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2017 Summit

2017 Earth Optimism Summit

In 2017, thought leaders, practitioners, pioneering scientists and researchers, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders, industry participants, media, philanthropists, and other conservation-minded citizens gathered for the inaugural Earth Optimism Summit.

The summit welcomed discussion focused on solutions in conservation—what are the best minds, boldest experiments, and most innovative community practices telling us about how to preserve biodiversity, protect natural resources, and address climate change?




Octavio Aburto – Scripps Institution of Oceanography; International League of Conservation Photographers

Brad Ack – World Wildlife Fund

Yao Afantchao – University of DC

Beth Allgood – US Country Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare

Hon. Sydney Allicock – Honorable Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, Guyana

Teddy Ammon – Teens Dream Co-creator and Teen Adviser to the Global Colab Network

Ross Andersen – Senior Editor at The Atlantic

Allison Archambault – EarthSpark International

Nygiel Armada – Chief of Party of the Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) Project

David Auerbach – Sanergy

Kara Ball – ecoAmerica

Leah Barclay – Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology

John Beardsley – Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks

Timothy Beatley – Founder and Director, Biophilic Cities

Philippe Benoit – Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050

Joel Berger – Senior Scientist at Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr. Birute – Robot Orangutan, Spy for Nature

Omaira Bolaños – Director, Latin America Program, Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI)

Latif Boru – Member of Norther Rangelands Trust

Mark Bouman – Chicago Region Program Director in the Keller Science Action Center of the Division of Science and Education at The Field Museum

Muriel Bowser – Mayor of Washington DC

Steve Box – Tracking artisanal fishing, Rare

Paul Bunje – Chief Scientist at XPRIZE Foundation

Rhett Butler – Founder & CEO, Mongabay

Tom Butler – Vice President of the Tompkins Conservation Family of Foundations; President, Northeast Wilderness Trust

Nora Bynum – Rowe Family Director, Keller Science Action Center at The Field Museum

Rachel Bynum – Co-owner/Manager, Waterpenny Farm

Qing Cao – Princeton University

Felipe Carazo – Executive Director, Fundecor

Alison Carlson – Founder and President, Forsythia Foundation

Kerry Cesareo – VP, Forests, WWF

Ann Mei Chang – Former Chief Innovation Officer, USAID

Kate Christen – Training Manager, Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC), Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI)

Jamie Rappaport Clark – President & CEO, Defenders of Wildlife

Jacqueline Claudia – CEO & Co-founder, LoveTheWild

Leslie Cockburn – Writer, Producer, Filmmaker

Edwin (Todd) Cowen – Kathy Dwyer Marble and Curt Marble Faculty Director of Energy at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University

David Crane – Senior Operating Executive, Pegasus Capital Advisors

Trammell S. Crow – Founder of Earth Day Texas; President of the Crow Family Foundation

Gretchen Daily – Stanford; Co-Director, The Natural Capital Project; Winner, Cosmos Prize

Crystal Davis – Director of Global Forest Watch

Alex Dehgan – CEO & Co-Founder, Conservation X Labs

Kelley Dennings – President of the Social Marketing Association of North America

Brandon Dennison – Exec. Director, Coalfield Development Corp.

Matthew Dillon – Director of Agricultural Policy and Programs, Clif Bar & Company

Eric Dinerstein – Director, WildTech

Bill Drayton – Founder & CEO, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Johanan Dujon – President, Algas Organics

Amtchat Edwards – US Forest Service

Paula Ehrlich – President & CEO, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

Kelsey Evezich – Conservation Technology Project Lead, Duke University

Peter Fearnhead – CEO African Parks

David Festa – Senior Vice President, Environmental Defense Fund

Carolyn Finney – Professor and Author, Black Faces, White Spaces

Murray Fisher – President, New York Harbor Foundation; Billion Oyster Project

Shonda Gilliland Foster – Program Director, David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship

