Ben J. H. terWelle, Chairman
Born in 1946 in the countryside of The Netherlands, close to the border with Germany. After training in Tropical Agriculture and a subsequent obligatory service of two years in the Military, Ben began his career at the National Dutch Centre for Applied Research, were he became a wood anatomist in the Forest Products Research Institute. Five years later he moved to the Utrecht University and became a lecturer at the Institute for Systematic Botany within the Faculty of Biology. The research of this group focuses on the Neotropics. Thus, in 1976 Ben travelled for the first time to South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Suriname) for plant collecting in the framework of the Institute’s research. Over 15 of such botanical expeditions followed, and in 1981 he visited Guyana for the first time. In 1982, during a botanical exploration in the South Rupununi he met Diane McTurk.
From 1982 to 1997 Ben was the executive secretary of the International Association of Wood Anatomists (IAWA), a scientific organization of wood anatomists all over the world. In 1987 he became involved in the activities of the Tropenbos Foundation, an integrated research programme of the Dutch Government in various countries in Africa, Asia and South America. He was a Board Member on behalf of the Utrecht University and also its Director (on loan from the UU). He left this Foundation in 1989 and returned to the UU, at the same time becoming the coordinator for the Tropenbos Project in Guyana. Subsequently, with funding from the European Union, and with Father Rodrigues as the first partner of the University of Guyana, Ben was involved in the creation of the Environmental Studies Unit.
His career and life took a turn in 1997 with the appointment as team leader for the Natural Resources Management Project in Guyana, funded by the Government of Germany. Major activities in this project, which ended in December 2004, were the introduction of GIS Technology to the Guyanese Agencies involved in natural resources and the introduction of (regional) land use planning. In February 2006 the Guyana Protected Areas System (GPAS) started. Again with funding from Germany. Ben is on a part-time basis as the team leader.
His hobbies include history in general and the Dutch history of Guyana in particular. He is also a stamp collector (anything to do with plants) and likes to listen to music which includes Status Quo.