Wade Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, ethnobotanist and photographer, living among fifteen tribal groups in eight Latin American nations while making some six thousand botanical collections. His work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing Passage of Darkness (1988) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller which appeared in ten languages and was later released by Universal as a motion picture. His other books include Penan: Voice for the Borneo Rain Forest (1990), Nomads of the Dawn (1995), and Shadows in the Sun (1992), a Canadian best seller which will be published in an expanded American edition by Shearwater Books/Island Press in 1998. His latest book, One River, a biography of the plant explorer Richard Evans Schultes, was published by Simon & Schuster in September, 1996. A book of Davis's photographs, as yet untitled, will be published by Douglas & McIntyre in 1998. Recently his work has taken him to Morocco, Jordan and Borneo and current projects are underway in Colombia and Tibet. He is now working on a new book, Sheets of Distant Rain, a story based in part on the life of Atehena, a Gitksan elder from the remote uplands of the Spatsizi wilderness of northern Canada.
A native of British Columbia, Dr. Davis has worked as a park ranger, forestry engineer, logger, big game hunting guide and conducted ethnographic fieldwork among several indigenous societies of northern Canada. He has published some fifty scientific articles on subjects ranging from Haitian vodoun and Amazonian myth and religion to the global biodiversity crisis, the traditional use of psychotropic drugs, and the ethnobotany of South American Indians. His magazine articles have appeared in Newsweek, Premiere, Outside, Omni, Harpers and several other international publications. He 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, America's Society, Royal Ontario Museum, Royal British Columbia Museum, the Explorer's Club as well as more than fifty major universities including Harvard, Yale, Tulane, Vanderbilt, M.I.T., University of North Carolina, UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado and University of Wisconsin. His photographs have been widely published and exhibited at several galleries including the International Center of Photography (I.C.P.) in New York.
Presently a Research Associate of the Instituto Caribe de Antropologia y Sociologia in Caracas, Venezuela, he is an Honorary Research Associate of the Institute of Economic Botany of the New York Botanical Garden, a Collaborator in Botany at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biology at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Research Associate of the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Executive Director of the Endangered People's Project. Since 1994 Davis has served as Vice President for Ethnobotany and Conservation at Andes Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a development stage biotech company engaged in biodiversity prospecting in the Andes and Amazon of South America.
Davis was the host and co-writer of Earthguide, a 13 part television series on the environment which aired on the Discovery Channel. Other television credits include the award winning documentaries, The Spirit of the Mask, an exploration of the sacred role of masks in European and Native American cultures, and Cry of the Forgotten Land, an account of the plight of the Moi people of western New Guinea. His most recent documentary film is Forests Forever, a critical examination of forest policy in British Columbia. In addition to various writing projects and an active program of ethnobotanical and ethnographic research, Dr. Davis is currently serving as a scientific consultant to Warner Bros. for an upcoming feature film based on the struggle of the Penan of north Borneo to preserve their forest homeland.
Davis is married to Gail Percy, an anthropologist, and when not in the field they divide their time between Washington D.C., Vancouver and their fishing lodge at Wolf Creek in the Stikine Valley of northern British Columbia. They have two children, Tara aged eight and Raina who is five.
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