Melissa Garren – Chief Scientific Officer, Pelagic Data Systems

Sean Gerrity – CEO American Prairie Reserve and National Geographic Explorer

Johnny Gibbons – Smithsonian

Kristin Gilliss – Mulago Foundation

Kathleen Gobush – Senior Program Officer and Wildlife Biologist, Vulcan

Barry Gold – Environment Program Director, Walton Family Foundation

Ron Gonen – CEO and Co-founder, Closed Loop Fund

Brian Gratwicke – Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Tremaine Gregory – Conservation Biologist, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson – Former President of Iceland

David Grinspoon – Astrobiologist and Author of The Earth in Human Hands

Rachel Gross – Digital Science Editor, Smithsonian Magazine

Alexis Gutierrez – NOAA

Jeanne Haffner – Dumbarton Oaks

Mary Hagedorn – Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Jefferson Hall – Director, Agua Salud Project, Staff Scientist Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Alasdair Harris – Executive Director of Blue Ventures

Autumn-Lynn Harrison – Research Ecologist, Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Drew Harvell – Ocean Health Expert at Cornell University; Author of A Sea of Glass

Denis Hayes – Founder, Earth Day Network; CEO, Bullitt Foundation

Leela Hazzah – CNN Hero; Co-Founder of Lion Guardians

Michael Healy – CEO, New Columbia Solar

Laura Helmuth – Editor for Health, Science, and Environment, The Washington Post

Ginette Hemley – Senior Vice President, WWF

Pamela Henson – Historian, Smithsonian Archives

Davida Herzl – CEO & Founder, Aclima

Oran Hesterman – President and CEO of Fair Food Network

Nigella Hillgarth – New England Aquarium

Anson “Tuck” Hines – Director, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

John Hoffman – Discovery Channel

Kali Holder – Morris Animal Foundation Global Health Fellow with Smithsonian’s Global Health Program

Jeff Holland – Riverkeeper, West and Rhode Rivers

Marshall Iliff – eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Bob Irvin – President & CEO, American Rivers

Naoko Ishii – CEO and Chairperson for the Global Environment Facility (GEF)

Jeremy Jackson – Senior Scientist, Smithsonian

Jenna Jambeck – Creator of Marine Debris Tracker; College of Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA)

Dan Janzen – Co-founder, Area de Conservacion Guanacaste

Nilanga Jayasinghe – Senior Program Officer – Asian Species, World Wildlife Fund

JAYO – Rap Artist and Ambassador, Teens Dream

Brett Jenks – CEO of Rare

Amy Johnson – Smithsonian

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson – Founder and CEO, Ocean Collective

Kirk Johnson – Sant Director, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian

Philip Karp – Lead Knowledge Management Specialist at the World Bank

John Kasaona – Poachers as Protectors, Namibia Integrated Rural Development & Nature Conservancies

Kef Kasdin – Board Chair, Rachel’s Network; founding General Partner of Battelle Ventures

Laure Katz – Senior Director, Connected Oceans Program, Conservation International

Roland Kays – North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University

Dennis Kelly – Director, Smithsonian National Zoo

Elin Kelsey – Co-Creator of #OceanOptimism; Author of We Are Stardust

Anastasia Khoo – Chief Marketing Officer for Conservation International

Jeff Kirschner – Founder of Litterati; TED resident

David Kline – Coral Reef Ecologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Gary E. Knell – President and CEO of the National Geographic Society

Nancy Knowlton – Sant Chair of Marine Science, Smithsonian

John Kress – Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Gary Krupnick – Research Scientist, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

Robert Kunzig – Senior Environment Editor at National Geographic Magazine

Bill Kurtis – Host, producer, news anchor; Voice of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me; Founder of Tallgrass Beef Company

Matthew C. Larsen – Director, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Michelle LaRue – Research Ecologist and Public Speaker at the University of Minnesota,

Frederic Launay – Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund

William Laurance – Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University in Cairns

Allison Leidner – Senior Support Scientist, NASA Earth Science Division/ Arctic Slope Technical Services

