Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing, December 25, 2021, of our good friend and member of the ACEER Board of Directors, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy. His passionate and dedicated commitment to conservation spanned more than 50 years. 

Tom first joined the ACEER Foundation in 2015 as a member of our Science and Education Advisory Committee. He then was appointed to the Board of Directors in January 2018 and served until his passing. He was instrumental in crafting our 5-year Strategic Plan that set in motion initiatives that would address some of the Amazon’s, and in turn the planet’s, most pressing problems. He regularly spoke of the urgency to halt and reverse fragmentation of the Amazon from deforestation. In a December 20, 2019, New York Times Op-Ed, authored with Carlos Nobre, Tom cautioned the world that the Amazon is at a tipping point.  There was still time to act but we needed to do that now and do it boldly. Fragmentation, he said, will lead to a conversion of the rainforest to a dryer savannah, disrupt the hydrologic cycle and rainfall patterns, lead to massive species extinctions, and devastate regional and global economies. As recently as November 2, 2021, he and co-author John Reid once again cautioned the world that climate recovery will come about by keeping large scale, functioning ecosystems like the Amazon Rainforest intact. Our strategic initiatives reflect the sense of urgency that Tom so eloquently espoused. 

A second vexing problem for Amazonia is illegal gold mining that is deforesting large swaths of pristine forest, destroying aquatic ecosystems, and contaminating the air, water, land, food, and people with toxic mercury. On September 29, 2021, Tom joined ACEER President Jon Cox at a summit hosted by Amazon Aid to discuss cleaner alternatives to mercury. 

In his time with ACEER we came to know, as others did, that he had a quiet, respectful tone, listened intently, and when he did speak, spoke directly and skillfully to the issue at hand.  This helped ACEER immensely in expanding and cultivating our collaborative network of individuals, NGOs, governent representatives and the general public.  He was a stable, reassuring force on the Board.

In recognition of his life, the Board presented to Tom our 2015 ACEER Legacy Award created to honor an individual or individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to conservation in general, and conservation of the Amazon rainforest in particular. The award ceremony was held at the National Geographic Society on February 11, 2016, in conjunction with the Society’s own gala acknowledging their 50-year collaboration with Tom.  During opening remarks, Dr. Paul Morgan, Chair of the Board of Directors at ACEER stated, “We need to create more Tom Lovejoys!” Paul’s comment got a large round of applause from the audience and a big smile from Tom. We at ACEER took that statement from Paul seriously. The need to create the next generation of conservation leaders is now the keystone of ACEER’s mission.

To honor Tom, and to keep his legacy alive at ACEER, the Board of Directors has created, effective January 1, 2022, the Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy Conservation Fellowship in Biological Diversity. This fellowship will support an up-and-coming conservation leader doing the good work that Tom devoted his life to. 

The conservation community lost a giant with Tom’s passing. We must all heed his call to action and continue his efforts to protect the planet.

The above image of Tom Lovejoy taken by Dylan Coulter. This portrait appeared in the  November 2015 Climate Issue of National Geographic magazine.