Thomas E. Lovejoy’s contributions as an avian scientist, conservation biologist, and activist are especially deserving of recognition through the first AOU Conservation Award. His vision, accomplishments, and influence have launched important research initiatives in conservation biology, have shaped global actions and thinking about biological diversity and its conservation, and have been effective in species preservation.
Dr. Lovejoy earned his Ph.D. in 1971 at Yale University under the tutelage of G. Evelyn Hutchinson, and conducted pioneering field work on the community ecology of Amazonian rainforest birds that introduced bird-banding to Brazil. Dr. Lovejoy then worked as one of the first staff scientists at the World Wildlife Fund, where he contributed to early efforts in the conservation of Neotropical migratory birds and conceived the idea for the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments (BDFF) Project. While most ecologists in 1979 were trying to study systems where species interactions had not been altered by human influences, Dr. Lovejoy launched what would become a landmark, long-term study to measure and understand the effects of forest fragmentation in conjunction with The Brazilian National Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA). The BDFF Project generated experimental data that addressed a fierce debate over the value of a single large or several small reserves (SLOSS) and the process of relaxation in mainland islands. The BDFF Project has produced over 500 papers, 100 theses, and several books; has become a major training facility for Latin American biologists; and recently enjoyed its 25th anniversary. In recognition of this work and his long collaboration with scientists and research organizations in Brazil, Dr. Lovejoy was awarded the Order of Scientific Merit from the Brazilian Government, one of the very few foreigners to receive such an honor.
Dr. Lovejoy has greatly expanded and shaped the conservation activities of some of the world’s most influential scientific and environmental organizations through high-level positions at World Wildlife Fund-U.S.; the Smithsonian Institution; the U.S. Department of the Interior; the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology; the World Bank; the United Nations Foundation; and now as President of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. In each case, he has used a strong scientific base to build institutional capacity and provide a focus on tropical conservation. In addition, he has assisted and influenced scores of other conservation institutions through service on their boards of directors. He was essential in the formation of the Society of Conservation Biology (SCB), serving on its initial governing board and as President during its formative years.
Dr. Lovejoy used his roles in these organizations to advance the science and conservation of biological diversity. He was partly responsible for coining the now-familiar terms “biological diversity“ and “biodiversity“ in 1980. He has been a leader in publicizing the rising loss of species worldwide because of growing human population, habitat degradation and loss, climate change, pollution, and exploitation of plants and animals. Moreover, he originated the innovative concept of “debtfor-nature swaps,“ in which debtor nations struggling to meet their financial obligations can reduce foreign debt in exchange for payments in support of in-country conservation activities. Since their inception by the World Wildlife Fund in 1989, debt-for-nature swaps have been implemented in numerous countries around the world, providing over $3 billion in funds for conservation and millions of hectares of habitat protection. Finally, Dr. Lovejoy took his conservation message to the general public through lectures and addresses, testimony before Congressional subcommittees, and the creation of the television series Nature, the most popular long-term series on public television in the United States.
In recognition of his pioneering work in conservation biology and tropical ecology, the AOU presents Thomas E. Lovejoy with the AOU Conservation Award for 2005.
The AOU Conservation Award recognizes extraordinary scientific contributions to the conservation, restoration, or preservation of birds and their habitats by an individual or small team (usually fewer than 10 people). Contributions from throughout the world and over any time course are eligible. Appropriate activities include: (1) applied research, restoration, and educational actions that conserve birds or preserve significant bird habitats; (2) scientific examination of the principles of avian conservation and application of new insights into species restoration; and (3) scientific evaluation, guidance, creation, and oversight of avian recovery programs or habitat reserve-restoration programs. The award consists of a framed certificate and an honorarium.