Established in 1996, the Parker/Gentry Award honors an outstanding individual, team, or organization in the field of environmental conservation whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world's natural heritage and whose approach can serve as a model to others. The Parker/Gentry Award is made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor and is presented annually by the Field Museum.
Parker/Gentry awardees represent remarkable achievements in more than a dozen countries and across diverse ecosystems, from the rainforests of South America, Africa, and India to valuable freshwater resources like the Great Lakes in North America, to coastal regions worldwide. Awardees have been recognized for protecting critical species and landscapes, providing training and education, and conducting significant scientific research to bring about conservation results on the ground.
Top: © Kylie Paul/Defenders of Wildlife
Bottom: © Dennis Lingohr
Fort Belkap Indian Community and American Prairie Reserve
From their lands in northern Montana, the Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Nakoda (Assiniboine) and Aaniiih (Gros Ventre) Nations are leaders in restoring prairie wildlife to the Northern Great Plains for the benefit of the human and non-human communities that rely on this imperiled landscape. They regard local wildlife as family, and have successfully returned populations of plains buffalo, black-footed ferrets, and swift foxes to the Northern Great Plains, which had been decimated by forces ranging from Western colonization and conversion of valuable habitat to agriculture.
American Prairie Reserve (now American Prairie) is creating a multimillion-acre nature reserve in Montana. It will be the largest of its kind in the contiguous United States–a refuge for people and wildlife preserved forever as part of America's heritage. The organization connects swaths of fragmented public lands through the purchase of private lands. Today, American Prairie Reserve manages ~420,000 acres of prairie habitat that knits together a complex of public lands, including the 1.1-million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Combined, the land pieces together more than 1.5 million acres of the 3.2 million-acre prairie ecosystem goal, which will be an area large enough to support the prairie's native species and the ecological processes upon which they depend.
Michael Goulding, PhD is one of the world’s leading experts on Amazonian rivers and their biodiversity. He is an “in-the-river” scientist who is helping change our largely terrestrial view of conservation to one that puts rivers at the center. He pulls together multiple disciplines and collaborators across the Amazon basin to understand historical patterns, identify current concerns, and make recommendations for the future.
Michael holds a PhD from UCLA, has worked for more than 30 years in the Amazon, and is currently an aquatic ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. He has published books for the general public about the Amazon’s sprawling river system and the rich life it supports, and has been a driving force on a slew of peer-review articles that champion a basin-wide approach to understanding reproduction of Amazonian food fishes, especially long-distance migrants. His efforts have led to new approaches to Amazon conservation, focusing on its aquatic life.
© Michael Goulding
© John Weinstein/Field Museum
Gun Lake Tribe
The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians – also known as Gun Lake Tribe – has a rich history in West Michigan and a close connection to the land. The Tribe’s ancestors signed treaties with the United States government dating back to 1795. The Tribe’s federal recognition was re-affirmed in 1999.
The Gun Lake Tribe has an impressive record preserving the natural heritage of the Great Lakes region. From their location near Gun Lake in Michigan, the Gun Lake Tribe has become a leader in environmental and cultural conservation, native species preservation, and lake management. Their environmental initiatives include mnomen (wild rice) conservation; nmé (Lake Sturgeon) rehabilitation in the Kalamazoo River in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish & Wildlife Service; the Mshike Conservation Project which monitors, conserves, and restores turtle populations on Tribal properties; and, programs for pollution prevention, water quality monitoring, and educational outreach.
Instituto del Bien Común
The Instituto del Bien Común (IBC) is a Peruvian non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting the best use of shared resources—rivers, lakes, forests, fisheries, protected areas, and community lands—in the Peruvian Amazon. Because these resources are vital to the well-being of Amazonian peoples, especially in a time of changing climate, IBC’s work directly influences the quality of life of rural communities and of all Peruvians. IBC works with community organizations, municipal and regional governments, and other stakeholders to promote participatory processes for territorial planning, development, natural resource use, and governance, grounded in a long-term vision of large, sustainable Amazonian landscapes.
Since its founding in 1998, IBC has mapped and ground-truthed more than three thousand indigenous territories in the Amazon and has collected spatial data for another four thousand Andean and coastal indigenous territories from government archives in order to create the country’s primary clearinghouse of spatial data on indigenous territories. IBC uses this information to lobby tirelessly for improved public policy on indigenous rights. Rich with information on mineral, hydrocarbon, and forest concessions, as well as infrastructure projects, IBC’s spatial datasets play a key role in both Amazonian and global data clearinghouses.
