COLBY COLLEGE Research SymposiumStudent Research Opportunities
 2004 Program

Research Symposium

Fifth Annual

Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz

Director of Science and Exploration
Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz gave the keynote address for the symposium at 7:30pm on Wednesday, April 28th in Olin 1.

A Journey of Discovery in Asia's Forbidden Wilderness

Throughout his career, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz has traveled to some of the earth's wildest places.   In 1997, he became one of the first Westerners allowed into the remote northern region of Myanmar, a country closed to outside world for decades.   In his lecture, he will discuss his initial 300-mile trek of exploration and discovery in a corner of the planet where the greatest necessity is salt and where the main source of meat is a group of animal species little known to the outside world.   We will meet the Rawang, a former slave group, the Taron, an isolated, nearly extinct enclave of the world's only Mongolian pygmies, and "lost" tribes of Tibetans living in the southeastern corner of the Himalayas.   We will enter the territories of strange, majestic-looking beasts that few people have ever heard of, and fewer have ever seen - golden takin, red goral, blue sheep, black barking deer.   And we will learn of the discovery of the leaf deer - a species of primitive deer previously unknown to science. Yet even in this road-less, rugged landscape the survival of these species and the people who live among them is threatened.   Dr. Rabinowitz traveled back to this region several more times, to more fully document and to protect the biological and cultural richness of this important area.   In the end, Dr. Rabinowitz's work was the catalyst for the creation of Hkakabo-Razi National Park, today one of Asia's largest and most important protected areas.

Short biography of Dr. Rabinowitz

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1981 with a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology.   He is currently the Director of the Science and Exploration Division for the Wildlife Conservation Society (founded in 1896 as the New York Zoological Society) based at the Bronx Zoo in New York.   He has traveled extensively, concentrating his research efforts in places such as Belize, Borneo, Taiwan, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma).   He has studied jaguars, clouded leopards, tigers, Sumatran rhinos and other large mammal species. His work in Belize resulted in the world's first jaguar sanctuary; his work in Taiwan resulted in the establishment of the country's largest Nature Reserve; his work in Thailand resulted in the first field research on IndoChinese tigers in what was to become the region's first World Heritage Site; and his work in Myanmar resulted in the creation of five new protected areas: the country's first marine national park, the country's first and largest Himalayan national park, the country's largest wildlife sanctuary, and the world's largest tiger reserve.  

Dr. Rabinowitz's research and explorations over the last decade has taken him to rugged, unexplored mountain ranges in the Annamite Mountains between Laos and Vietnam, and to the unexplored eastern edge of the Himalayan Mountains of northern Myanmar.   In northern Myanmar, Dr. Rabinowitz discovered the leaf deer, a new species to science and the second smallest, most primitive deer in the world.   He also made contact with the Taron, a group of Mongoloid pygmies, the only true pygmoid group of Asian ancestry in the world.   Out of contact with the outside world since they were first discovered and studied in the 1950's and early 1960's, they are now near extinction, in part by their own design.

Dr. Rabinowitz's goal in life, and the mission of his Science and Exploration Division, is to find and survey the world's last wild places, with the intention of saving as much land in protected areas as he can and securing homes for some of the world's most endangered large mammals.   He has published over 50 scientific and popular articles and 4 books.   His first two books "Jaguar" and "Chasing the Dragon's Tail" are popular accounts of his adventures in Belize and Thailand.   The third, a field research and conservation training manual, has been translated into six languages.   His most recent book, "Beyond the Last Village" by Island Press takes the reader on an intensely personal journey through his adventures, explorations, and discoveries in Myanmar.

At the present time, Dr. Rabinowitz is firmly committed to the success of two incredibly important, long term objectives: establishing and securing a contiguous wild jaguar corridor on public and private lands ranging from Mexico to Argentina; and setting up the world's largest tiger reserve, an area nearly the size of Vermont, in the Hukaung Valley of northern Myanmar, that will benefit both people and wildlife.