Worcester, MA, June 24, 2024 – At the EcoTarium’s 199th Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, Thomas W. French, PhD, of Princeton, MA, was presented with the EcoTarium’s highest honor, the 2024 Edward Howe Forbush Naturalist Award. 

The Forbush Naturalist Award was established in 2022 by the EcoTarium to recognize the lifetime achievements of an individual or group who has lived the EcoTarium’s mission and values, demonstrating a commitment to conservation, academic rigor, scientific collaboration, advocacy, and educating the public about science and nature. Thomas French made significant contributions to the fields of environmental education, conservation, restoration of endangered species, and natural history during his fifty-year career. French was the founding leader of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, where he retired in 2023 as Assistant Director. He published 78 scientific papers and books on a wide range of natural history topics, small mammals, birds, marine animals, and herptiles.

“Tom’s career reflects the commitment to conservation, academic rigor, and community collaboration exemplified by Edward Howe Forbush,” said EcoTarium President and CEO Noreen Johnson Smith. “Tom started the state’s endangered species program, and the state’s turtle conservation program in which the EcoTarium is a partner.” Smith said, “Tom led efforts to restore the peregrine falcon and bald eagle populations in Massachusetts, and demonstrated courage and dignity when confronting opposition to conservation efforts.” Smith opined that Forbush himself would have been proud to share this award with Tom French. 

The Edward Howe Forbush Naturalist Award commemorates the legacy of Edward Howe Forbush, renowned naturalist and former director of the Worcester Natural History Society, today known as the EcoTarium. Forbush is remembered for his many scholarly contributions and his unwavering devotion to understanding the natural world through scientific observation, documentation, and publication. Forbush held a deep passion for ornithology and conservation, collaborated with hundreds of bird watchers and public enthusiasts across New England, and played a pivotal role in shaping the EcoTarium’s focus on wildlife preservation and Massachusetts’ conservation efforts. Recipients of the award embody Forbush’s ethos, leadership, lifetime of service, and participation in the scientific community.

For further details about the Edward Howe Forbush Naturalist Award, please visit EcoTarium’s website at