The Field Museum and IBC share a strong commitment to protecting forests, rivers, and wildlife in the Amazon basin, and to ensuring strong indigenous rights and a high quality of life among indigenous communities. IBC has been a key collaborator with the Keller Science Action Center since at least 2003, and the primary Peruvian partner of six of the Field Museum’s rapid inventories in Amazonian Peru. In Peru’s Putumayo drainage, our joint work has helped create millions of hectares of new conservation lands in favor of indigenous people and their forest-based livelihoods. Most recently, in partnership with indigenous communities, and indigenous federations, IBC and the Field Museum helped lay the groundwork for Yaguas National Park, a two-million-acre wilderness area declared in January 2018.
© Field Museum
Dr. David Vaughan is the Executive Director of the Mote Tropical Research Lab in the Florida Keys, leading Mote's Coral Reef Restoration Program to re-establish the underwater forest. His unique approach to re-growing coral reefs makes an enormous difference in the protection of this unique natural treasure. To combat coral decline due to coral diseases, ship groundings, and hurricanes, Mote Tropical Research Lab has made great advances in developing culture methods for hard corals. Their research efforts have produced thousands of coral colonies for transplanting back to the reef.
Uma Ramakrishnan is an Assistant Professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. Her work focuses on population genetics and the evolutionary history of mammals, including work to save India’s tigers. Once scattered around India, today tigers are threatened with extinction and only 7% of tiger habitat remains. Dr. Ramakrishnan is extracting DNA from 200 year-old tiger skins for comparison with modern tiger DNA, and has demonstrated that current tiger populations are inbred, with very little genetic variation. Furthermore, certain groups, especially desert tigers, have become isolated from the rest of India’s tiger population. These data are critical for creating and improving plans for conserving tiger populations across the rapidly urbanizing Indian landscape.
Merlijn van Weerd
Merlijn van Weerd is a Dutch citizen who has been working in the Philippines for 16 years to promote conservation based on scientific research. In 2001, he founded the Mabuwaya Foundation, a conservation organization dedicated to conserving the Philippine crocodile, as well as other endemic threatened species and their habitat, in collaboration with local communities in the northern Philippines. Mabuwaya has a strong emphasis on working with local people, and their approach to community-based conservation is now being used as a model in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Rhett Butler is the founder of Mongabay.com, an environmental science and conservation news website that draws more than 2 million visitors a month and Mongabay.org, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about social and environmental issues relating to forests and other ecosystems. Mongabay is widely known for its credible reporting and is frequently a source of information on tropical forests for mainstream media outlets.
Since its inception in 1999, Mongabay has grown to include a news service; a rainforest site for children that is available in nearly 40 languages; a popular Indonesian-language environmental news site with correspondents in two dozen cities; and Tropical Conservation Science, an open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal that provides opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research. He also started WildMadagascar.org, a site that highlights the cultural and biological richness of Madagascar, and the Tropical Forest Network, a social network in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dr. W. John Kress is Curator and Research Scientist in the Department of Botany at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, studying tropical biology, ethnobotany, evolution, and plant systematics. Among his scientific and popular publications are his books Plant Conservation – A Natural History Approach (with Gary Krupnick), The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics (with Ted Fleming), and The Weeping Goldsmith in which he describes his experiences exploring for plants in the isolated country of Myanmar along with reflections on the history, culture, and religion of this region.
In addition to his research position, Dr. Kress currently holds the appointment of Director of the Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet at the Smithsonian. Supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Grand Challenges Consortium was established as part of the Institution’s ten-year Strategic Plan to promote interdisciplinary work by scholars both inside and outside the Smithsonian. As Director of the Biodiversity and Sustainability Consortium, Dr. Kress brings together scientists from numerous fields to address broad research projects which explore some of the largest questions in biology with significant social impact. Through the Grand Challenges Consortia, interactions among scholars in different but complementary fields have greatly increased at the Smithsonian resulting in the promotion and facilitation of new avenues of scientific endeavors. The Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet has marshaled the efforts of hundreds of Smithsonian research scientists across museums and institutes working with unparalleled scientific collections to significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of life on the planet and its role in sustaining human well-being.
