Meet the Director

Robert A. (Bob) Thomas, Ph.D.,
Professor and Loyola Distinguished Scholar Chair in Environmental Communication

Dr. Thomas is a proud Texan (Lockhart, the bar-b-que capital of the world) by birth, but a New Orleanian by choice, having spent most of his life in Louisiana.  He earned a B.S. degree in zoology from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana - Lafayette), M.S. and Ph.D. in Evolutionary & Tropical Biology (herpetology) from Texas A&M University, and served a post-doctoral fellowship in biochemistry at Louisiana State University Medical Center New Orleans.

His career has focused on the field of environmental education and communication. He was Founding Director of the Louisiana Nature Center, served as Vice President for Environmental Policy at the Audubon Nature Institute, and taught various biology courses at the University of New Orleans from 1979-1996.

In September, 1996, Dr. Thomas joined the Loyola faculty and holds the Loyola Distinguished Scholar Chair in Environmental Communication, is professor of mass communication, and adjunct professor of biological sciences.

Dr. Thomas is and/or has been very active at the regional, state, and national levels, serving on a diverse array of boards, including the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Governor’s Environmental Advisory Task Force, UNO’s Business and Higher Education Council, the U.S. Minerals Management Service’s Outer Continental Shelf Policy Advisory Council, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Restore the Earth Foundation, New Orleans City Park Improvement Association, and the International Federation of Environmental Journalists (of which he was General Secretary). He is very active on the board of the famed Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad, and is a founding board member and former president of the Association of Nature Center Administrators. He served on the prestigious Accreditation Commission of the American Association of Museums and was president of the board of directors of the Louisiana Children's Museum. A Rotarian since 1980, Dr. Thomas is very active in civic affairs.  He was a founding member of the Louisana Master Naturalist Association and the Greater New Orleans Chapter.

Dr. Thomas has received recognition for outstanding service in the field of conservation and museum education and communication from such organizations as the Natural Science for Youth Foundation (Elsie M. B. Naumburg Award), Garden Club of America (Margaret Douglas Medal in Conservation Education), Young Leadership Council (Environmental Role Model), Association for Nature Center Administrators (2nd Annual Professional Leadership Award), Louisiana Wildlife Federation (Conservation Educator of the Year), and several local and regional organizations.

The following courses are or have been taught by Dr. Thomas: Communication - Introduction to Environmental Communication, Covering the Environmental Beat, and Tropical Communication; Biological Sciences - Herpetology, Tropical Ecology, Environmental Policy, Environmental Foundations, Media & the Environment, and Ecology of the Mississippi River Delta. His courses take his students beyond the classroom into the wilds of America's WETLAND (coastal Louisiana) and exotic Neotropical areas to the south.

Research Program

Dr. Thomas’ life-long research interest has been in the systematics of tropical snakes, especially in the New World tropics. He is very involved in various tropical studies, including environmental education, conservation of rainforests and reefs, and environmental communication.

His communication research has centered on environmental education and how it can be effectively communicated to audiences.

Four significant research programs with which Dr. Thomas has been associated include Project CEED (Coastal Education for Economic Development, a series of wetlands curriculum publications with Dr. Mary Banbury, Dr. Paulette J. Thomas, and Dinah Maygarden, University of New Orleans); Science for Atypical Learners (a system for helping teachers address the needs of students with behaviors that interfere with learning, with Dr. Paulette J. Thomas and Dinah Maygarden); the Riverside Coalition for Environmental Education (an initiative designed to identify capacities needed by people living in Louisiana's petrochemical corridor that allow them to understand how to make environmentally wise decisions, with Dr. Paulette J. Thomas and Dinah Maygarden); and The Caribbean Environmental Communication Initiative, funded by USAID, which involved training environmental journalists throughout the eastern Caribbean and working closely with ecotourism projects with the Organization of American States.

He is presently involved in research analysis of how environmental issues have been covered in Louisiana and nationally on Louisiana-based topics. He is enamored with the study of interactions between the environmental and corporate communities. He frequently visits with representatives from industry to discuss improvement of their environmental programs and to suggest how they may more effectively address the needs of social justice in their neighboring communities.

An association as Senior Environmental Policy Advisor with the Mullikin Law Firm, Camden, SC, provided Dr. Thomas the opportunity to explore means of improving environmental communication about global climate change within and among industries and government agencies.

Dr. Thomas’ students in mass communication have the option of working on a variety of environmental issues in Louisiana and such countries as Trinidad and Belize.  He has been on all seven continents, and his students are thus exposed to environmental communication issues around the globe.



