Story | 22 Sep, 2020

Thank you, Georgina, from us all

An appreciation of Georgina Mace, who passed away on 19th September 2020. Colleague and friend, IUCN Commission member Eleanor Jane Milner-Gulland reflects on Georgina’s legacy in the conservation movement.

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Georgina Mace, at BBVA Foundation's headquarters.

Photo: Javi Martínez on elmundo.es.

If you look at Georgina Mace's Wikipedia page you will see a long list of honours and awards. These include Fellow of the Royal Society (the highest honour for a scientist in the UK), Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (!), honorary degrees, and many prizes from scientific and ecological societies (e.g. the President's Medal from the British Ecological Society). These awards show the very high esteem in which she was held, as well as reflecting her major contributions to science and policy, but they hardly scratch the surface - and really don't reflect the warm, humorous, sharp, unassuming and thoughtful person we all knew. 

I first met Georgina in 1991 as a young post-doc. I was asked to join a group she was leading, to develop the categories and criteria for the IUCN Red List. This followed a revolutionary paper which she'd written with Russ Lande setting out a proposal for more objective classification of species based on their extinction risk. The results of that early work are obvious to all - the Red List is now an enormously influential and respected categorisation of species by their extinction risk. But it all started quite modestly, with a small group meeting on a regular basis in a back room of the Zoological Society of London. 

I was overawed - to be part of a group consisting of some of the smartest, most influential conservation scientists in the world, and for no obvious reason. But Georgina made me feel at home, she ensured that my voice was given just as much respect as everyone else's. That first major experience with collaborative working and understated but effective leadership left me with a foundational understanding of how to do science in a respectful and generous way - also tinged with humour. It was just a lot of fun! My strongest memory of those days was once when we were arguing about some point in the group and, unusually, I disagreed with her; we were mostly on the same wavelength because we were both coming from a relatively scientific perspective. She smiled at me and said "Oh, E.J., I thought you were my friend!". I almost burst with pride. 

I tell this story not because there is anything special about it. That's the impressive thing about Georgina. If you look at the tributes pouring in on twitter, so many of them are the same - about people's lives being enriched by contact with her, whether brief or prolonged, and often at an early stage in their career. How many people had a boost to their confidence at a critical stage, learnt how to lead from watching her example, and went on to have more successful, more fulfilling careers as a result? A great many, judging from these tributes. This example was particularly galvanising for women. Georgina had three children, yet she rose to the top of her profession. She was kind, yet stood no nonsense. In the early days, she was often the only woman in a room full of men. We were inspired that we could perhaps emulate her. 

Georgina was particularly in demand to attend workshops and chair meetings. Slightly terrifying because she never shirked from telling you what she thought of your ideas, but if you got the seal of approval from Georgina, you knew you were on to something good. She was a master at distilling to the essence of an issue and cutting straight to the weak point in any argument. While an approachable leader, she was not afraid to do what needed to be done to put an organisation back on track; I saw her in operation as Director of the Institute of Zoology, reorganising the publications team of the British Ecological Society, leading the Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London. Sometimes the changes were painful, but she was always proved right in the end. 

The trajectory from "pure" scientist, to conservation scientist, to contributor to policy is becoming more well-trodden now, but Georgina was a pioneer. Her first paper, published in 1980 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was entitled "Brain size and ecology in small mammals and primates". In the mid-80s she started to publish more applied research alongside her pure science - particularly focussed on conservation genetics. This science continued, but with the Red List work she launched into the world of practical application of science to real-world conservation issues. Her interests shifted into understanding extinction risk and priority-setting for conservation. She co-organised a landmark symposium at ZSL in 1998 on "Conservation in a Changing World" - a prescient topic. Yet another contribution ahead of the curve was her co-authored 1999 piece in Nature entitled "It's time to work together and stop duplicating efforts...". More true now than ever. 

The further evolution of her career was marked by her piece in Conservation Biology in 2003 with Walter Reid urging conservation biologists to take part in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment so that policy would be informed by the best science; her deep involvement in the MEA (and then the National Ecosystem Assessment for the UK) ensured exactly that. These landmark contributions highlighted her capability as an interdisciplinary scientist with a keen appreciation of how to ensure that science contributed to policy. She contributed to so many of the assessments and processes that have formed the foundation of governmental action for conservation in recent years, notably working closely with economists. 

To finish, two vignettes about the last few days before she died. On 10th September, an incredibly important paper came out in Nature on which she was a leader; this showed that there is still scope to "bend the curve" and restore nature (a framing she was instrumental in developing); conservation is necessary but not sufficient, we need systems change as well. On 18th September, one of Georgina's PhD students had the very first paper from her PhD accepted, on parameter uncertainty and bushmeat sustainability for duikers, which we were proudly celebrating when we heard the news. Unassuming, private, humane, deeply caring about the many people who counted her as a friend or mentor, and one of the most influential conservationists of her generation. 

