<strong>Steve Monfort</strong> image

Steve Monfort is the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) based in Front Royal, Virginia. SCBI serves provides leadership in the Smithsonian’s global effort to use science-based approaches to conserve species and the habitats they require for survival. SCBI scientists conduct research and train conservation professionals in more than 30 countries in a wide range of disciplines including wildlife ecology, forest and climate change research, genetics and genomics, reproductive sciences, and zoo biology.

Featured Writings and Talks

Dear Science: If an animal is lost or injured, why shouldn’t I help it? The Washington Post; Steven Monfort: Embracing His Wild Side The Mason Spirit; Social status and helminth infections in female forest guenons (Cercopithecus mitis) American Journal of Physical Anthropology; Oral and injectable synthetic progestagens effectively manipulate the estrous cycle in the Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) Animal Reproduction Science; Fiddling in biodiversity hotspots while deserts burn? Collapse of the Sahara's megafauna Diversity and Distributions, A Journal of Conservation BiogeographyEndangered: Animals And Zoos Fighting For Survival, Thompson Coburn LLPPBS NewsHour Earth Optimism Summit InterviewEarth Optimism SummitScience, Conservation, Inspiration Earth Optimism Summit

Steve Monfort on...

The importance of biodiversity:

"Everything we require as a species is derived in some way or another from biological diversity. ... Let's fix climate change, work on that, but at the same time let's not lose these functioning ecosystems that humans require for their survival."

The role of government:

"There needs to be some role for the regulatory state, for governments. ... You have to have individual choice, and you have to have good governance and good decision-making."


"I think people are too reliant on quick fixes through technology and it makes them complacent [in] not dealing with the immediate threats to biodiversity that we can solve right now. ... It's a great tool. But in and of itself, it's not going to solve anything."

The role of citizens:

"People need to exercise their power in making those decisions through their pocket books, but also they need to also at the ballot box. People need to become better citizens, with respect to expressing what they want, and making that known to ... those that we employ to govern us."

Thinking beyond economic growth:

"I can't imagine that just making more money will get us to where we need to be in terms of a sustainable planet. ... I don't think you can ignore all of the side effects of economic development and that has to be managed in some way that is sensible and that will sustain justice in other ways.

What individuals can do:

"One of the things that I think you can do, wherever you are, wherever you live, is to take ownership of the community in which you live in. ... Learn about it, and know about it, and try to become engaged in it."

The role of individual optimism:

"Once you've made this personal decision to change your behavior or change the way you live, it makes you more likely to then join with others that share those values, and it makes you more motivated to want to vote with your money and vote in the ballot box with people who support your viewpoints, and makes you more active in wanting to see that end at a point that you believe it may occur."

Staying optimistic:

"I believe that people, the best of people, will eventually come forward and win out. So I tend to be optimistic and hopeful for that reason, because frankly I think those two emotions are what make us able to go forward in our lives. And if you take hope away and you eliminate optimism I think you lose a will to want to go forward."


Secretary David J. Skorton, M.D. image

Dr. David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian. Skorton, a board-certified cardiologist, previously was the president of Cornell University, a position he held from July 2006. He was also a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and in Cornell’s Department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering. An ardent and nationally recognized supporter of the arts and humanities, Skorton has called for a national dialogue to emphasize the importance of funding for these disciplines.

Follow Secretary Skorton on Twitter


Jedediah Purdy image
Jedediah Purdy

professor of law Duke University and the author of After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene

Catrina Rorke image
Catrina Rorke

senior fellow for energy policy, R Street Institute

Mary Evelyn Tucker image
Mary Evelyn Tucker

co-founder and co-director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University