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“We do our part to make the world a little bit more sustainable”

ICES honours Clara Ulrich with the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award.
Published: 8 September 2020

ICES is a community of almost 6000 marine scientists whose work focuses on advancing ecosystem understanding, gathering essential data to create knowledge for science and advice, and providing evidence for decision-making.

Each year, we honour a member of our community with the Outstanding Achievement Award. This recipient is recognized as one whose career has been distinguished by a continued commitment to excellence in endeavours of science, research, and leadership within ICES.

Outstanding Achievement Award 2020

This year, the Outstanding Achievement Award 2020 is given to Clara Ulrich​, France.​ Ulrich became Deputy Scientific Director at Ifremer Nantes station in 2019, where she now leads the scientific strategy, ensuring multidisciplinarity, quality, and policy-relevance. She deals with aspects linked to ecosystem-based fisheries management and support to national and European fisheries policies. Previous to this, she was a professor in Fisheries Management at DTU Aqua (the youngest ever), in the Ecosystem-based Marine Management section in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her research areas encompass fisheries management, stock assessment and fisheries advice, bio-economic modelling for Management Strategy Evaluations, interaction with stakeholders and their integration in participatory modelling. Her special topics of expertise are mixed fisheries, fleet dynamics, discards, the EU Common Fishery Policy and leading the EU H2020 project Discardless.

A good start

Clara Ulrich's career has been intertwined with ICES for many years. Attending her first ICES Annual Science Conference in 1998 in Cascais, she met the scientist that would later become her post-doc supervisor at DTU Aqua. The following year, at ICES Annual Science Conference in Stockholm, she received the award for Best Newcomer and was offered a job at DTU Aqua. By 2001, Ulrich was attending her first expert group, the Working Group on the Assessment of Demersal Stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak (WGNSSK) which she recalls as quite an experience.

“The situation with the stocks in the North Sea was really dramatic at that time and also the suite of assessment and forecast software those days were a nightmare – ten days trying to run through a long suite of MS-DOS programs! If there were any formatting mistakes, the program stopped abruptly and you had to start all over again! I returned home and said "never again". And, except for a few maternity leaves, I never missed a WGNSSK meeting in 20 years!"

​Mixed fisheries

“Clara has been dedicated to disseminating and operationalizing her work on stock assessment, mixed fisheries and incorporation of socioeconomic considerations in ICES", notes one nominator, “And one of her greatest strengths is her extensive overview of the European fishery , from input data to stock assessments to the practical implication of the advice on society . She has worked at every level from digging through stock specific data for benchmarks and annual stock assessments while chairing assessment working groups and chairing STECF".

Stakeholder engagement

During her work, she has prioritized increasing the possibilities for stakeholder involvement in the scientific and advisory process, especially during Discardless, the Horizon 2020 project she led. Ulrich's work in Discardless brought her into discussions with stakeholders. One stakeholder recalls that Clara Ulrich has represented the very best in what fisheries stakeholders hope to see in fisheries scientists: an open, helpful and engaged demeanour, combined with a rigorous approach to evidence and methods. Her willingness to engage with those who earn their livelihoods from fishing, and to learn from their experience, has been matched and balanced with her willingness to share her professional insights and knowledge".

Clara has, through her engagement in critical legislative areas such as the EU Cod Recovery and management Plans, the EU Landing Obligation, the EU North Sea multi-annual plan, played an important role in breaking down artificial barriers between fisheries scientists and fishers. Deas states that, “This shift from an almost adversarial relationship to one much closer to partnership working has been one of the defining developments of the last two decades and Clara, on the science side has been one of the principle motivating forces behind this change."

A colleague and collaborator

“She is one of the most intelligent, creative, hardworking and devoted scientists in our field", Sarah Kraak, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, comments, “Her outputs have been remarkably innovative from a young age onwards: her early and seminal work on métiers, her tackling of the mixed-fisheries problem, which culminated in her creation of the Fcube model in 2006, of which she subsequently ensured that it would be applied even if it met with difficulties concerning data (availability, formats, resolution, and comparability)."

Her mentorship of young scientists also sets her apart. A previoius student, recalls how “She trusted my capacity to work on a European project and meet enthusiastic researchers from many countries that are now colleagues. That opportunity Clara gave me was a real chance". Another past student agrees, adding that “Clara has been a mentor for many young scientists but for me she has also been a role model for women in science. She has proven that a career and a family can be compatible and that one doesn't need to be sacrificed for the other."

​Benefits of ICES 

​In hindsight, Ulrich feels that the way in which ICES has contributed most to her successes is the need to deliver! “When we need to publish advice on time, then we are forced to make decisions and be operational and transparent, and that is a great framing for scientists, otherwise we would just keep developing and have difficulties in concluding".

On receiving the news that she had been chosen as this year's recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award, Ulrich commented that the peer recognition made it extra special, “This is recognition by my own peers and by the community I have engaged with for 20 years. ICES was a bit like my second home when I was working in Denmark."

“I have a lot of respect for the organization and what it achieves. We do our part to make the world a little bit more sustainable, the future a little bit brighter, and share the beauty of science a little more, and I am so proud to have personally contributed to this... A year after a major career-and-life shift, returning to France and moving a bit away from mixed-fisheries - this is the most beautiful way to close this great chapter of my life in Denmark."

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​Clar​a Ulrich, recipient of ICES Outstanding Achievement Award 2020.
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