MILFORD - On Saturday January 20, the Columns will kick off the New Year with dinner and a lecture by Bill Thomas, scientist and explorer.

Bill earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Arizona State University. Since 1988 with funding from the National Geographic Society, Conservation International, the Indo-Pacific Conservation Alliance, the Explorers Club and the Porgera Joint Venture, He has worked in some of the most remote regions of Papua New Guinea to record local environmental knowledge. Bill is currently the Director of the New Jersey School of Conservation at Montclair State University.

In 2005, during an expedition sponsored by the Porgera Joint Venture to New Guinea’s Central Range — the largest, least explored wilderness on this island — he was part of an international team of scientists and local naturalists that discovered fifty new species. Dr. Thomas is particularly interested in the potential for indigenous knowledge to provide a blueprint for the conservation of the earth’s remaining wild lands.

By working with local people to record their knowledge of the biological diversity in their homelands, Bill helps to create a baseline of information on environments that have yet to be studied by western science. Indigenous knowledge of birds, for example, can add to world knowledge of biological diversity and forest dynamics. It can also predict the effect of human activity on biodiversity. UNESCO recognizes his work as a “Best Practice” in the use of indigenous knowledge.

Bill hopes that by exposing conservationists to the potential of indigenous knowledge, they will be more willing to adopt local models of sustainability and involve local people in the conservation of their lands.

He created the Papuan Forest Stewards initiative as a prototype for landowner -driven conservation and is currently working with the Hewa people to create a national park at the Headwaters of the Strickland River and the Wage, Enga and Ipili communities in Enga province to conserve the Kaijende Highlands.

Bill is a fellow in the Explorers Club and a recipient of the Lowell Thomas Award for his exploration in New Guinea.

The Columns Museum is located at 608 Broad St., Milford.

Tickets to the event are $40 and include a ham and sweet potato dinner, dessert and coffee. Please reserve early by calling 570-296-8126 or emailing  The "snow date" for the event is January 27th.