GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gustavo Alberto da Fonseca, a world-renown ecological scholar and key figure in biodiversity conservation, was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the University of Florida at the fall graduation ceremony in December.
The award is one of the highest honors bestowed upon a graduate of the university and recognizes recipients who have excelled in their chosen field or have performed outstanding service for the university.
“Dr. Fonseca has had a very impactful career via his work as a scholar, educator, conservation scientist and leader in developing strategies and implementing programs that holistically address pressing social and environmental issues around the globe,” said UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean Elaine Turner.
The CALS alumnus earned a Ph.D. in forest resources and conservation with a focus on wildlife ecology and conservation in 1988. He also holds a master’s degree in Latin American studies.
As a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil for 21 years, Fonseca developed an innovative interdisciplinary graduate program in wildlife management and conservation in partnership with several federal and international conservation agencies. The program was the first of its kind in Latin America. Today, many of Latin America’s top conservation scientists are graduates of this program.
Fonseca’s ability to bring science and conservation together caught the attention of international scholars who invited him to establish the Conservation International in Brazil. This opportunity led him to CI headquarters in Washington, D.C., to head-up the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science as its first executive director. Fonseca’s responsibilities and influence continued to grow with his promotion to executive vice-president and chief conservation and science officer at CI in 2000.
In 2007, Fonseca left CI to join the Global Environment Facility, a partnership among 18 international agencies serving 155 countries and housed at the World Bank. As the current director of programs, Fonseca is charged with directing more than $1 billion annually to find solutions to environmental problems and improve environmental and human conditions. Under Fonseca’s leadership for the past 10 years, GEF has put projects in place to improve more than 30 million hectares of forested landscapes, reduce more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and promote better management of more than 25 million hectares of protected lands.
“Dr. Fonseca’s career work exemplifies the interdisciplinary and problem-solving approach fostered within the CALS wildlife ecology and conservation graduate program,” said Eric Hellgren, professor and chair of the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department. “We are proud to have Dr. Fonseca as an alumnus of our graduate program at UF.”
Fonseca had an immense impact on advancing the mission of the tropical conservation and development specialization within the master of arts in Latin American studies at UF, which is to improve biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource use and human well-being in the tropics.
“Gustavo Fonseca remains a very humble individual, a dedicated and passionate educator and scientist, a visionary and an individual who feels very much a part of the Gator Nation,” said Bette Loiselle, director of the UF tropical conservation and development program and professor in the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department. “He is among the most influential conservation scientists of our time whose career is deeply rooted in his experiences while at UF.”
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.