Josh Tewksbury


Ira Rubinoff Director, Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute, Panama

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Joshua Tewksbury is the Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a unit of the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Panama City, Panama. The Institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes understanding of present and past biological diversity by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems.

As director, he oversees more than 400 employees, an annual budget of $35 million, the Institute’s research facilities throughout Panama and field sites in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The Institute’s facilities are used by 30 resident scientists and annually by some 1,400 visiting scientists, pre- and postdoctoral fellows and interns from academic and research institutions around the world.

As an ecologist, evolutionary biologist and conservation biologist, Josh addressed fundamental questions during 20+ years of active field research in the U.S. and Latin America: how does climate impact plants and animals? How do fragmentation, connectivity, invasive species and mutualism loss affect populations and communities? How did plant chemical defenses evolve?

He honed mentoring,  teaching and communications skills as the Maggie and Doug Walker Endowed Professor of Natural History at the University of Washington, with appointments both in the Department of Biology and the College of the Environment, which he helped to create.

Josh’s subsequent executive leadership experience includes launching the Luc Hoffmann Institute, a global research center in Geneva, Switzerland, and directing the Colorado Global Hub of Future Earth. Both of these multi-million-dollar operations taught him to manage complex international, multi-cultural environments. By leading goal-setting, visioning, convening, partnering and funding efforts, he made outstanding contributions in non-profit, foundation, journalism (founding Anthropocene Magazine) and higher education contexts.

Josh expanded the reach of Future Earth via several ground-breaking initiatives: the Earth Leadership Program, a mid-career sustainability focused academic leadership program; the Earth Commission, a global group focused on establishing science-based targets for major Earth systems; and the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness, by partnering with technology, NGO’s, and the public sector, including Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Carto, Vizzuality, World Resources Institute, NASA and NOAA.

Growing his already extensive fundraising experience, Josh partnered with major donors and high-net worth individuals, multi-national agencies, national and international foundations and multi-national financial mechanisms, resulting in the development and management of a multi-million funding portfolio and the establishment of half a dozen international science funding collaboratives.

Josh is no stranger to the Smithsonian Institution. He steps into his new role as director of STRI with several ongoing and previous collaborations with STRI scientists and other Smithsonian units, including  the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Smithsonian International Office.

Josh’s deep and diverse scientific track record focused on natural history, biodiversity, sustainability and conservation, his experience developing and managing complex international interdisciplinary projects and partnerships, and his ability to communicate with multiple audiences, will continue to strengthen STRI’s relationship with the rest of the Smithsonian units, as well as with the local and global scientific community.

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