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Alumnae Achievement Awards 2009

Helen Hays '53
Sea Bird Conservationist
Mentor

Helen Hays ’53 is a gifted scientist who is internationally recognized for her work with oceanic birds. As chairman of the Great Gull Island Committee at the American Museum of Natural History, she has worked since 1969 to protect and increase the numbers of roseate and common terns nesting on Great Gull Island on the eastern end of Long Island Sound.

A true environmentalist, Ms. Hays has conducted significant research on the deadly effect of PCBs in the world’s oceans and their adverse effect on marine life. Her advocacy helped bring this fact to the attention of United States legislators and the world, and she has lobbied successfully to reduce these environmental contaminants.

As director of the Great Gull Island project for almost 40 years, Ms. Hays has been a mentor to hundreds of students. Today many are scientists, professors, lobbyists, and environmentalists, and an equal number have no connection to the sciences but write passionately about how their time at Great Gull Island changed their lives. These former students are everything from award-winning poets and authors to documentary film-makers and movie stars. Ms. Hays has authored dozens of scientific papers, and has traveled the world for her cause of seabird conservation.

Ms. Hays has received several awards including the Conservation Service Award from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Audubon Society, and the President’s Volunteer Action Award.

Helen on a dock at Great Gull Island
Map of Great Gull Island, drawn by one of the volunteers, a cartographer, Richard Edes Harrison
Terns landing on a dock at Great Gull Island


For more information about the Alumnae Achievement Awards, please contact us by email at specialprograms@alum.wellesley.edu or call the Alumnae Association at 781-283-2331.