Harold Jefferson Coolidge, born in Boston in 1904, was one of the founders of IUCN, a former president of the Union and its principal fundraiser from 1948 to the 1980s. He founded and chaired the Species Survival and National Parks Commission of IUCN, and was the first to bring women scientists into international conservation research. He influenced the lives of many students and professionals wishing to achieve the goals of conservation and environment protection.
The winner of the Harold Jefferson Coolidge Memorial Medal announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, USA, 1-10 September 2016 was Lee M. Talbot of the USA.
Nominees were individuals who have made internationally significant contributions to effective conservation in one or more of the following ways:
- Inspiration and support to individuals enabling them to become leading conservationists.
- Exceptional contribution to the establishment of conservation institutions, or expanding the scope of existing ones.
- Creation or implementation of international conservation initiatives.
The prize was awarded by an award jury consisting of five serving members of the IUCN Constituency Committee and three eminent conservation leaders who were familiar with and understoon Harold Jefferson Coolidge conservation ideals.
Throughout his over-60 year career, nationally and internationally, Dr. Talbot has been well known for encouraging and assisting young individuals in conservation in the United States and elsewhere in the world. His early work as IUCN’s first Staff Ecologist involved visits to nearly 30 countries of Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and one specific objective in each country was to identify existing or potential conservation leaders and provide contacts with IUCN and other encouragement and assistance to them. He has sought to do the same in his roughly ten years of work in African countries, years in south and southeast Asian countries, and elsewhere. For example, during his two years conducting the IUCN South East Asia Project with Mrs. Talbot, he identified and sought to provide inspiration, encouragement and support to individuals who became leading conservationists in seven countries. Subsequently both in south and south east Asia he has continued these endeavors, notably in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and currently in Laos.
For the past 22 years he has been on the graduate faculty of George Mason University in Virginia teaching a series of conservation-oriented courses that he has developed for the purpose. He has also served as adviser (mentor) to dozens of students achieving their Masters or Ph.D. degrees, who have gone on to key conservation positions in the Smithsonian Institution, the Global Environment Facility, environmental NGOs, and government agencies (including, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Service, and the U.S. Forest Service).