Georgina had been ill off and on for a long while, though she never made a fuss. Recently she told me that she was going to reduce her commitments so as to do more of the things she enjoyed, including being with her family at a new house by the river in Oxfordshire. She had also just become a grandmother. She wasn't given long enough to enjoy these times. Georgina we will miss you terribly - and thank you from all of us!

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User name: Stu Butchart
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on Tue, 22 Sep 2020 by Stu Butchart (not verified)

I had the privilege of working with Georgina over nearly two decades. We worked together on various topics over the years. It was always a pleasure to bump into her at meetings, conferences and workshops. Her advice was always sound and helpful and she had a talent for seeing clearly the solutions to problems. Like many others, I will miss her wise words, witty observations and sage advice.

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User name: Edward Mace
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on Tue, 22 Sep 2020 by Edward Mace (not verified)

Eleanor

I am Georgina's younger brother and we have all been overwhelmed with the feedback on the Internet - and we really never knew how much she was held in such esteem by so many people. Your article has again astounded me with what she did as we really had very little idea as she was so modest.

Many thanks for taking the time to describe your time with her

Edward

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User name: Rod Evans
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Rod Evans (not verified)

I did Edward, I did. I would sometimes accompany her to 'events'. Doing my Dennis Thatcher impersonation (hopefully inc a large glass), I'd often hold back, quietly observing how she was so enthusiastically greeted by so many - and how she treated everyone the same, how when asked, 'oh that's my friend .....'. would be the reply. But even I have been bowled over by the sheer number and consistency of the many tributes already paid to her.

We will, in due course, plan how best to commemorate and celebrate, many stories to tell. For now, thanks to all for such lovely comments.
Rod

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User name: Peter Mace
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Peter Mace (not verified)

Georgina's modesty was so much part of her character that it was easy, for us, as her brothers, to be unaware of the esteem in which she was held, and it was only when I was with her in Bilbao that this was evident. What I think none of us knew - and could not have known - was the way in which she was so quietly encouraging to young scientists and those at the start of their careers, or those who approached her for help, and got it, apparently in spades, from a modest and unassuming person, who became a friend and supporter. It is so lovely to read this. While her passing is painful, the personal messages from so many is a huge comfort. Many many thanks to all those who wrote such kind and clearly heartfelt words.

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User name: Ramon.PEREZ-GILSALCIDO
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Ramon.PEREZ-GI… (not verified)

WE will certainly miss her, she did in fact touched our lives as nicely put. The whole IUCN/SSC family owe her a lot. A good friend and as said and repeated, with a unique sense of fine humour.

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User name: Craig Hilton-Taylor
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Craig Hilton-Taylor (not verified)

I first met Georgina at a workshop held at London Zoo in 1992 to develop the Red List Categories and Criteria. Little did I realise then what an influence Georgina was to have on my life. She has been a guiding influence on me for the past 28 years. I will miss her words of wisdom, wise advice, kindness and amazing sense of humour. I cannot thank her enough.

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User name: Sonia
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Sonia (not verified)

Georgina Mace - a name that always resonated with biodiversity conservation, scientific excellency and policy astuteness. She will be hugely missed but her legacy is and will remain definitely with us. RIP Georgina!

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User name: Andrew Cunningham
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Andrew Cunningham (not verified)

When I first met Georgina in 1988, she was working for the UK Zoo Federation (now BIAZA) on the genetic management of zoo animals. Fortunately for me, a lack of office space meant that she was based in ZSL's veterinary department. I was a young vet and, although she probably didn't realise it at the time, Georgina mentored my conservation research ambitions. In fact, Georgina has been there throughout my career - whether instrumental in shaping it through appointing me as head of a new wildlife disease research group, or in the background encouraging and mentoring me in her quiet and unimposing way long after she had moved on from ZSL. Georgina was kind but no-nonsense, firm but fair, an intellectual giant yet so, so modest. She was the most loved and respected scientist I have had the pleasure to know and her legacy for conservation will endure well into the future. Many people, including me, owe her a huge debt of gratitude. We will miss her terribly.

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User name: sugoto roy
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by sugoto roy (not verified)

Georgina Mace was an inspirational person, tutor and guide at various steps along my career. She had time for everybody. She will be missed. A gentle goliath of the conservation world.

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User name: Jane Smart
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Jane Smart (not verified)

Thank you so much Georgina for everything you did for IUCN, for species, for nature and the planet. The categories and criteria of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are a lasting testament to your sheer cleverness and insightfulness. You had a quiet ability to cut through noise to the heart of the issue with quiet authority, kindness, wisdom and good humour.

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User name: Ece Ozdemiroglu
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Ece Ozdemiroglu (not verified)

and I should say a human being too. She never withheld her support and not only parted with her knowledge and wisdom but empowered me to feel more confident.

While she was a conservation scientist, she always pointed out that economics and evolutionary biology were similar in their desire to understand how species survive given the growing scarcity of their resources. She appreciated the role that economic analysis plays in conservation and challenged us to always do better. Most recently, she had been the science leader for an eftec report on valuing biodiversity for the Forestry Commission.

