Russell Mittermeier, Ph.D.


Chief Conservation Officer

Dr. Russ Mittermeier is Global Wildlife Conservation’s Chief Conservation Officer. In this role, he leverages his extensive experience and network to protect wildlife and wildlands—enormous reservoirs of biodiversity and key components in preventing runaway climate change— particularly in biodiversity hotspots and critical wilderness areas. Mittermeier came to GWC from Conservation International, where he served as president from 1989 until 2014, and most recently as executive vice chair.

Named a “Hero for the Planet” by TIME magazine, Mittermeier is regarded as a world leader in the field of biodiversity and tropical forest conservation. Trained as a primatologist and herpetologist, he has traveled widely in 169 countries on seven continents, and has conducted field work in more than 30, focusing particularly on Amazonia (especially Brazil and Suriname), the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, and Madagascar.

Since 1977, Mittermeier has served as chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, and he has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Species Survival Commission since 1982. Prior to working for Conservation International, he spent 11 years at World Wildlife Fund-U.S. (1978−1989), starting as director of its Primate Program and ending up as vice president for Science. He also served as an IUCN regional councilor for the period between 2004 and 2012, was elected as one of IUCN’s four vice presidents between 2009 and 2012, and then was elected a lifetime Honorary IUCN Member in 2012. In addition, he has been an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook since 1978 (and received an Honorary Doctorate there in 2007), a research associate at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University for more than two decades, and president of the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation since 1996.

Mittermeier has been influential in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, where he has worked since 1971, and in Madagascar, where he first began work in 1984. Another focus has been South America’s Guiana Shield region, the most pristine rain forest area left on Earth, where he began working in 1975. His vision for conservation in the Guianas is to conserve more than 100 million hectares of pristine forest from Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, the northernmost part of Brazilian Amazonia, and Venezuela. Having worked in the region for more than 45 years, he has been able to win allies in many sectors, from heads-of-state to indigenous leaders, and has won a place for biodiversity conservation in government and community decision-making.

Mittermeier has been particularly interested in the discovery and description of species new to science. He has described a total of 18 new species (three turtles, six lemurs, two tarsiers, and seven monkeys) and has eight species named in his honor (three frogs, a lizard, two lemurs, a saki monkey, and an ant). In addition, Mittermeier has placed considerable emphasis on publishing. His output now includes 35 books and more than 650 scientific and popular articles.

Mittermeier has had a lifelong interest in tribal peoples, and has worked with many different communities, from the Trio of southern Suriname and the Saramaccaner, Matawai, and Aucaner Maroons of central Suriname to the Kayapó of the Brazilian Amazon, and has engaged them in a variety of different conservation endeavors. He has also published on the strong connections between biodiversity and human cultural diversity, demonstrating how strongly the highest priority areas for each overlap.

  • Ph.D. Biological Anthropology, Harvard University.
  • M.A. Biological Anthropology, Harvard University.
  • B.A., Dartmouth College (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa).

Recent Publications

View full list of publications

Mittermeier, R.A., Vogt, R.C., Bernhard, R., Ferrara, C.R. 2015. Podocnemis erythrocephala (Spix 1824) – Red-headed Amazon River Turtle, Irapuca. Chelonian Research Monographs 5(8):1-10.

