Following his nomination earlier in the year, it has been announced that Jan Schipper, a member of the IUCN’s Species Programme, has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the William T. Hornaday Conservation Award.
This national award, offered through the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM), is presented to a current undergraduate or graduate student who has made a significant scientific contribution to the conservation of mammals and their habitats.
Jan is currently a doctoral student in a joint PhD programme between the University of Idaho and CATIE (Costa Rica), and part of the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) programme, funded by the National Science Foundation. For the last three years, Jan’s focus has been on the assessment of the conservation status of the world’s 5,500 mammal species, leading an initiative jointly managed by the IUCN and the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International. Jan works alongside, and leads, a number of interdisciplinary teams worldwide, in order to address the serious issues of habitat loss, hunting, invasive species and global economic and climate change, with a view to improving future species conservation efforts.
The original letter of nomination for the Hornaday award was submitted by Russ Mittermeier, a member of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) Steering Committee and Chair of the SSC Primate Specialist Group, and he himself a previous winner of an ASM award, in recognition of Jan’s dedication to improving our understanding of the risks to threatened species populations worldwide.
“Jan’s work is not only enormously significant for mammal conservation, but it also underscores the importance of providing ecosystem services, mitigating climate change and benefitting human well-being,” Mittermeier said. “What makes Jan’s achievement even more compelling is that in the midst of all this, he has continued to serve as director of Proyecto de Conservacion de Aguas y Tierras (ProCAT), a fledgling conservation non-governmental organization that he founded, which has rapidly expanded operations from Costa Rica to Colombia and now further afield."
Jan demonstrated his commitment to conservation by authoring and co-authoring numerous articles in prestigious peer reviewed journals, including Science and Nature, during his doctoral studies, as well as publishing several book chapters and presenting his research at the 10th International Mammalogical Congress held in Mendoza, Argentina in August.
One of his letters of support for the award came from Michael Scott, senior scientist, U.S. Geological Survey, and Jan’s PhD supervisor at the University of Idaho: “Jan is an inspiration to other graduate students. He has contributed to our knowledge and understanding of the natural history and ecology of jaguar and its prey species, arboreal mammals, the conservation status of mammals globally and of their habitats globally and regionally."
Jan has worked with local governments and Indigenous Territories in Talamanca, Costa Rica and the Guianan Ecoregion complex to develop conservation plans, and has conducted workshops in preparation for conservation and threat assessments of native mammals across several areas including South America and Southeast Asia. Despite having yet to defend his dissertation in the autumn, the results of Jan’s work are already being used to inform management and policy decisions in countries such as Costa Rica.
"Very early in his career he understood the importance of conducting management and policy relevant research and sharing the results of that work, early and often, with those in a position to use it," said Scott. "He is very good at presenting complex information in ways that make common sense."