Director, Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies
Professor of Anthropology, Archaeological Studies, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and the Yale School of the Environment, Department of Anthropology
Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Vertebrate Zoology (Mammalogy), Peabody Museum of Natural History
Associate Director, Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies
Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
YIBS External Advisory Board
Ralph C. Schmidt
Edward P. Bass
R. Duane Dickson
Joshua R. Ginsberg
Dame Alison Richard
Theodore C. Rogers
Tom Lovejoy was a dedicated Yale alumnus and a pioneer of biodiversity science. He was a member of YIBS’s board for the entirety of YIBS’ existence, and eight directors have relied on his thoughtful and nuanced contributions through the years. He will be sorely missed by our community. Donnelley fellow Advait Jukar reflects.
On the 25th of December 2021, Thomas Lovejoy died at his home in McLean, Virginia. In his long career, Tom coined the phrase biological diversity, pioneered the Debt-for-Nature Swap program, and seamlessly maneuvered between the rainforest, boardrooms, and high government offices. Tom’s Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project is the longest running forest fragmentation experiment in the Amazon, and helped us understand extinction debt, and the value of preserving continuous tracts of land. In his various avatars, Tom wielded the power and influence of institutions like the World Bank, the Smithsonian, and the White House to push for large scale environmental protection and sustainable development.
Tom had a long history with Yale, earning both his B.S., and Ph.D. here. He worked with G. Evelyn Hutchinson for his PhD, and as an undergraduate, collected zoological specimens in Egypt as part of the Charles A. Reed led Yale University Prehistoric Expedition to Nubia. His collections are housed at the Peabody. Tom served on the external advisory board for YIBS ever since its inception and was also on the Peabody’s leadership council. Tom had long recognized the power of museums to bring people closer to nature, and as avenues to tell the story of life on earth. He believed that the more people understood and valued biodiversity, the more they would do to protect it. YIBS was very special to Tom. He understood its value in bringing talented and creative people together in the scientific enterprise for a better understanding of life on earth, and letting the scholarship lead the way to better solutions. Much of what he accomplished in his life was by bringing the right people together.
I was lucky enough to be one of Tom’s graduate students at George Mason University. In true Hutchinsonian fashion, he didn’t want to create a copy of himself, but encouraged me to follow my passion for paleobiology. Despite his busy schedule, he would make time to indulge me by inviting me to paleontology lectures in Washington D.C. and connected me with his friends and colleagues in museums around the world. He once told me that as a custodian of deep time, it was my responsibility to use my knowledge of the past environment to communicate the long-term consequences of climate change and extinction on the biosphere. He was always humble, and kind, and relished conversations about adventures in the Amazon, the gorillas of Virunga, or the voyages of Alfred Russell Wallace. With his passing, ecology and conservation biology has lost one of its foremost champions, and for me, a dear friend.
Advait Jukar, Gaylord Donnelley Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Anthropology