2022 Honorary Member - George B. Schaller

Dr. George B. Schaller is an eminent behavioral ecologist and conservation biologist.  He was born in Berlin, Germany, moved to the US as a teen, and completed his PhD in 1962 at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  He has held a long list of research positions with both universities and NGOs, and currently is Vice President of Panthera and a senior conservationist for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr. Schaller has been described as the finest field biologist in the world.  He has conducted often ground-breaking field studies on an impressive array of mammals, including mountain gorillas, African lions, giant pandas, snow leopards, Tibetan red deer and Tibetan antelopes, Marco Polo sheep, tigers, jaguars, and Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses. One nominator noted that Dr. Schaller appeared to thrive in field conditions that would be intolerable to most of us, selecting some of the most charismatic but also most elusive and difficult-to-study terrestrial species of mammals as the foci for his efforts.

Dr. Schaller’s research has been wide-ranging, resulting in more than 130 publications.  His top 5 publications have been cited more than 8,000 times.  Dr. Schaller strongly believes in using his research to promote conservation. His conservation efforts have helped establish 20 parks and protected areas around the world, including in the Amazon, the Hindu Kush of Pakistan, and the forests of SE Asia, Alaska (namely, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), as well as in China and Nepal.  In recognition of his conservation work, he received the World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal for contributions to the understanding and conservation of endangered species, and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, sometimes called the Nobel Prize for the Environment.

However, Dr. Schaller is best known for his 15 books and 5 children’s books on ecology, conservation, and natural history.  All the nominators recalled reading the nominee’s books as a young scientist.  The exploits of Dr. Schaller described in Peter Matthiesen’s book The Snow Leopard were an inspiration to many budding field biologists, and the research described in The Serengeti Lion and Golden Shadows, Flying Hooves set new standards for field ecology.  Some of his other important books include The Year of the Gorilla and The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior; The Giant Pandas of Wolong; The Deer and the Tiger: a Study of Wildlife in India; Mountain Monarchs: Wild Sheep and Goats of the Himalaya; and Antelopes, Deer, and Relatives: Fossil Record, Behavioral Ecology, Ecology, Systematics, and Conservation.

Although Dr. Schaller’s research has focused on specific highly charismatic mammals, his approach has been comprehensive and includes consideration of the whole environment, including other species contained therein.  The research described in his books has often provided a critical foundation for all subsequent studies of these species.  Because his books were written to appeal to both scientists and non-scientists, they have enabled generations to gain a deeper appreciation of these species and their conservation needs.

As one nominator noted: “I cannot think of a single person who has contributed more to our understanding of the behavior, ecology, and conservation of so many large-bodied mammalian species.”  ASM is proud to recognize Dr. George B. Schaller as an Honorary Member of the Society.