He wrote a weekly column in The Times-Picayune entitled Delta Journal, and a bimonthly series in Louisiana LeVant (the newpaper of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation) named In the Wild. He contributes occasional op-ed columns to The Times-Picayune, and he has written a couple of feature pieces for Gambit Weekly. Dr. Thomas is often interviewed on various environmental topics by such newspapers as The New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, The Times of London, the International Herald Tribune, and many others.

Television & Radio:

Dr. Thomas has appeared on news segments and programs on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, WWNO, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic and others. He served as a field producer on National Geographic Explorer’s Alien Invasions (about nutria in Louisiana), and, speaking of aliens, consulted on a couple of episodes of X-Files and The Colony.

Sample of popular articles:

Thomas, R. A. 1990. Too many people, no time for environmental lethargy. SportsLife 2(7):9-10.

Thomas, R. A. 1990. A lifestyle of the future. U.S. Water News 6(10):7.

Thomas, R. A. 1991. New Orleans 2000: an environmental vision. Gambit, March 5, 1991:17.

Thomas, R. A. 1991. An ecotourist's view of New Orleans. The New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp., 5 pp.

Thomas, R. A. 1992. The next generation in the environmental movement. Proc. Gulf of Mexico Symp. 1992:121-122.

Thomas, R. A. 1995. Foreword, pp. vii-viii. In: Lockwood, C.C. C. C. Lockwood's Louisiana Nature Guide. Louisiana St. Univ. Press, Baton Rouge.

Thomas, R. A. 1996. The good, the bad, and the ugly: Louisiana’s exotic species. CoastWise 6(2):8-13.

Thomas, R. A. 1997. Our vanishing frogs. The Audubon Institute Quarterly 5(1):12-15.

Thomas, R. A. and J. A. Davis.  2011.  Venomous snakes of the southeastern U.S. (a full color poster and pdf).  Loyola Center for Environmental Communication.

Thomas, R. A.  2012.  Venoum snakes of Trinidad and Tobago.  (a full color poster and pdf).  Loyola Center for Environmental Communication and Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Thomas, R. A.  2013.  Venomous snakes of Belize.  (a full color poster and pdf).  Loyola Center for Environmental Communication and The Belize Vivarium, Belmopan.

Sample of herpetological publications:

Thomas, R. A. and Ronaldo Fernandes. 1996. The systematic status of Platyinion lividum Amaral, 1923 (Serpentes, Colubridae, Xenodontinae). Herpetologica 52(2):271-275.

Vaughan, R. K., J. R. Dixon, and R. A. Thomas. 1996. A reevaluation of populations of Elaphe guttata (Reptilia: Serpentes: Colubridae) in Texas. Tex. J. Sci. 48(3): 175-190.

Thomas, R. A. 1997. Snakes of the Galápagos Archipelago: Zoogeography and systematics. Herp. Nat. Hist. 5: 19-40.

Thomas, R. A. 1999. Managed hunting protects a species: Harvesting alligators. PERC Reports 17(4):12-14.

Thomas, R. A. and I. Ineich. 1999. The identity of the syntypes of Dryophylax freminvillei Duméril, Bibron, and Duméril 1854, with comments on their locality data (Serpentes, Colubridae, Xenodontinae). J. Herp. 33(1): 152-155.

Thomas, R. A., M. Di-Bernardo, and H. Grillitsch. 2001. Philodryas pallidus Werner, 1926: A synonym of the colubrid snake Liopholidophis varius (Fischer, 1884) from Madagascar. J. Herp. 35(1):120-122.

Bailey, Joseph R. and Robert A. Thomas.  2005.  Systematics of the South American Snake Genus Thamnodynastes Wagler, 1830 (Serpentes, Colubridae).  I.  Two New Species of Thamnodynastes from Central Brazil and Adjacent Areas, with a redescription of Thamnodynastes pallidus (Linnaeus, 1758).  Phyllomedusa 4(2): 83-101.

Thomas, Robert A., Renato S. Bernils, Julio Cesar de Moura-Leite, and Sergio A. A. Morato.  2006.  Redescription of Ditaxodon taeniatus (Hensel, 1868) (Serpentes, Colubridae, Xenodontinae):  Variation, relationships, and distribution.  South American J. Herpetology 1(2): 94-101.

