Thomas Lovejoy

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Thomas Lovejoy
AwardsTyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2001),

BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2008),

Blue Planet Prize (2012)
Scientific career
InstitutionsAmazon Biodiversity Center, George Mason University, World Bank, Heinz Center for Science Economics and the Environment, United Nations Foundation

Thomas E. Lovejoy, "the Godfather of Biodiversity",[1] is President of the Amazon Biodiversity Center, a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and university professor in the Environmental Science and Policy department at George Mason University.[2] Lovejoy was the World Bank's chief biodiversity advisor and the lead specialist for environment for Latin America and the Caribbean as well as senior advisor to the president of the United Nations Foundation. In 2008, he also was the first Biodiversity Chair of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment [3] to 2013. Previously he served as president of the Heinz Center since May 2002. Lovejoy introduced the term biological diversity to the scientific community in 1980. He formerly was chair of the Scientific Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for the Global Environment Facility (GEF),[4] the multibillion-dollar funding mechanism for developing countries in support of their obligations under international environmental conventions.


Lovejoy attended Millbrook School, where he worked at The Trevor Zoo, under zoo founder Frank Trevor and his wife Janet. "The first three weeks were the key, and that's what flipped my switch in life and Biology. I was not prepared for the impact the Trevors world actually have on me in the classroom. And it was like my first three weeks and that was it. I'm going to be a biologist." He graduated from Millbrook in 1959.[5]

Lovejoy, a tropical biologist and conservation biologist, has worked in the Amazon of Brazil since 1965. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in biology from Yale University.[6]

From 1973 to 1987 he directed the conservation program at World Wildlife Fund-U.S.,[7] and from 1987 to 1998 he served as assistant secretary for environmental and external affairs for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.,[8] and in 1994 became counselor to the secretary for biodiversity and environmental affairs. From 1999 to 2002, he served as chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank. In 2010 and 2011, he served as chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sustainability for the Inter-American Development Bank.[9] He is senior adviser to the president of the United Nations Foundation, chair of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and is past president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, past chairman of the United States Man and Biosphere Program, and past president of the Society for Conservation Biology.[10][11]

Lovejoy developed the debt-for-nature swaps,[12][13] in which environmental groups purchase shaky foreign debt on the secondary market at the market rate, which is considerably discounted, and then convert this debt at its face value into the local currency to purchase biologically sensitive tracts of land in the debtor nation for purposes of environmental protection.

Critics of the 'debt-for-nature' schemes, such as National Center for Public Policy Research, which distributes a wide variety of materials consistently justifying corporate freedom and environmental deregulation, aver that plans deprive developing nations of the extractable raw resources that are currently essential to further economic development. Economic stagnation and local resentment of "Yankee imperialism" can result, they warn. In reality, no debt-for-nature swap occurs without the approval of the country in question.

Lovejoy has also supported the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market-based mechanisms to protect tropical forests.[14]

Lovejoy played a central role in the establishment of conservation biology, by initiating the idea and planning with B. A. Wilcox in June 1978 for The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology, that was held in La Jolla, in September 1978. The proceedings,[15] introduced conservation biology to the scientific community.

Lovejoy founded the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP) near Manaus, Brazil, in 1979 to understand the effects of the fragmentation on tropical rainforests on ecosystems and wildlife.

Lovejoy serves on many scientific and conservation boards and advisory groups, is the author of numerous articles and books. As often misassociated, he is not the founder but served as an advisor in the early days of the public television series NATURE. He is no longer part of the creative team. He has served in an official capacity in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations.

Lovejoy predicted in 1980 (see quote below), that 10–20 percent of all species on earth would have gone extinct by the year 2020.

In 2001, Lovejoy was the recipient of the University of Southern California's Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. Lovejoy has been granted the 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category (ex aequo with William F. Laurance).

