Sandy was living in Arizona and was trying to figure out what to do with her life. She had recently acquired a very small, very old plane - a 1956 Cessna that she said was the oldest model still in the sky. Then, The Nature Conservancy Contacted her. They desperately needed a pilot to fly a wildlife recon mission. It changed her life.
Her first flight was an eye-opener. They were looking for endangered pronghorn antelope in Mexico. The numbers of pronghorn were very low, and the only way to find them in an area that big was to survey from the air.
During that flight, she learned that researchers of all kinds of wildlife in Mexico were eager to learn more about the Baja peninsula and the Sea of Cortez. There was very little money for wildlife research in Mexico, and no one had access to airplanes to do surveys from the air. Sandy realized she could pair her love of flying with her love of wildlife and fill this gap.
She founded "Environmental Flying Services" to get scientists up in the air. She helped researchers discover new prairie dog colonies in northern Mexico and develop recovery efforts for endangered pronghorn antelope, and she helped us learn that the Sea of Cortez is a nursing ground for blue whales, the first such nursery ever discovered. She also saw rare events, such as sperm whales ramming heads.
Sandy was awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant" in 2001 for her dedication to getting hard (what she calls "crunchy as krill") data on all kinds of wild animals. This data is critical for protecting the incredible animal life in the gulf.
In her 24 years of flying with Environmental Flying Services, Sandy Lanham helped us discover critical information about earth's creatures and what we might do to protect them. She's an aeronautical ace and a diplomat, connecting passionate people on both sides of the border and creating a culture of respect and environmental teamwork across the U.S.-Mexico boundary.