SCB co-founder Michael Soulé (third from right) with current and former SCB staff in Missoula, Montana, USA at the Society's North America Congress for Conservation Biology, July 2014. In 1985 he defined a "new synthetic discipline" to address the biodiversity crisis and save species.
Dr. Michael Soulé, founder and first president of the Society for Conservation Biology, died June 17, 2020 at the age of 84.
Soulé defined a new discipline in the application of science to conservation problems called conservation biology and the subject is taught at universities and underpins the work done by institutions globally to maintain and restore biodiversity. He provided moral clarity on our ethical responsibility to conserve all species and inspired three generations of scientists to focus on the study and application of conservation biology.
Michael was born, raised and educated in California where he spent time exploring the beaches, canyons and deserts of Southern California. He completed his undergraduate studies at San Diego State University and completed his PhD in the study of ecology and evolutionary biology under Paul Ehrlich at Stanford University. He served on the faculty in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC San Diego, taught at University of Michigan, and was chair of the Environmental Studies Department at University of California, Santa Cruz. He spent time in the field studying mammals, lizards, and birds, and across the west, as well as in Africa, Mexico and other destinations but he is most well-known for championing the value of conserving top predators, despite the challenges of human-wildlife conflict. This included protecting core wildlands and wildlife corridors to maintain habitat connectivity – as Michael put it “the three Cs – cores, corridors and carnivores”
Michael wrote or edited over 10 seminal books on related to conservation biology and published approximately 175 articles on population and evolutionary biology, population genetics, island biogeography, trophic cascades, biodiversity policy, ethics, and other topics related saving species. He served on many boards of conservation organizations; and received numerous awards and accolades during his career including the Archie F. Carr Medal, the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award, and the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award for Science.
Michael will be remembered as a generous mentor who motivated others to conserve species by sharing his spirit and love of nature and calling on them to uphold our moral and ethical responsibility to prevent extinction.
As word of his passing spread, friends, colleagues, and those influenced by Soulé shared their sentiments and gratitude for Michael on social media. Here is a sampling of what many expressed about Michael and the legacy he left.