New York, Dec. 20, 2023 -- Dr. Rachel Neugarten has been appointed as WCS Global’s first Executive Director of Conservation Planning to lead the build-out of the conservation planning work that is at the heart of WCS Global. 

Dr. Neugarten comes to WCS with a wealth of experience focused on conservation planning, spatial priority-setting, and adaptive management. She has served as Director for Conservation Priority Setting for Conservation International (CI) and as Conservation Planning and Information Specialist for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Her extensive experience includes conducting large-scale spatial planning to guide conservation investments at national, multi-country, and global scales in Madagascar, Cambodia, Liberia, the Amazon Basin, and Asia Pacific regions. With an impressive publication record in prestigious journals, including Nature Communications, Nature Ecology and Evolution, Science Advances, and BioScience, she is a recognized authority in her field.

Joe Walston, Executive Vice President of the WCS Global Conservation Program, said:

“If we, as a sector, are to deal with the combined and inter-related threats of biodiversity loss, climate change, and zoonotic pandemics, then we have to move beyond spatial planning and address the nexus of these sectors. How can we most effectively and efficiently retain and restore the ecological integrity of our natural world for nature’s own sake and for that of our climate and well-being?

“I am thrilled that Rachel will not only lead a small team dedicated to these key questions, but harness a large field-based capacity of over 200 PhD’s around the world in both the marine and terrestrial realms, from the Congo and Amazon Basins to the islands of Melanesia and the Caribbean.”

Said Dr. Neugarten, “As the world prepares to address the interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and health, conservation planning will emerge as a powerful process for bridging global commitments with local needs. I'm thrilled to be joining WCS and look forward to supporting the organization's ongoing efforts to ensure healthy lands and seas for generations to come."

Dr. Neugarten has an M.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University (2010), a B.A. in Environmental Biology from Columbia University (2004), and a PhD in Natural Resources (2023) from Cornell University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.