Arlington, VA – Russell A. Mittermeier, the president of Conservation International and a global leader in biodiversity conservation, has received the Roger Tory Peterson Medal from the Harvard Museum of Natural History.
Mittermeier is a renowned field biologist and conservation strategist who has written more than 500 scientific and popular articles, along with field guides and 19 books. He has described 11 species new to science, had seven others named after him, and was cited as one of Time magazine's "EcoHeroes for the Planet" in 1998.
As part of the medal ceremony, Mittermeier delivered the annual Roger Tory Peterson Memorial Lecture at the Harvard University Science Center on April 5, 2009. Titled "Conserving the World's Biodiversity: How the Climate Crisis Could Both Hurt and Help," the lecture examined how climate change may present an opportunity to protect and invest in some of the world's highest priority biodiversity hotspots at levels previously unimagined.
Mittermeier began the lecture by challenging his audience to identify a taped animal call, with only a few correctly answering the indri, the largest remaining lemur species on Madagascar. He detailed the extinction crisis that threatens the planet, and how climate change exacerbates existing problems and creates new challenges, but also presents new opportunities to increase the global value of tropical forests and other natural systems.
In particular, Mittermeier noted deforestation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, and how conserving tropical forests offers the multiple benefits of climate change mitigation, sustainable resource management and potential new revenue streams for governments and local communities.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History inaugurated the Roger Tory Peterson Memorial Lecture in 1997 to keep alive the memory of the pioneering naturalist and author of the legendary Peterson Field Guide to Birds. Past recipients of the medal include Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson, Jared Diamond and Richard Leakey.
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