Thomas Lovejoy

Washington, DC—The founding chair of the Carnegie Scientific Advisory Council (CSAC), Thomas Lovejoy, a renowned ecologist and conservationist who is credited with coining the term “biological diversity," or "biodiversity,” died December 25. He was 80.

“Tom spent more than a half century working in the Brazilian Amazon on efforts that spanned the intersection of science and policy. His influence in both spheres was peerless,” said Carnegie President Eric D. Isaacs. “The breadth of Tom’s knowledge about the life and environmental sciences and his wealth of administrative and consultative experience made him a great colleague and advisor to Carnegie Science. He will be greatly missed.”

In 1978, Lovejoy conceived of the world’s largest and longest-running study of habitat fragmentation—the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments project—which has trained generations of conservation biologists and advocates and resulted in hundreds of scientific publications. Two years later, he published the first estimate of global extinction rates.

Lovejoy was the founder and past president of the Amazon Biodiversity Center and since 2010 he had been a professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University. Previously, he served as first president and later biodiversity chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, which closed in 2013. Prior to that, he held executive positions at the Smithsonian Institution and the World Wildlife Fund-U.S.

His many prestigious advisory roles included work for the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations and past chairmanship of the Scientific and Technical Panel for the Global Environment Facility, which provides funding related to international environmental conventions. He also previously served as Senior Advisor to the President of the United Nations Foundation and Chief Biodiversity Advisor and Lead Specialist for the Environment for the Latin American region to the World Bank.

Among many other notable achievements, he won the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 2001, the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology and Conservation in 2008, and the Blue Planet Prize in 2012.

“Tom was a good friend and colleague for more than 30 years,” said Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society and a member of Carnegie’s Board of Trustees. “He did some of the pioneering work to understand the impact of forest fragmentation on biodiversity, and was a passionate and tireless advocate for the Amazon. He had the unusual ability to bring together science and policy, and was an advisor to nations and institutions globally. His legacy will continue to reverberate for generations.”

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