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Michael Køie Poulsen, A Champion for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, passed away

Simona Cerrato
June 27, 2024, 9:11 a.m.

Michael Køie Poulsen, a tireless advocate for focused biodiversity conservation and a champion for community-based solutions, passed away on 21 June. 

Michael held a profound understanding of the interconnectedness of living beings and the crucial role healthy ecosystems play in sustaining life on Earth. He recognised the biodiversity crisis as the ultimate environmental threat, with climate change being just one facet of this complex challenge.

Throughout his career, Michael dedicated himself to finding sustainable, long term solutions for both biodiversity conservation and local development. He firmly believed in the power of community-based monitoring and co-created citizen science, seeing them as essential tools for effective conservation and development.

His professional journey as biologist began in 1990 with the co-founding of the Nordic Foundation for Development and Ecology (NORDECO). This organisation provided a platform for his lifelong dedication to working in the Global South and the Arctic.

His expertise spanned research, practical implementation, and project advising. He held the position of Chief Technical Advisor for development projects and he focused on community-based natural resource management in some of the World’s most threatened global biodiversity hotspots. 


Michael's unwavering commitment was to achieve sustainable resource use among some of the World’s most marginalised communities who depend on the living resources for their livelihoods while strengthening self-determination of the  communities through participation and benefit-sharing. He worked for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, advocating for inclusion, local democracy, and fair access to the living resources.

A lifelong bird enthusiast, Michael's childhood fascination with birds fuelled his passion for conservation science. Working on nature conservation projects in remote areas solidified his belief in the critical role Indigenous and  local communities play in successful conservation efforts. Beyond his research, he actively participated in numerous ornithological expeditions, contributing to the discovery and description of several species of birds new to science.

Michael will be remembered not only for his dedication to the environment but also for his warm and contagious smile, his genuine friendliness, and his love for the music of the seventies, particularly the legendary band Pink Floyd. This passion for Pink Floyd blossomed during the band's golden era, and this shared love for their music even formed a bridge between him and colleagues during the ECS project meeting in Barcelona in July 2023. The social dinner provided an opportunity to connect beyond professional endeavours, revealing a mutual appreciation for Pink Floyd and similar life experiences as those of us who were young adults when the band dominated the music scene. 

Michael’s legacy lives on in the countless communities he worked together with, the sustainable practices he helped community members to champion, the youth he trained, and the new species he helped document. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him and shared his vision for a future where biodiversity is valued and local communities thrive.

Michael worked tirelessly with a multitude of organisations worldwide. If you would like to support his legacy — and endangered species conservation — please consider a donation to the Jocotoco Foundation.

Acknowledgement: G Gitte Kragh, Finn Danielsen and his colleagues at NORDECO

Image credits: Gitte Kragh (taken during the City Nature Challenge with the FRAMEwork project in Luxembourg)

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