Navjot Sodhi is gone, but not forgotten

13 06 2011

I woke up this morning to a battery of emails expressing condolences on the tragic passing of Navjot Sodhi. I have to say that his death is personally a huge blow, and professionally, a tragic loss to the fields of ecology and conservation biology. He was a good friend, and a bloke with whom I had some great times. He was someone I could trust.

Many of you will know that Navjot had been ill for the last few months. I was told that at first it was something unidentifiable, then it was suspected diabetes, then the shock – some sort of ‘blood cancer’. I found out today it was one of the worst and most aggressive kinds of lymphoma that shuffled dear Navjot off this mortal coil. And it acted fast.

As I reflect on this moment, I remember all the times I spent with Navjot. I first met him in 1992 in the most unlikely of places – Edmonton, Canada at the University of Alberta where I was doing my MSc, and he his post-doc with Sue Hannon. Many years later, Navjot confessed that he thought I was a complete knob when he first met me, and that’s something we’ve laughed about on many occasions thereafter.

But it wasn’t until 2006 and over 10 years later that we became truly acquainted. My good friend and close colleague, Barry Brook, ‘introduced’ us again when I was at Charles Darwin University. We both looked at each other and said: “Hey, I know you!”, and then, well, it’s history.

Navjot and I have published 18 peer-reviewed papers, 3 book chapters and 1 book together since 2006 – he was a machine, and he could find the novel, insightful, brilliant line of reasoning in just about anything he turned his hand to. Our 2007 book, Tropical Conservation Biology, was mostly his doing – a piece I’m still very proud to have co-authored with him and Barry.

But that’s just my side – Navjot was an unquestionable conservation scholar – one of the top minds in the field. He did ground-breaking work and published on pretty much all aspects of tropical (and otherwise) ecology and conservation. He also saw the important socio-economic problems conservationists face; in fact, he was much more a scientist of application than a mere theoretician. He has probably been directly responsible for the protection of 1000s of species that would otherwise no longer be with us. His legacy is best writ in those non-human lives that persist because of him.

Navjot was also one of the principal editors behind Biological Conservation, and has had many other editorial roles in journals including Conservation Biology and Biotropica. He wasn’t just an office-bound geek though – a keen birder and exquisite field biologist, Navjot loved to get down and dirty.

I am going to take the liberty of reproducing some of the sentiments coming through the email today from many great ecologist colleagues. I hope they don’t mind:

I can’t tell you how distressed Anne and I are at this horrible news… He was one of the great stars of conservation science, but also a wonderful (and funny) colleague and friend. – Paul Ehrlich

Navjot was such a leader, such a true-blue friend, and such a warrior for conservation. – William Laurance

What a terrible loss. Just terrible. We are diminished.Thomas Lovejoy

I have nothing I can say to express my profound sadness at this – only tears at the loss of such a terrific and dear friend. He’ll always be missed, never forgotten by us. - Barry Brook

The news is absolutely devastating — what a loss to his students, colleagues, families, friends and to conservation writ large.Josh Ginsberg

Words fail me! I am stunned… What a terrible loss to conservation and conservation biology… - Daniel Simberloff

He brought us all together in the spirit of conservation and he will be sorely missed. I hope that we can all continue the struggle that he uniquely championed.David Bickford

Navjot was an extraordinary inspiration, a unique and tireless motivating force for so many people. His legacy will be long with us.Toby Gardner

Working with Navjot was such a wonderful thing. He was always extremely kind and symplathetic. We will miss him dearly.Gerardo Ceballos

Navjot is survived by his wife and two adult children. My thoughts go out to them.

Cheers, mate – you were one of the best ones, and I’ll miss you dearly.

CJA Bradshaw


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19 responses

13 06 2011
The loss of our esteemed colleague and friend, Professor Navjot Sodhi « The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

[...] Bradshaw writes, “Navjot Sodhi is gone, but not forgotten.” Conservation Bytes, 13 Jun 2011. “I have to say that his death is personally a huge [...]

13 06 2011
Passing of Navjot Sodhi « Compressed air junkie

[...] Some links: Conservation Bites LikeBe the first to like this [...]

13 06 2011
Professor Navjot Sodhi « Raffles Museum News

[...] “… I have to say that his death is personally a huge blow, and professionally, a tragic loss to the fields of ecology and conservation biology. He was a good friend, and a bloke with whom I had some great times. He was someone I could trust.” – Corey Bradshaw (to read the complete tribute, please click HERE) [...]

