In recognition of his outstanding services to the conservation of nature and natural resources, Professor Randolph Robert Thaman of the University of the South Pacific was awarded an Honorary Membership of IUCN Award by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea.
Professor Thaman was one of eleven nominees who received the award on September 11 at the largest conservation event held from September 6-15.
He dedicated the award to the University of the South Pacific (USP), his students, colleagues and collaborators and in particular the communities and 12 member countries of USP.
“I accept this also as an acknowledgement of the importance that IUCN places on good education and applied science, both modern and traditional, as a critical foundation of sustainability and the ultimate survival of our conservation efforts,” he said in receiving the award.
The Fiji-based Professor of Pacific Islands Biogeography has worked with tireless dedication in academia and the natural resources sector in the vast Pacific Island region since he joined USP in 1974.
USP, an IUCN Member, is collectively owned by 12 Pacific Island states, five of which are IUCN State Members. He is the only USP staff member to have researched and published on all 12 USP countries.
“Randy is my hero. I have never met anyone who genuinely sees the potential in human kind to save the planet. Randy has taught me not just from an academic perspective but also from a life point of view. He practices what he preaches,” says Ana Tiraa, Regional Councillor of IUCN. “His great enthusiasm and energy for the Pacific Islands, its people and their environment is infectious. I can't think of a person who deserves this award more than Randy.”
Professor Thaman’s pioneering research and teaching has focused on community-based biodiversity conservation, Pacific flora and ethnobiology, agrobiodiversity and food security, invasive species, and ecosystem restoration and species recovery in degraded small islands and marine managed areas.
Of particular importance has been his long dedication to working with local students and communities to document endangered traditional ethno-biodiversity as a basis for effective conservation. He has considerable expertise in addressing challenges associated with atolls and small-island ecosystems that are under threat from climate and environmental change.
“We congratulate Randy and are grateful that his peers recognize the incredible achievements he has made in a lifetime for this region,” says Taholo Kami, Regional Director, IUCN Oceania Regional Office.
Over almost four decades, Professor Thaman has taught and mentored and thereby empowered countless Pacific Islanders, many of whom are regional leaders in natural resource conservation and management in government institutions and other organizations throughout the Pacific, including IUCN and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.
Professor Thaman has been a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas since 1998, a founding member of the IUCN Commission of Education and Communication, and a past member of the Oceania Regional Committee. He has been co-author of the state of environment reports for Kiribati and Tuvalu for 1992 Rio Summit, the NEMS for Nauru, and conservation area plans for Fiji, Tonga and Kiribati, including the plan for Fiji’s only Ramsar site. Most recently he represented Fiji in the successful establishment of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.