Bailey, Joseph R. and Robert A. Thomas.  2007.  Systematics of the South American snake genus Thamnodynastes Wagler, 1830, (Serpentes, Colubridae, Tachymenini).  II.  Three new species from Northern South America, with further descriptions of Thamnodynastes gambotensis Perez-Santos and Moreno and Thamnodynastes ramonriveroi Manzanilla and Sanchez.  Memoria de la Fundacion La Salle de Ciencias Naturales (Venezuela) (166):  7-27.

Merlen, Godrey and Robert A. Thomas.  2013.  A Galapagos ectothermic terrestrial snake gambles a potential chilly bath for a protein rich dish of fish.  Herpetological Review 44(3): 415-417.

Sample of environmental communication publications:

Thomas, R. A., P. J. Thomas, and Dinah Maygarden. 1995. The Riverside Coalition for Environmental Education. Building capacities for environmental decision making in the Lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor. The Audubon Institute, Office of Environmental Policy. 75 pp.

Maygarden, Dinah, Paulette J. Thomas, Robert A. Thomas, Lida O. Durant, and Jean Watts. 1997. Building capacities for environmental decision making in the lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor and beyond. Proceedings of the 1996 annual meeting, North American Association of Environmental Educators, San Francisco: 235-242.

Thomas, R. A. 1997 (1998). Environmental reauthorizations of the 105th Congress: the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, with special remarks on the latter, pp. 1-3. In: Durant, L. O., R. A. Thomas, and P. J. Thomas (eds.). Proceedings of the 1997 Louisiana Environmental State of the State Conference. Environmental Research Consortium of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA.

Thomas, R. A. 1998. Environmental journalism in U.S. universities. La Voix de la Planète, Magazine de la Fédération Internationale des Journalistes de l’Environmental (9): 2.

Thomas, R. A. 1998. Foreword, pp. vii-viii. In: Evans, Brent and Carolyn Chipman-Evans, Gaining Ground. How to develop a nature center in your community. Univ. Texas Press., Austin.

Wickremaratne, Dharman, Darryl D’Monte, and Robert A. Thomas. 1998 (1999). Code of Ethics for World Environmental Journalists. In Wilfed Ranasinghe (ed.), Environmental journalism beyond 2000. To work together for a more sustainable future (pp. 46-47). Colombo, Sri Lanka: Proc. 6th World Congress Environmental Journalists.

Thomas, R. A., D. M. Baker, and K. Menard. 1999. Improving communications between a company and its neighbors: a logical process and model. Proceedings of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Environmental Conference, 1999, ENV-99-173, pp. 1-28.

Thomas, R. A. 2000. Where might we look for environmental heroes? Women in Natural Resources. 21(3): 35-36.

Thomas, R.A. 2000. Communication. The Initial step in environmental justice reform. Today’s Refining 15(9): 21-22.

Thomas, Bob. 2001. Information Access, Internet, Advocacy Are Discussed at IFEJ Congress, The Planet’s Voice, Oct 2001: 1-3.

Thomas, Bob. 2001. Critter Report: Few Birds, but Good Smells and Mushrooms. The Planet’s Voice, Oct 2001: 6 & 10.

Thomas, R. A. 2001. Member Reviews Urethral Parasites (letter to editor), Alert Diver, Nov/Dec 2001: 4.

Thomas, R. A. 2002. Stressful lives of Louisiana Environmentalists. Loyola Univ. Ctr. Environmental Communications Miscellaneous Publ. (1): 1-6.

Thomas, R. A.,  R. King Milling, and Lynne Parwell White.  2004.  Saving "America's Wetland":  What it means to you. Garden Club of America Bulletin Aug.- Sept.:  3.

Horan, Sarah B. and Robert A. Thomas.  2004.  Walking Guide to the Trails of Asa Wright Nature Centre.  LUCEC.  20 pp.  (edited by R. A. Thomas)

Thomas, R. A..  2004.  Ecotourism with a Purpose:  The Toledo Ecotourism Association Conserving Maya Traditions  in Belize.  ECOChronicle (St. Petersburg, Russia) N3(61):  X-XI and 21-23.

Robert A. Thomas.  2005.  Our Nature.  9 ways to make New Orleans more environmentally sound.  New Orleans Magazine, November, pp. 82-83.

Robert A. Thomas.  2005.  Hurricane Katrina jolts journalism – and New Orleans.  SEJournal, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 1, 25-27.

Robert A. Thomas.  2006.  Accreditation of Nature Centers – what is the value?  Directions, Special Winter edition, pp. 10-12.

Robert A. Thomas.  2010.  Reflections on a devastating oil catastrophe.  C.E.P. (Conservative Environmental Policy) Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 1-4.