She was a visionary leader - always able to find a path through the complexity, enabling you to follow her and find your own path and, all the while, being a really lovely person.

We have lost a friend and a mentor. We will never forget her and will do our best to honour her legacy as will all who have been privileged enough to work with or be trained by her.

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User name: Moreno Di Marco
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Moreno Di Marco (not verified)

I had the privilege to collaborate with Georgina for a few years, after visiting her lab in 2013. I was merely a visitor, but in no other occasion in my professional life I felt so listened to, and my opinion taken into so much consideration, as during my meetings with her. She supported me ever since, despite having no obligations towards me.

Last year I met her at a meeting. I was having lunch on my own while looking at emails, and she approached me asking if she could join. She told me she had read some of my papers. I thought how gentle a gesture it was for someone of her calibre to show interest towards the work of a young scientist like me. What followed was unexpected, we discussed what she liked or disliked of those papers to a level of detail which left me impressed. She was not just showing me kindness or courtesy, she was treating me as a peer. There are not many scientists of her caliber who are able to do that. She was a true role model.

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User name: Jean-Christophe Vié
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Jean-Christophe Vié (not verified)

I feel so privileged to have crossed Georgina's path during the last 20 years at IUCN/SSC or Red List meetings or when working on impacts of climate change on wildlife. I have always been impressed by her right words and clear ideas. She had a very elegant and peaceful way to lead discussion and chair meetings. When she was speaking, everyone was listening. She had always a nice smile on her face as all pictures of her circulating now show it perfectly. The impact of her contribution to the Red List has been massive and it is hard not to be grateful today considering its importance in guiding conservation today. I am using the Red List daily and shall not forget Georgina's contribution. Merci!

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User name: Rob Yorke
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Rob Yorke (not verified)

Although from outside academia, I came across Georgina a number of times at conferences and most powerfully, reading her foreword to a seminal book - 'Conflicts in Conservation. Navigating Towards Solutions' - in which she hints conservation is all about people. I've run with it since and will continue seeking to navigate a way in her honour: https://twitter.com/blackgull/status/1308048045829955584?s=20

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User name: Colleen Corrigan
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Colleen Corrigan (not verified)

Thank you, E.J., for writing this tribute and sharing your experience with Georgina. Isn’t it amazing what we learn from those we meet along our journey as conservationists? We do indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s so valuable to acknowledge this and share it forward. Very grateful to Georgina for her contributions as a scientist, as a leader, and as a fellow human.

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User name: Kathryn Brown
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Kathryn Brown (not verified)

I was completely star-struck when I first met Georgina in person (for lunch, to ask for her help) back in 2017 in the Defra canteen. She treated me like an equal, and we had this fantastic chat, two small women sat on very high bar stools setting the world to rights. I was so excited when Georgina joined our Adaptation Committee from the Natural Capital Committee in 2018. Working for her has been one of the best things about my job. Everyone has said how insightful she was, getting straight into the real problem and helping us to reframe the way we think about the effects of climate change on the natural environment, with a well-timed remark and a twinkly eye when she was gearing up to cut to pieces some "interesting" idea or other. Most of all I loved our chats about normal things - the birds in our gardens, her new house in Oxfordshire, her children getting married and having their own children. I will miss her so much and was so very lucky to know her. As Ece says above, we will do our best to carry on her legacy, though I don't know where to start. Thank you, Georgina.

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User name: Steve Sparks
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Steve Sparks (not verified)

I would like to add to the accolades to Geogina. We worked together on the 2008RAE, on Royal Society committees and in advisory work for the Natural History Museum. Her brilliance as a scientist does not need repeating but here I pay tribute to the enormous amount of work she did for science and nature behind the scenes and for her collegiality and altruism.

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User name: Helen Meredith
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Helen Meredith (not verified)

Georgina was a tremendous inspiration to me. Kind, funny, wise and remarkable. Her contributions to conservation will endure and build, as will the example she set to so many people. I met her after joining ZSL in 2006, when she was the Institute of Zoology's Director of Science - she performed this role with such expert skill and good humour. I later spent time at UCL's newly formed CBER, and before this occasionally bumped into her at Imperial's Silwood campus (her witty conversation made the train into London fly by). I have spent much of my conservation career in her orbit. She even took the time to respond to an entirely unsolicited email I sent her as an undergraduate seeking advice. Her commitment to facilitating the careers of budding conservationists has encouraged a vast community of people. I learned a great deal from Georgina and will always be grateful for the astonishing example she set - so difficult to emulate and impossible to forget. She demonstrated that excellence and kindness can go hand in hand. My sincere condolences to her family, friends and colleagues. And my huge gratitude to Georgina.

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User name: Ana Rodrigues
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Ana Rodrigues (not verified)

I first met Georgina at my PhD viva - she was my external examiner. The UK viva system can be intimidating, sitting behind closed doors discussing for hours with just two people. My viva as a real treat: what a chance that a bright and kind mind like hers had taken the time to read through my whole thesis, and was now willing to discuss it with me in fine, intelligent and challenging detail. I came out of it feeling as if we had developed a close professional relationship. Which is the only explanation I have for having dared to ask, immediately afterwards, for a reference letter for a postdoc. Georgina kindly accepted to write reference letters for me throughout my entire postdoc period (even, I realised a posteriori with a pang of guilt and enormous gratitude, while undergoing medical treatment).

