FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kalāheo, Kaua‘i, HI USA - Renowned scientist, scholar, and explorer Dr. Wade Davis has been named the 2012 recipient of the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration. In an announcement from its headquarters in Hawai‘i, the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) recognized Davis for his multi-faceted career as a biologist, anthropologist, ethnobotanist, and documentarian of people, plants, and places.
Davis spent much of the last four decades in remote field settings observing and recording the biological and cultural diversity of the planet. He has worked in more than 50 countries with great attention given to the people and plants of Colombia, Peru, Borneo, Tibet, Haiti, Australia, Greenland, and Polynesia. Davis’s exploration has taken him to the most remote outposts of the world’s great forests, deserts, mountains, tundras, and jungles from the Amazon to Africa and the Andes to the Arctic. In addition to Davis’s scientific achievements, he is well-known as a photographer, filmmaker, author, and public speaker. Among his 15 books is The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Identifying himself simply as a storyteller, Davis believes that communicating the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of humanity and its environment is as effective an agent for positive change as any. Storytelling, Davis says, can transform mankind’s relationship with the natural world. Through documentary films like Light at the Edge of the World and Cry of the Forgotten People, Davis has helped raise awareness of the importance of preserving the world’s natural and cultural wealth. He is currently an explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society.
A native of British Columbia, Canada, Wade Davis earned a Ph.D. in ethnobotany, the study of people’s relationships to plants, as well as degrees in anthropology and biology, all from Harvard University. A tireless advocate for the preservation of diversity in all its forms, Davis has lived with 15 indigenous groups in eight Latin American countries spending three years exploring plants in traditional societies where he made 6,000 botanical collections.
Chipper Wichman, NTBG’s Director and CEO said, “From exploring remote regions to the preservation of threatened and endangered habitats and communities, Wade Davis encapsulates the impassioned spirit of an explorer who connects deeply with indigenous cultures as he helps safeguard them. We are proud to present our highest honor for exploration to Dr. Davis.”
Nominations were made by a panel of botanists and plant explorers, which included esteemed scientists Dr. Warren Wagner and Sir Ghillean Prance, who remarked that “Wade is one of those rare scientists able to interpret his work to the layman in writing and lectures. He truly merits the Fairchild Medal as he combines all the qualifications as a scientist, explorer, and writer.”
Upon learning of his selection as recipient of the award, Davis said, “I was both thrilled and humbled to learn that I was to receive the Fairchild Medal. To be nominated by Sir Ghillean Prance and Dr. Warren Wagner, and to join the illustrious company of previous recipients was for me the greatest possible honor. David Fairchild was an inspiration to all tropical botanists of my generation… We spent weeks in his gardens, imagining that one day we too might sail forth in search of botanical wonders.”
The award will be presented at a black-tie dinner on February 3 at NTBG’s Florida garden, The Kampong, the former estate and private garden of the award’s namesake David Grandison Fairchild. The following day Davis will be the keynote speaker at a scientific symposium that is open to the public and is also part of a course for physicians held annually at the garden.
Dr. David Fairchild, one of the greatest and most influential horticulturalists and plant collectors in the United States, devoted twenty-five years of his life to plant exploration, searching for useful plants suitable for introduction into the United States. As an early “Indiana Jones” type explorer, he conducted field trips throughout Asia, the South Pacific, Dutch East (Indonesia) and West Indies (Caribbean Islands), South America, Egypt, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), China, Japan, the Persian Gulf, and East and South Africa during the late 1800s and early 1900s. These explorations resulted in the introduction of many tropical plants of economic importance to the United States, including sorghum, nectarines, unique species of bamboo, dates, and varieties of mangoes. In addition, as director of the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction of the United States Department of Agriculture during the early 20th Century, Dr. Fairchild was instrumental in the introduction of approximately 75,000 selected varieties and species of useful plants, such as Durum wheat, Japanese rices, Sudan grass, Chinese soy beans, Chinese elms, persimmons, and pistachios.
Fairchild and his wife, Marion Bell Fairchild, daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, purchased property in South Florida in 1916 and created both a home and an “introduction garden” for plant species found on his expeditions. He named the property “The Kampong,” the Malay word for “village.” The tropical species he collected from Southeast Asia in the 1930s and 1940s are still part of the heritage collections of The Kampong, which operates today as part of the not-for-profit National Tropical Botanical Garden (www.ntbg.org). NTBG has five gardens and five preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida and is dedicated to conservation, research, and education relating to the world’s rare and endangered tropical plants. The institution, which is non-governmental, is supported primarily through donations and grants.
Media contact: Janet L. Leopold, email@example.com (808) 332-7324, ext. 213 or Jon Letman firstname.lastname@example.org at NTBG Headquarters.
Kampong contact: Ann Parsons, email@example.com, (305) 442-7169
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