Robert A. Thomas.  2010.  BP's Gulf oil gusher attracts bewildering amounts of media coverage. But where's the depth?  SEJournal, Vol. 20, No. 5, pp. 5, 7-11.

Bob Thomas.  2011.  BP oil blowout.  Lessons from Gulf oil disaster.  Everytning from the social media to the need for a detailed disaster plan.  SEJournal, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 11-13.

Sample of speaking engagements:

Thomas, Robert A., Science and the media: Perspectives of a journalist, a public affairs specialist, and a scientist. National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, LA February 18, 1997. (With Bob Anderson, The Advocate, and Rob Brown, Public Affairs Director, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans)

Thomas, Robert A., Are amphibians disappearing? What does it mean for world ecosystems? Tulane Law School, Louisiana Environment ‘97: Creating solutions through law, science, and public interest, New Orleans, Feb 21, 1997. Panel chair and presenter.

Thomas, Robert A., Dinah Maygarden, and Norma Felton, Developing environmental skills and capacities for the 21st Century, National Science Teachers Association, New Orleans, April 4, 1997:

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental education as public attraction, American Institute of Architects national convention, May 16, 1997.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Journalism: A legal perspective, Louisiana Environment ‘99 Conference, Tulane University Law School, a panel discussion, Tulane University, March 17-18, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Ethics and Credibility Among Environmental Educators and Interpreters: Improving the Quality of the Profession, National Association of Interpreters, Duluth, MN, March 19-21, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Louisiana’s Eroding Coast: How Do we Save the Resources?, Presented at Leadership Louisiana, Council for a Better Louisiana, Cocodrie (LUMCON), April 27-29, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, master of ceremonies for annual awards banquet, Thibodaux, LA, April 28, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., The Chemical Industries and the Environment: Accomplishments and Expectations , Presented at River Parishes Chemical Industry Council, Awards Banquet for Students, Keynote speaker, LaPlace, LA, May 10, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., How to research articles on the environment, Presented at the Environmental Journalism Academy, University of Maryland, College Park, June 25-30, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Science and the Media, panelist, Presented at the Environmental Journalism Academy, University of Maryland, College Park, June 25-30, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., How We Access and Use Environmental Information, Escuela de Ciencias de la Comunicación, Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala City, Guatemala, July 13, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A. and Don M. Baker, Environmental Justice: A Very Real Community Issue, Presented to the monthly meeting of the New Orleans chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, New Orleans, LA, August 16, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Issues: A Broad Spectrum Depending on the Audience, Keynote address presented at the Annual Chevron Conservation Awards Ceremony, New Orleans, LA, August 29, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Opening Lines of Communications between Oil and Gas Companies and Their Neighbors, Presented to a group of Nigerian government officials who regulate oil and gas in Nigeria, New Orleans, LA, October 9, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Ecotourism as a Means of Communicating Environmental Conservation, Presented at the 10th Annual Conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, East Lansing, MI, October 19-22, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., "Environmental Justice," moderated breakfast discussion, Presented at the 10th Annual Conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, East Lansing, MI, October 19-22, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Herpetology As a Means for Communicating Science, Presented at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the Texas Herpetological Society, Tyler, TX, October 28, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Social Responsibility for Corporations: What Every Business Student Should Consider, Presented to the MBA class taught by Dr. Robert Moreau, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA, November 6, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., What We May Expect Environmentally from Our Next President, Presented as a luncheon address to the Annual Meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association, Baton Rouge, LA, November 8, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., The Role of the Media in Improving the Urban Environment and Developing Historical Areas in Old Damascus, Syria, panelist, Presented at the 8th Annual Meeting of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists, Cairo, Egypt, November 13-17, 2000

Thomas, Robert A., The Media in the Arab World: Synthesis of Case Studies, Lessons Learned, and General Recommendations, panelist, Presented at the 8th Annual Meeting of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists, Cairo, Egypt, November 13-17, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Journalism in New Orleans, Organizer, Speaker, and Panel Moderator, Mayor’s Environmental Breakfast, University of New Orleans, December 15, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., How to Interview Scientists and Verify Information, Presented in the High School Environmental Journalism Workshop, Loyola University, December 16, 2000.

