Biodata: Dr. Thomas Schaaf

Kathmandu, Nepal. ©Thomas Schaaf
Kathmandu, Nepal. ©Thomas Schaaf

Birthplace and year:

Freiburg i.Br. (Germany), 1958.



1987: Doctorate degree (Dr.rer.nat.) in Geography (University of Freiburg) following field studies in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire (West Africa).


1977-1984: Studies in Geography, English and French literature at the Ohio State University, Columbus (USA) and at the University of Freiburg (Germany).


                                                                                      1965-1977: Waldorf School, Freiburg (Germany)


Professional experience:

  • Since 2013: International consultant for biosphere reserves, advisor for the Austrian Academy of Sciences and temporary lecturer at the University of Freiburg (Germany).
  • 2012-2013: Director a.i. of UNESCO's Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences and Secretary of UNESCO's MAB Programme (including the World Network of Biosphere Reserves) in Paris (France).
  • 1990-2012: Programme Specialist / Senior Programme Specialist and UNESCO Focal Point for dryland ecosystems (including the UN Convention to Combat Desertification) and UNESCO Focal Point for mountain ecosystems, for Africa and for Asia-Pacific at UNESCO's Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences in Paris (France).
  • 2001: Exchange scientist at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo (Japan).
  • 1987-1990: Associate Expert at UNESCO's Division of Ecological Sciences in Paris (France).
  • 1985-1987: Assistant Professor at the Geography Dept., University of Freiburg (Germany).
  • Research Assistant at Chair of Prof. Dr. Dr. W. Manshard, Geography Dept., University of Freiburg (Germany): 1982-1984.


Countries with work experience (in brackets: number of professional visits):

Algeria (2), Andorra (1), Argentina (1), Armenia (1), Australia (1), Austria (13), Bahrain (2), Belgium (5), Bolivia (2), Botswana (1), Brazil (1), Burkina Faso (2), Chad (1), Chile (1), China (11), Côte d'Ivoire (3), Cuba (1), Czech Republic (1), Croatia (1), Denmark (1), Egypt (2), Ethiopia (2), France (16), Ghana (10), Germany (60), Hungary (2), India (3), Indonesia (4), Iran (2), Ireland (7), Israel (2), Italy (9), Japan (10), Jordan (2), Kazakhstan (1), Kenya (3), Kyrgyzstan (2), Lesotho (2), Luxembourg (3), Madagascar (1), Maldives (3), Mali (1), Mauritius (2), Mexico (1), Mongolia (2), Morocco (4), Myanmar (1), Nepal (2), New Zealand (1), Netherlands (1), Norway (2), Pakistan (2), Peru (4), Poland (2), Republic of Korea (6), Russian Federation (Altay, Kaliningrad, Kalmykia, North Ossetia) (4), Rwanda (3), Senegal (1), Serbia (1), Slovenia (1), Spain (5), Sri Lanka (1), Sweden (1), Switzerland (20), Syria (2), Tanzania (2), Tunisia (6), Turkey (1), Uganda (1), United Kingdom (5), USA (4).


Awards and fellowships:

  • Environmental Conservation Award: awarded by the Chinese MAB Committee, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2013)
  • Doctoral research project in West Africa sponsored by the German Research Society (DFG), 1984-1987
  • Doctoral fellowship: awarded by the German Federal State of Baden-Wurttemberg, 1984-1985
  • Scholarship for studies at the Ohio State University (USA): awarded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), 1980-1981


  • Member of the Roster of Experts of the UNESCO-MAB Programme
  • Member of the Advisory Board for the "Earth System Sciences" initiative of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
  • Corresponding member of the German National Commission for UNESCO
  • Member of IUCN's "Mountains Specialist Group" within the World Commission of Protected Areas (WCPA)
  • Member of IUCN's Specialist Group on "Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas"
  • Vice President of the registered society "Forum Anthroposophy e.V." (Freiburg, Germany)