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), Yale Peabody Museum
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
Joshua R. Ginsberg
Dame Alison Richard
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, Ph.D.
Gaylord Donnelley Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Anthropology
1960 - 2023
Eleanor Jane Sterling, PhD., Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, died on February 11th, 2023. Many words have been written about this scholar, researcher, teacher, and beloved friend, but there still remains many things to say.
Eleanor’s work spans multiple generations, institutions, and disciplines. Her academic work began with primate behavior and ecology at Yale University, where she was both an undergraduate and a graduate student.
Eleanor’s early work was already spectacular, as she took on one of the toughest assignments of field studies—highly reclusive, nocturnal primates that live in remote areas, specifically the aye-ayes (Daubentonia) of Madagascar. It is quite possible that Eleanor’s work in this area will never be replicated simply because no one else has been as persistent and dedicated as she was in this topic.
Eleanor continued her professional journey at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, as the Director of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation for more than 20 years.
Throughout her career, Eleanor was both brilliant and exceedingly generous and found multiple ways of serving the biodiversity community, including teaching, sitting on boards, consulting, and mentoring dozens of students.
Over the past ten years, Eleanor made a major shift in her focus, developing expertise in biocultural studies with a particular focus on the South Pacific. This allowed Eleanor and her husband, Kevin, to make a significant move to the island of Oahu, where Eleanor was the Director of the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.
Eleanor received a variety of awards for her dedication and commitment to biodiversity. Most recently, she was a recipient of the Fred Packard Award in recognition of a lifetime of conservation work.
Eleanor’s work has put Indigenous knowledge at the heart of practice in conservation. Her work resulted in over 120 publications, stronger protected-area management, and the establishment of locally managed conservation areas in biodiverse and unique ecosystems.
Eleanor has always had a special relationship with Yale, which was the site of so many of her early experiences with academia. While at Yale, she also showed great singing talent, such as her soprano work with Whim ‘n Rhythm, the senior SSAA a cappella group. Those who knew her loved her solo performance of the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I remember being awestruck by her performance. She was also a track and field long-distance runner, an activity she continued for many years after graduation, and an expert in quilting and other crafts. Eleanor will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.
Nora Bynum, Ph.D.
Yale PhD, 1995, Anthropology and School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; Dean of Academic Programs, Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), American Museum of Natural History