Dr. Kress is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been the Executive Director of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation since 1997. He has won multiple awards for his studies including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Heliconia Society International and recently, the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award for developing Leafsnap, the first mobile application for plant identification (2011).
August M. Ball and Cream City Conservation
Founded by August M. Ball in 2016, Cream City Conservation and Consulting (C4) is a unique organization serving a twofold mission. Ball and her team train and employ youth and young adults ages 15 to 25 whose social identities are underrepresented in the environmental field. Through partnerships with local and national organizations, this Conservation Corps program has engaged thousands of young people across southeastern Wisconsin in hands-on service to the land.
Simultaneously, Ball’s consulting and training helps environmental organizations advance diversity, inclusion, and retention of people of color in the predominantly white environmental field. The model is a closed loop system, where the consultancy offsets the costs of the Conservation Corps program and prepares the ground for underrepresented Corps alumni and others to join the environmental sector and grow their leadership over time.
In 2020, as organizations struggled to adapt to intersecting health and racial justice crises, C4 intensified its work and reached more people than ever before. They maintained conservation crews at Milwaukee-area parks, natural areas, urban farms and Ball reworked her consulting and training services in a new, dynamic virtual format. As a result, she was able to deliver effective, action-oriented training to environmental groups across the country right at the moment when many were becoming aware that they needed it.
© Cream City Conservation
Nina R. Ingle
Early in her career, Dr. Nina R. Ingle chose to focus on bats, fascinated by their diversity and their role in forest ecology as seed dispersers, pollinators, and insect predators. She wrote the first identification key to the 70 species of bats then known from the Philippines with Field Museum mammal curator Lawrence R. Heaney, PhD.
Dr. Ingle obtained her PhD in Natural Resources Management from Cornell University in 2001. She was one of the founding members of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines (WCSP) and is its current president. The Society started in 1992 as a small group of wildlife biologists; the annual WCSP Philippine Biodiversity Symposium now draws about 200 participants from throughout the Philippines and abroad. For several years, Dr. Ingle edited the peer-reviewed WCSP Proceedings, working especially with authors who had not yet published a scientific paper.
In partnership with Bat Conservation International and Filipino wildlife biologists, cavers, and government environmental personnel, Dr. Ingle is leading an effort to collect information on the status of Philippine cave bats as a basis for conservation action. An initial product is an audio-visual presentation designed for communities near caves where bats live explaining the benefits from bats and the threats they face.
Dr. Ingle believes that society’s appreciation for and understanding of the natural environment is crucial for biodiversity conservation. One-third of Filipinos are under 15; what they learn in primary and secondary schools can have far-reaching effects on their futures and on the future of the Philippine environment. Dr. Ingle is working with the Ateneo de Davao High School on educational activities that develop academic knowledge and skills in the context of understanding the local landscape.
An innovator in conservation biology for over 20 years, Dr. Les Kaufman has worked in a variety of environments from African Great Lakes to New England, to the South Pacific. In each of these areas he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the science he and his students produce is effectively translated into conservation action. In addition to his empirical research, and conservation planning, Les has influenced a generation of conservation practitioners and scientists through his mentoring and teaching activities. Les began his career researching the fundamental ecology of coral reefs. During his dissertation research, he bore witness to the phase shifts in Jamaican coral reefs, a lesson about the fragility of ecosystems that would stick with him throughout the rest of his work. After his Ph.D. his interests in ecology and evolution brought him to study the cichlids and other fishes of Lake Victoria. Through extensive field work on the lake and up in the watershed Les revealed how the region’s amazing biodiversity was under threat from a variety of anthropogenic sources. He then spearheaded a decade-long, multi-faceted conservation plan, which drew together expertise in limnology, fisheries, genetics, food security and economics. He also led the Lake Victoria Research Team, which brought the plight of the Lake Victorian fishes, and the people whose livelihoods depended on them, to the attention of the world. Les also founded the first formal international captive breeding programs for endangered fishes including the flagship effort for Lake Victoria cichlids. Collectively, these efforts were instrumental in helping to procure a $77 million grant from the GEF to fund limnological and fisheries restoration in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Along the way, Les helped train a new generation of East African aquatic conservation scientists (now established as leaders in the region) and highlighted one of the finest cases of the complex linkages between biodiversity and human welfare.