The last time I saw Georgina, I was bursting with pride to introduce her to the bright young woman I have had the chance to supervise as my first PhD student. I am not sure I would have had a first PhD student without Georgina's support to my career.

Having had the chance to collaborate with Georgina in various projects over the years, one image stays with me: of someone who spoke softly but oh-so-accurately. Which is why whenever she spoke, all stopped and listened. I vowed to become like that when I grow up: fewer and more precise words, kindly spoken (I am so very far behind on all fronts).

A truly tragic loss, incomprehensibly early. My deep condolences to her family and friends.

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User name: Susana.Gonzalez
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Susana.Gonzalez (not verified)

I am very sad to know Georgina was pass away but her great contribution to the Conservation science and the Assessment of the risk species extinction with the Red List will be forever. Furthermore she demostrated the great importance of data collection, to do careful assessment and care about the species that need urgent help. However the sad new I am very happy that I met her and I had the opportunity to be trained twice in Red Listing by her. I was very impressed for her kindness, the knowledge and the commitment to contribute and help. I imagine how your family will miss her but her legacy will remain to all the conservationist.

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User name: Jon Paul Rodríguez
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on Wed, 23 Sep 2020 by Jon Paul Rodríguez (not verified)

That's how I always thought about her -- a friend. My first IUCN-wide public appearance was in 1996, at the World Conservation Congress in Montréal. My organization, Provita, submitted a motion requesting that national red list be given more attention. She and Simon Stuart reached out and said: please join this contact group, you are not the only one concerned. I was hooked. I felt like EJ, surrounded by my conservation super heroes, and now invited to be part of the group. From there on, we crossed paths many times. She invited me to lead the National Red Lists working group, we sat together at the Society for Conservation Biology board, she was one of the leaders of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that I was also involved with. I did not always agree with what she said, but I always loved how she said it: looking at you and barely moving her face. Her smile and wit were unique. Georgina not only made major contributions to conservation science and policy, she also inspired and sparked discussions among those that were lucky to be nearby. Thank you, Georgina, from us all.

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User name: Janice Chanson
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Janice Chanson (not verified)

At University College in London in 1999, a colleague told me of a research opportunity at London Zoo. Sounded fun so I made contact with a woman called Dr Georgina Mace to discuss options. A quietly spoken, very intelligent and nurturing woman she came up with a research project that we agreed would make use of my analytical skills. She was the first person that looked beyond the knowledge and strengths I didn’t have and instead focused on those that I did. I let my friend at Uni know I was going to do my research with Georgina and he said, “Wow, she’s a really famous scientist”. I had no idea! She was such a humble person that treated everyone equally, one of her many wonderful traits.

Studying then working with Georgina at the Institute of Zoology was always lots of fun. At the helm of the Institute, she was liked and respected by all and she always made time for everyone. Our lunchtimes in the zoo cafeteria were always loads of laughs and a highlight of my time there. Georgina opened the world of conservation to me and for that, I will always be grateful. She introduced and recommended me to the colleagues I still work with today and her research and support have shaped my career in conservation.

As well as mentoring me in my early career, Georgina also led by example how to balance work and family as a mother of three. She always left work on time to ensure she was home in the evenings as much as possible with her family and made it clear they were her priority all the while succeeding as a woman in the male-dominated higher echelons of science. When she spoke, everyone stopped and listened, not because she was loud or pushy, but because she was genuine, quietly confident, and of course, usually right! She was a fantastic role model for all young women.

Thank you Georgina, you will always be an inspiration and mentor to me. I just wish you had been given a chance to enjoy your retirement with your family as you so dearly deserved.

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User name: Mike Hoffmann
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Mike Hoffmann (not verified)

I first met Georgina at a meeting of the Red List Committee in the early 2000s. Georgina was the chair. I knew of Georgina, of course, and it was intimidating to to be in a meeting room with people like Georgina and many other big names deciding the course of IUCN's legendary Red List. But Georgina was the kind of person who never made you feel insignificant, and somehow just immediately put you at ease. And yet you were never in doubt about her razor-sharp mind and her ability to be incredibly incisive. I was privileged to go on to work with Georgina on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005 and on and off on various things over the years, although I never really got to know her as closely as some colleagues. And yet, somehow, every meeting with her is etched in my mind! One of my last fond memories of her was dinner with Georgina, one of my mentors, Simon Stuart, and one of my dear close colleagues, Craig Hilton-Taylor - I realized then she could be very funny. Ten years after I first met Georgina, I found myself chairing the Red List Committee, and at one point accepting an award on behalf of the Committee. I remarked at the time that today's efforts really were built on the the shoulders of the giants and the legends who had gone before, not least the great minds who conceived and developed the Red List Categories and Criteria (of which Georgina was key). Yes, her contributions to conservation biology writ large were absolutely immense, but I believe the categories and criteria are the pinnacle of her legacy. Georgina isn't just a giant of conservation biology - she really is a legend. Thanks for everything Georgina.

