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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Smithsonian Director to Take Over Wildlife Conservation Society
23 January 2012 5:23 pm
Cristián Samper, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, is shifting gears in August to become the president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The $200 million conservation organization runs the Bronx Zoo, other New York City zoos, and wildlife programs in 65 countries. "After 10 years, it feels like a good time to leave. I am ready for the next challenge," he says.
When Samper, a tropical biologist, took over the museum in 2003, morale was low. It had gone through several directors in quick succession, and the Smithsonian was in turmoil, with a controversial secretary at the helm. Samper guided the museum through renovations of two-thirds of its exhibits, including the ocean, mammal, and human origins halls, as well as the building of the Butterfly Pavilion. He also helped to bring in fresh talent; under his watch 25 new curators came on board and the museum started an endowed fellowship program. During that time, the Smithsonian funneled about $100 million into the expansion and renovation of museum collection space. Samper also helped put a focus on the web, promoting the digitization of the collections and co-founding the Encyclopedia of Life, a Web-based database of the world's plants and animals.
In 2007, he took over temporarily for Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small, who resigned amidst scandal. Samper returned as director of the natural history museum after Wayne Clough was hired as secretary 15 months later. Samper leaves the museum with a "major legacy," says Clough.
But Samper says his heart is in conservation. He grew up in Colombia and his first jobs were doing field surveys in Andean cloud forests. In Colombia, he was instrumental in setting up private nature reserves and environmental education programs. He helped to formulate global biodiversity strategies as part of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. "In some ways, I am going back to my roots," he says.
John Kress, a botanist at the natural history museum, has known Samper since Samper was a graduate student. "It's been a great pleasure watching him take the museum forward," says Kress. "When he had a museum to run, that was a big distraction from his real love of conservation. Things are really good right now, and that's a good time to leave and do something different."
Samper will replace the Steven Sanderson, who is retiring in July from WCS after 10 years as its head. "It's a great gain for WCS," says Jonathan Coddington, the museum's associate director for research and collections.