Cristián Samper

Cristián Samper

President and CEO - Wildlife Conservation Society


Dr. Samper is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society, headquartered in New York.  The Wildlife Conservation Society is dedicated to saving wildlife and wild places around the world and runs the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, including the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and the Queens Zoo.  In addition, the Society oversees more than 500 conservation projects in 60 countries around the world.

Dr. Samper is a biologist and international authority on environmental policy.  He is known for his work in the ecology of the Andean cloud forests, conservation biology, and environmental policy.  He previously served as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), the world’s largest collection of specimens and artifacts, which welcomes over seven million visitors each year.  Prior to that, he was deputy director and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.  His service to the Smithsonian also included assuming the role of acting secretary of the Smithsonian from March 2007 through June 2008.

Prior to joining the Smithsonian, Dr. Samper was the founder and first director of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute, the national biodiversity research institute of Colombia.  At the same time, he served as chief science adviser for biodiversity for the Colombian government and participated and collaborated with the creation of the Colombian Ministry of Environment.  For his contributions, he was awarded the National Medal of the Environment by the president of Colombia and also received the Order of San Carlos. He also served as chairman of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Dr. Samper has served on several boards, including the Harvard Board of Overseers, the American Alliance of Museums, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and several boards of the CGIAR for agricultural research.  He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Academy of Sciences of Colombia and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Samper earned a BS in biology from the Universidad de Los Andes, and a MS and PhD in biology at Harvard University, where he was awarded the Derek Bok prize for excellence in teaching. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.