Instilling a sense of wonder

Cyrus Brame has won the 2014 Sense of Wonder Award for the Northeast Region. Cyrus was recognized for his leadership and contribution to develop and maintain the James River Ecology School, a joint venture between the Service and the James River Association. The Ecology School is a residential environmental learning program at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge, a 1,329-acre island in the James River, approximately 20 miles south of Richmond.


Cyrus Brame navigates a creek at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. He has received the 2014 Sense of Wonder Award for the Northeast Region for his leadership and contribution to develop and maintain the James River Ecology School.


The Sense of Wonder Recognition Program recognizes a Service employee who has designed, implemented, or shown visionary leadership in an interpretive or environmental education program that fosters a sense of wonder and enhances public stewardship of our wildlife heritage. The program also recognizes individuals who performed outstanding work in the field of interpretation and environmental education within the past five years.

In 2006, Cyrus and other refuge staff began planning for the future at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. Cyrus envisioned a place where children learn about the environment and the ecosystems of the James River and Chesapeake Bay, and freely explore and discover the hidden wonder of the refuge’s habitats. He has spent the last seven years making that dream a reality. In strong collaboration with the James River Association, the Ecology School was created and it now serves as an environmental education center and program with the mission of transforming today’s youth into tomorrow’s stewards of natural resources through hands-on river experiences.

Programming was first offered through the Ecology School in 2012; the school now hosts up to 2,000 school children annually. During a visit to the Ecology School, students conduct Virginia standards of learning-correlated investigations while hiking through upland fields and forests, paddling the freshwater tidal creek, and exploring the pristine swamp habitat along the wetland boardwalk. Overnight programs are also available to achieve dual objectives of creating interest and fostering engagement in the outdoors.


Students on the Spirit of the James, the 40-ft pontoon boat and floating classroom that transports students to the ecology school, which has a bunkhouse facility for overnight trips and a discovery center that holds the school’s classroom, kitchen, dining hall, and lab space.


Cyrus has worked tirelessly to apply for grants to fund and purchase materials for the Ecology School and worked to maintain highly functioning partnerships with the community, volunteers, the James River Association and other organizations.

Cyrus has been employed by Service since 1998. He serves on the Virginia Outdoor Plan Steering Committee and as a representative on the James River Advisory Council. In 2009, Cyrus received the Service’s Northeast Region Award for extraordinary refuge operations and program success. He received the 2011 Department of the Interior Sustainability Hero Award for outstanding environmental achievement and the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Leadership Award “Individual of the Year” for resourceful waste management (recycling). In 2012, Cyrus received the Stewards of the River Education Award from the James River Advisory Council for his efforts in developing the James River Ecology School.

Congratulations on your latest achievement, Cyrus!

3 Comments on “Instilling a sense of wonder

  1. Congratulations, Cyrus!! This is a most deserving recognition of your outstanding accomplishment.

    Albert Spells

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