Tropical Biologist, Conservation Researcher Lovejoy Joins Mason

Posted: February 15, 2010 at 1:06 am, Last Updated: February 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

By Tara Laskowski

Thomas E. Lovejoy. Photo courtesy of Thomas E. Lovejoy

Noted environmentalist and former executive vice president of the World Wildlife Fund Thomas E. Lovejoy recently joined Mason’s faculty. He has a joint appointment in the  Environmental Science and Policy Department and the Department of Public and International Affairs.

Lovejoy’s distinguished career in international conservation and environmental policy has earned him great recognition in the field.

He is generally credited with having brought the tropical forest problem to the fore as a public issue, and he is one of the main protagonists in the science and conservation of biological diversity. He was the first person to use the term “biological diversity” in 1980 and made the first projection of global extinction rates in the Global 2000 Report to the president that same year.

“Dr. Lovejoy’s unprecedented achievements in conservation and biodiversity studies have contributed greatly to a better understanding of environmental issues and how they impact societies across the globe,” says Vikas Chandhoke, dean of the College of Science.

“We are extremely fortunate that he has chosen to share his experiences and knowledge with Mason students and we look forward to working with him as we continue to strengthen our conservation and environmental programs.”

This is the first full-time faculty appointment Lovejoy has had in his career, although he has taught classes at Yale University, where he earned a BS and a PhD in biology.

“I think Mason is at a good stage in its conservation and environmental studies programs right now,” says Lovejoy.

He is most excited about the partnership Mason has with the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. The Smithsonian-Mason Global Conservation Education Studies at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute near Front Royal, Va., allows students to live on site for a semester and experience a hands-on learning environment.

“There is such great potential for the Smithsonian partnership,” says Lovejoy. “It’s a huge plus for Mason, and will only continue to get better.”

Lovejoy will give lectures as part of the Smithsonian-Mason Semester, teach a seminar next fall and work with graduate students.

“The most exciting part of teaching is meeting bright young people who ask the questions no one else will ask,” he says.

Lovejoy is the founder of the public television series “Nature,” the most popular long-term series on public television.

From 2002 to 2008, he was the president of The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, a nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundation for environmental policy. In 2008, he became the Heinz Center Biodiversity Chair.

A tropical biologist and conservation biologist, he has worked in Brazil’s Amazon since 1965. His 1971 PhD thesis introduced the technique of bird banding to Brazil and identified patterns of community structure in the first major long-term study of birds in the Amazon.

For his many conservation initiatives in Brazil he was decorated by the Brazilian government in 1988, becoming the first environmentalist to receive the Order of Rio Branco.

In 1998, Brazil awarded him the Grand Cross of the Order of Scientific Merit. In 2001 he received the John & Alice Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. The following year he received the 2002 Lindbergh Award for work dedicated to a balance between the advance of technology and preservation of the environment. And in 2009 he received the Frontier of Knowledge prize in Ecology and Conservation Biology.

Lovejoy serves on numerous scientific and conservation boards and advisory groups, including the New York Botanical Garden, Committee for the National Institute for the Environment, Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, Wildlife Preservation Trust, Resources for the Future, Woods Hole Research Center and NatureServe.

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