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|Institutions||George Mason University, World Bank, Heinz Center for Science Economics and the Environment, United Nations Foundation|
|Notable awards||Blue Planet Prize (2012)|
Thomas E. Lovejoy, "the Godfather of Biodiversity," is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and University Professor in the Environmental Science and Policy department at George Mason University. He also was the first Biodiversity Chair of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment. Lovejoy introduced the term biological diversity to the scientific community in 1980. He currently is Chair of the Scientific Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), 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.
From 1973 to 1987 he directed the conservation program at World Wildlife Fund-U.S., and from 1987 to 1998 he served as Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., 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. 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.
Thomas Lovejoy developed the debt-for-nature swaps, 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.
Thomas Lovejoy has also supported the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market-based mechanisms to protect tropical forests.
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, introduced conservation biology to the scientific community.
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, which he's 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. Thomas 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 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 Thomas Lovejoy for his contributions in the world of biodiversity and support for INBio.
On October 31, 2012, Dr. Thomas 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. He is also on the Board of Directors for Population Action International and serves on the Scientific Board of SavingSpecies, a conservation organization featured in a Nature magazine article about Thomas Lovejoy's scientific accomplishments.
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.
- Soule, Michael E., Bruce A. Wilcox. 1980. Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Approach. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts.
- Tico Times Online Daily http://www.ticotimes.net/dailyarchive/2004_07/Week5/07_29_04.htm#story4. Missing or empty
- "Amazon Conservation Association".
- Tollefson, Jeff (April 2013). "Forest ecology: Splinters of the Amazon". Nature 496: 286–289. doi:10.1038/496286a. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- "Announcement of U.S. Science Envoys". United States Department of State. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.