Les also has fought biodiversity loss linked to a decrease in human welfare in his home waters. New England’s fisheries were at a nadir in the 1990s when Les began work with a variety of stakeholders including lawyers, fishermen, state and town councils and fisheries biologists to develop new management approaches that would allow for the culturally significant, and economically important New England fisheries to survive. Les extended his reach to California, where he co-led development of the first ecosystem-based multispecies fishery management plan. Today Les’ research is focused on the linkage between aquatic biodiversity and the flow of the ecosystem services on which human well-being depends. He remains an active field researcher, but now also leads efforts in ecosystem service modeling, visualization, and decision analysis.
John and Terese Hart
John and Terese Hart have lived and worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, since the early 1970s. John made his first visit to the D. R. Congo as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, living with the Mbuti Pygmies in the Ituri Forest in the northeast of the country for over two years. Terese came to the D. R. Congo as a Peace Corps Volunteer and taught high school in a rural community in eastern Congo between 1974 and 1976. The Harts returned to the Ituri Forest between 1980 and 1983 to undertake fieldwork for their Ph.D. dissertations, John’s in Wildlife Ecology, and Terese’s in forest ecology and botany. During this period they built a home on the banks of the Epulu River, and laid the groundwork for the first scientific research station in the region. They returned again to the Ituri Forest in 1985, as scientists with the New York Zoological Society (later to become Wildlife Conservation Society). For the subsequent 25 years, they devoted themselves to research, training of Congolese scientists, and the conservation of the D. R. Congo’s spectacular national parks and wildlife heritage. Since receiving the award, they have continued to work in the D. R. Congo as independent scientists, with a project focused on the exploration and protection of Congo’s remaining natural landscapes and their flora and fauna.
Dr. Andrianarivo Daniel Shelyno Rad Rakotondravony is a mammalogist and conservation biologist who, for nearly three decades, has played a crucial role in the advancement of conservation sciences in his home country, the island nation of Madagascar. He is one of the leading figures to increase knowledge of the island’s biota by gathering field data, applying this information to new conservation programs, and by working with several generations of Malagasy students as well as foreign and national researchers. Dr. Rakotondravony serves as head of the Animal Biology Department at the University of Antananarivo and plays a very active role in the collaboration between foreign researchers and the Malagasy scientific community.
Tim Davenport is Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Tanzania. He was born in Manchester, northern England and received a BSc in zoology and a PhD in veterinary parasitology from the University of Leeds, UK. He has since lived and worked in four African countries, including Uganda where he worked for the Ugandan Forest Department, Makerere University and Uganda National Parks, and Cameroon where he ran conservation projects for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He has worked in over 80 African forests and been involved in the designation of new national parks and nature reserves on both sides of the continent. He has written scores of papers, reports and popular articles, and has helped to train over a hundred African scientists and conservationists.
© Tim Davenport
Judith Kimerling is an Associate Professor of Law and Political Science at The City University of New York, with a joint appointment at CUNY Law School and Queens College. After graduating from University of Michigan and Yale Law School, she worked for seven years as an environmental litigator, including five years as an Assistant Attorney General for New York State, where she worked on the Love Canal litigation and other hazardous waste cleanup litigation and negotiations.
In 1989, Kimerling moved to Ecuador, where she learned that oil exploration and production was the primary engine of rainforest destruction in the Amazon region of Ecuador. She also learned how oil development had violently disrupted the lives of many communities. Spills from the main pipeline alone dumped more than 19 million gallons of crude oil into the environment, nearly twice as much as the Exxon Valdez; millions of gallons of toxic wastes were discharged every day, without treatment or monitoring; natural gas was burned as a 'waste'; and colonization along roads built by Texaco and other oil companies was the leading cause of deforestation in the region. This environmental degradation was creating poverty among forest peoples by reducing their territories and damaging natural resources that provided people with secure, self-reliant and sustainable sources of food, water, medicine and shelter. Kimerling immediately began working with indigenous organizations and communities to document the environmental and social impacts of oil development in their territories, and to help them assert their rights and protect remaining forests from destructive development. Her findings and photographs were later published in her book, Amazon Crude, which has been called "the Silent Spring of Ecuador" by The New York Times.
