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., Louis Jr., E.E., Langrand, O., Schwitzer, C., Gauthier, C., Rylands, A.B., Rajaobelina, S., Ratsimbazafy, J., Rasoloarison, R., Hawkins, F., Roos, C., Richardson, M., Kappeler, P.M.  2014. Lemuriens de Madagascar.  Paris, France: Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle.

Smart, J., Hilton-Taylor, C., Mittermeier, R.A. 2014.  The IUCN Red List: 50 Years of Conservation.  CEMEX: Monterrey, Mexico.

Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B. and Wilson, D.E., Eds. 2014. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 4.  Sea Mammals. Barcelona:  Lynx Edicions.

Kormos, C.F., Badman, T., Mittermeier, R.A., Bertzky, B. 2015.  Earth’s Legacy: Natural World Heritage.  CEMEX: Monterrey, Mexico.

Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B. and Wilson, D.E., Eds. 2015. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 5. Marsupials.  Barcelona:  Lynx Edicions.

Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B. and Wilson, D.E., Eds. 2016. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 6 Rodents.  Barcelona:  Lynx Edicions.

Kormos, C.F., Mittermeier, R.A., Jaeger, T., Mackey, B., 2016.  A Geography of Hope: Saving the Last Primary Forests.  CEMEX:  Monterrey, Mexico.

Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B., Sechrest, W., Langhammer, P., Mittermeier, J.C., Parr, M.J., Konstant, W.R., and Mast, R.B.  2017.  Back from the Brink.  CEMEX: Monterrey, Mexico.

Published Papers

Rylands, A.B., Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. Primate Taxonomy: Species and Conservation. In: Evolutionary Anthropology 23: 8-10. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Schwitzer, C., Mitteremeier, R.A., Johnson, S.E., Donati, G., Irwin, M., Peacock, H., Ratsimbazafy, J., Razafindramanana, J., Louis, E.E. Jr., Chikhi, L., Colquhoun, I.C., Tinsman, J., Dolch, R., LaFleur, M., Nash, S., Patel, E., Randrianambinina, B., Rasolofoharivelo, T., Wright, P.C. 2014. Averting Lemur Extinctions amid Madagascar’s Political Crisis. In: Science Magazine 343: 842-843. Washington: The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. Is There New Hope for Madagascar? Human Nature. Arlington: Conservation International.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. Reducing Protection for Tasmanian Wilderness Would Be Bad News for Forests. Human Nature. Arlington: Conservation International.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Connect. Silver Spring: Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Larsen, F.W., Turner, W.R., Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. Will protection of 17% of land by 2020 be enough to safeguard biodiversity and critical ecosystem services? Oryx. New York: Cambridge University Press

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. Measuring What Matters: Acknowledging Nature’s Role in the Global Economy. World Bank Blogs. Washington: The World Bank Group.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. 50 Years of the IUCN Red List: Inspiring Conservation Action. Human Nature. Arlington: Conservation International.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. First-ever World Lemur Festival Celebrated in Madagascar. Human Nature. Arlington: Conservation International.

Rebacca, K., Kormos, C.F., Humle, T., Lanjouw, A., Rainer, H., Victurine, R., Mittermeier, R.A., Diallo, M.S., Rylands, A.B., Williamson, E.A. 2014. Great Apes and Biodiversity Offset Projects in Africa: The Case for National Offset Strategies. PLOS One 9(11): 1-14. San Francisco: Public Library of Science.

Roos, C. Boonratana, R., Supriatna, J., Fellowes, J.R., Groves, C.P., Nash, S.D., Rylands, A.B., Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. An Updated Taxonomy and Conservation Status Review of Asian Primates. Asian Primates Journal 4(1): 2-38. Gland: International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. What We Need from the World Parks Congress. Human Nature. Arlington: Conservation International.

Lei, R., Frasier, C.L., McLain, A.T., Taylor, J.M., Bailey, C.A., Engberg, S.E., Ginter, A.L., Randriamampionona, R., Groves, C.P., Mittermeier, R.A., Louis Jr., E.E. 2014. Revision of Madagascar’s Dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleidae: Cheirogaleus): Designation of Species, Candidate Species Status, and Geographic Boundaries Based on Molecular and Morphological Data. Primate Conservation 28. Arlington: Conservation International.

Yang, B., Busch, J., Zhang, L., Ran, J., Gu, X., Zhang, W., Du, B., Xu, Y., Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. China’s Collective Forest Tenure Reform and the Future of the Giant Panda. Conservation Letters. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Kormos, C.F., Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. World Heritages and wilderness. World Heritage 73:20-25. UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Mittermeier, R.A. 2014. Preface in Western Indian Ocean Tortoises: Ecology, Diversity, Evolution, Conservation, Palaeontology. Manchester: Siri Scientific Press.

Turner, W.R., Mittermeier, R.A., Marton-Lefevre, J., Stuart, S.N., Smart, J., Langley, J.M., Larsen, F.W., and Selig, E.R. 2014. Biodiversity: Conserving the foundation of sustainable development. In Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act (2014 edition):233-246. Tokyo: Asahi Glass Foundation Blue Planet Prize.

Turner. W.R., Mittermeier, R.A., Neugarten, R., Marton-lefevre, J., Stuart, S.N., and Smart, J. 2014. Ecosystem Services: Accounting for the benefits that nature provides humanity. In Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act (2014 edition):261-276. Tokyo: Asahi Glass Foundation Blue Planet Prize.

Turner, W.R., Mittermeier, R.A., Marton-Lefevre, J., Stuart, S.N., Smart, J., Hole, D.G., and Selig, E.R. 2014. Climate change: Protecting biodiversity and harnessing nature’s climate solutions. In Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act (2014 edition):247-260. Tokyo: Asahi Glass Foundation Blue Planet Prize.

Mittermeier, R.A., 2014 Annual Report: Mammals Primate Specialist Group. IUCN SSC Species. 2014.

Mittermeier, R.A., Protecting Lemurs: Ecotourism. Letters. 2014

Mittermeier, R.A., Chapter 40: Conservation International: Stemming the Tide of Environmental Crises. Why Life Matters. 2014

Mittermeier, R.A., Global Priorities for Marine Biodiversity Conservation. PLOS. 2014.

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., Mittermeir, 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.  Whyy 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.

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.

Runhua Lei, Adam T. McLain, Cynthia L. Fraiser, Justin M. Taylor, Carolyn A. Bailey, Shannon E. Engberg, Zure L. Ginter, Stephen D. Nash, Rhichard Randriamamapionona, Colin P. Gorves, Russell A. Mittermeier, and Edward E. Loius Jr. 2017. A New Species in the Genus Cheirogaleus (Cheirogaleidae) Primate Conservation 2015.

Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R.A., Rylands, A.B., Chiozza, F., Williamson, E.A., Wallis, J., Cotton, 2016. Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 most Engangered Primates. Bristol Zoological Society and Conservation International.

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.

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

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

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. 

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).

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.

Cynthia L. Frasier, Runhua Lei, Adam T. McLain, Justin M. Taylor, Carolyn A. Bailey, Azure L. Ginter, Stephen D. Nash, Richard Randriamampionona, Colin P. Groves, Russell A. Mittermeier, and Edward E. Loius 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, Russell A. and Rylands, Anthony B. 2017. Primates Face Impending Extinction- What’s Next? Mongabay.

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

Anthony B. Rylands and Russell A. Mittermeier 2017. IUCN Red List and Primate Conservation. The International Encylcopedia of Primatology.