Rhodin, A J. G., Kaiser, H., van Dijk, P. P., Wüster, W., O’Shea, M., Archer, M., Auliya, M., Boitani, L., Bour, R., Clausnitzer, V., Contreras-MacBeath, T., Crother, B. I., Daza, J. M., Flores-Villela, O., Frazier, J., Fritz, U., Gascon, C., Georges, A., Glaw, F., Grazziotin, F. G., Groves, C. P., Haszprunar, G., Hoogmoed, M. S., Horne, B. D., Iverson, J. B., Jäch, M., Jenkins, C. L., Jenkins, R. K. B., Ross Kiester, A, Lacher Jr., T. E., Lovich, J. E., Luiselli, L., Luke Mahler, D., Mallon, D., Mast, R., McDiarmid, R. W., Measey, J., Mittermeier, R. A., Molur, S., Mosbrugger, V., Murphy, R., Naish, D., Niekisch, M., Ota, H., Parham, J. F., Parr, M. J., Pilcher, N. J., Rylands, A. B., Sanderson, J. G., Savage, J., Schleip, W., Scrocchi, G. J., Bradley Shaffer, H., Smith, E. N., Sprackland, R., Stuart, S. N., Vitt, L. J., Waller, T., Webb, G., Wilson, E. O., Zaher, H. and Thomson, S. 2015. Comment on Spracklandus Hoser, 2009 (Reptilia, Serpentes, Elapidae): request for confirmation of the availability of the generic name and for the nomenclatural validation of the journal in which it was published (Case 3601; BZN 70:234–237; 71:30–38; 133-135, 181–182, 252–253).  Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 72(1):65-78.​

Gascon, C., Brooks T.M., Contreras-MacBeath, T., Heard, N., Konstant, W., Lamoreux. J., Launay. F., Maunder, M., Mittermeier, R.A., Molur, S., Al Mubarak, R.K., Parr, M.J., Rhodin, A.G.J., Rylands, A.B., Soorae, P., Sanderson, J.G., Vie, J.C. Current Biology Review. The Importance and Benefits of Species. May 18, 2015

Mittermeier, R.A., 2015.  Goettsch, B., Mittermeier, R.A. et al.  High Proportion of cactus species threatened with extinction.  Nature Plants October 5, 2015.

Yang, B., Busch, J., Zhang, L., Ran, J., Gu, X., Zhang, W., Du, B., Xu, Y., Mittermeier, R.A. 2015.  Conservation Letters China’s Collective Forest Tenure Reform and the Future of the Giant Panda.  Conservation Letters 8(4): 251-261.

Mittermeier, R.A.   2015.  Remembrances of Irven DeVore.  Evolutionary Anthropology 24 (3).

Mittermeier, R.A., van Dijk, P.P., Rhodin, A.G.J., Nash, S.D. 2015.  Turtle Hotspots: An Analysis of the Occurrence of the Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles in Biodiversity Hotposts, High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, and Turtle Priority Areas.  Chelonian Conservation and Biology 14 (1): 2-10.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2015.  New Conservation Corridor Latest Environmental Triumph for Suriname.  Human Nature Blog (Conservation International).

Mittermeier, R.A. 2015.  Disney Continues Conservation Legacy with “Monkey Kingdom” film.  Human Nature Blog (Conservation International).

Mittermeier, R.A.  2015.  Conservation Connections.  The Indianapolis Prize newsletter.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2015.  Why do we need species? Fighting Climate change, for one.   Human Nature Blog (Conservation International).

Mittermeier, R.A.  2015.  In age of upheaval, world heritage sites offer model for conservation.  Human Nature Blog (Conservation International).

Mittermeier, R.A. 2015.  How Conserving the World’s Species Helps Protect the Ecosystem we all share.   Onegreenplanet.org.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2015. How Threatened Species can Save the Planet.  Men’s Journal May Issue.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2015. Looking Out for Our Endangered Allies. Media Planet.

Kormos, C.F., Mittermeier, R.A., Jaeger, T., Mackey, B. (Eds.).  2016.  A Geography of Hope: Saving the Last Primary Forests.  Monterrey, Mexico: CEMEX and Arlington, VA: Conservation International.

Lei, R., McLain, A. T., Frasier, C. L., Taylor, J.M., Bailey, C.A., Engberg, S.,E., Ginter, Z. L., Nash, S.D., Randriamamapionona, R., Groves, C.P., Mittermeier, R.A., Louis, Jr., E.E.  2017. A New Species in the Genus Cheirogaleus (Cheirogaleidae) Primate Conservation 29.