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User name: George Chan
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by George Chan (not verified)

During my PhD at Institute of Zoology, I saw or spoke with Georgina most days for three years. Everything everyone has written on thsi page before me rings true. She was so brilliant as a scientist, but it was great to just chat with her and she treated everyone the same.

I hate to bring the level of conversation down, but one story I loved was when she told me that when she was a schoolgirl she and her friends would challenge each other to see who could wear their skirt the highest without gettting in trouble. She may have been a Dame but she was a jolly good laugh and that's my enduring memory.

A few years after leaving IoZ I had the great plasure of introducing Georgina to David Attenborough.

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User name: Carolina Caceres
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Carolina Caceres (not verified)

I don't think I can adequately express just how much of a role model and superstar Georgina was for me. I started my career supporting the Chair of the SSC and met her as a member of the SSC leadership team where her brilliance and ability to get the heart of an issue, as well as her kindness and humour, was always on display. As many have remarked here, she was both awe-inspiring and approachable. She was the embodiment of the type of collaborator and colleague I was aspiring to be. Thank you Georgina for your legacy and for your leadership.

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User name: Richard Kock
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Richard Kock (not verified)

I worked in a less theoretical field than Georgina but knew her well, over 28 years as a veterinarian and conservationist at the ZSL and subsequently as a Professor of Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases at the Royal Veterinary College. I based most of my time whilst she was Director of the Institute of Zoology in East Africa so missed out on her phenomenal direction. I watched the evolution of the red list from afar, as the frustrations of conservation in Africa mounted and through my work and to be honest i was sceptical that we were doing it right. I felt that the red list and trend analysis was too much of an archive of extinction and absorbing too much of the IUCN SSC time and resources, when it was obvious to see. I still feel that we will never solve this crisis in biodiversity through archiving, models or remote science. I remain convinced of that. However, I have learned to respect what she did very much indeed and as a communicator in science she is unequalled in the Conservation community and well recognised in the establishment for this. I am not so bold to say that we can save species, they actually don't need us to do anything but let them share space and resources without prejudice. This will happen naturally if we start to change how we do things and how we impact the planet to ensure their and our own survival. I agree with E.J. that the final piece of work on "bending the curve" was a sort of epitaph that she led and is indeed a masterpiece and a grave warning. There you have it the science is unequivocal let us get on with the practice. Georgina we will miss you greatly.

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User name: Resit Akcakaya
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Resit Akcakaya (not verified)

I feel very lucky that I had a chance to work with Georgina, and to learn from her, for over 20 years. I met her in the 1990s, and became involved in IUCN and the Red List because of her. She asked me and my colleagues to develop software to assist Red List assessments, encouraged and contributed to our efforts to incorporate uncertainty into the assessments in a formal way, and asked me to chair the newly formed "SSC Red List Standards Committee" as it was originally called. She was brilliant and kind. As many others noted, she was one of the most influential conservation scientists of our time. I'd like to think that her genius is most obvious to those who are coming from a relatively scientific perspective (as E.J. has put it), but at the same time also very much interested and invested in practical application of fundamental principles. It was a pleasure to work with her; she was always direct and straightforward, but in the most gentle and thoughtful way.

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User name: Simon Stuart
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Simon Stuart (not verified)

I had the privilege to work with Georgina Mace for almost 35 years. In just 2,000 characters I am focusing on the development of the IUCN Red List Criteria. Georgina led this extraordinarily difficult task, and it would never have succeeded without her. She had the intellectual brilliance and the personality that allowed her to defend the scientific rigour of the system against all attempts by vested interests (and there were many) to water it down or make shabby compromises. She was a very stable person, always sure of the ground on which she stood, not plagued by self-doubt. If you thought that she was wrong on something, she might change her mind through rigorous, intellectual debate. But she could never be intimidated – something certain (invariably older male) scientists discovered to their cost! She was always spoke softly, in measured tones. She was always respectful of those who disagreed with her. She was kind and treated everyone well, with a wicked sense of humour. In one meeting it became clear that we needed Georgina to take on some additional work. And so, as diplomatically as I could, I asked if she would do it. I was obviously overly obsequious, because she looked at me and with her wry smile said in front of everyone, “you slimy toad!”. It was one of my greatest honours! Her respectful and quietly funny approach won her countless supporters, even from those initially opposed to her radical ideas to reform red listing. Her authority came from her intellect, personality and integrity – she was a natural, humble leader. She did all this work for IUCN entirely unpaid.

Georgina was involved in many other things. She quite often spoke about her family. After her passing it is emerging that she never really let on to them that she was a giant in her field. She was extraordinarily uncomplicated – but also brilliant, insightful, persistent, committed, strong, kind, funny and humble.

I shall miss her enormously. My best wishes to Rod and her family.

