2013 W. John Kress

Dr. W. John Kress is Curator and Research Scientist in the Department of Botany at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, studying tropical biology, ethnobotany, evolution, and plant systematics. Among his scientific and popular publications are his books Plant Conservation – A Natural History Approach (with Gary Krupnick), The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics (with Ted Fleming),  and The Weeping Goldsmith in which he describes his experiences exploring for plants in the isolated country of Myanmar along with reflections on the history, culture, and religion of this region.

In addition to his research position, Dr. Kress currently holds the appointment of Director of the Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet at the Smithsonian. Supported by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Grand Challenges Consortium was established as part of the Institution’s ten-year Strategic Plan to promote interdisciplinary work by scholars both inside and outside the Smithsonian. As Director of the Biodiversity and Sustainability Consortium, Dr. Kress brings together scientists from numerous fields to address broad research projects which explore some of the largest questions in biology with significant social impact. Through the Grand Challenges Consortia, interactions among scholars in different but complementary fields have greatly increased at the Smithsonian resulting in the promotion and facilitation of new avenues of scientific endeavors. The Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet has marshaled the efforts of hundreds of Smithsonian research scientists across museums and institutes working with unparalleled scientific collections to significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of life on the planet and its role in sustaining human well-being.

Dr. Kress is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been the Executive Director of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation since 1997. He has won multiple awards for his studies including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Heliconia Society International and recently, the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award for developing Leafsnap, the first mobile application for plant identification (2011).

The Parker/Gentry Award was made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor. The award honors an outstanding individual, team or organization whose efforts have had a significant impact on preserving the world’s rich natural heritage and whose actions can serve as a model to others.

The award bears the names of the late Theodore A. Parker III and Alwyn Gentry, ardent conservationists and leading naturalists. Parker, an ornithologist, and Gentry, a botanist, died on 3 August 1993, while surveying hill forests of western Ecuador. Parker and Gentry worked closely with Field Museum scientist on several joint efforts, including rapid inventories for conservation.