Press Release

Stephanie Stone (415) 379-5121
Kelly Mendez (415) 379-5133



Endowed position is named in honor of William J. Patterson,
former Chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees

SAN FRANCISCO (September 20, 2013) — The California Academy of Sciences has appointed Dr. Brian Fisher as the first Patterson Scholar in Science and Sustainability. This endowed chair is named in honor of the late William J. Patterson, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2010. The first Patterson Scholar chair is made possible by a generous gift from Susan and Bill Oberndorf, and will be announced at the dedication of the new W.J. Patterson Plaza in front of the Academy on September 24.

“Bill Patterson was passionate about the Academy and fascinated by the work of our scientists, who spend their lives exploring the diversity of life on Earth and the challenge of sustaining it,” said Dr. Greg Farrington, Executive Director of the Academy. “To Bill, our scientist-educators are what make the Academy authentic and genuine. Brian Fisher—an outstanding, extremely productive and charismatic researcher—exemplifies the best attributes of our scientific staff and is most deserving of being named the first Patterson Scholar.”

Often found hip-deep in Madagascar mud, Brian Fisher has devoted his life to the study and conservation of ants and biodiversity. His research sends him to the last remote rainforests and deserts of Madagascar and Africa. Although Fisher’s subjects—ants—may be small in stature, they have a huge impact on their ecosystems. By documenting the species diversity and distribution of this “invisible majority,” Fisher is helping to establish conservation priorities for Madagascar, identifying areas that should be set aside to protect the highest number of species.

Fisher has also been exploring novel ways to streamline the process of capturing data and digitizing information and images about the natural world. His AntWeb database ( is a definitive resource on the biodiversity of ants globally. He has also been instrumental in building scientific capacity in the developing world, training many Malagasy scientists both at the Academy and at the Academy’s biodiversity facility in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Before his passing on September 24, 2010, Patterson spoke with Academy staff about his vision for an Academy that combines active science and education more effectively than any comparable institution in the world. The Patterson Scholars in Science and Sustainability were created to help bring this vision to life. Like Fisher, future Patterson Scholars will be scientist-educators of exceptional talent, achievement, and productivity who are committed to exploring the natural world, the challenge of sustainability, and science education through public engagement.