Dr. J. Michael Fay (2007)
Award Presented at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence and Wildlife Conservation Society Conservationist Dr. J. Michael Fay, received the 2007 Lindbergh Award for his use of technology to collect information about the environment so that people around the world can learn about the importance of sustainability and become inspired to take action. In 2004 Dr. Fay conducted a Megaflyover of Africa, during which he traveled more than 60,000 miles in a specially designed airplane and captured high-resolution aerial images of the continent in an effort to change the way Africa and the rest of the world perceive and use our natural resources. On a previous mission Fay walked 2,000 miles from the northeastern corner of the Republic of the Congo to the southwestern coast of Gabon. Using GPS recordings, video footage, still photography and numerical data, Dr. Fay documented every wildlife, plant, and human presence he encountered. He has spent two years compiling the information he collected into a database, which will be made available to conservationists, educators, students and the general public. J. Michael Fay is an ecologist at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society of New York and an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He has spent his life as a naturalist — he roamed the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Maine woods as a boy, traveled through wilderness in Alaska and Central America in college, and has spent the past 15 years in the central African forest. Fay received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1978 from the University of Arizona. He then spent six years in the Peace Corps as a botanist in national parks in Tunisia, and then worked in the savannas of the Central African Republic. In 1984 he went to work at the Missouri Botanical Garden. A floristic study of a mountain range on Sudan’s western border eventually led to a Ph.D. on the western lowland gorillas. It was at this time that he first entered the forests of central Africa. In 1996 Fay flew a small airplane low over the forests of Congo and Gabon and observed a vast, intact forest corridor that spanned the two countries, from the Oubangui River to the Atlantic Ocean. From October 1999 through December 2000 he walked the entire corridor — more than 2,000 miles — systematically surveying trees, wildlife and human impacts on uninhabited forest areas. Returning to Africa in 2004, Fay conducted his African MegaFlyover, assessing the impact of the human footprint on the continent through aerial surveys conducted from a Cessna Airplane.