Cortés-Ortiz, L., Rylands, A. B. & Mittermeier, R. A. 2015. The taxonomy of howler monkeys: integrating old and new knowledge from morphological and genetic studies. In: Howler Monkeys: Adaptive Radiation , Systematics, and Morphology. M. M. Kowalewski, P. A. Garber, L. Cortés-Ortiz, B. Urbani & D. Youlatos (eds.), pp.55-84. Springer, New York.

Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Chiozza, F., Williamson, E. A., Wallis, J. & Cotton, A. 2015. Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2014-2016. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group, International Primatological Society (IPS), and Conservation International, Arlington, VA. 93pp.

Aquino, R., Cornejo, F.M., Cortes Ortiz, L., Encarnacion, F.., Heymann, E.W., Marsh, L.K., Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B., Vermeer, J. 2016.  Monkeys of Peru Pocket Identification Guide.  Conservation International and Deutsches Primatezentrum.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2016.  Potential crisis in Saba’s amazing Kinabatangan rainforest.  Mongabay.org

Mittermeier, R.A. 2016.  Fighting climate change means protecting forests and wildlife.  Mongabay.org.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2016.  Primate-Watching: In the year of the Monkey, let’s build a Conservation Movement.  Mongabay.org.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2016.  In the Year of the Monkey, could primate-watching be the next  big thing?   Human Nature blog (Conservation International).

Rylands, A. B., Heymann, E.W., Lynch Alfaro, J.W., Buckner, J.C., Roos, C., Matauschek, C., Boubli, J.P., Sampaio, R., Mittermeier, R.A. 2016.  Taxonomic review of the New World tamarins (Primates: Callitrichidae).  Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 177: 1003−1028.

Byrne, H., Rylands, A.B., Carneiro, J.C., Lynch Alfaro, J.W., Bertuol, F., da Silva, M.N.F., Messias, M., Groves, C.P., Mittermeier, R.A., Farias, I., Hrbek, T., Schneider, H., Sampaio, I., Boubli, J.P.  2016.  Phylogenetic relationships of the New World titi monkeys (callicebus): first appraisal of taxonomy based on molecular evidence.  Frontiers in Zoology 13(10).

Mittermeier, R A. & Rylands, A. B. 2016. Introduction. In: All The World’s Primates, N. Rowe & M. Myers (eds.), pp.1−2. Pogonias Press, Charlestown, RI.

Kormos, C.F., Bertzky, B., Jaeger, T., Shi, Y., Badman, T., Hilty, J.A., Mackey, B.G., Mittemeier, R.A., Locke, H., Osipova, E., Watson, J.E.M. 2016. A Wilderness Approach under the World Heritage Convention.  Conservation Letters 9 (3): 228-235.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2016.  Celebrating Guyana’s rich natural heritage.  Guyana Chronicle, May 26, 2016.

Lei, R., Frasier, C.L., Hawkins, M.T.R., Engberg, S.E., Bailey, C.A., Johnson, S. E., McLain, A.T., Groves, C.P., Perry, G.H., Nash, S.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Louis, E.E. Jr.  2016.  Phylogenomic reconstruction of Sportive Lemurs (genus Lepilemur) recovered from Mitogenomes with inferences for Madagascar biogeography.  Journal of Heredity Advance Access 2016: 1-13.

Frasier, C.L., Lei, R., McLain, A.T., Taylor, J.M., Bailey, C.A., Ginter, A.L., Nash, S.D., Randriamampionona, R., Groves, C.P., Mittermeier, R.A., Louis, E.E., Jr.  2016. A New Species of Dwarf Lemur (Cheirogaleidae: Cheirogaleus medius Group) from the Ankarana and Andrafiamena-Andavakoera Massifs, Madagascar. Primate Conservation 30.

