Mark Plotkin – 2004
Mark J. Plotkin, an ethnobotanist devoted to preserving and understainding the medicinal use of rain forest plants, will the second scientist to receive the Roy Chapman Andrews Society Distinguished Explorer Award. He received the award in 2004.
Dr. Plotkin made his first trip to the rain forests of South America in 1979 while serving as a curatorial assistant in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. That journey cemented what has become a lifelong study of the medicinal use of local plants by the indigenous peoples of the region. He has made countless trips to the Amazon since then, both to record the diversity of the flora and its associated healing properties and to encourage the preservation of that knowledge among the forest’s native inhabitants.
In 1995 he expanded his efforts by founding the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT). This non-profit organization sponsors projects that map and preserve the indigenous plants and cultures of the rain forest. His efforts have been documented in a number of award-winning films, including the IMAX presentation “Amazon.”
In addition, Dr. Plotkin has authored a series of books about his experiences and discoveries, including Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice (Viking-Penguin, 1993) and Medicine quest – In search of Nature’s Healing Secrets (Viking-Penguin, 2000), and The Killers Within – The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria (Little Brown, 2002). His book for young readers, The Shaman’s Apprentice – A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest coauthored and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, became a featured book on the award-winning PBS children’s series “Reading Rainbow.”
Dr. Plotkin presented an acceptance lecture on “Rainforest Conservation in the Amazon: The ACT Experience” as part of the Friday afternoon program.
The Distinguished Explorer Award program is a principal focus of the Roy Chapman Andrews Society. Founded in 1998, the Society’s mission is to honor the legacy of one of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th century by educating the public about Andrews’s life, work, and adventures; promoting the value of scientific exploration and discovery; and emphasizing Andrews’s lifetime ties to Beloit.
Mark J. Plotkin grew up exploring the bayou country of his native Louisiana – and reading books by Roy Chapman Andrews. Dr. Plotkin was devastated to learn as a youngster that dinosaurs were extinct.
He has devoted his scientific career to documenting and preserving the peoples and plants of the Amazonian rain forests.