Thomas, Robert A., Truly Informing Louisiana’s Citizenry About the Impacts of Coastal Erosion, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program Management Committee, January 18, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Louisiana’s Wetlands: Your Key to Successful Ecotourism, Tour Guides Association of Greater New Orleans, January 18, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Truly Informing Louisiana’s Citizenry About the Impacts of Coastal Erosion, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Board, Loyola University, January 20, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., The Economic and Cultural Values of Louisiana’s Coastal Wetlands, Audubon Nature Institute, Louisiana Nature Center, February 10, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Strategic Thinking of the Loyola University Center for Environmental Communications, Greater New Orleans Foundation Development Dinner, February 15, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Justice: Accepting the Challenge, Louisiana Planning Council Conference, Baton Rouge, LA, February 22, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Throwing Many Hats in the Ring: Helping a Whole Community Communicate, National Association of Government Communicators, Denver, CO, March 9, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Economic Implications of the Loss of Coastal Louisiana, Leadership Slidell, April 4, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., led a swamp tour to discuss and demonstrate how invasive plant species are affecting Louisiana, Marine Bioinvasion Conference, April 9, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Keynote address for Earthday Celebration: The History of the Environmental Movement and your Responsibility for the Future, New Orleans Center for Science and Mathematics, April 17, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Tropical Environmental Communications - Loyola Style, Neotropical Ecology Institute, Tulane University, April 18, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Strategic Importance of Coastal Louisiana to the Entire State and Nation, Leadership Louisiana, Council for a Better Louisiana, May 4, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Communications: Good science, proper motives, intelligent listening, evaluating context, truth, and a modicum of trust, National Wetlands Research Center, U.S. Geological Service, Lafayette, LA, August 7, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., What we would have done differently, Association for Nature Center Administrators Annual Meeting, Cleveland, OH, August 24, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Communications: Good science, proper motives, intelligent listening, evaluating context, truth, and a modicum of trust, University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Biological Sciences Departmental Seminar, August 31, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., EPA’s Common Sense Initiative and its Relevance to U.S. Industry, workshop for a group of Nigerian government oil/gas regulators, New Orleans, LA, September 11, 2001.

Thomas, Robert A., Environmental Journalism Ethics _ from Moyers to Stossel, Society for Environmental Journalism Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon, Luncheon Roundtable Discussion Leader, October 19, 2001.

University of New Orleans and Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities, "Getting the Louisiana Coastal Land Loss Message Out to the Nation" Conference, Communicating the Impacts of Louisiana’s Wetlands Loss, UNO Navy Technical Training Center, November 16, 2001.

Motiva Enterprises, Equilon, Equiva executives and plant managers biannual safety meeting, Improving Communications Between a Company and its Neighbors: A Logical Process and Model, The Woodlands, TX, November 27, 2001.

Sierra Club conference, Reconciling the Urban Sprawl Debate: What Others are Saying, Baton Rouge, December 8, 2001.

Leadership New Orleans (the Chamber and MetroVision), Communicating the Economic Importance of Environmental Quality, afternoon workshop, Mandeville, December 12, 2001.

Other Adventures

With a life-long interest in Louisiana natural history, Dr. Thomas served as the Louisiana Naturalist in a local business, Cypress Swamp Tours, Inc., of Westwego, Louisiana. He encourages Loyola students to become involved in the business end of ecotourism.  He often serves as a guide to groups wishing to do a "Recovery Tour" of post-Katrina New Orleans and to view and discuss the needs of America's WETLAND (coastal Louisiana's valuable working wetlands).

The Center for Environmental Communication has published two content websites:  America's WETLAND Resource Center and the Environmental Health Guide for a Post-Katrina Louisiana.

He served as Senior Environmental Advisor to the Mullikiin Law Firm, Camden, SC.  To continue his activities in the field of environmental education, Dr. Thomas was associated with Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, an environmentally oriented architectural firm. He consults on environmental & communication design of nature centers.

With his colleague, Kevin McCaffrey of e/Prime Media, Bob develops and produces documentaries that address important environmental issues, especially from a communication perspective.

In his spare time, Dr. Thomas loves to observe nature (especially birds, spiders, reptiles, and amphibians), play tennis, fish for trout, traipse through jungles, beachcomb, scuba dive, and sail the Noctiluca on Lake Pontchartrain.

He has been married since 1968 to Dr. Paulette J. (Polly) Thomas, a retired professor at the University of New Orleans ad State Representative from Metairie; they have three adult children and five wonderful grandchildren.

How to contact

Robert A. (Bob) Thomas, Ph.D.
Professor & Loyola Distinguished Scholar Chair in Environmental Communication

Center for Environmental Communication
School of Mass Communication
Loyola University
6363 St. Charles Avenue Box 199
New Orleans, Louisiana 70118-6195

Voice 504-865-2107
FAX 504-865-3799
Office: Room 327, Communications/Music Complex

Updated June 9, 2018