José "Pepe" Alvarez A.
While Alvarez was in the process of documenting these new species, he realized that their special habitat was in dire danger of being destroyed by a government initiative to pave a highway through the middle of the white-sand forest area. This unique habitat is a mosaic of different forests growing on a substrate of white, sandy soil. It contains many species of plants and animals with distribution restricted to this habitat. Alvarez worked tirelessly to convince the Institute of Investigation in the Peruvian Amazon to help him purchase the land and preserve the forests on one side of the highway. With the financial backing of the Finnish Embassy, he succeeded, and in 1999 the government set aside the Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve in the provisional category of a “Reserved Zone”. On January 14, 2004 the Ministry of Natural Resources in Peru, largely due to Alvarez’s continued efforts in conjunction with others, formally granted permanent protection to the Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve, bringing global attention to this unique, nutrient-poor habitat that is strikingly rich in endemic species.
The eminent neotropical ornithologist Dr Gary Stiles has not only played a key role in the evolution of neotropical ecology, but has been at the forefront of documenting and conserving Colombia’s 1,800 bird species since his arrival in the capital Bogotá in 1990. Colombia is home to more bird species than any other country in the world, but it faces great conservation challenges. With so many species threatened, and resources in short supply, conservation action needs to be selective and efficient. Therefore in 2001, Dr Stiles and a team of scientists led by The Natural History Museum, London and the National University of Colombia began assembling species-locality data for birds, drawing on museum collections and other sources, and undertaking fieldwork surveys where information was inadequate. Dr Stiles is current advisor on the classification of Colombian birds for this international initiative, the BioMap project. The results, 230,000 specimens to date, once integrated into a database can be used to record bird distribution in Colombia and support conservation decision-making.
Professor Yang has long been an outspoken advocate for conservation in China, calling attention to the urgent need to protect and study the unique biodiversity of the country. He has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to protecting and conserving the environment, carrying out a number of comprehensive scientific surveys mandated by the Yunnan Provincial Forestry Department and executed by SWFC. These surveys and his ongoing research have facilitated the establishment, preservation, and maintenance of a number of critical conservation areas and reserves in this globally important hotspot. His firm belief in science-based policy is nowhere more evident than during his leadership of the Chinese members of interdisciplinary, multinational Rapid Inventory in Southern Gaoligongshan, Yunnan Province.
Lorivi Ole Moirana
At one time, elephants spread from Africa's Cape of Good Hope to Cairo and probably numbered in the tens of millions. Today, fewer than 610,000 remain. This precipitous decline is largely due to human encroachment upon their habitats and well-armed ivory poachers who decimated populations in the 1970s and '80s.
Lorivi Ole Moirana is Chief Park Warden, Law Enforcement Operations, Tanzania National Parks and a highly effective anti-poaching activist. While head warden of Ruaha National Park from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, Moirana was responsible for shutting down some of the most extensive elephant poaching in the country, and his current duties include management of the park system's anti-poaching unit. Moirana has also been active in expanding Tanzania's national parks as a means to protect their remarkable plant and animal life. As chief warden of Kilimanjaro National Park from 1997 to 2001, Moirana convinced the Tanzanian government to expand the park boundary below the tree line to incorporate its distinct forest habitat, which had been subject to illegal logging. Through his passionate efforts, the park is considered a showpiece of wilderness management and conservation. In 2002 Moirana was one of two people honored with the first National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in African Conservation.
Cordillera Azul / Los Amigos Team
Carlos Amat y León
Gustavo Suárez de Freitas
This outstanding team of Peruvian conservationists brought two remarkable Peruvian treasures, Cordillera Azul and Los Amigos, into the conservation spotlight. Their tireless efforts on behalf of these two regions culminated in the protection of the last large, intact tract of lower montane forest in Peru (Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul) and the establishment of Peru's first conservation concession (Los Amigos).
On May 22, 2001, Peru's President, Valentín Paniagua, signed a decree declaring a 5,225-square-mile national park, thereby protecting a pristine area of Andean rainforest that is bigger than Connecticut and extraordinarily rich in biodiversity. The new Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul - one of the largest parks in the world - is still undeveloped and largely uninhabited. Its creation is a major victory for conservation. The year before, biologists from the Field Museum partnered with Peruvian and international biologists to study the area and inventory its biodiversity. What they found was truly spectacular, including at least 28 plant and animal species new to science. The team of awardees played instrumental roles in securing protection for this important park by quickly bringing it to the attention of the international conservation community, organizing and participating in the biological inventory, and deftly navigating the necessary administrative and legal requirements for protection of the region in lightning speed.
