Mark Swingle Selected as Recipient of the 2023 Mary Reid Barrow Wildlife Advocate Award

Monday, February 20, 2023

​Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation recently announced Mark Swingle as the 2023 recipient of the Mary Reid Barrow Wildlife Advocate Award as part of the 13th annual Winter Wildlife Festival. The award, presented on Feb. 10, honors individuals who contribute by celebrating, advocating and educating individuals about local wildlife.

Throughout his 40-year career, Swingle has demonstrated his commitment to marine wildlife conservation and advocacy. While trained as a marine biologist, his philosophy has always been conservation through education and throughout his career, he found innovative ways to bridge the gap between scientists, the community and policymakers. 

He played an instrumental role in creating the Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Response Program, which has responded to more than 10,000 stranded sea turtles and marine mammals since its inception in 1991. He also assisted in the development of the Sensible Seafood Program and the Aquarium's Green Team, which helped the Aquarium become one of the state's first Virginia Green Facilities. 

Now retired from the Aquarium, Swingle continues his advocacy work with several local waterway groups by organizing clean-ups and contributing to conservation projects and efforts that benefit marine life and reduce marine debris. He is described as "a tireless advocate who is approachable and easy to talk to. He is a patient explainer and avid listener. When he speaks, he always has something important to say."

For more about the Winter Wildlife Festival, visit or join the official festival Facebook group.


Mark Swingle (center) being presented with his award by the award’s namesake, Mary Reid Barrow (left), and Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation festival organizer Katie Webb (right). 

About Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation

Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation strives to promote healthy lifestyles and protect the City's coastal environment, as well as to ensure all residents – regardless of their physical, social and economic circumstances – can access Parks & Recreation programs. The department's vision is to be the national leader in providing enriching and memorable lifelong experiences. Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation is accredited by CAPRA, the certifying agency of the National Recreation and Park Association. For more information, visit or call (757) 385-1100 (TTY: 757-711 Virginia Relay). Sign up for Parks & Rec email newsletters at Find us on Facebook at

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