The noted environmental researcher and adventurer also endowed a scholarship to help environmental science students. Give online here to support students through the Lee and Marty Talbot Foreign Student Endowed Scholarship.
Lee Talbot, 90, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy within Mason’s College of Science, died at home on April 27, 2021, following a battle with cancer.
“As an educator, Lee Talbot was both an inspiration and a pioneer, his passion and dedication to his students ever-evident over his 29 years at George Mason University,” said Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, dean of the College of Science. “During that time, Talbot developed eight graduate-level classes and received countless student accolades and faculty awards, including the recent Dean’s Career Award for Distinctive Service in December 2020.”
A global ecologist and geographer with more than 50 years of experience in national and international environmental affairs, biodiversity conservation, environmental policies and institutions, and environment and development, Talbot is widely recognized as the author/co-author of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, CITES and the World Heritage Convention.
He served in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, and was a senior advisor for organizations including the Smithsonian Institution, World Bank, United Nations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council.
Over the course of his decades-long career, he conducted more than 130 exploratory and research expeditions to remote or unknown areas on five continents. Talbot wrote more than 300 scientific, technical and popular publications, including 17 books and monographs.
Beginning his career as a wildlife biologist, on one of his earliest assignments he mapped and collected data on animals in Kenya and Lake Tanganyika. The results were the creation of the Serengeti National Park, the Masai Mara National Reserve and much more. He and his wife, Marty, his co-adventurer, spent years assessing the status of species across Africa and Asia.
Talbot completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California Berkeley, receiving a degree in liberal arts and wildlife ecology, an MS in vertebrate ecology and an interdisciplinary PhD in geography/ecology. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Remarkably, Talbot was also a noted racecar driver. He was chosen to enter his first professional race in 1948, and was 87 at the time of his final one in 2017. During that 69-year stretch, he competed in—and frequently won—races in many formats, including dirt track sprint cars, grand prix and road racing in formula cars, sports racers, production and vintage race cars.
“He was truly a towering figure,” wrote Talbot’s son, Russell, in a powerful tribute to his father. “I think of him as an amalgamation of the best aspects of John Muir, Ernest Hemingway, and James Bond. But I think he was humbler and, arguably, more influential than any of those characters.”
While teaching at Mason, Talbot mentored countless graduate students who are now spread out across the planet continuing his fight for sound conservation policy and development.
In 2007, the Talbots established the Lee and Marty Talbot Foreign Student Endowed Scholarship, for students from developing nations pursuing a master’s degree or PhD in environmental science and policy at Mason. The couple established the fund to empower recipients to return to their home countries and apply their education to improve environmental conditions there. Since 2011 the Talbot Scholarship has supported ten students with annual awards of $3,000 or more.
Marty, Talbot’s wife of 62 years, and sons Lawrence and Rusty plan to hold a celebration of his life in the coming months.
May 13, 2021 / a version of this article was first published on gmu.edu