2000 Louise Emmons

Dr. Emmons in French Guiana, August 2000 Photo courtesy of Louise Emmons

For 30 years, field biologist Louise Emmons has combed the most remote tropical forests of the planet studying the behavior of tropical forest mammals and discovering new species. Emmons is known for performing such diverse activities as tracking jaguars alone at night in the Amazon, stalking tree shrews in Borneo, and pursuing squirrels in Gabon, West Africa.

The recipient of numerous research fellowships and awards through the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, World Wildlife Fund and the National Science Foundation, Emmons has worked tirelessly to explore and protect the brilliant diversity of the rainforest. Her legendary stamina sustains her through rigorous field studies from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes to the steamy basins of the Brazilian Amazon. Emmons will be awarded the 2000 Parker/Gentry Award for Conservation Biology on December 13, 2000 at The Field Museum. This award acknowledges her commitment to rainforest conservation and her contributions to our understanding of the tropical world. Her strong research program — with field and museum components — serves as a model for how conservation, ecology and systematics can strengthen one another. Further, her guidebook, Neotropical Rainforest Mammals, continues to have an enormous impact throughout tropical America for biologists and lay people alike.

 Robin Foster, The Field Museum; Al Gentry, Missouri Botanical Garden; Louise Emmons, Smithsonian Institution; Ted Parker, Conservation International. Photo courtesy of John Maier, Jr.Dr. Emmons was a founding member of the Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) , along with Ted Parker and Al Gentry, for whom this award is named. Emmons participated in 12 surveys over an eight-year period and shared her intimate knowledge of these areas during field courses in Bolivia and Perú. She undertook multiple mammal surveys in areas of unmatched diversity such as Manu National Park in southeastern Perú. In addition, her findings supported a proposal to establish the Yasuní NationalPark in eastern Ecuador.

Her inaugural work in tropical mammals began over 30 years on the small Atlantic island of Trinidad studying several species of bats. Her research history now spans continents and includes studies on the ecology of African brush-tailed porcupines, large cat predation in the Amazon, non-primate mammals in Madagascar and Malaysian tree shrews.

A recent example of Emmon’s fascinating discoveries occurred in 1997 during a rapid inventory in collaboration with The Field Museum. While on a mountain trail in Vilcabamba in south-central Perú, Emmons came upon a huge tree rat new to science.Cuscomys ashaninka was a rare find — not only a new species of tree rat, but a new genus, or branch on this particular family tree. Emmons later discovered that her specimen was a relative of the large rats discovered in 1916, buried alongside humans in Inca tombs of Machu Picchu, Perú.

Emmons is an independent researcher who holds a Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University. She shares her expertise as a member of numerous professional societies and editorial boards, and as a consultant to several international conservation organizations. She is a former board member of Conservation International. She is a prolific author, who has produced numerous scientific papers and books, including her essential field guide to the mammals inhabiting neotropical forests.