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User name: Dee Boersma
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Dee Boersma (not verified)

Generous with her time and inclusive she moved Conservation Biology forward not only with her science but by mentoring and encouraging others. She will be missed. She left conservation on firmer footage because of her peer-review science.

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User name: Nathalie Seddon
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Nathalie Seddon (not verified)

Georgina was a brilliant scientist, my dearest mentor and role model and a truly inspirational and compassionate human. She played a critical role in enhancing understanding of the importance of biodiversity for human wellbeing and inspired many women to do science. She will be missed so much. But she will live on in her work and we will all work harder in honour of the amazing legacy she leaves us. All my heartfelt condolences to her family.

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User name: Marten Winter
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Marten Winter (not verified)

I just checked my old mails and saw probably my 1st interaction with her when we both were involved in the IPCC AR 5 2013 as authors for the extinction part. We discussed the higher uncertainties around new values and perceptions. I was amazed by her clear language and deep knowledge of tiny details in studies etc. Later I asked about her opinion on a paper piece I was working on with few colleagues on "Think big in ecology". We were arguing/discussing why ecology is not able to acquire similar amounts of money like physicists while understanding ecosystems is much more directly affecting humans. She was very supportive and liked it but also kind of struggled with a clear message and the argument that ecologists are not speaking with one strong voice. She also said "Your points are good but they are still aspirational and not operational! ". Seeing all the comments here and how united ppl from all over agreeing (on the fact that she was a inspiration & wonderful person) makes me thinking if I shouldn't start going back to that paper. Ecology still needs a significant push. I see also her legacy in this call. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

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User name: David Brackett
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by David Brackett (not verified)

All of the comments here about her wit and wisdom, and the strength of her personality, ring true to me. It is impossible to overstate the impact of her work on the Red List Criteria and the management systems through which they are now applied in so many different fora. Her influence will live on in the details of her work, and more importantly, in the work of those she influenced and mentored. We will miss her wisdom and counsel.

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User name: Sarah Fowler
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Sarah Fowler (not verified)

It was always wonderful to spend time with Georgina. She was an amazing, funny, wise, encouraging and supportive woman, and her legacy is unmatched. I am desperately sorry that there will be no more meetings, and above all that she didn't have time for the retirement that she so richly deserved. I am very grateful to her family for sharing her with so many strangers - thank you so much, and please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.

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User name: Kate Soutar
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on Thu, 24 Sep 2020 by Kate Soutar (not verified)

My name is Kate and I'm Georgina's youngest daughter. I just wanted to add to what my uncle has posted above and to thank you all so much for sharing such lovely stories about her. We all knew Mum was special but the comments above and the outpouring of tributes on twitter have been incredible, and so comforting. We hope to find a way of gathering together a collection of these such vivid memories, once we're ready to do so. Thank you again, Kate x

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User name: Marten Winter
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Marten Winter (not verified)

I just checked my old mails and saw probably my 1st interaction with her when we both were involved in the IPCC AR 5 2013 as authors for the extinction part. We discussed the higher uncertainties around new values and perceptions. I was amazed by her clear language and deep knowledge of tiny details in studies etc. Later I asked about her opinion on a paper piece I was working on with few colleagues on "Think big in ecology". We were arguing/discussing why ecology is not able to acquire similar amounts of money like physicists while understanding ecosystems is much more directly affecting humans. She was very supportive and liked it but also kind of struggled with a clear message and the argument that ecologists are not speaking with one strong voice. She also said "Your points are good but they are still aspirational and not operational! ". Seeing all the comments here and how united ppl from all over agreeing (on the fact that she was a inspiration & wonderful person) makes me thinking if I shouldn't start going back to that paper. Ecology still needs a significant push. I see also her legacy in this call. Thanks for being such an inspiration!

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User name: Valerie Olson
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Valerie Olson (not verified)

I first met Georgina Mace when I arrived at ZSL in 2002 to start my first postdoc in avian conservation and biodiversity. Every conversation I ever had with her was positive and supportive, and usually ended in either a bit of excellent advice, a reassuring smile, or laughter on the part of both of us. I also remember meeting her lovely family at the annual cricket matches, and I am so happy that she got to experience the joy of being a grandmother.

Georgina has contributed so very much to the field of conservation biology, and undoubtedly would have had so much more to contribute. It was very sad to hear of her passing - a great loss to science and a great loss to her family, friends, and fellow researchers around the world.

Vale Georgina

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User name: Jon Hutton
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Jon Hutton (not verified)

I don't remember first meeting Georgina Mace. It seems that she was always there, the Mt Blanc of biodiversity science, towering above the lesser peaks. There is so much that was admirable about Georgina that it's hard to know where to begin, but I particularly appreciated her willingness to listen and contribute to new ideas. In so doing, she was thoughtful, honest and kind. She gave sensible advice and didn't flinch from making it clear when something was, in her assessment, misguided! As others have pointed out she was often wickedly funny, but she was also very brave. Georgina was the lynchpin of our work on 'Biodiversity Revisited' last year - actively participating in the Steering Committee when a lesser person would have stepped back with the reasonable excuse of ill health. In many ways she was our leader and we will miss her. Thank you, and Rest in Peace Georgina.