On July 24, 2001, President Paniagua signed another decree, this time creating the world's first conservation concession in the lower Los Amigos watershed of the densely forested Madre de Dios Department of Peru. This region is recognized as a center for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity. The conservation concession will allow for the development of a center of expertise in tropical forest management, biodiversity science and training. A contractual agreement between the government and a nongovernmental organization, a conservation concession confers management responsibility for ecosystem and biodiversity conservation to the nongovernmental institution. This new mechanism for protecting biological resources was made possible by the efforts of the awardees, particularly in the creation of a new Peruvian Forestry Law that now allows for conservation concessions.
Whether as author, university professor, muddied researcher in a marsh, featured Discovery.com expert talking with kids about amphibian declines, or opponent in the political arena with Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body" Ventura regarding the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's plan to drop funding for most deformed frog research, Dr. Michael "The Thinker" Lannoo loses no opportunity to go to the mat for amphibians.
Dr. Michael Lannoo is a major figure in the amphibian decline investigations being conducted in the Midwest and the nation. His involvement is unique because he is active in both the scientific as well as the public education aspects of these issues. Areas of primary concern to Lannoo include amphibian malformations, environmental quality, and public lands resource management. In addition, Lannoo is the conscience and organizational wizard of the U.S. declining amphibian population study cadre.
For 30 years, field biologist Louise Emmons has combed the most remote tropical forests of the planet studying the behavior of tropical forest mammals and discovering new species. Emmons is known for performing such diverse activities as tracking jaguars alone at night in the Amazon, stalking tree shrews in Borneo, and pursuing squirrels in Gabon, West Africa.
The recipient of numerous research fellowships and awards through the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, World Wildlife Fund and the National Science Foundation, Emmons has worked tirelessly to explore and protect the brilliant diversity of the rainforest. Her legendary stamina sustains her through rigorous field studies from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes to the steamy basins of the Brazilian Amazon.
This award acknowledges her commitment to rainforest conservation and her contributions to our understanding of the tropical world. Her strong research program — with field and museum components — serves as a model for how conservation, ecology and systematics can strengthen one another. Further, her guidebook, Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, continues to have an enormous impact throughout tropical America for biologists and lay people alike.
Juan Mayr Maldonado
A photographer turned environmentalist, Juan Mayr has led a tireless crusade for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world's highest coastal mountain range.
Rising an impressive 18,947 feet from the shores of the Caribbean, the steep slopes of the Sierra Nevada harbor a staggering diversity of habitats, from alpine tundra to rain forest to desert. This wide range of ecosystems and elevations is reflected in the Sierra's biological richness and concentration of unique species.
Long-term indigenous residents, in addition to guerilla groups, drug farmers, paramilitary factions, military troops, and colonists-all with distinct expectations, cultures, and perceptions about the environment-strive to make a living in the Sierra Nevada. As a result, violence is a constant. Sadly, only 18% of the original vegetation remains standing due to the intense and ever-growing pressures on the region from cattle grazing, timber extraction, and cultivation of coffee, marijuana, and coca.
Mayr founded the Fundación Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in 1986 to address the dizzying array of threats to the ecology of this dynamic region. Focusing on the Sierra as the mountain source of 36 rivers, the Fundación succeeded in garnering support and participation from the diverse stakeholders by concentrating on water and watersheds, a common concern for all parties. Deforestation of the Sierra Nevada results in severe droughts during the dry season and damaging floods in the rainy season. Developed by the Fundación and guided by Mayr, a conservation strategy for the region provided a remarkable first step toward reconciliation and protection of the Sierra's nonhuman and human communities. In August 1998, Mayr took office as Colombia's Minister for the Environment.
The Cofan indigenous territories - a wilderness of magic and beauty - face increasing pressures from oil exploration and forest destruction. Under the remarkable leadership of Randall Borman, the Cofan of Zábalo are creating innovative programs, building toward a solid base for conservation in this region with more biological riches than anywhere else on Earth: the Amazonian lowlands of eastern Ecuador.
