Samper, Cristián (Non-resident)
Cristián was born September 25, 1965, in San José, Costa Rica. He grew up in Colombia and holds dual citizenship from the United States and Colombia. He received a BS degree from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá in 1987. He earned his MS degree in 1989 and doctorate degree in1992 in biology from Harvard University, where he was awarded the Derek Bok prize for excellence in teaching. He served as director of the environment division of the Foundation for Higher Education in Colombia from 1992 to 1995, and he also was adjunct professor of biology at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia. He was a moving force behind the establishment of a network of private nature reserves and major environmental education programs throughout Colombia. From 1995 to 2001, Cristián was the founder and first director of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute, the national biodiversity research institute of Colombia. He was responsible for developing the National Biodiversity Policy for Colombia, promoting research on biological inventories, conservation biology and sustainable use of biodiversity. At the same time, he served as chief science adviser for biodiversity for the Colombian government and served on the boards of many environmental institutions. For his contributions, he was awarded the National Medal of the Environment by the president of Colombia in 2001. From 1999 to 2001, he was chairman of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. In this role, Cristián helped develop a global strategy for plant conservation and launched the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, designed to determine the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and provide the scientific basis for action to conserve and use ecosystems sustainably. Prior to coming to Washington, D.C., Cristián, was deputy director and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, the largest research facility for tropical biology, with emphasis on tropical forests and coral reefs, from 2001 to 2003. Cristián is a biologist and international authority on environmental policy, is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. As director of the National Museum of Natural History, he is responsible for the largest natural history collection in the world and a museum that welcomes more than 6 million visitors each year. Since his arrival in 2003, he reinvigorated the research staff by hiring new curators to replace retiring staff; built major new collections storage facilities and laboratories in Suitland, Maryland, and raised more than $100 million to support new long-term exhibitions and programs, including the Encyclopedia of Life and the Sant Ocean Hall. He served as the Acting Secretary of the Smithsonian from March 2007 through June 2008. As Acting Secretary, he guided the Institution through a transition period, working with the Board of Regents on comprehensive governance review and reform, as well as enhanced communications with key stakeholders. He worked with Congress to address the funding need for facilities; initiated the planning for the Institution’s first national fundraising campaign; restructured and refocused Smithsonian Enterprises (formerly Smithsonian Business Ventures); and oversaw the work of a new leadership team. Known for his work in the ecology of the Andean cloud forests, conservation biology and environmental policy, he currently sits on the boards of the American Association of Museums, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. He is also a member of Harvard University’s Board of Overseers and Biodiversity International’s Board of Trustees. Cristián was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 2008.