30 Dec 2021 News

In Memoriam: Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, 1941–2021


Tom Lovejoy, former Chair of STAP (2008 – 2012) and Senior Advisor to the current STAP Chair, passed away early on Christmas Day surrounded by his daughters and family, his thousands of books, a roaring fire, and in his own beloved log cabin (Drover's Rest).

Tom Lovejoy, Naoko Ishii, Rosina Bierbaum
(L-R) Dr. Thomas Lovejoy (Chair, STAP), Naoko Ishii (CEO, Global Environment Facility), Dr. Rosina Bierbaum (Incoming Chair, STAP)
44th GEF Council Meeting, June 2013
Photo credit - Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Tom devoted his life to ensuring that the world understood the critical importance of preserving the natural world, recognizing before most that the conservation of biodiversity was also an act of safeguarding humanity. Recipient of the Blue Planet and Tyler Prizes, among many other professional honors during his long and distinguished career, Tom engaged with influencers and decision makers as easily as he did with the many students and activists that he inspired, a legacy that will continue to reach far and wide.

STAP Retreat, Nairobi 2016
(L-R, back) Dr. Christine Wellington-Moore (STAP Programme Officer, Chemicals & Waste), Dr. Sarah Lebel (STAP Climate Change and Resilience Specialist), Guadalupe Duron (STAP Programme Officer, Land Degradation), Dr. Annette Cowie (STAP Panel Member, Land Degradation), Dr. Michael Stocking (STAP Senior Adviser), Dr. Ralph Sims (STAP Panel Member, Climate Change Mitigation), Dr. Ricardo Barra (STAP Panel Member, Chemicals & Waste), Dr. Anand Patwardhan (STAP Panel Member, Climate Change Adaptation), Dr. Rosina Bierbaum (STAP Chair), Jacqueline McGlade (Chief Scientist and Director, Science Division, UNEP), Dr. Tom Lovejoy (STAP Senior Adviser), Dr. Jakob Granit (STAP Panel Member, International Waters), Dr. Lev Neretin (STAP Programme Officer, Climate Change Mitigation)
(L-R, front) Tom Hammond (STAP Secretary), Prof. Brian Child (STAP Panel Member, Biodiversity), Brennan Van Dyke (Chief, Capacity, Development and Innovation Branch, UNEP), Monika Thiele (STAP, Programme Officer)
STAP Retreat, Nairobi, Kenya, 2016

Although Tom is recognized for having coined the term “biological diversity” and for his many professional engagements in leading scientific endeavors to both understand and conserve biodiversity, including with WWF, The Smithsonian, and The World Bank (among many others), he will also be remembered for his life-long work in the Amazon which he loved. Through his work on the Minimum Critical Size of Ecosystems Project, the establishment of the Amazon Biodiversity Center, the half-century research at Camp-41, and his teaching, Tom inspired and mentored thousands of students and researchers. The field research that he led established that the fragmentation of natural systems results in cascading declines in species richness, and the unravelling of the biological integrity which underpins these systems.  Yet, Dr. Lovejoy always remained an optimist; indeed, he said optimism was “the only option.”

6th GEF Assembly Field Trip, Da Nang, Vietnam, June 2018
(L-R) Rebecca Fisher (US Dept. of Treasury), Dr. Annette Cowie (STAP Panel Member, Land Degradation), Dr. Rosina Bierbaum (STAP Chair), Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy (Senior Advisor to STAP Chair), Dr. Ralph Sims (STAP Panel Member, Climate Change Mitigation), Dr. Virginia Gorsevski (STAP Programme Officer, Biodiversity), Robin Burgess (STAP Administrative Assistant), Guadalupe Duron (STAP Programme Officer, Land Degradation), Chris Whaley (STAP Secretary), Dr. Sunday Leonard (STAP Programme Officer, Climate Change Mitigation).
6th GEF Assembly Field Trip, Da Nang, Vietnam, June 2018
Photo credit: Bui Van Tuan (Green Viet)


Red-Shanked Douc (Pygathrix nemaeus). Photo credit: Bui Van Tuan (Green Viet)
Red-Shanked Douc (Pygathrix nemaeus)
Subject of the 6th GEF Assembly Field Trip
Da Nang, Vietnam, June 2018
Photo credit: Bui Van Tuan (Green Viet)

“I am sure that Tom's star will continue to burn brightly and guide us as we try to navigate our way to a more sustainable planet” said Rosina Bierbaum, STAP Chair, “We were so lucky to call him friend and mentor.   We are all so much better for having known this unique and wonderful man, and he will be sorely missed.”


STAP Meeting, London, UK
(L-R) Tom Hammond (STAP Secretary), Dr. Tom Lovejoy (STAP Chair), Achim Steiner (UNEP Executive Director at the time, now Administrator for UNDP), Dr. Meryl Williams (STAP Panel Member, International Waters)
STAP Meeting, London, UK, March 2012


Links to more information on Tom’s life and work may be found below

Thomas E. Lovejoy (1941-2021) Biodiversity pioneer and expert on the Amazon rainforest (Science, Volume 375 | Issue 6581, 11 February 2022)

Thomas E. Lovejoy III, an ecologist who dedicated his career to preserving the Amazon rainforest, dies at 80 (Washington Post)

George Mason University mourns the loss of Tom Lovejoy, lifelong climate crusader

Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF US, on the passing of Dr. Thomas Lovejoy

Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy (Wikipedia)