In 2017, when Wade Davis was Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia, he received the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness.

Between 1999 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and subsequently became a member of the NGS Explorers Council and Honorary Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as "a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life's diversity." In 2014 Switzerland's leading think tank, the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute of Zurich, ranked him 16th in their annual survey of the top 100 most influential global Thought Leaders.

An ethnographer, writer, photographer and filmmaker, Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6000 botanical collections.

Davis's work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture. In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.

Davis is the author of 275 scientific and popular articles and 20 books including One River (1996), The Wayfinders (2009), The Sacred Headwaters (2011), Into the Silence (2011) and River Notes (2012). His photographs have been widely exhibited and have appeared in 30 books and 100 magazines, including National Geographic, Time, Geo, People, Men's Journal, and Outside.

Davis was the co-curator of The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes, first exhibited at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. In 2012 he served as guest curator of No Strangers: Ancient Wisdom in the Modern World, an exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.

His many film credits include Light at the Edge of the World, an eight-hour documentary series written and produced for the National Geographic. A professional speaker for 30 years, Davis has lectured at over 200 universities and 250 corporations and professional associations. In 2009 he delivered the CBC Massey Lectures. He has spoken from the main stage at TED five times, and his three posted talks have been viewed by 3 million. His books have appeared in 20 languages and sold approximately one million copies.

Davis is the recipient of 11 honorary degrees, as well as the 2009 Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for his contributions to anthropology and conservation, the 2011 Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club, the 2012 David Fairchild Medal for botanical exploration, the 2013 Ness Medal for geography education from the Royal Geographical Society, and the 2015 Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.

In 2016 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada along with B.C. photographer Ted Grant and B.C.-raised filmmaker Atom Egoyan. The citation read, "Wade Davis is recognized for his work to promote conservation of the natural world. A Harvard-educated anthropologist and explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, Davis has written 15 books including The Serpent and the Rainbow. Wade Davis is a professor of anthropology and the B.C. Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of B.C."

Born in West Vancouver, B.C. in 1953, Wade Davis grew up in Quebec and attended Brentwood College in Mill Bay on Vancouver Island. "I was a product of the Sixties," he says. "I had a strong sense of adventure and wanted to experience the world."

Some other books include Into the Silence which received the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, arguably the top award for literary non-fiction in the English language.

His Penan: Voice of the Borneo Rainforest, co-written with Thom Henley, details the plight of the Penan people in Sarawak.

Wade Davis's The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena, and Nass is described as a visual feast and plea to save an extraordinary region in North America for future generations. He describes the region's beauty, the threats to it, and the response of native groups and other inhabitants, complemented by the voices of the Tahltan elders.

For Wade Davis: Photographs, Davis selected 150 of his favourite photographs from the thousands he has taken during his forty-year career. These intimate portraits of family and community life are universal in tone, and yet represent countless geographical and cultural spaces, telling the story of the human condition across the globe.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass


The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey Into the Secret Societies of Haitain Voodoo, Zombies and Magic (Simon & Schuster, 1986)
Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombia (Chapel Hill, 1988)
Nomads of the Dawn: The Penan of the Borneo Rainforest, with Ian Mackenzie and Shane Kennedy (Pomegranate, 1995)
One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest (Touchstone, 1996)
Shadows in the Sun: Travels to Landscapes of Spirits and Desire (Pomegranate Art Books, 1998)
Rainforest: Ancient Realm of the Pacific Northwest, text by Wade Davis, photographs by Graham Osborne (Greystone, 1998)
The Clouded Leopard: Travels to Landscapes of Spirits and Desire (D&M, 1999)
Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures (D&M, 2001, 2007).
The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey of Richard Evans Schultes (D&M, 2004)
Grand Canyon: River at Risk (Insight Editions / Palace Press 2008)
The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World (Anansi, 2009)
The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena, and Nass (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation 2011; republished paperback Greystone, 2015) 9781553658801
River Notes: A Natural History of the Colorado (Island Press 2012) $22.95
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest (Vintage 2012) $19 9780375708152
Wade Davis: Photographs (D&M 2016) $39.95 978-1-77162-124-3
Cowboys of the Americas, with photos by Luis Fabini (Greystone, 2017)
Magdalena: River of Dreams, A Story of Columbia (Penguin RandomHouse 2020) $30 9780375410994

[BCBW 2020] "Anthropology"