Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame

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Dr. Eric Dinerstein

"We must decide how many of Earth's 15,000,000 species receive a ticket on the ark to the next generation. By protecting forests, deserts, grasslands, coral reefs, rivers, and streams, WWF commits to guaranteeing their safe passage."

As a result of an "epiphany moment..." that occurred during Eric's sophomore year while attending Northwestern University when he was living with friends in a farmhouse on 250 acres, his academic and career directions were changed forever. As he wandered the woods and fields there he began to develop a curiosity about, and interest in, the workings and wonders of nature. From this experience during his early undergraduate years he set forth on a path to study and ultimately do all that he could to preserve and protect many of the wonders of nature throughout the world.

Changing his major from film studies at Northwestern that he hoped would lead him to Hollywood, Eric began to study the sciences that ultimately enabled him to earn a Bachelors Degree in Science in 1975 from the Huxley College of Environmental Studies at Western Washington University. Subsequently, he went on to earn both a Masters Degree in Wildlife Science (1980) and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Wildlife Science (1983) from the University of Washington.

It is important to note that, in terms of Eric's commitment to the study of wildlife sciences, he volunteered to serve as a U. S. Peace Corps Volunteer in the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Katmandu, Nepal from 1975-1978. He also did post-doctoral fellow studies and work from 1983-1988 at the National Zoological Park, Conservation and Research Center of Fort Royal, Virginia and Nepal. In his current position as Chief Scientist and Vice President for Science at the World Wildlife Fund, and since his epiphany as a sophomore at Northwestern, he has traveled the world on behalf of the protection and preservation of endangered wildlife ecoregions.

His work in Nepal and eastern Russia on behalf of the protection of tigers, snow leopards, and the one horned rhinoceros is legendary. For these accomplishments and others he is both praised and respected by the scientific community.

A reading of Dr. Dinerstein's two major books, Last of the Unicorns (2003) and Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations (2005), provide an exciting a vivid description of the successful work that has gone on around the world by Eric and fellow scientists to protect endangered animals/species. Without their unselfish work future generations would not have the pleasure of either seeing them at all due to their extinction or viewing them in their natural habitat.

Among some of the many places that Eric has traveled to do his good work are Nepal, India, Russia, the Great Northern Plains of Montana, Costa Rica, Venezuela, the Galapagos Islands (where Darwin visited in the 1830's for 19 days that led to his publication in 1859 of The Origin of the Species), New Caledonia, Tanzania and the Serengeti, and Madagascar.

Often traveling and working in some of the most unforgiving conditions Dr. Dinerstein, his staff, and fellow scientists worked with native populations to educate them about the value of conservation and how such efforts can only serve to better their societies. In order to more effectively work with these native populations, he often showed a facility for learning how to speak and understand their language.

Dr. Dinerstein has written or co-written over 91 scientific publications dealing with biodiversity and conservation priorities appropriate to critical areas of the world. He has spoken at numerous seminars, universities and other forums in order to advocate for the essential work of the World Wildlife Fund. He has emphasized how important it is for all of us to realize that we have a vital stake in the conservation and protection of those environments and species that will help to keep Mother Earth the diverse and accepting place it should be for varied life forms.

His varied professional experiences dating back to 1977 are absolutely awe inspiring and, for the purpose of this narrative, too numerous to mention. From his initial experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal in the mid 1970's, to Adviser of the Snow Leopard Conversation Project in 1984, to Asia Program Scientist for the World Wildlife Fund Program from 1988-1990, to Co-Director Conserving Russia's Biological Diversity Project in 1993 to his current position as Chief Scientist and Vice President for Science for the World Wildlife Fund, he continues to live a life dedicated to his calling. Eric believes that the single greatest challenge for conservation worldwide is to stop the loss of habitats around the world. As he says, "I try to make people, especially those in their teens and 20's, understand that they could see the end of many species in their lifetime."

Eric is married and lives in Maryland. Among his hobbies are bird watching, writing, botany, travel, and foreign languages. He is truly a “Renaissance Man” whose diversified interests and accomplishments as a scientist committed to the need for conservation in the critical areas of our planet make him a most deserving inductee.

We welcome Dr. Eric Dinerstein into the Toms River Regional Schools Hall of Fame for the year 2009.


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