Russ Mittermeier awarded Harvard Graduate School's highest honor

© Cauê Diniz

Editor’s note: Russell Mittermeier, Conservation International’s executive vice chair, has been honored as one of Harvard University’s Centennial Medalists for 2017. One of only four recipients to be awarded the title this year — the highest honor bestowed by the Graduate School — Mittermeier is being celebrated with fellow alumni who have “made contributions to society that emerged from their graduate studies at Harvard.” Mittermeier graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1977.

Over his 30 years at Conservation International, Mittermeier has made an indelible mark on the organization’s work around the globe. Here’s a look at some of the species he’s discovered and places he’s helped to protect along the way.

1. Researchers discover two tiny new primate species in a far-flung forest

Russ Mittermeier helped discover two new species of tarsier — a tiny, nocturnal primate found only in parts of Southeast Asia, and rumored to have been the inspiration for Yoda from the “Star Wars” films.

2. New conservation corridor latest environmental triumph for Suriname

In 2015, the Trio and Wayana indigenous groups declared an indigenous Southern Suriname Conservation Corridor covering 7.2 million hectares (17.8 million acres).

3. For forests to combat climate change, 3 things we must do

Protecting and restoring forests brings a host of benefits, from providing drinking water to medicine. But one of their greatest functions is to help fight climate change.

Some of the dense hardwood tree species that are most effective in removing carbon from the atmosphere can only be dispersed by large frugivores. Unfortunately, these species are often heavily hunted.

5. Measuring what matters: Acknowledging nature’s role in the global economy

Too often, nature and the services it provides to us are invisible. By accounting for nature in economic, ecological and social terms, we can help make its value visible.

Sophie Bertazzo is a staff writer for Conservation International. 

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