Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mark Moffett, First Plenary Session Speaker At Annual Meeting

The first confirmed Plenary Speaker at the 2009 ESA Annual Meeting is Mark Moffett, a Harvard-trained ecologist and self-taught photographer, and one of only a handful of people to earn a Ph.D. under the world’s most famous ecologist, E. O. Wilson. For his doctorate, Moffett spent 29 months in the field, collecting specimens and photographing ants in 14 countries. While still on expedition, he had a visit from an editor from National Geographic, who saw his images and flew to India to convince him to shoot for the magazine. Now, after working on 28 National Geographic articles, Moffett has earned some of photojournalism’s highest honors, including Best Picture and Best Story in the Picture of the Year awards.

Using the unique perspectives he gained studying insects below sea level and more than 200 feet above the forest floor, Dr. Moffett wrote The High Frontier (Harvard University Press), comparing terrestrial, marine, and microbial ecosystems and challenging prevailing trends in the field of ecology. The immediacy of his writing and the intelligence of his photography in The High Frontier make the canopy’s fantastic architecture and unearthly inhabitants accessible to the general reader. In the tradition of the great 19th-century explorers, he captures the struggles of the individual scientists and the passions that enable them to brave perilous situations in pursuit of their work.

In 2006, Dr. Moffett received the Lowell Thomas Medal—the highest honor in the field of exploration—from the Explorers Club in New York, following luminaries such as Carl Sagan, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Jean Cousteau. When not on expedition, he divides his time between staff positions at the University of California, Berkeley and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Moffett is a modern-day explorer with more than a little luck on his side. He has accidentally sat on the world’s deadliest snake, battled drug lords with dart guns, eaten grubs, scorpions, and spiders, and ascended a tree to escape bull elephants. To the stage, he brings his wealth of experience, passion, and quirky humor for an unforgettable look inside our natural world and its complex systems.

In 2007, he received the lifetime achievement award from the Science Museum of Long Island, previously bestowed on such luminaries as James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. Dr. Moffett has an exhibit on ants opening on May 30, 2009 at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, which will include the unveiling of the painting of Edward O. Wilson for the National Portrait Gallery. His National Geographic exhibit on frogs is currently traveling in Asia.

For the past few years, Dr. Moffett has focused on researching a book on ants due out in 2009. His work has lead to discoveries, such as the skill of Australia’s bulldog ant (Myrmecia gulosa) at catching honey bees in flight and the capacity of the Nigerian army ant (Dorylus rebellus) to mobilize horrific battles on termite mounds in which hundreds of thousands are slaughtered.

Conservation does not need to be presented as dry statistics and dismal news. Self-funded through his writing and photography, Dr. Moffett challenges himself to find new ways to tell stories about the little-known in the natural world.

He is a true explorer with countless adventures and tales from rainforest canopies and tropical locales and has been called the “Indiana Jones of Entomology” by National Geographic Radio. Don’t miss Mark Moffett’s exciting presentation on risk-taking and exploration; and prepare to be inspired by his travels and insight on entomology. No one else knows these stories firsthand or can convey them with Moffett’s enthusiasm. So get ready to be awed, and mark your calendar to join your peers in Indianapolis, December 13-16, 2009. For more information on Mark Moffet, visit or

For more information about the 2009 ESA Annual Meeting, click here.