Michael E. Soulé

Trustee Emeritus✡

Early the morning of June 17, 2020 Michael peacefully died. May his spirit expand onto the natural world that he worked so hard for and loved so much.

Serving as Round River Science Advisor and Board Member since 1991, we unabashedly utilized the science legend that was Michael. As we and others first worked to have such notions as conservation design, connectivity, and large-scale protection, be not just considerations but mandatory for the preservation of life, it was Michael who generously gave us a legitimate voice. More than any person of science, he has positively altered the work of all conservationists.

Sitting leaning up against a slick rock wall in the Hoanib River in the Kunene Region of Namibia, after some rather close encounters with Desert Elephants, Michael shared one of his biggest goals in life, that being brought to tears every day rather by pure joy or out of compassionate sadness. On another occasion in the Lockhart-Gordon estuary on the coast of British Columbia, after some rather close encounters with grizzly bears, Michael explained how he had come to dislike his published notion of minimum-viable-populations. He regretted the usage of minimums, as everything in nature should be about achieving maximums, not minimums. These sentiments embodied Michael seamlessly blending the Zen Buddhist with the scientist.

Michael, I hope we have made you proud as we pledge to continue your work. We love you.



A Zen Buddhist and “Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, Michael was born, raised, and educated in California. After spending much of his youth in the canyons, deserts, and intertidal of San Diego and Baja California, and after graduating from San Diego State, he went to Stanford to study population biology and evolution under Paul Ehrlich.

Upon receiving his Ph.D. at Stanford, Michael went to Africa to help found the first university in Malawi. He has also taught in Samoa, the Universities of California at both San Diego and Santa Cruz, and the University of Michigan. He also did field work on insects, lizards, birds, and mammals in Africa, Mexico, the Adriatic, the West Indies, and in California and Colorado.

Michael was a founder of the Society for Conservation Biology and The Wildlands Project and was the president of both. He wrote and edited 9 books on biology, conservation biology, and the social and policy context of conservation. He published more than 170 articles on population and evolutionary biology, fluctuating asymmetry, population genetics, island biogeography, environmental studies, biodiversity policy, nature conservation, and ethics. He was a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, was the sixth recipient of the Archie Carr Medal, was named by Audubon Magazine in 1998 as one of the 100 Champions of Conservation of the 20th Century, a recipient of the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award for science, the Conservation Medal for 2007 from the Zoological Society of San Diego and the first recipient of Round River’s Aldo Award.

Michael also served on the boards of several other conservation organizations, including the Wildlands Network, and consulted internationally on nature protection. He was also co-chair of the Science Council for Australia’s WildCountry Project.