UArizona announces Lovejoy Center for Bridging Biodiversity, Conservation Science, and Policy
The center will advance research and conservation efforts, educate future conservation scientists and leaders and develop a broader understanding of the Earth's biosphere.

By Shelley Littin, Arizona Institute for Resilience
Jan. 16, 2024

Rainforest Bridge

A bridge of knotted ropes and wooden slats spans a verdant green rainforest.
The Lovejoy Center will expand upon the work of renowned ecologist Thomas E. Lovejoy in biodiversity research, conservation, science-informed policymaking, community engagement and education.

A $5 million gift from the Thomas Lovejoy Amazon Biodiversity Center will establish the Lovejoy Center for Bridging Biodiversity, Conservation Science, and Policy and the Thomas E. Lovejoy Endowed Chair in Biodiversity, Conservation Science, and Policy at the University of Arizona.

Thomas E. Lovejoy March

An older gentleman in an orange jacket with greying hair and glasses smiles warmly beside a window.
Thomas E. Lovejoy Kristin Pintauro / Colorado State University

The gift honors the legacy of renowned ecologist Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy and expands his work bridging biodiversity, conservation science and policy. Lovejoy established the field of biodiversity and has been recognized internationally as one of the most renowned ecologists of the modern era. Lovejoy died in 2021.

Upon approval by the Arizona Board of Regents, the new center will carry forward and expand upon the shared mission of the TLABC and UArizona. This includes the Lovejoy Fellowship Program for early-career researchers, particularly from the Amazon region, increasing the use of science to inform policymaking that protects biodiversity, and growing biodiversity education and awareness through digital media, art and storytelling.

"The University of Arizona is honored to be selected by the Thomas Lovejoy Amazon Biodiversity Center to expand the impact of Dr. Lovejoy's work," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "The university's Lovejoy Center will both commemorate and continue his legacy of robust research, scientific communication and conservation." 

"I'm so grateful to the donors who funded TLABC, whose generosity will fund this new center," said Mark O'Donnell, TLABC co-founder and board chair. "Given the long relationship Dr. Lovejoy had with the institution's faculty, the University of Arizona is precisely the place to preserve and expand the impact of his life's work."

The Lovejoy Center and endowed chair will be housed within the Arizona Institute for Resilience, which develops science into community-oriented solutions focusing on the capacity to respond to environmental change by adapting toward more sustainable and equitable outcomes.

"With connections across the university, and its interdisciplinary approach to improving resilience through policy, technology and behavioral change, AIR is the perfect home for the Lovejoy Center," said Elliott Cheu, interim senior vice president for research and innovation.

The Lovejoy Center will advance research and conservation efforts for science-based policy-making and decision-making, educate the next generation of conservation scientists and leaders, and work to grow a broader understanding of the Earth's biosphere. In addition, the center will sustain and curate a diverse community of scientists, policymakers and conservation experts to engage with, and respond to, challenges related to global biodiversity loss in the face of environmental change.

"Much of my dissertation was based on Dr. Lovejoy's foundational work on ecosystems," said Sharon Collinge, director of the Arizona Institute for Resilience. "So, for me it is a personal privilege that AIR will host the Lovejoy Center with Rachel Gallery at the helm."

Rachel Gallery

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Rachel E. Gallery Courtesy of Rachel Gallery

Gallery, a professor in the UArizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has been appointed the inaugural holder of the Thomas E. Lovejoy Endowed Chair in Biodiversity, Conservation Science, and Policy and the center’s founding director.

"I am deeply honored to be selected as the Thomas E. Lovejoy Endowed Chair and to be entrusted with leading the Lovejoy Center," Gallery said. "Dr. Lovejoy was a global leader in conservation. Through the center, I will build upon his legacy."

"Through the UArizona Lovejoy Center, we will accelerate the impact of Tom Lovejoy's lifelong work in protection of the planet and priority for including underrepresented voices and emerging scientists from the Global South," said Michelle Wyman, executive director of the Thomas Lovejoy Amazon Biodiversity Center.

Lovejoy maintained strong connections with the university throughout his career. In 1992, while at the Smithsonian Institution, he chaired a science advisory committee for Biosphere 2, now operated by UArizona. He also had a decades-long relationship working in science policy and diplomacy with Jim Buizer, who now serves as senior strategy adviser in the UArizona Office of Research, Innovation and Impact, and a professor of climate adaptation in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

"What an incredible honor for the University of Arizona to further the mission and legacy of Thomas Lovejoy," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "I'm grateful to the Thomas Lovejoy Amazon Biodiversity Center for their funding, and know the University of Arizona is poised through its many programs at RII and AIR to ensure Dr. Lovejoy's lifework continues."

Lovejoy's work in the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, demonstrated how human activity causes habitat fragmentation leading to disruption of biodiversity. He spent more than four decades conducting research and educating visitors at Camp 41, part of the Amazon Biodiversity Center he founded near Manaus, Brazil, in 1979.

Lovejoy is credited with introducing the term "biological diversity" to the scientific community in 1980, and conceived the idea of the "minimum critical size of ecosystems," which describes the necessary size of a forest to preserve biodiversity.

In 2001, Lovejoy was awarded the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. He published 10 books, more than 300 peer reviewed articles, and over 100 white papers and editorials. Committed to public science communication, Lovejoy founded the public television series "Nature," and advised producers on numerous documentaries and television programs.

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Media contact(s)

Shelley Littin

Arizona Institute for Resilience

Researcher contact(s)

Rachel Gallery

Lovejoy Center for Bridging Biodiversity, Conservation Science, and Policy