Peter Leimgruber – Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Elaine Leslie – National Park Service

Jonathan Lilley – National Education Coordinator for the National Sea Grant College Program

Maya Lin – Artist and Environmentalist, Founder, What is Missing? and GREENPRINT

David Lodge – Director, Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

Jessica Long – Managing Director, Accenture

Thomas Lovejoy – University Professor George Mason University and Senior Fellow United Nations Foundation

Jayde Lovell – Host of SciQ, Young Turks Network

Jane Lubchenco – Oregon State University, Former Under Secretary of Commerce for NOAA

Mike Mace – Curator of Birds, San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Krishna Makineni – Graduate Student, Conservation Science and Public Policy Program, George Mason University

Kurt Mann – Executive Producer for the NOAA/Smithsonian Ocean Today Program

Paul Marinari – Senior Curator, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Pete Marra – Center Head, Migratory Bird Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Barbara Martinez – Open Innovation Director for Conservation X Labs

Javier Mateo-Vega – Research Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

William McDonough – Founder of William McDonough + Partners, Architects

Melanie McField – Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Smithsonian Institution

Kevin McGovern – Chairman and CEO, McGovern Capital & The Water Initiative

Winsome McIntosh – President of The McIntosh Foundation

Douglas McKenzie-Mohr – Science of community-based social marketing

Paul McMahon – Managing Partner, SLM Partners

John McMurdy – Director of Emerging Markets, CropLife International

Bill McShea – eMammal, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Chris Miller – President, The Piedmont Environmental Council

Eric Miller – Executive Director, Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute

Gregory Miller – President & CEO, NatureServe

James Miller – Conserving plants for people, Missouri Botanical Garden

Ben Mirin – Wildlife DJ

Tom Mitchell – Cambridge Associates

Steven Monfort – John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Deputy Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Margarita Mora – Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International

Jeff Moyer – Executive Director, Rodale Institute

Jennifer Nagashima – Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellow

Fred Nelson – Founder and Executive Director of Maliasili Initiatives

Zoe Nyssa – Cultural Anthropologist

Margaret O’Gorman – President, Wildlife Habitat Council

Joanna Ogburn – Consultant, Expert in building multi-stakeholder collaboration

Matthew Ogburn – Marine Ecologist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Randy Olson – author, “Houston, We Have A Narrative”; Prairie Starfish Productions

Peggy Olwell – Plant Conservation Program Lead for the Bureau of Land Management; Founder of Native Plant Materials Development Program

Hank Oppenheimer – Maui Nui Coordinator for the Plant Extinction Prevention Program

Chris Palmer – Distinguished Film Producer in Residence, American University

Stephen Palumbi – Director, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford; Author, Life and Death of Monterey Bay

Kyung-Ah Park – Managing Director, Head of Environmental Markets, Goldman Sachs

John Parker – Senior Scientist and Research Ecologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Ana Luz Porzecanski – Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

Nora Pouillon – Initiator of FRESHFARM Markets; Champion of Organic, Environmentally Conscious Cuisine

James Prosek – Painter; Founder of World Trout

Nick Pyenson – Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History

Kristin Rechberger – CEO, Dynamic Planet

Sarah Redmond – entrepreneur, innovator, and seaweed farmer, Sorrento Seaweed

Clarissa Redwine – Design and Technology Outreach Lead, Kickstarter

Andrew Revkin – Senior Reporter, Pro Publica

Damon Rich – Partner, Hector urban design, planning & civic arts

Rick Ridgeway – Patagonia’s Vice President of Public Engagement

Jon Paul Rodríguez – Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission; Professor at the Center for Ecology of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Investigations; Founder and President of Provita

Erin Rogers – Program Officer in the Hewlett Foundation’s Environment Program

Kathleen Rogers – President of Earth Day Network

David Rosenberg – CEO and Co-founder of AeroFarms

Dale Ross – Mayor of Georgetown, Texas

Debra Rowe – President, U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development