13 06 2011
Wong Sek Man

Sodhi will be remembered by all his colleagues in DBS, NUS. I have known Sodhi for more than 15 years. We shared many light moments in the Science canteen and at Sanjay’s party. He was a good man.
Sek Man

13 06 2011
CJAB

View the Navjot Sodhi tribute page on Facebook. You can leave memorial comments and photos there. Thanks to Lian Pin Koh for setting this up.

13 06 2011
Raj Pandit

I am shocked to hear about this devastating news. Navjot was a friend, mentor and a remarkable human being. In his passing away we have lost a pioneer and a towering light of tropical conservation science. It will be difficult to have another Navjot amongst his friends. Adios!

14 06 2011
Dewi

It’s shocking though I heard his illness from himself through email a couple months ago. He was a good friend of mine and mentor in conservation biology. We shared experiences doing research in Java and Central Sulawesi. It’s a great loss for Southeast Asian conservationists. My deepest sympathy to his wife and kids. Good bye Navjot and may you rest in peace.
Dewi Prawiradilaga

14 06 2011
Krushnamegh Kunte

Navjot Sodhi was a great inspiration to me and to many other butterfly and conservation biologists. I looked up to him for his tremendous work on extinction risks. This is a great loss for the nature conservation community.

16 06 2011
gracechua.com

[...] with him via email on a couple of previous stories; but by the Facebook memorial page and other testimonials, he was astoundingly [...]

27 06 2011
Time to cough up for Navjot « ConservationBytes.com

[...] colleague, great mate and all-round poker-in-the-eyes-of-convention, Professor Navjot Sodhi, died tragically on 12 June 2011 of lymphoma. but just in case you were under a rock, you can read about it [...]

30 06 2011
Rowan Hooper

A former colleague from Japan (Hisashi Nagata) has just told me this awful news. We worked with Navjot in the Wildlife Conservation Lab at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba. He was wonderfully welcoming to me when I arrived in Japan as a young postdoc (in 1995), and so hospitable: I was often round his house for dinner with his family. Aside from his considerable conservation achievements, he was a published poet. I remember him telling me he had just decided one day to stop writing poetry. I always thought that was remarkable.
Awful news, I feel so sorry for his family.
Rowan Hooper

15 09 2011
No substitute for primary forest « ConservationBytes.com

[...] recall a particular coffee discussion at the National University of Singapore between Navjot Sodhi (may his legacy endure), Barry Brook and me some time later where we planned the idea of a large meta-analysis to compare [...]

21 10 2011
CJAB

Navjot’s obituary in Conservation Biology now published:

Bradshaw, CJA, WF Laurance, L Gibson, PR Ehrlich, BW Brook. 2011. Homage to an avant-garde conservation leader, Navjot Sodhi. Conservation Biology 25: 1056-1058. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01730.x [PDF]

8 11 2011
Strange bedfellows? Techno-fixes and conservation « BraveNewClimate

[...] to the memory of my long-time friend and scientific collaborator Prof. Navjot Sodhi, who sadly died suddenly from lymphoma in June this year, aged only 49. Navjot and I had written two books and 38 scientific papers together since first meeting in 2001. [...]

8 11 2011
Mucking around the edges « ConservationBytes.com

[...] for a special issue of essays dedicated to the memory of our mate and colleague, Navjot Sodhi, who died earlier this year. The issue hasn’t been released yet, but we have managed to get our paper out well [...]

12 12 2011
Slicing the second ‘lung of the planet’ « ConservationBytes.com

[...] biodiversity and carbon stores. That paper was in fact the result of a brain-storming session Navjot Sodhi and I had one day during my visit to Singapore sometime in 2007. We thought, “It [...]

19 09 2012
David Colman, Navjot Sodhi | Naturally Selected

[...] June after suffering from lymphoma. Please visit the blogs of the Raffles Museum and his colleague Corey Bradshaw for some personal [...]

6 11 2012
A posthumous citation tribute for Sodhi « ConservationBytes.com

[...] and colleague, Navjot Sodhi. We’ve already written several times our personal tributes (see here, here and here) to this great mind of conservation thinking who disappeared from us far too soon, [...]

7 02 2014
Incentivise to keep primary forests intact | ConservationBytes.com

[…] begin a position at Charles Darwin University. Being introduced there to conservation greats like Navjot Sodhi (sadly, now deceased), Barry Brook and David Bowman turned my research interests on their ear. I […]

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