIvision of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore

“Find the nest” is the signal that sends Donna’s Cairn Terrier, Ridley, into action sniffing out the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nests hidden on the beaches of Padre Island. This is just one of many ways she is involved in sea turtle conservation efforts in South Texas.

Even as a child, she knew that she wanted to work with endangered animals and conservation research. In 1979, she was a student at Cornell University when a brochure describing wildlife research opportunities on South Texas beaches caught her attention. She packed her bags and quickly found the place she wanted to spend the rest of her life. By 1985, she was a full-time employee with the National Park Service and was also completing a PhD in zoology from Texas A&M University.

Dr. Shaver has worked with sea turtles since 1980. She oversees a variety of sea turtle research and conservation projects conducted in Texas, collaborates with other researchers in the U.S. and Mexico, and provides training and leadership to hundreds of biologists and volunteers working with sea turtles in Texas. Dr. Shaver is the Texas Coordinator of the U.S. Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network. In this capacity she maintains records of stranded sea turtles, nesting sea turtles, and sea turtle nests found in Texas, and helps lead detection and documentation efforts for them. Her largest and most long-term effort has been the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Restoration and Enhancement Project at Padre Island National Seashore.

Since 2003, Dr. Shaver has been Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery for the National Park Service at Padre Island National Seashore. To date, she has authored or co-authored more than 100 publications and reports dealing with sea turtles. The government of the Canary Islands invited Dr. Shaver to travel there to advise them on forming a nesting colony of loggerhead turtles, patterned after the work that Dr. Shaver led to re-establish nesting by Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles at Padre Island National Seashore. Dr. Shaver has been interviewed by New York Times, Washington Post, Sea Rescue, Texas Country Reporter, Texas Bucket List, Dateline, Discovery News, Texas Monthly, and numerous other media outlets and has received several awards for her work.


Recent Distinguished Texas Scientists

Each year the Board of Directors of the Texas Academy of Science honors one of our colleagues as the Distinguished Texas Scientist. This honor reflects distinguished contributions to science through research and publication that has garnered recognition at the national and international level. Candidates must have spent a significant portion of their professional careers in Texas. 

A nomination package for the Award should consist of a nominating letter from any Scientist, member or non-member of the TAS, summarizing the candidate’s achievements and their impact on both Science and Texas, and also include two supporting letters from experts in the fields associated with the nominee.   All letters should be addressed to the Vice President of the TAS and arrive prior to January 1.  The vice president can be contacted direct via email.


202Dr. Donna Shaver, National Park Service at Padre Island National Seashore


2020 Dr. George Perry, Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology, University of Texas at San Antonio

2019 David Lambert, Isabel McCutcheon Harte Centennial Chair in Astronomy,  University of Texas at Austin

2018 Purnendu K. (Sandy) Dasgupta, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Texas at Arlington 

2017 Bert O'Malley, FACS, Baylor College of Medicine

2016 Gary Garrett, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

2015 Francisco Gonzalez-Lima, Department of Psychology (Neuroscience), University of Texas at Austin

2014 Michelle Bushey, Department of Chemistry, Trinity University

2013 Camille Parmesan, Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

2012 Larry Gilbert, Ecology and Evolution, University of Texas at Austin

2011 George Kattawar, Physics, Texas A&M University

2010 James R. Dixon, Herpetology, Texas A&M University

2009 Owen Lind, Limnology, Baylor University

2008 Ernest L. Lundelius, Jr., Vertebrate Paleontology, University of Texas at Austin

2007 Robert J. Baker - Mammalogy and Molecular Genetics, Texas Tech University

2006 Erik R. Pianka, Ecology, University of Texas at Austin

2005 Frank Judd, Biology, University of Texas-Pan American

2004 John C. Perez, Microbiology, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

2003 Jonathan A. Campbell, Biology, University of Texas at Arlington

2002 Alastair Ian Scott, Director, Center for Biological NMR, Texas A&M University

2001 Glenn Evans and Gene Mear

2000 Kathie Thomas-Keprta, Everett K. Gibson, Jr., David S. McKay, NASA Mars Meteorite Research Team

1999 Dr. Norman Hackerman, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Univ. of Texas at Austin

1998 Dr. Clark Hubbs Zoology University of Texas at Austin

1997 Dr. Robert F. Curl and Dr. Richard F. Smalley, Chemistry, Rice University

1996 Dr. Sammy M. Ray Oyster Biology Texas A&M University at Galveston

1995 Dr. John Reading Physics Texas A&M University

1994 Dr. Patrick L. Odell Mathematics Baylor University

1993 Dr. William R. Brinkley Medicine Baylor College of Medicine

1992 Dr. J. Knox Jones Mammalogy Texas Tech University

1991 Dr. Roger Unger Medicine Southwestern Medical Center

1990 Dr. Carolyn Huntoon Space Medicine NASA

1989 Dr. Carl B. Collins, Jr. Physics University of Texas at Dallas

1988 Dr. Virgil E. Barnes Geology University of Texas at Austin

1987 Dr. Richard C. Starr Botany University of Texas at Austin

1986 Dr. Grover E. Murray Geology Texas Tech Univ.

1985 Dr. Albert Zlatkis Chemistry University of Houston

1984 Dr. Francis S. Johnson Aerospace University of Texas at Dallas

1983 Dr. Michel Halbouty Geoscience Private Industry

1982 Dr. Perry Adkisson Entomology Texas A&M University

1981 None

1980 Dr. Ilya Prigogine Physics University of Texas at Austin

1979 Dr. Michael DeBakey Medicine Baylor College of Medicine