National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis to deliver April Convocation address

Jonathan Woolson

Wade DavisWade Davis

A rare opportunity awaits Fredonia with the arrival of Dr. Wade Davis — described
as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity”— who will deliver the keynote address of the 2015-16 Convocation series, “Rediscovering the Diversity  of the Human Spirit.”

King Concert Hall will host the talk by Dr. Davis, an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society who has been honored as one of its “Explorers for the Millennium,” on Tuesday, April 12, at 3 p.m. This year’s keynote address is once again funded by the Maytum Lecture Endowment and Williams Visiting Professorship Endowment through the Fredonia College Foundation, making it free and open to the public.

An ethnographer, writer, photographer and filmmaker, Davis’ work in recent years has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Columbia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunavut and Greenland.

Davis holds degrees in Anthropology and Biology and received his Ph.D. in Ethnobotany, the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants, all from Harvard University. It was through the Harvard Botanical Museum that he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among 15 indigenous groups in eight Latin American countries while making some 6,000 botanical collections.

A prolific author, Davis wrote “Passage of Darkness” and “The Serpent and the Rainbow” based on his examination of folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies in Haiti, along with more than a dozen other books, including “One River,” which was nominated for the 1997 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction. “The Serpent and the Rainbow” became an international bestseller and was made into a motion picture by Universal Pictures. His books have been translated into 16 languages and have sold approximately 900,000 copies worldwide.

His many awards include: The Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club; the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; the 2002 Lowell Thomas Medal (The Explorer’s Club) and the 2002 Lannan Foundation $125,000 prize for literary non-fiction.

A native of British Columbia, Davis, a licensed river guide, has worked as a park ranger and forestry engineer, and conducted ethnographic field work among several indigenous societies of northern Canada. He has published over 200 scientific and popular articles on subjects ranging from Haitian Vodou and Amazonian myth and religion to the global biodiversity crisis, the traditional use of psychotropic drugs and the ethnobotany of South American Indians.

Articles written by Davis have been published in National Geographic, Newsweek, Premiere, Outside, Omni, Harpers, Fortune, Men’s Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, Natural History, Scientific American, National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Globe and Mail and numerous other international publications.

His photographs have appeared in some 30 books and more than 100 magazines, journals and newspapers, including National Geographic, Time, Geo, People, Men’s Journal, Outside and National Geographic Adventure and have been exhibited at the International Center of Photography (I.C.P.), the Annenberg Space for Photography, the Marsha Ralls Gallery in Washington, D.C., the United Nations (“Cultures on the Edge” exhibition 2004), the Carpenter Center of Harvard University and the Utama Center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Davis’ research has been chronicled in more than 900 media reports and interviews in Europe, North and South America and the Far East, and has inspired numerous documentary films as well as three episodes of “The X-Files” television series.

A professional speaker for over 25 years, Davis has lectured at the American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, California Academy of Sciences, Missouri Botanical Garden, Field Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Garden, National Geographic Society, Royal Ontario Museum, Explorer’s Club, Royal Geographical Society, Oriental Institute, Musée du Quai Branly, Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Chautauqua Institution, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank, as well as some 150 universities including Harvard, M.l.T., Oxford, Yale, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Duke, Vanderbilt, University of Pennsylvania, Tulane and Georgetown.

More information on Davis’ work can be found at


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