Chicago (December, 1, 2011) - Today, The Field Museum named Dr. Les Kaufman the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Parker/Gentry Award, which has been given annually since 1996 to the individual, team or organization whose work has made an impact on conservation and serves as a model for others.
A Professor of Biology at Boston University and senior scientist at Conservation International, Kaufman is an evolutionary ecologist who studies the creation, collapse, and conservation of aquatic diversity. In over 30 years of work in conservation biology he has worked in critical habitats from the African Great Lakes, New England, and the South Pacific.
"I am deeply honored to have been chosen for this recognition, doubly so given my admiration for Ted Parker and Al Gentry,” Kaufman said. “The achievements recognized by this award came from the hard work of hundreds of passionately dedicated colleagues with whom I happen to share a common dream: that nature, including human beings, can survive this time of rapid and bewildering change."
Kaufman began his career studying coral reefs in Jamaica in 1974, where he witnessed the sweeping loss of reef-building corals. His interest in evolution and ecology led to a study of cichlids in Lake Victoria, where he was able to demonstrate the complex links between biodiversity and human welfare. Through this work, Kaufman founded the first formal international captive breeding programs for endangered fishes including a flagship effort for Lake Victoria cichlids.
In 1983, Kaufman brought his expertise back to the U.S. where he convened lawyers, fishermen, state and town councils, and biologists to develop new coastal management plans, and to define a common ground on which the culture and economy of the New England fisheries can survive.
"The Field Museum is delighted to present this year's Parker Gentry Award to Dr. Les Kaufman,” said Dr. Corine Vriesendorp, senior conservation ecologist at The Field Museum. “As a scientist and a teacher, his conservation efforts have had a substantial impact on marine environments worldwide."
In 2005, Kaufman conceived the Marine Management Area Science (MMAS) Program in partnership with Conservation International. As the lead scientist, he coordinated research on coupled human and natural coastal ecosystems across Belize, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, and Fiji. His team guided management of existing marine reserves, yielded data that sparked the enlargement and establishment of new reserves, and discovered several new species and habitats.
"Through his leadership with the MMAS Program and his decades teaching the next generation of scientists, Dr. Les Kaufman has had an indelible impact on conservation science in the field and in the classroom,” said Dr. Andy Rosenberg, senior vice president for science and knowledge at Conservation International. “It is gratifying to see his lifetime of work recognized with this award."
Kaufman is the 16th recipient of the Parker/Gentry Award, which honors an outstanding individual, team or organization whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world’s rich natural heritage and whose actions can serve as a model to others. The award, established by an anonymous donor, is named after the late Theodore A. Parker III and Alwyn Gentry, ardent conservationists and leading naturalists. Parker, an ornithologist, and Gentry, a botanist, died on 3 August 1993, while surveying hill forests of western Ecuador. Parker and Gentry worked closely with Field Museum scientists on several joint efforts, including rapid inventories for conservation.