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Tom Lovejoy, ‘godfather of biodiversity’ and conservation advocate, passes away.

University professor Thomas Lovejoy Ph.D., one of the world’s leading conservation biologists, passed away on Saturday, December 25, at the age of 80. 

Known as the ‘godfather of biodiversity,’ Lovejoy had a career spanning more than 50 years that took him around the world as an advocate for conservation. Lovejoy, the first to use the term biodiversity, was a leading expert on the biodiversity of the Amazon and was a trustee of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico from October 18, 1995 to May 9, 2005 when he also served alongside Loren Ferré, Dr. Arleen Pabón and Kate Donnelly de Romero.  

Lovejoy joined the George Mason University School of Science in Virginia in 2010 as a University Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy and scientific director of the Institute for a Sustainable Earth.  

Lovejoy was the founder and president of the Amazon Biodiversity Center and the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments in Central Amazonia Project. He served on the scientific and environmental councils of the administrations of U.S. Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton and was a science envoy for Obama and Biden. He was also a member of the United Nations Foundation and served as president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – United States Chapter (IUCN-US).  

On January 21, 2020, the current board of trustees of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust appointed Dr. Lovejoy as Trustee Emeritus. Lovejoy was the chairman of the Board of Trustees when Fernando Lloveras was selected to preside over its operations in 2003. 

“Dr. Tom Lovejoy honored us with his knowledge while he was a trustee and Trustee Emeritus of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. We celebrate his enormous legacy in favor of the conservation of the planet, especially tropical rainforests, their biodiversity and his fundamental contributions that help us understand climate change,” said Fernando Lloveras, president of Para la Naturaleza.   

Lovejoy was instrumental in the design and development of the Conservation Plan for Puerto Rico, Map 33. This Map seeks to conserve 33 percent of Puerto Rico’s islands by 2033. The Map was accepted by the Planning Board and contributed to the approval of the Land Use Plan (PUT). 

Dr. Lovejoy was associated for decades with the National Geographic Society as a member of the Society’s Research and Exploration Committee, the Ocean Restoration Advisory Council, and as chair of the Grants Committee for Big Cat Initiatives and the Grand Energy Challenge Advisory Committee. 

In 2019, he was selected as a National Geographic Explorer-at-Large, a title he held until his passing.  

We feel the great loss to the scientific and pro-nature community and share our deepest condolences to the Lovejoy family and our deepest appreciation for all he contributed to conservation in our islands.  

“I am losing a mentor and a great friend. I will always be grateful for having invited me to participate in this great cause of nature conservation that today becomes a mission of all of us who inhabit the planet,”  Lloveras San Miguel added.