(Arlington, VA, May 28) Harvard Extension School has presented the 2019 “Michael Shinagel Award for Service” to Dr. Mark Plotkin of The Amazon Conservation Team. Plotkin earned his undergraduate degree from the school in 1979 and it is the Extension School’s most prestigious alumni award. The award is named in honor of Dr. Michael Shinagel, the former Dean of Harvard Extension School.
The award is given “in appreciation of those who have dedicated themselves to the service of others.” The committee chose to honor Mark Plotkin this year “in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the protection of the Amazon rainforest and tribal communities within.”
“We are honored to give this award to Dr. Plotkin, who has dedicated his life’s work to enriching others and educating society on a subject that is truly important to the preservation of indigenous cultures and the world they live in,” said Huntington D. Lambert, Dean of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education and University Extension.
Dr. Plotkin is an ethnobotanist, a scientist who studies medicinal plants and the rainforest shamans who best know and use them. He chose this career path after taking an Extension Course from the legendary Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes.
Plotkin is the President of the Amazon Conservation Team, an organization that works in partnership with indigenous communities to protect both rainforests and indigenous cultures. To date, ACT has partnered with over 50 South American tribes to map and improve management and protection of more than 80 million acres of ancestral rainforests.
Mark Plotkin is perhaps best known for “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice,” which is one of the most popular rainforest books ever written and is currently in the 40th printing. His IMAX film “Amazon” was nominated for an Academy Award, and his TED Talk on how to protect uncontacted tribes of Amazonia has been viewed well over a million times.
Nonetheless, he never fails to credit Harvard Extension for launching his career. “Without question, the Harvard Extension Program gave me (and many, many others) a unique and challenging academic training and opportunity which has opened doors from the Amazon rainforest to elite academic circles. Receiving an award named for the esteemed Dr. Michael Shinagel – who served as Dean during my time at Harvard – is a deeply appreciated honor and inspiration.”
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