In 2001, Lovejoy received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement presented by Awards Council member Peter H. Raven.[16][17]

In 2004, a new wasp species that acts as a parasite on butterfly larvae was discovered on the Pacific slope of the Talamanca mountain range in Costa Rica by Ronald Zúñiga, a specialist in bees, wasps and ants at the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio). INBio named the species Polycyrtus lovejoyi in honor of Lovejoy for his contributions in the world of biodiversity and support for INBio.[18]

On October 31, 2012, Lovejoy was awarded the Blue Planet Prize for being "the first scientist to academically clarify how humans are causing habitat fragmentation and pushing biological diversity towards crisis."

He has served on the board of directors since 2009 for the Amazon Conservation Association, whose mission is to conserve the biological diversity of the Amazon.[19] He is also an emeritus member of the board of directors for Population Action International and serves on the Scientific Board of SavingSpecies (dissolved July 2019[20]), a conservation organization featured in a Nature magazine article about Thomas Lovejoy's scientific accomplishments.[21]

In 2016, he was selected as a U.S. Science Envoy by the United States State Department.[22]

In 2018, Lovejoy co-founded the Amazon Biodiversity Center[23] to support the work of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project.


The natural world in which we live is nothing short of entrancing — wondrous really. Personally, I take great joy in sharing a world with the shimmering variety of life on earth. Nor can I believe any of us really want a planet which is a lonely wasteland.
—Reith Lecture, Biodiversity, 2000.

It is nothing short of scandalous that we probably only know one out of every ten species on earth, let alone where they are or, various aspects of their biology...
—Reith Lecture, Biodiversity, 2000.

Hundreds of thousands of species will perish, and this reduction of 10 to 20 percent of the earth's biota will occur in about half a human life span....This reduction of the biological diversity of the planet is the most basic issue of our time.
—Foreword, in Conservation Biology, Michael Soulé and Bruce Wilcox, 1980.


  1. ^ "Lovejoy, 'Godfather' of Biodiversity, Reflects On 50 Years in the Amazon". Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  2. ^ "Thomas Lovejoy". Wilson Center. 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  3. ^ "Staff |". Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  4. ^ "STAP and the GEF: Leveraging knowledge and science for the global environment". Global Environment Facility. 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  5. ^ "Underform Awards Presented During Spring Parents Weekend". Millbrook School. 2011-04-25. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  6. ^ "Alumnus Honored for Lifetime Studying and Defending Biodiversity | Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences". Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  7. ^ "Thomas Lovejoy | Leaders | WWF". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  8. ^ Wolfgang, Bayer; sysadmin (2011-09-15). "Thomas Lovejoy in Brazil". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  9. ^ "Independent advisory group convened to examine the implementation of IDB's environmental policy - Inter-American Development Bank". Inter-American Development Bank. Archived from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  10. ^ Society, National Geographic. "Thomas E. Lovejoy, Tropical and Conservation Biologist Information, Facts, News, Photos -- National Geographic". National Geographic. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  11. ^ "Science Advisory Board | TEAM Network - Early Warning System for Nature". Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  12. ^ "Debt-For-Nature: Past and Future". Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  13. ^ "International Economic System -Debt-for-Nature Swaps: Article". Archived from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  14. ^ "Unasylva - No. 128 - Coexistence forestry and farming - Environment". Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  15. ^ Soule, Michael E., Bruce A. Wilcox. 1980. Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Approach. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts.
  16. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  17. ^ "Sylvia Earle Biography Photo". 2001. Dr. Sylvia Earle with renowned conservation biologists and fellow American Academy of Achievement members, Thomas E. Lovejoy and Peter H. Raven, at the 2001 Banquet of the Golden Plate ceremonies in San Antonio, Texas.
  18. ^ "INBio Discovers New Wasp Species". Tico Times Online Daily. Archived from the original on 2011-05-27.
  19. ^ "Amazon Conservation Association". Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  20. ^ "Guidestar: SavingSpecies". Guidestar. 2020-05-19. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  21. ^ Tollefson, Jeff (April 2013). "Forest ecology: Splinters of the Amazon". Nature. 496 (7445): 286–289. Bibcode:2013Natur.496..286T. doi:10.1038/496286a. PMID 23598321.
  22. ^ "Announcement of U.S. Science Envoys". United States Department of State. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Amazon Forest Fragments Project". amazon-biodiversity. Retrieved 2020-07-26.

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