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Joseph Drew Lanham is an American author, poet and wildlife biologist. Raised in Edgefield, South Carolina, Lanham studied zoology and ecology at Clemson University, where he earned a PhD in 1997 and where he currently holds an endowed chair as an Alumni Distinguished Professor. He is a board member of several conservation organizations, including the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Audubon South Carolina, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, BirdNote, and the American Birding Association, and an advisory board member for the North American Association of Environmental Education. In 2019 he was awarded the National Audubon Society‘s Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership, recognizing “individuals who have dedicated their entire lives to the environment”.
In 2013, Lanham wrote a piece for Orion Magazine titled “9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher”, drawing attention to the lack of black birders and diversity in general among naturalists. The short piece inspired producer Ari Daniel and videographer Amanda Kowalski to create a short film with the same title for BirdNote which quickly went viral on social media. In 2016 he wrote “Birding While Black.” In 2017 he published the award-winning memoir The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature. The book was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the 11 best scholarly books of the 2010s, chosen by Anna Tsing. Lanham features in episode 7 of the 2019 TV series Birds of North America, produced by Topic and hosted by Jason Ward. In 2020, the podcast This is Love spoke with Drew Lanham for their episode, “Prairie Warbler.” In December 2020, he received the E.O.Wilson Biodiversity Award for Outstanding Science, Advocacy. Lanham was recognized in February 2022 by the Post and Courier Newspaper (Charleston, SC) as one of twelve Black Leaders in South Carolina.
Dr. Lanham is married to Janice Garrison Lanham. They live in the Upstate of South Carolina and have two adult children Alexis Shepard and Colby Lanham.