Ronald Swaisgood, Ph.D.

Brown Endowed Director of Recovery Ecology

Dr. Ron Swaisgood serves San Diego Zoo Global as the Brown Endowed Director of Recovery Ecology. In this role, he oversees several species conservation programs locally in Southern California and around the globe. His interests lie primarily in the pragmatic application of ecological and behavioral knowledge to solving conservation problems. In practice, his research interests include mating systems, communication, denning ecology, spatial ecology, habitat selection, foraging ecology, and reintroduction biology. In addition to leading the division, he serves as the General Scientific Director of Cocha Cashu Biological Station in the Peruvian Amazon.

Ron’s research programs fall into three broad categories: conservation breeding, reintroduction and translocation biology, and population ecology and adaptive management. Examples of conservation breeding programs include those for giant pandas, Pacific pocket mice, Hawaiian forest birds, San Clemente loggerhead shrikes, and mountain yellow-legged frogs, all integrated with ongoing reintroduction programs. He supervises several additional reintroduction/translocation programs, with species such as kangaroo rats, California condors, black rhinoceros, Tasmanian devils, as well as the restoration of ground squirrels as ecosystem engineers to help recover burrowing owl populations. Other programs are geared toward understanding the ecological requirements for species persistence and monitoring the impacts of management actions: examples include Andean bears, polar bears, giant pandas, California least terns, and western snowy plovers. All of these projects involve extensive collaboration and partnerships.

Ron earned his a doctorate in Animal Behavior from University of California, Davis. He is actively involved in connecting society to conservation and science, engages in extensive training, outreach, and professional service, and has served as an adjunct professor at three universities. He is active on several international conservation committees, chairs the IUCN’s Giant Panda Expert Team, and is past-chair of the Animal Behavior Society’s Conservation Committee. As an advocate for reconnecting society to nature, he serves on committees for the Children & Nature Network and San Diego Children & Nature Collaborative.

SCIENCE AT WORK