MacArthur Fellows Program

Sandra Lanham

Pilot and Conservationist | Class of 2001

Pilot and Conservationist
Tuscon, Arizona
53 at time of award

Sandra Lanham, a pilot and conservationist, flies a 1956 Cessna throughout northwestern Mexico, the southwestern United States, and Central America in support of environmental protection efforts. As founder and director of the nonprofit Environmental Flying Services, Lanham fosters cross-border scientific collaborations to protect sensitive habitats in North America. Far more than a skilled pilot, she is also a self-taught naturalist and a keen ecological observer. Through self-funded, environmental campaigns and her numerous collaborations with Mexican and American conservation groups, she has become the center of a network of grassroots conservationists. In a region often characterized by suspicion of the motivations across borders, Lanham’s dedication and diplomacy have earned her the trust of environ-mentalists and government officials alike. She combines this hard-won reputation with aeronautical talents to create a unique flying platform for monitoring the changing ecological conditions over a vast area of desert borderlands and surrounding waters.

Sandra Lanham received a B.A. (1970) in social psychology from Western Michigan University. Before launching Environmental Flying Services in 1991, she founded and directed the Desert Sanctuary, a progressive, residential-treatment center for troubled children located in southern Arizona.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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