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National Geographic Leadership

Jonathan Baillie

Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist


Jonathan Baillie is the Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist of the National Geographic Society. He oversees Grants, Impact Initiatives, National Geographic Labs, Explorer Programs and the International team.

Baillie joined the Society in 2016 after 20 years at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), where he most recently served as Conservation Programmes Director, overseeing conservation projects focused on threatened species and their habitats in over 50 countries.

As a leader in conservation science, he has authored several key publications on the status and trends of the world’s species and ecosystems. He was instrumental in developing the Living Planet Index, Sampled Red List Index and Wildlife Picture Index. Early in his career, he worked with a network of 8,000 scientists to produce the first International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species using quantitative criteria to assess extinction risk. He also worked with the IUCN to produce the first list of the 100 most threatened animals, plants and fungi. In addition, he co-chaired the IUCN Regional Red List working group and the IUCN Special Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group.

Baillie led the ZLS team that founded the EDGE of Existence program, which focuses on Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species and supports young scientists around the world working to protect animals facing extinction. While at ZSL, he also founded the Conservation Technology Unit and the Business and Biodiversity Programme. In addition, Baillie co-led the first large-scale retail activism project to focus on ocean conservation, Selfridges Project Ocean.

Baillie helped initiate United for Wildlife, led by the Duke of Cambridge, a collaboration of seven of the most influential conservation organizations working to address illegal wildlife trade at scale. Under this collaboration, he led the development of the award-winning digital conservation leadership training platform, the Rhino Impact Investment, and the development of technology for nature.

Baillie is committed to engaging the next generation and has written a number of children’s books as well as co-founding a media animation company focused on communicating the diversity of life.

Baillie completed his undergraduate studies in geography at Queen’s University in Canada. He received a master’s degree in conservation biology from Yale University and a Ph.D. in biology from Silwood Park, Imperial College London. He has been a visiting professor of zoology at the University of Oxford since 2009.

Baillie’s extensive fieldwork includes understanding the persistence and vulnerability of island endemic birds in the Gulf of Guinea; conducting behavioral studies of desert baboons in Namibia; researching and monitoring western lowland gorillas in Gabon; and discovering evidence of EDGE species, such as the long-beaked echidna in the Cyclops Mountains in Indonesia.