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User name: Thomas Brooks
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Thomas Brooks (not verified)

The outpouring of tributes on this page speaks wonderful volumes on Georgina’s contributions to conservation. I first saw her speak at the Extinction Rates conference in London in 1994, where she presented the ground-breaking efforts she’d been leading on development of quantitative categories and criteria to underpin the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The importance of Georgina’s work on this can’t be overstated – it allows transparency, consistency, and repeatability in the assessment of a species’ extinction risk, which in turn is what has enabled the Red List to become the fundamental tool in conservation decision-making it is today. Fast-forwarding a decade, Georgina had been appointed to serve as the first Chair of the Red List Committee; I represented Conservation International at the committee’s fifth meeting at The Ocean Conservancy in Washington DC in May 2002. We crossed paths many times over subsequent years, in contributing to the Global Species Assessment, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and others, as well as serving together on the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Steering Committee. In May 2018, Antoine Guisan (from University of Lausanne) and I co-organised a symposium in Georgina’s honour, celebrating both her honorary degree at university and the seventieth anniversary of IUCN. My last meetings with her were in the development of the IPBES Global Assessment, where she co-led the team of review editors of which I was a member. My abiding memory of Georgina as a person will be of her exemplary skill as an active listener – whether or not she agreed with any particular point, she would always listen with great attention, ready in time to bring her own perspectives into the discussion with comprehension at least as deep the original speaker! Life on Earth is in a better state thanks to her contributions.

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User name: Brahim HADDANE
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Brahim HADDANE (not verified)

Got the honor to meet and work with Georgina at the Zoological Society of London/ Scientific Institute early 1990 and again in Gland when Simon was leading SSC. I keep wonderfull images of her talking about species red list. Her lagacy is inforgettable.
Rest in peace for ever

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User name: Azra Meadows
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Azra Meadows (not verified)

A remarkable scientist and inspiration
I had the privilege to know Georgina as a ZSL Council member when she was Director of Science at the Institute of Zoology, She was welcoming and understanding to the minority of women council members, and supported their cause. Her significant scientific contributions will be her legacy in global conservation biology and ecology.
We will miss you very much Georgina and our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

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User name: Davd Keith
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on Fri, 25 Sep 2020 by Davd Keith (not verified)

It's funny how we remember the first time wet met Georgina. For me, it was at the London zoo in 1999 at the first meeting of the review of the Red List criteria. I still marvel at th way she led that process. In some ways very difficult, with so many different (sometimes strongly held) perspectives, sometimes founded on misunderstandings. I learnt alot at that meeting, and was fortunate to be invited to others in the series, where it dawned on me how that process was managed with such grace and respect, as well as a quiet discerning that sifted through all the ideas that blasted forth. I think everyone felt they were heard, that their input was respected and that we all contributed in some way that refined and polished a brilliant idea that set up the Red List for the 21st century. No small feat. I got to work with Georgina several times since, all of them very memorable, and even better when we had a chance to engage socially as well. An especially fond memory was a bushwalk and chatter in the Santa Ynez foothills. I'm sure she engaged with many of us in that way. She was an inspiration to women and men, always with enormous grace and humility. Her generous invitation was what got me into red lists internationally. I feel very privileged to have crossed paths with some one who made such a difference in that way. Thanks Georgina

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User name: Rich Grenyer
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on Sat, 26 Sep 2020 by Rich Grenyer (not verified)

As unofficial mentor during my PhD and a while later as my boss at the CPB at Imperial, I’ve had many opportunities to benefit from Georgina’s wisdom. Others have done an exceptional job at describing and valuing her big-picture work that has dominated much the global conservation agenda for the last thirty years, and the whip-smart questions asked at just the right time to change all of our paths. What I’d like people not to forget is how very, very good she was as a listener to younger people and younger ideas. As a junior scientist, it was incredibly rare to find someone who would find the time to truly pay attention, and she was so good at saying that an idea wasn’t a clever one (or had been done already) without being dispiriting, that when she did say “now that’s an interesting thought” you realised it was with genuine regard - just incredibly motivating.

I’ve learnt such a lot about conservation in the round from her work and her input, but also about how to behave in a profession she made more pleasant, more human and more supportive. She’ll be very much missed, and for a long time.

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User name: Bryan Carroll
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on Sat, 26 Sep 2020 by Bryan Carroll (not verified)

Georgina and I were undergraduates together at Liverpool both doing honours in animal behaviour. She displayed then the attributes that so many have already mentioned. Fun, smiling, unassuming and fiercely intelligent. Our paths crossed a short time later in the zoo world, me as a young animal curator learning my trade in small population management, she as a fully fledged population biologist. Together we produced the first captive management plan for a critically endangered bat species. It was clear then that she would go on to so many greater achievements in her career. She certainly did so and rightly received due recognition. Georgina, I'm very proud to have known you as a friend and colleague in conservation. Sleep tight.