David M. Rubenstein – Chair, Smithsonian Board of Regents

Daniel Runde – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Brooke Runnette – Executive Vice President, National Geographic Society

Enric Sala – National Geographic Explorer; Founder of Pristine Seas

Jean Pierre Santos – Instituto Pro-Carnivoros

Andrea Santy – Director, Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN), World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Ted Schmitt – Senior Program Manager, Vulcan

Simran Sethi – Journalist and Educator: Author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate

Afroz Shah – World’s Largest Beach Clean-Up; 2016 UNEP Champion of the Earth

Jigar Shah – President & Co-Founder of Generate Capital; Founder & CEO of SunEdison

Justin Shaifer – Creator of Fascinate

Brendan Shane – C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

Howard-Yana Shapiro – Mars Advanced Research Institute Fellow

David Shaw – Black Point Group LP

Deirdre Shelly – 350.org

Fern Shepard – President, Rachel’s Network

Daniel Sherrard – Provost, Earth University, Costa Rica

Debra Shier – Brown Endowed Associate Director of Recovery Ecology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

Scott Sklar – President, The Stella Group

David J. Skorton – Secretary, Smithsonian Institution

Erik Solheim – Executive Director; UN Environment Program

Melissa Songer – Conservation Ecologist, Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Sean Southey – PCI Media

International Space Station – Crew

Marty Spitzer – Senior Director, Climate and Renewable Energy, World Wildlife Fund

Linda Staheli – Founding Director of the Global Co Lab Network

Ricardo Stanoss – Academic Program Manager, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Robert Stanton – Former Director of the National Park Service

Joe Starinchak – USFWS

Bob Steneck – University of Maine

Eleanor Jane Sterling – Chief Conservation Scientist, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

Phyllis Stiles – Founder/director of Bee City USA® and Bee Campus USA

Ruth Anna Stolk – Founding Executive Director, Smithsonian Conservation Commons

Suzanne Asha Stone – Co-founder of the Wood River Wolf Project and Senior Northwest Representative for Defenders of Wildlife

Tristram Stuart – Founder, Feedback and Toast Ale Ltd.

Terry Sunderland – Principal Scientist, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

Ron Swaisgood – San Diego Zoo Global

Pablo Taborga – PERU LNG

Doug Tallamy – Restoring Native Plant Communities; Author of Bringing Nature Home

Trey Taylor – Co-Founder & Director, Verdant Power

Joshua Tewksbury – Future Earth Global Hub Director, Colorado and Executive Editor of Anthropocene Innovation in the Human Age

Raquel Thomas – Director of Resource Management and Training at the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development

Mike Trizna – Technical Lead, DNA Barcode of Wildlife Project, Smithsonian

Sebastian Troeng – Senior Vice President, Americas Field Division, Conservation International

Juli Trtanj – One Health and Integrated Climate and Weather Extremes Research Lead, NOAA

Ann Tutwiler – Director General, Bioversity International

Elaine Ulrich – SunShot Program Manager, Department of Energy

Steven VanRoekel – Maker, Investor, Philanthropist

Ali Velshi – MSNBC Anchor and Business Correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC

Diogo Veríssimo – David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow; Society for Conservation Biology

Marilyn Waite – Energy Lead, Village Capital Author, Sustainability at Work

Lauren Ward – Digital Producer and Science Writer for the Ocean Portal at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Ed Warner – Sand County Foundation

Sam Wasser – Director, Conservation Biology, University of Washington

Kinari Webb – Founder of Health In Harmony

Jeff Weiss – Distributed Sun

John Weller – Antarctic Photographer; Co-Founder of The Last Ocean Project

Dennis Whigham – Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Patricia Wright – MacArthur Fellow, Madagascar Conservationist, SUNY Stony Brook

Ed Yong – Journalist, The Atlantic

Dawn Zimmerman – Smithsonian’s Global Health Program