Teamwork is what it’s all about for Mike Hoffmann. At 32, he has learned the importance of teamwork and relationships throughout his career and his six years with Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or CI’s “science wing.”
A passionate and expressive analyst in the Biodiversity Assessment Unit, Hoffman coordinates workshops held all over the globe, gathering the best and brightest experts in the fields of conservation and science to, as he says, “rapidly expand the coverage and content of the IUCN Red List.”
One of Hoffmann’s most successful and inspiring examples of teamwork has been with the Alliance for Zero Extinction, consisting of nearly 100 organizations that have surprisingly all come together to agree on one thing – safeguarding sites known to hold the last known population of a highly threatened species. Hoffmann’s enthusiasm about AZE’s success is palpable.
“It’s such a simple, yet immensely powerful concept: save this site, or you stand a very real chance that a species will go extinct,” he explains. “Simple as that. If you want priorities in the world of conservation, this is where it all begins.”
Recently, he has been working on a project to assess the status of the world’s mammals – everything from rats and bats to elephants and whales, information which in turn feeds into initiatives such as AZE.
A South African native, Hoffmann returns home at least once a year, joking that his mother wouldn’t allow for any less than that. A youth spent in South Africa’s bush fields, game reserves and Kruger National Park, made him appreciate everything outdoors. Hunting trips with his father instilled an appreciation of nature and an awareness of the vital link between human activities and a sustainable environment.
Hoffmann’s interest in conservation blossomed through a series of professional relationships. At the start of his career, Hoffmann was influenced by his supervisor and employer, John Skinner.
“[He] taught me the value of thinking academically and scientifically,” Hoffmann says. “But it was really when I moved to Oxford that my mind was opened, especially working closely with Jonathan Kingdon, a renowned artist, zoologist and author, and a formidable primatologist in his own right. He really taught me to think outside the proverbial box, and became a very close friend at the same time.”
Hoffmann and Kingdon have teamed up over the past eight years on a multi-volume, encyclopedic book called Mammals of Africa, aiming to consolidate all relevant information on Africa’s mammals.
This self- described workaholic, who rarely says no to projects, seldom has free time. When he does, he spends it with friends, at the gym, reading, being outside and cooking. He also admits to being a cinephile, with a penchant for old black-and-white classics, “especially anything with Jimmy Stewart.”
Hoffmann’s work ethic and willingness to learn from others proved very beneficial when it came to his education.
“People are sometimes surprised when I mention that I don’t have a Master’s degree -- actually, I don’t even have a Bachelor’s,” he admits. “But I did have to work awfully hard to make up for it!”
LEARN MORE: There are many projects CI scientists are involved in from saving species to saving forests and climate change.
At the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, Hoffmann received a National Diploma in Nature Conservation and completed a year’s work study at the University of Pretoria’s Mammal Research Institute (before going on to work there for another three years).
Knowing the value of teamwork and the successes in conservation that it can bring, Hoffmann reminds colleagues that, “It cannot be done alone. There’s not a single project I have been part of over the past six years working with CI and IUCN that has not involved the input and contributions of numerous individuals.”
Kari Klaus is a volunteer writer at CI.