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User name: Inger Andersen
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on Sat, 26 Sep 2020 by Inger Andersen (not verified)

We have lost a true giant in the conservation world and we all owe her our deep gratitude. I had the privilege of meeting with Georgina during my time at IUCN. And from all my IUCN Red List friends and colleagues, I was acutely aware of her enormous contributions. Fast forward, and it was such a pleasure to get to engage with Georgina again on the Advisory Panel for the Dasgupta Review, now wearing my UNEP hat. My deep thanks to Georgina for her immense contribution. Her work shines on and lights our path. She was an inspiration for us all. May we all follow her example to to study, protect and conserve our beautiful planet.

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User name: Rosie Hails
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on Sat, 26 Sep 2020 by Rosie Hails (not verified)

Thank you Georgina for all the great times working together, on the National Ecosystem Assessment, on the Natural Capital Committee, and since. Thanks for the friendship, for being a mentor, and most of all for all the laughs.

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User name: Luigi Boitani
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on Sat, 26 Sep 2020 by Luigi Boitani (not verified)

She was intense. Much has been said of her extraordinary human and scientific qualities and I like to add this adjective to highlight a special quality of Georgina that impressed me since the beginning of our friendship. Her words were few but always intensely meaningful. Her eyes looked at you with intensity, always conveying an exclusive sense of participation. Her way of listening was intense and you knew that she would not miss a word. Her way of capturing the complexity of a discussion was intense: when, after listening silently to a long debate, she would take the floor and say “All right,..”, you knew she would settle the confrontation and show the way out. Her smile was truly deep and light, never a mask.
I have learned a lot from Georgina, in science when we collaborated on several and often controversial papers, and in managing the difficult interfaces of science and policy. We worked together for many years on the board of the Society for Conservation Biology alternating in the roles of elected-current-past presidents and we enjoyed a pact of mutual support in sharing the difficult task of leading, we Europeans, a substantially American society of scientists and practitioners.
There was a sort of complicity between us, which made me immensely proud, since the very first time we met. It was in the middle of the 90s when I attended my first meeting of the SSC Steering Committee and was terribly intimidated. So was Georgina as we sat in the last row of seats, away from the front desk. We shyly introduced each other and laughed of our shyness. That was the first ground on which we built our friendship. Often, in countless meetings we would have shared in the following years, Georgina and I would naturally find each other’s eyes and with just an imperceptible movement we would tell us our approval or disapproval. I do not remember one single case of disagreement between us. Georgina was a pillar of conservation biology and now we are all terribly weaker.

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User name: Frances Gulland
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on Sun, 27 Sep 2020 by Frances Gulland (not verified)

Despite her brilliance and wisdom, what I remember best is Georgina's chuckle,
My heart goes out to Rod and your family, and you know better than us that she was simply the best!

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User name: Eva Spehn
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on Sun, 27 Sep 2020 by Eva Spehn (not verified)

Georgina war a real idol for me, for all the reasons so many people shared here- an amazing scientist and a wonderful person, honest, kind and funny at the same time. When I first met her at a Millennium Ecosystem Assessments meeting in 2000, I didn’t know her, but was immediately attracted by the way she led the meeting, steering, discussing and taking notes at the same time. Since then I had many chances to meet her- in Silwood park, and many times with DIVERSITAS and even later with Future Earth. Whenever I got interested in a specific topic within biodiversity science over the last 20 years, I discovered she already published a paper about it. Thank goodness we had a chance to celebrate her in Lausanne with Antoine Guisan and Tom Brooks, where she got an honorary degree 2 years ago. Thanks, Georgina, for everything!

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User name: Perran Ross
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on Sun, 27 Sep 2020 by Perran Ross (not verified)

Georgina was of the originators of the Red Listing system and I was privileged to work with her. She was always sympathetic and responsive to real-world and practical conservation concerns as the system was developed and remained a staunch advocate for its integrity and scientific rigor. She will be missed.

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User name: Kent Redford
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on Sun, 27 Sep 2020 by Kent Redford (not verified)

The National Zoo (that is the US National Zoo) in the early '80s was where I first met up Georgina who had come to do a post-doc with John Eisenberg - with whom I was working. We drank a lot of beer together that summer. We would take our lunches into the hot summers of Washington DC and marvel and tenrecs, bibles and armadillos - and at what a strange and contorted world famous people lived in. Little did I realize how famous she herself would become! Georgina made her way past the treacherous figures of older white male professional with aplomb and skill, learning what there was to learn but always steering her course towards better science, personal integrity and, as many others have attested, the most wicked sense of humor. Both of us moved past mammals into the swampy terrain of conservation where Georgina excelled. She was one of my favorite people in the world, kind, generous, gimlet-eyed in her detection of falseness in science or in a person. She loved her family dearly and I would get brief updates whenever I saw her. She was truly a whole person - a mother to three lovely children, and devoted husband, a world-class conservationist and a friend. May you rest in peace.