Laurance, William F. 1957–
Laurance, William F. 1957–
Born October 12, 1957, in Portland, OR; son of Barry (a teacher) and Claire (a guidance counselor) Laurance; married Susan Warriner, August, 1993. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Boise State University, B.Sc. (cum laude), 1982; University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1989. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Photography, tennis, swimming, hiking, "ultimate frisbee."
Office—Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 2072, Balboa, Panama; fax: +507- 212-8148.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Panama, senior research scientist, 1996—. University of Missouri—St. Louis, adjunct member of biology faculty; scientist with Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project in Brazilian Amazonia. Member of board of editors, Biotropica, 1998-2000, Biological Conservation, 1998—, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 2002—.
Society for Conservation Biology, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (member of executive council, 2004-05; president, 2006—), American Association for the Advancement of Science (fellow), Australian Mammal Society (member of executive council, 1994-96).
Award from American Society of Mammalogists, 1989, for "Tropical Forest Fragmentation: Comparative Responses of Five Arboreal Marsupials"; John A. Boething Award for Conservation Research, Stanford University, 2005; John A. Erskine fellow, University of Canterbury, 2005; honorary fellow, World Innovation Foundation, 2005; award for outstanding paper of the year (with others), International Association of Landscape Ecologists, 2006, for "Rapid Decay of Tree-Community Composition in Amazonian Forest Fragments."
(Editor, with R.O. Bierregaard, Jr.) Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management, and Conservation of Fragmented Communities, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles: Confessions of a Rainforest Biologist, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2000.
(Editor, with Carlos Peres) Emerging Threats to Tropical Forests, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2006.
Contributor of more than 250 articles to scientific journals and popular magazines, including Science, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Ecology, Nature, Futures, Biotropica, and Conservation Biology. Coeditor of special issue, Biological Conservation, 1999.
Since 1996, William F. Laurance has lived in Brazil and Panama, studying the flora and fauna of the rainforests, but his interest in rainforest biology began long before that time. He spent eighteen months living in a small town in the rainforests of Queensland, Australia, doing doctoral research, during a period in the 1980's when forest conservation was a divisive political issue in this area. His popular book Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles: Confessions of a Rainforest Biologist is based on his experiences there.
In Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles Laurance discusses the flora and fauna of northern Australia in all of its vicious detail. The stinging trees of the title, a plant with microscopic needles containing a chemical that can cause a person intense skin pain for days, seem almost benign when compared to the poisonous spiders, hungry crocodiles, and eyeball-loving leeches that the author also encountered. However, the most dangerous creatures Laurance encountered during his time there may have been the local people. This area of Australia had recently been designated as a possible World Heritage site. Many local residents fiercely opposed this nomination, since they feared it would cost them their jobs in the timber industry. Laurance and his team were highly visible advocates for the World Heritage Site designation, which made them a convenient target for local wrath. On one occasion, someone loosened the lug nuts on Laurance's off-road vehicle so that they broke while he was driving. Luckily, no one was injured.
Laurance also wrote the technical volume Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management, and Conservation of Fragmented Communities, which was praised as "a most fascinating text" by Wendy J. Gill in a review for Geographical Journal.
Laurance told CA: "My scientific research is focused on assessing the impacts of destructive land uses, such as habitat fragmentation, logging, and wildfires, on tropical ecosystems and their species. I'm also broadly interested in global-change phenomena, and in conservation policy. I firmly believe that scientists must engage policy makers and the general public, in addition to other scientists. I do quite a lot of popular writing and also a wide variety of media and public-outreach activities, especially as president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world's largest scientific organization devoted to the study and sustainable use of tropical ecosystems. I'm a real believer in not just preaching to the converted, but also trying to reach the many people for whom the environment is of only general interest.
"Like a lot of people, I'm a great fan of Al Gore. He has truly set the standard for reaching out and changing public opinion on an issue of great importance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2000, Julia Glynn, review of Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles: Confessions of a Rainforest Biologist, p. 196.
Choice, February, 1998, K.L. Williams, review of Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management, and Conservation of Fragmented Communities, pp. 1015-1016.
Ecologist, December, 2000, Chris Lavers, review of Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles, p. 62.
Ecology, June, 1998, Manuel R. Guariguata, review of Tropical Forest Remnants, pp. 1472-1473.
Geographical Journal, November, 1999, Wendy J. Gill, review of Tropical Forest Remnants, p. 329.
Journal of Wildlife Management, October, 1998, Michael A. Mares, review of Tropical Forest Remnants, p. 1581.
Library Journal, August, 2000, Marianne Stowell Bracke, review of Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles, p. 149.
Publishers Weekly, August 14, 2000, review of Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles, p. 343.
Quarterly Review of Biology, December, 1998, David F. Whitacre, review of Tropical Forest Remnants, p. 531; June, 2001, A. Baer, review of Stinging Trees and Wait-a-Whiles, p. 221.
Space Daily, September 6, 2006, "The Subtleties of Tropical Forest Demise."