Tim Laman

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Tim Laman is an American ornithologist and wildlife photojournalist. He is notable for documenting all the species of bird-of-paradise in their native habitat during research expeditions with colleague Edwin Scholes of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.[1] His bird-of-paradise work was first published in a 2007 article about them for National Geographic. In 2016, he won the top prize in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, for his image of an orangutan climbing a tree to feed on figs.[2]

Early life[edit]

Laman graduated with a Ph.D. in biology from Harvard University[3] in 1994.

Laman received his a B.S in biology from Hope College in Holland, Michigan in 1983.


Laman first traveled to the rainforests of Borneo in 1987. Since that trip, the Asia-Pacific region has been a major focus for his photography and research. He initially pursued a doctoral program in neuroscience and animal behavior at Harvard University. Later he decided to take a year off from his studies and joined biologist and ecologist Mark Leighton as a field assistant.[4]

Upon his return to Cambridge, he transferred to the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and completed his doctorate in 1994. His pioneering research in Borneo’s rainforest canopy for his doctoral thesis was featured in his first National Geographic article in 1997, which he both wrote and photographed. He continued documenting little-known and endangered wildlife as a regular contributor to National Geographic, publishing 21 feature stories. In addition, Laman has published more than a dozen scientific articles on rainforest ecology and birdlife as a research associate in Harvard University's Ornithology Department in the Museum of Comparative Zoology.


Laman's photography has focused on capturing images and videos of subjects that were difficult to document, such as the Sunda flying lemur and other gliding animals in Borneo, displaying birds-of-paradise and critically endangered bird species including the Nuku Hiva pigeon and the Visayan wrinkled hornbill of the Philippines. He focused on documenting endangered and at-risk animals in order to promote awareness and encourage conservation efforts.


Laman has received many accolades and awards, including the “Outstanding Nature Photographer” award in 2009 from the North American Nature Photography Association, their highest honor.[5] Twenty-two of his images have won recognition in the American Museum of Natural History's Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. In 2016, he was named their Wildlife Photographer of the Year.[6] He won several prizes in Nature’s Best International Photography awards, including first place in the Underwater category.[citation needed]

Birds of Paradise: Revealing The World's Most Extraordinary Birds[edit]

Laman completed the first comprehensive photographic coverage of the Birds of Paradise. He collaborated with ornithologist Edwin Scholes on this series. They inhabit rugged and remote regions where they pose an extreme challenge to locate and photograph in their dense rainforest homes in New Guinea. Laman and Scholes spent over 18 months doing fieldwork in the New Guinea region over an eight-year period with support from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Conservation International and the National Geographic Expeditions Council.[7] Their book, Birds of Paradise: Revealing The World's Most Extraordinary Birds, was published by National Geographic Books in 2012. The work was featured in a National Geographic Channel documentary, a National Geographic article in December 2012 and in a traveling educational museum exhibition. The goal of the book and subsequent features was to protect these magnificent birds and New Guinea’s biodiverse rainforests.[8]

Laman has led many expeditions as a National Geographic Expert with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Expeditions. He teach photography and educates participants on the local wildlife and natural history. He led tours in remote locations around the world, including the Galapagos, Antarctica, South Georgia, Botswana and Rwanda. He later worked for Wildlife Of The World By Private Jet, which includes diving the Maldives.

Laman's tree-climbing exploits and doctoral research feature in Chapter 7 of Mike Shanahan's 2016 book Ladders to Heaven: How fig trees shaped our history, fed our imaginations and can enrich our future, republished in North America as Gods, Wasps and Stranglers (US).[9][10]


  1. ^ Powell, Alvin. "Glimpses of Paradise" (November 20, 2012). The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  2. ^ Amos, Jonathan. "Ape's fig challenge wins photo award" (October 18, 2016). BBC News. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Photographer Tim Laman Biography". National Geographic. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  4. ^ Porter Brown, Nell. "Paradise Found" (January- February 2013). Harvard Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Awards". NANPA. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  6. ^ "American Tim Laman wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  7. ^ Powell, Alvin. "Glimpses of Paradise" (November 20, 2012). The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  8. ^ James Estrin (June 3, 2013). "Rare Glimpses of Birds of Paradise". Lens. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
  9. ^ Ladders to Heaven
  10. ^ Chelsea Green Publishing. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers.

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