Conservation International Names New Executive Team
May 4, 2017
Dr. M. Sanjayan named Chief Executive Officer
Jennifer Morris named President
Dr. Sebastian Troëng named Executive Vice President
Co-Founder Peter Seligmann Remains Chairman of the Board
ARLINGTON, Va. (May 4, 2017) – Conservation International announced a new executive leadership team today, naming conservation scientist M. Sanjayan chief executive officer. Sanjayan succeeds longtime CEO and co-founder Peter Seligmann, who has led the organization since its founding in 1987 and will remain chairman of Conservation International’s Board. Jennifer Morris, chief operating officer, has been named president and Sebastian Troëng, senior vice president of the Americas Field Division, has been named executive vice president.
All positions become effective July 1, 2017.
“Today the stakes for the future of our planet and human well-being could not be higher, but I have great faith in passing the torch to a world class leadership team,” said Seligmann on behalf of Conservation International’s Board. “Creating a healthier, more prosperous planet is an urgent task, and requires a diverse team. Sanjayan is a field-tested conservation leader with a remarkable ability to bring people together and inspire action. I have enormous confidence in his vision and his wisdom.”
Seligmann continued, “Jennifer Morris and Sebastian Troëng are gifted leaders. Jennifer is a first-rate expert in both conservation finance and conservation delivery and has guided our operations and field programs for close to two decades. Sebastian began in our marine program, led the Moore Center for Oceans and Science and now leads Conservation International’s Americas Division. These are exceptional people and I am grateful that they are taking on expanded roles at Conservation International. This organization has been my life’s work and I’m honored to be able to continue in my role as chairman of the board and to support its bright future.”
“It is both a privilege and deeply humbling to step into the role of chief executive officer,” said Sanjayan. “Peter Seligmann’s founding vision, that people need nature to thrive, created a global movement that has helped change the trajectory of our planet. I’m honored to partner with Jennifer Morris, our new president, Sebastian Troëng, our new executive vice president, and all of Conservation International’s talented staff on the journey ahead.”
“The board is delighted in this new leadership team, which already has a strong track record of creating solutions to some of today’s most pressing global challenges,” said Rob Walton, chairman of Conservation International’s executive committee. “Each one of these leaders are well-positioned to continue Conservation International’s legacy of delivering on its mission to protect nature for our benefit today and the benefit of generations to come.”
“Today’s announcement is the result of a very thoughtful and thorough process and we are delighted with the results,” said Orin Smith, the retired president and CEO of Starbucks and a Conservation International board member who served on the selection committee. “These are incredibly talented individuals who will, together, continue Conservation International’s legacy of designing and executing the kind of innovative and science-based solutions that deliver results for people across the world.”
Sanjayan joined Conservation International in 2014 as executive vice president and senior scientist and has led several divisions including Oceans, Science, Development, Brand and Communications and Strategic Priorities. Some of his most high profile work includes pioneering Conservation International’s use of virtual reality filmmaking to raise awareness of global conservation issues.” He holds a master’s degree from University of Oregon, a doctorate from University of California, Santa Cruz, and his scientific work has been published in leading peer-reviewed journals including Science, Nature and Conservation Biology. Sanjayan is a visiting researcher at UCLA and distinguished professor of practice at Arizona State University.
Raised in South Asia and Africa, Sanjayan’s unique background has attracted widespread media coverage. In 2008, he was profiled in Time magazine (Changing the White Face of the Green Movement.) Profiles in Outside magazine and Afar magazine followed, and his expertise has received coverage from outlets such as Vanity Fair, Men’s Journal and the New York Times, among others.
Sanjayan is also a leading science communicator, hosting and cohosting a range of documentaries for PBS, BBC, and Discovery including the PBS and BBC live television eventBig Blue Live and hosting the PBS series Earth — A New Wild. He is the host of the University of California and Vox Media’s newClimate Lab series and served as a correspondent for Years of Living Dangerously, Showtime’s Emmy-winning series on climate change.
Morris, a 20-year veteran of Conservation International and a pioneer in the long-term financing of protected areas, will serve as president. Her extensive field work includes Asia, Africa and Latin America. Morris joined Conservation International fresh out of graduate school and rose through the ranks to lead some of Conservation International’s most lasting and influential investment and business engagement initiatives, including Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business and the Global Conservation Fund, which has helped protect nearly 200 million acres worldwide and brought millions of dollars to conservation and communities around the world.
She is one of the conservation movement’s youngest and most prominent female executives and, since 2014, has served as Conservation International’s chief operating officer.
Morris holds a bachelor’s in political science from Emory University and a master’s in international affairs with a business development and micro-finance focus from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Troëng brings over eight years as a member of Conservation International’s senior leadership team, working across the globe on some of the organization’s most high-profile initiatives, including the development of its Ocean Health Index, the first assessment tool that scientifically measures all elements of global ocean health.
Proficient in six languages, Troëng is a prolific writer, fundraiser, and science communicator specializing in the role of nature in supporting both sustainable development and ensuring human well-being worldwide. His research has been published extensively in leading peer-reviewed journals and in 2010 he was recognized as a “40 Under 40” leader in international development.
Troëng joined Conservation International in 2006 as a director of regional marine strategies and went on to lead Conservation International’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans and, later, Conservation International’s Americas Field Division.
He holds a master’s degree in marine environmental protection from the University of Wales and a Doctoral degree in animal zoology from Lund University, Sweden.
Seligmann, along with Spencer Beebe, founded Conservation International in 1987 with the vision that conservation must prioritize the economic well-being of local and indigenous communities, and that environmentalism must move from corporate philanthropy to the corporate bottom line.
“We did not want to create something new, but we did because we had a fundamentally different view of how to achieve conservation in the world,” writes Seligmann in a post published today on Conservation International’s blog, Human Nature.
Seligmann and Conservation International’s former president, Dr. Russell Mittermeier, pioneered new tactics including the first debt-for-nature swap, “biodiversity hot-spot” conservation, shade-grown coffee — all while convincing major corporations like Walmart, HP, Starbucks, Alcoa, HP and others that preserving nature was in their “enlightened self-interest.”
“Our mantra became ‘head in the sky, feet in the mud’ and it still is,” said Seligmann. “Today we are one of the biggest conservation organizations in the world, but we will always be, in spirit, a start-up.”
About Conservation International
Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about Conservation International and its groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow Conservation International’s work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.