William Thomas to Receive Award from the Explorers Club

Photo courtesy of Bill Thomas

Bill Thomas (left) with Khapiap, the oldest Hewa involved with Thomas’ work on Papua New Guinea.

William “Bill” Thomas, PhD, director of Montclair State University’s New Jersey School of Conservation, has been chosen to receive the Lowell Thomas Award from the renowned Explorers Club of New York City. The prestigious award, which this year is going to “explorers who have exhibited an extraordinary capacity to transcend traditional comfort zones to undertake expeditions that benefit all mankind,” will be presented at an awards dinner on October 13.

Thomas, an anthropologist and conservationist, is being recognized for his work in protecting biodiversity in Papua New Guinea by developing methodologies that bridge traditional knowledge and western science. Since 1988, he has worked in remote regions of the South Pacific nation to record the environmental knowledge of the local Hewa people, helping to create a baseline of information on environments that have yet to be studied. His work focuses on the potential for this indigenous knowledge to serve as a blueprint for the conservation of the earth’s remaining wild lands.

Named for the legendary journalist, broadcaster and explorer who made Lawrence of Arabia famous in the early 1900s, the Lowell Thomas Award is presented annually by the Explorers Club to explorers, scientists, and adventurers of note. Previous recipients of the award include: Isaac Asimov, Clive Cussler and Wade Davis; astronauts Buzz Aldrin, James Lovell and Kathryn Sullivan; and mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary.

“When a panel of the world’s finest explorers thinks that you have earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath with Edmund Hillary or Buzz Aldrin, it is both humbling and gratifying,” says Thomas. “The Lowell Thomas Award is a constant reminder that I have some big shoes to fill if I am to be truly deserving of this honor. I plan to do everything in my power to prove worthy and to honor my fellow recipients whose exploits and courage have validated my passion for exploration.”

Joining Thomas as recipients of the Lowell Thomas Award will be author and photojournalist Scott Wallace; polar expeditioner, mountaineer, balloonist and pilot David Hempleman-Adams; and naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough. The award dinner’s keynote speaker will be balloonist-adventurer Bertrand Piccard, co-pilot of the first non-stop balloon circumnavigation of the globe and of Solar Impulse, the world’s first solar-powered airplane to achieve intercontinental flight.

Read the Explorers Club announcement of the awards.