President & Chief Executive Officer, Wildlife Conservation Society
Cristián Samper has served as President & Chief Executive Officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) since August 2012. WCS is one of the world’s preeminent science-based conservation organizations, established in 1895 whose mission is to save wildlife and wild places. WCS manages the largest network of urban wildlife parks including the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo which host four million visitors each year. WCS has long-term field conservation programs in more than 60 countries and in all of the world’s oceans.
Prior to joining WCS, Dr. Samper served as Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for a decade, managing the largest museum collection in the world. He also served as Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and Deputy Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He was the founding director of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute, the national biodiversity research institute for Colombia. For his contributions, Dr. Samper was awarded the National Medal of the Environment and the order of San Carlos by the president of Colombia.
Dr. Samper served as chair of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific, Technical & Technological Advice of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity where he helped develop a global strategy for plant conservation and launched the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. He also served as a Vice-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and as a member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). He has served on several non-profit boards, including the Harvard University Board of Overseers, World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the American Alliance of Museums. Dr. Samper currently serves on the board of the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), and Science for Nature and People Partnerships (SNAPP). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Affairs and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Samper grew up in Colombia, studied Biology from the Universidad de Los Andes, and earned an MA and PhD from Harvard University where he was awarded the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence in Teaching. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.