Conservation International’s Russ Mittermeier Among 213 Scholars, Artists, Philanthropists, and Business Leaders Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Share Article

The 236th class of members also includes novelist Colm Tóibín, La Opinión Publisher and CEO Monica Lozano, jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter, former Botswanan President Festus Mogae, and autism author and spokesperson Temple Grandin

© Conservation International/photo by Becca Field

© Conservation International/photo by Becca Field

"The conservation challenges we face this century are the type of problems to which the Academy is built to respond."

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences today announced the election of 213 new members. They include some of the world’s most accomplished scholars, scientists, writers, artists, as well as civic, business, and philanthropic leaders. Among those elected into this newest class of distinguished members is Russ A. Mittermeier, the Executive Vice-Chair of Conservation International and chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group.    

The list of the 236th class of new members is located at

"The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a centuries old, esteemed institution that has guided the search for knowledge and thought leadership since the birth of the United States. It is an honor to be elected as a member," Mittermeier said. "The conservation challenges we face this century are the type of problems to which the Academy is built to respond. I hope to lend my expertise for conserving tropical forests and endangered species, building sustainable policies and business solutions and finding green solutions to climate change."

Mittermeier was the president of CI from 1989 to 2014. He is regarded as a world leader in tropical forest conservation, with particular expertise in the fields of primates and reptiles. He has published more than 700 scientific and popular articles and 36 books. He has traveled widely in nearly 160 countries on seven continents, and has conducted field work in more than 30. Mittermeier has described a total of 14 new species, eight of which are named in his honor.

Mittermeier has helped promote the concept of "avoided deforestation" by highlighting the importance of tropical forests in mitigating climate change and has also been a leader in promoting species-focused ecotourism. His lifelong interest in tribal peoples has led to his work with many different communities, from the Trio of southern Suriname to the Kayapo of the Brazilian Amazon. Mittermeier has engaged them in a variety of different conservation endeavors, and has published on the strong connections between biodiversity and human cultural diversity, demonstrating how strongly the highest priority areas for each overlap.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing—and opportunities available to—the nation and the world. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science, engineering, and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts, and education; and American institutions and the public good.

Members of the 2016 class include winners of the Pulitzer Prize and the Wolf Prize; MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships; the Fields Medal; and the Grammy Award and National Book Award.

“It is an honor to welcome this new class of exceptional women and men as part of our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, Chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Their election affords us an invaluable opportunity to bring their expertise and knowledge to bear on some of the most significant challenges of our day. We look forward to engaging these new members in the work of the Academy.”

“In a tradition reaching back to the earliest days of our nation, the honor of election to the American Academy is also a call to service,” said Academy President Jonathan F. Fanton. “Through our projects, publications, and events, the Academy provides members with opportunities to make common cause with one another. We invite these newly elected members to participate in this important and rewarding work—and to help produce the useful knowledge for which the Academy’s 1780 charter calls.”

Physical and biological scientists in the new class include: Jacqueline Hewitt, the astrophysicist who discovered Einstein rings; nuclear physicist Barbara Jacak; chemist Timothy Lodge; Jay Keasling, expert in synthetic biology and metabolic engineering; computer scientist Tom Mitchell; biophysicist Eva Nogales; mathematician Andrei Okounkov; Sarah (Sally) Otto, evolutionary and population biologist; and neuroscientist John Rubenstein, whose discovery of key regulatory genes contributes to the understanding of the cellular and molecular underpinning of diseases like autism and schizophrenia.

Social scientists in the new class include: Brandice Canes-Wrone, Vice Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; cognitive learning scientist Michelene Chi; Andrew Cherlin, social demographer and sociologist of the family unit; New York University School of Law Dean Trevor Morrison; and economist Sendhil Mullainathan, co-founder of the MIT Poverty Action Lab.

In the humanities and the arts, new members include: orchestral conductor JoAnn Falletta; historian Sandra Greene; poet Yusef Komunyakaa; conceptual artist Glenn Ligon; American historian David Nirenberg; Jahan Ramazani, expert in postcolonial poetry; and jazz composer and musician Wayne Shorter.

In addition to Mittermeier, those elected in public affairs, business, and administration include: professor and autism spokesperson Temple Grandin; Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and former managing editor, Time; and Monica Lozano, Chair of the Board, U.S. Hispanic Media, and publisher and CEO, La Opinión. Philanthropists and business leaders in the 2016 class include: Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation co-founder and philanthropist Edythe Broad; TEI Industries Chairman and CEO and Wilmer Eye Institute Chair Sanford Greenberg; and President of Ariel Investments Mellody Hobson.

The Academy elected 37 Foreign Honorary Members from 17 countries, including Botswana, China, Cuba, Israel, Russia, and South Africa. Included among these Foreign Honorary Members are: art historian Horst Bredekamp; Edwin Cameron, Justice on the Constitutional Court of South Africa; Heinz Holliger, oboist, composer, and conductor; Nancy Ip, Dean, School of Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Israeli mathematician and Hebrew University of Jerusalem President Emeritus Menachem Magidor; Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana; Irish political scientist and vice-chancellor of Oxford University Louise Richardson; novelist, critic, and poet Colm Tóibín; and computer scientist Shimon Ullman.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony on October 8, 2016, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


For more from Russ Mittermeier, visit:

Dave Nuscher
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Chief Communications Officer

About Conservation International
Conservation International (CI) uses an innovative blend of science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water, and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, CI works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about CI at

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kevin Connor
Conservation International
+1 (703) 341-2405
Email >
Follow >
Visit website