Michael cofounded the Wildlands Project (now Wildlands Network), and also cofounded and was first president of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is widely recognized as the Father of Conservation Biology.
Michael was born, raised and educated in California. After spending much of his youth exploring the canyons, deserts, and intertidal zone of San Diego and Baja California, he graduated from San Diego State University and then attended Stanford University to study population biology and evolution under Paul Ehrlich. Upon receiving his Ph.D. at Stanford, Michael went to Africa to help found the first university in Malawi. He also has taught in Samoa, the Universities of California at both San Diego and Santa Cruz, and the University of Michigan. He was Chair of the Environmental Studies Department at University of California, Santa Cruz. Michael has studied insects, lizards, birds, and mammals in Africa, Mexico, the Adriatic, the West Indies, and in California and Colorado.
Michael wrote or edited 11 books on biology, conservation biology, and the social and policy context of conservation, and published approximately 175 articles on population and evolutionary biology, population genetics, island biogeography, trophic cascades, biodiversity policy, ethics, and myriad other topics. He was a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was the sixth recipient of the Archie Carr Medal. He was also named by Audubon Magazine as one of the 100 Champions of Conservation of the 20th Century, is a recipient of the National Wildlife Federation’s National Conservation Achievement Award for Science (1998) and the Conservation Medal from the Zoological Society of San Diego (2007), and was in the first class of recipients of the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award in 2009.
A speaker and writer on ethics and conservation, Michael also served on the boards of several conservation organizations. With respect to the fate of biodiversity, he considered himself neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a “possibilist.”