Randy is at home in both U.S. and Cofan culture. Using his rare skills to navigate between these worlds, Randy inspires and facilitates creative solutions for the long-term survival of Cofan culture and of large expanses of intact forest.
Randy's parents, linguists and missionaries from the United States, arrived in the village of Doreno in 1955 when their son was just an infant. In the early 1960s, Texaco Petroleum Company (TexPet), a subsidiary of Texaco, discovered oil in the region and, in a race to extract it, systematically tore apart the rain forest. With much of the forest annihilated around Dureno by 1984, and with the rivers dying, Borman and several Cofan families set downstream on the Río Aguarico.
The site they picked for their new village, Zábalo, lies in the 630,000 hectare Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, close to the border with Colombia. Although Zábalo is in protected lands, the government turned a blind eye to oil exploratory activities in the region. Borman spent years in complex, often tense negotiations that have proved instrumental in protecting the forest and Cofan livelihood.
When not consumed by negotiations with Big Oil interests, the Cofan direct their energies to other pressing environmental issues, such as overexploitation of large river turtles. Two species in particular (the Giant South American River Turtle and the Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle) have been a major food resource for the peoples of Amazonia throughout the history of human presence in the region. In 1991, the Cofan launched an innovative experiment, capturing and raising turtle hatchlings as they emerge from the nest, then reintroducing them to the wild once they are large enough to escape most natural predators. Beginning with a release of 300 hatchlings in 1992, the project has grown many fold. Indications suggest that the wild populations are making a comeback.
Randy also established a successful ecotourism operation, and the Cofan are now exploring possibilities for raising and marketing native fish as food to supply a growing demand from tourist and colonist markets. The practice of raising tilapia - an African species - in fish farms is becoming increasingly common in Ecuador and other tropical countries. Escapees pose threats to the survival of native fishes and pristine watersheds. Once the Cofan techniques for raising native fishes are developed and tested, they can be exported to neighboring communities in the Río Napo basin and beyond. The Cofan's firsthand knowledge of the habits and foods of game fishes brings a high probability of success to the project.
Christopher Gordon, a zoologist at the University of Ghana and a senior research fellow of the Volta Basin Research Project, is calling attention to the urgent need to protect and study Ghana's rich aquatic resources, which have been exploited due to population increase, the higher expectations of local people and the country's rush to industrialize.
For many years, the focus of Gordon's conservation work has been the Volta Basin Research Project, established by the University of Ghana in 1963 to mitigate the problems created when the government built Akosombo, a 768,000 kilowatt hydroelectric dam on the Volta River. The dam transformed the river and its tributaries into the Volta Lake, the largest (8,480 square kilometers) artificial lake in the world. Currently scientists involved in the project have focused their efforts on a variety of topics in the much neglected lower Volta area, including aquatic plants, water quality, limnology and aquatic ecology, hydrobiology and fisheries, soils and land use, and public health.
Gordon - who received his Ph.D. in Human Environmental Science from King's College, University of London in 1994 - focuses on the field of limnology (the scientific study of physical, chemical, meteorological and biological conditions in fresh waters) and is innovative in applying a holistic approach to river basin management based on the use of multidisciplinary teams.
Gordon also coordinated the Lower Volta Mangrove Project, a program collecting baseline biological information for use in community-led management initiatives. Gordon is active in researching coastal ecosystems and in improving Ghanaian awareness of the need to manage the country's freshwater ecosystems, which are under increasing threat from over-exploitation, pollution and habitat loss.
Fernando Rubio received the first Parker/Gentry Award to recognize his critical role in the management of the Santuario Nacional Pampas del Heath. This sanctuary protects the pampas (seasonally-inundated savannas) west of the Río Heath, the only pampas in Peru. Today, this sanctuary is part of the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park.
This region was transformed from a neglected, troubled area at the border with Bolivia into one of the best managed protected areas in Peru, and possibly the Americas. Through Rubio's efforts, local communities of indigenous people became involved with the Santuario; the park guards are some of the best instructed and dedicated people in that position; and sustainable use strategies are being investigated with the collection of the region's Brazil Nuts and turtle eggs.
Rubio has a gift for understanding the political, social and economic issues of the region and in the country. He has developed creative solutions and negotiated delicate compromises that allow the biological importance of the region to be central in decision-making and management.