Estrada, A., Garber, P.A., Rylands, A.B., Roos, C., Fernandez-Duque, E., DiFiore, A., Nekaris, K. A., Nijman, V., Heymann, E.W., Lambert, J.E., Rovero, F., Barelli, C., Setchell, J.M., Gillespie, T.R., Mittermeier, R.A., Arregoitia, L.V., de Guinea, M., Gouveia, S., Dobrovolski, R., Shanee, S., Shanee, N., Boyle, S.A., Fuentes, A., MacKinnon, K.C., Amato, K.R., Meyer, A.L.S., Wich, S., Sussman, R.W., Pan, R., Kone, I., Li, B.  2017.  Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: Why primates matter.  Science Advances 3.

Mittermeier, R. A. and Rylands, Anthony B. 2017.  Primates Face Impending Extinction- What’s Next? Mongabay.org

Mittermeier, R. A. & Rylands. A. B. 2017. Biodiversity Hotspots. In: Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene. Volume 3: Biodiversity, T. E. Lacher Jr. (ed.), pp.67–75. Elsevier Inc., New York.

Bicca-Marques, J. C., Calegaro-Marques, C., Rylands, A. B., Strier, K. B., Mittermeier, R. A., Almeida, M. A. B. de, Castro, H. G. de, Chaves, O. M., Ferraz, L. P., Fortes, V. B., Hirano, Z. M. B., Jerusalinsky, L., Kowalewski, M., Martins, W. P., Melo. F. R. de, Mendes, S. L., Neves, L. G., Passos, F. C., Port-Carvalho, M., Ribeiro. S, Romano, A. P. M., Ruiz-Miranda, C. R., Santos, E. O. dos, Souza, J. C. de & Teixeira, D. S. 2017. Yellow fever threatens Atlantic forest primates. Science Advances 3(1) e-letter.4pp. 25 May 2017.

Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Sechrest W., Langhammer, P. F., Mittermeier, J. C., Parr, M. J., Konstant, W. R. & Mast, R. B. (eds.). 2017. Back from the Brink / Desde el Umbral de la Extinción. CEMEX, S. A., Mexico. 275pp.

Langhammer, P., Hoffmann, M., Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Sechrest, W., Vié, J.-C., Rhodin, A. J. G., Mittermeier, J. C., Parr, M. J., Konstant, W. R., Rodríguez, J. P., Stuart, S. N., Al Mubarak, R. K., Launay, F., Mast, R. B., Maunder, M., Church, D., Contreras-MacBeath, T., Molur, S., Heard, N. & Gascon, C. 2017. Intoduction. In: Back from the Brink / Desde el Umbral de la Extinción, R. A, Mittermeier, A. B. Rylands, W. Sechrest, P. F. Langhammer, J. C. Mittermeier, M. J. Parr, W. R. Konstant & R. B. Mast (eds.), pp.1–17. CEMEX, S. A., Mexico.

Mittermeier, R. A.  2017. Obituary Adelmar F. Coimbra-Filho. Neotropical Primates 23(1) August 2016.

Mittermeier, R. A., Wich, S., Fredriksson, G. & Rylands, A. B. 2017. A new species of orangutan from Indonesia (analysis). Mongabay Series: Great Apes. Website: <https://news.mongabay.com/2017/11/a-new-species-of-orangutan-from-indonesia-analysis/> [Blog]

Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Chiozza, F., Williamson, E. A., Macfie, E. J., Wallis, J. & Cotton, A. 2017. Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2016–2018. IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, International Primatological Society (IPS), Conservation International (CI), and Bristol Zoological Society, Arlington, VA. 107pp.

Rylands, A. B. & Mittermeier, R. A. 2017. The IUCN Red List and Primate Conservation. In: The International Encyclopedia of Primatology, A. Fuentes (ed.), 3pp. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York.

