Professor Hopi Hoekstra has been named to the Explorers Club as a recipient of the 2022 Lowell Thomas Award, which this year honors professionals who display excellence in Conservation Genetics. Hoekstra, along with five other recipients, join the ranks of past honorees that include Carl Sagan, Buzz Aldrin, and David Attenborough.
“This honor is a wonderful surprise,” says Hoekstra. “The list of past recipients includes many of my scientific heros and heroines – their work is what inspired me to pursue a career in science and in particular studying animals in the field. I am beyond humbled.”
Hoekstra studies how organisms adapt to novel environments, using wild mice as a model. She has traveled the globe – from the Kuril Islands of Russia to the pampas of Argentina – as part of her work studying animals living in extreme habitats, before coming back into the lab to study the genetic basis of those adaptations in everything from morphology to behavior.
“By studying how animals have adapted to new or unique environments in the past, we gain information about how they may (or may not) adapt to future environmental change,” she says. “That is, in part, what leads us to explore the links between genes, adaptations and survival in the wild.”
The Explorers Club started in 1904 with the aim of supporting scientific innovation. The Lowell Thomas award was named for broadcast journalist and explorer Lowell Thomas, who wrote and produced videos about his travels throughout the 20th century and popularized the story of T.E. Lawrence (who in 1962 was immortalized in the Oscar-winning Lawrence of Arabia).
Hoekstra and the other awardees include:
- Chao-ting Wu, Harvard Medical School
- George Church, Harvard Medical School and MIT
- Harris Lewin, Earth BioGenome Project
- Oliver Ryder, Zoological Society of San Diego
- Samuel Wasser, University of Washington
- Stephen J. O’Brien, Nova Southeastern University
The group will be feted during an early October weekend of panels and parties in Boston.
“I am really looking forward to chatting with the other honorees about their work, and their vision for the field of conservation genetics moving forward,” says Hoekstra.