Brandie Smith Named Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

Brandie Smith has been named the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, effective Nov. 9. Smith previously served as acting director of the Zoo beginning May 2021.

As director, Smith oversees the 163-acre Zoo facility in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park and the 3,200-acre Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) campus in Front Royal, Virginia. She is responsible for the operations of the public Zoo in Washington, which has approximately 1.8 million visitors a year, and manages the Zoo’s groundbreaking conservation biology research team that works in more than 30 countries. Smith also oversees educational programs, ticketed events and other public services and programs.

The Zoo has approximately 350 full-time staff positions, including keepers, curators, scientists, guest services and administrative staff and a combined federal and non-federal budget of $55 million. Major exhibits at the Zoo include Asia Trail, the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat, Cheetah Conservation Station, Elephant Trails, Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Great Cats, American Trail, Amazonia and the Kids’ Farm.  

“At the Smithsonian, we have seen Brandie’s expertise, talent and leadership in action for years, including during the past several months as acting director of the National Zoo and SCBI,” said Lonnie Bunch, Secretary of the Smithsonian. “The exceptional work done there is vital to species conservation, animal care and education, and I am elated to have Brandie at the helm to help the Smithsonian secure our institutional and global shared future.”

“I’m honored to continue working alongside such talented colleagues whose expertise drives innovations in animal care and sustains biodiversity,” Smith said. “Their work inspires future generations of conservationists.”

Smith joined the staff of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in 2008. She helped to revitalize the giant panda program by integrating excellence in animal husbandry with the latest technology in reproductive biology. Her efforts to merge these two disciplines have contributed to the birth of three surviving cubs, Bao Bao in 2013, Bei Bei in 2015 and Xiao Qi Ji in 2020.

Before joining the Zoo, Smith served as vice president of animal conservation at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) from 2004 to 2008. As vice president, Smith coordinated the cooperative conservation and scientific activities of more than 200 member institutions and nearly 1,000 animal programs. She facilitated the Animal Health Committee, Wildlife Conservation and Management Committee, Field Conservation Committee and Animal Data Committee.

During her tenure at AZA, Smith advanced multi-institution amphibian conservation efforts. She stewarded the creation of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, a coalition of more than 30 conservation organizations that, from 1999 to 2009, focused on identifying and supporting solutions to the bushmeat crisis in Africa and around the world. She also helped launch the Butterfly Conservation Initiative, jointly established by AZA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2001, to engage zoos and aquariums in the recovery of federally listed butterfly species in the U.S.

Smith holds a doctoral degree in behavior, ecology, evolution and systematics from the University of Maryland, Master of Science in zoology from Clemson University and Bachelor of Science in biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Smith succeeds Steven Monfort, who was the John and Adrienne Mars Director until May 2021.

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