Rylands, A. B. & Mittermeier, R. A. 2017. Taxonomy and the conservation of Neotropical primates. A Primatologia no Brasil – 14, V. L. da Silva, R. G. Ferreira & N. A, B, de Oliveira (eds,), pp.464–484. Sociedade Brasileira de Primatologia, Recife, PE.

Boubli, J. P., Silva, M. N. F. da, Rylands, A. B., Nash, S. D., Bertuol, F., Nunes, M., Mittermeier, R. A., Byrne, H., Silva F. E. da, Röhe, F., Sampaio, I., Schneider, H., Farias, I. P. & Hrbek, T. P. 2018. How many pygmy marmoset (Cebuella Gray, 1870) species are there? A taxonomic re-appraisal based on new molecular evidence. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 120: 170–182.

Link, A., Luna, A, G. de, Bustamante, N., Mittermeier, R. A. & Rylands, A. B. Primates de Colombia, Guia de Identificación de Bolsillo. Tropical Pocket Guide Series, Global Wildlife Conservation, Austin, TX.

Estrada, A., Garber, P. A., Mittermeier, R. A., Wich, S., Gouveia, S., Dobrovolski, R., Nekaris, K. A. I., Nijman, V., Rylands, A. B., Maisels, F., Williamson, E. A., Bicca-Marques, J. C., Fuentes, A., Jerusalinsky, L., Johnson, S., Melo, F. R. de, Oliveira, L., Schwitzer, C., Roos, C., Cheyne, S., Kierulff, C., Raharivololona, B., Talebi, M., Ratsimbazafy, J., Supriatna, J., Boonratana, R., Wedana, M. and Setiawan, A. 2018. Primates in peril: the significance of Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for global primate conservation. PeerJ. 6

Rhodin, A.G.J., Stanford, C.B., van Dijk, P.P., Eisemberg, C., Luiselli, L, Mittermeier, R.A. et al.   2018.  Global Conservation Status of Turtles and Tortoises (Order Testudines).  Chelonian Conservation and Biology 17 (2): 135-161.

Holmes, N. D., Langrand, O., Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Brooks, T. M. Spatz, D., Russell, J. C., Sechrest, W. & Méndez-Sánchez, F. (eds.). 2018. Islands / Islas. CEMEX, S. A., Mexico. 250pp.

Holmes, N. D., Langrand, O., Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., Brooks, T. M. Spatz, D., Russell, J. C., Sechrest, W., Méndez-Sánchez, F., Parr, M. J., Simberloff, D., Church, D., Tershy, B., Uribe, C. & Daltry, J. C. 2018. Introduction. In: Islands / Islas, N. D. Holmes, O. Langrand, R. A. Mittermeier, A. B. Rylands, A. B., T. M. Brooks, T. M. D. Spatz, J. C. Russell, W. Sechrest & F. Méndez-Sánchez, (eds.), pp.1–45. CEMEX, S. A., Mexico.

Mittermeier, R. A. and Rylands, A. B. 2018. Prólogo. In: Plan de Acción para la Conservación de los Primates de Ecuador, D. G. Tirira, S. de la Torre and G. Zapata Rios (eds.), pp.5-6. Ministério del Ambiente (MAE) / Grupo de Estudio de Primates del Ecuador (GEPE) / Asociación Ecuatoriana de Mastozoología (AEM). Quito.

Boubli, J. P., Byrne, H., Silva, M. N. F. da, Silva-Júnior, J., Costa Araujo, R., Bertuol, F., Gonçalves, J., Melo, F. R., Rylands, A. B., Mittermeier, R. A., Silva, F. E., Nash, S. D., Canale, G., Alencar, R. de M., Rossi, R., Carneiro, J., Sampaio, I., Farias, I. P., Schneider, H. & Hrbek, T. 2019. On a new species of titi monkey (Primates: Plecturocebus Byrne et al., 2016), from Alta Floresta, southern Amazon, Brazil. Molec. Phylogenet. Evol. 132: 117–137.