Eric Watkins

Dr. Eric Watkins named 2023 Environmental Communicator of the Year

The Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) and Project EverGreen announced that Dr. Eric Watkins from the University of Minnesota is the recipient of the 2023 TOCA Environmental Communicator of the Year Award.

The award, which recognizes individuals for outstanding communications efforts regarding publicly managed green space and environmental issues, was presented during this year’s TOCA Annual Conference in Portland, Maine. Watkins is the 24th recipient of this award.

Watkins is a faculty member with the department of horticultural science and teaches a variety of classes including The Sustainable Lawn, The American Lawn, Problem Solving in Horticulture and Plant Genetics and Breeding.

“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” said Watkins. “When I first started my career in turfgrass breeding and genetics, I knew outreach was important but did not how important it would be. Good genetics and good turf varieties will keep lawns functional and sustainable. We need to get the word out.”

One example is Watkins team who worked to digitize the records at the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) that have provided free cultivar and species performance date to the public for decades, but resources were not available to efficiently access this data. Now, they are more accessible to anyone looking to plant a species or cultivar that is better adapted to their site.

Watkins was nominated by Dr. Jon Trappe, assistant professor of extension at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s obvious that Dr. Watkins appreciates that simply having a strong research program that responds to the needs of the turfgrass industry is not enough,” said Trappe. “He has gone out of his way to create outreach components within each of his major research grants to communicate what he and his colleagues have learned.”


These communications components include online training modules for professionals and homeowners to help with the successful establishment and maintenance of turf.

“Dr. Watkins is an intelligent communicator focused on getting information into the hands of professionals and homeowners to plant the right grass in the right location,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “He goes beyond the research and motivates his team to creatively deliver best practices and educational information to lawn care professionals and enthusiasts.”