Cristina Mittermeier and Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier to receive BRIT’s 2020 International Award of Excellence in Conservation

June 11, 2020

Conservation standouts in their respective fields, both Mittermeier’s have made significant impacts on preserving the variety of plant and animal life on Earth and protecting its ecosystems

The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT®) is proud to announce that Cristina Mittermeier and Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier are recipients of its 2020 International Award of Excellence in Conservation for their conservation achievements and their ongoing work in biodiversity and communicating the trials and successes of species and ecosystem survival. Lauren-Ashton and John Moncrief will serve as event chairs for the award gala to  be held on Thursday, October 22, 2020, at Palmwood Event & Conference, Frost Tower, Fort Worth, Texas.

Both Mittermeiers have devoted their lives to protecting Earth’s natural habitat and informing and influencing people as to the delicate balance between nature and traditional cultures. Even though their schedules and programs have them traveling almost constantly around the world, they still collaborate on authoring and producing books every year.

“When creating a short list of potential conservation award recipients, you have to consider the achievements of both Cristina and Russ Mittermeier. Together or separately, their research and conservation photography accomplishments set a standard that few people can best,” said Dr. Ed Schneider, BRIT’s executive director. “This year, our admiration flowed on both sides, so when it came time to vote, the committee voted for both of them.”

Cristina and Russ Mittermeier were married for 20 years before divorcing in 2011. Even after their personal relationship ended, they continued to maintain a professional association resulting in several conservation books including: The IUCN Red List 50 Years of Conservation, 2014; Earth’s Legacy Natural World Heritage, 2015; A Geography of Hope Saving the Last Primary Forests, 2016; and Nature’s Solutions to Climate Change, 2019.

About Cristina Mittermeier

A leader in environmental communication, Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist and a photographer. Her work is about building a greater awareness of the responsibility of what it means to be a human.

She has always been fascinated by the majesty and the mystery of the natural world. Her passion however lies at the point where nature and traditional cultures intersect and understanding that the history of every living thing that has ever existed on this planet, also lives within us. To Cristina, this is the place where sustainability can be seen in action.

Cristina is a National Geographic contributing photographer, a Sony Artisan of Imagery, the editor of 28 coffee table books on conservation issues, and her own book, Amaze, published by TeNeues in 2018. To help draw attention to places and species that need protection, Cristina coined the term “conservation photography” as a new discipline to elevate the work of nature photographers and to influence the public.

She is a sought-after keynote speaker, presenter and panelist at events including the Women in the World 10th Anniversary Summit, The World Wilderness Congress, the Earth Optimism Summit at the Smithsonian, and the TEDx stage.

In 2005 she founded the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues.

In 2018 she was named one of National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year and was acknowledged as one of the most Influential Women in Ocean Conservation by Ocean Geographic. In 2019, she was elected a Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and named one of the 18 Most Adventurous Women in the World by The Men’s Journal.

Today, Cristina is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SeaLegacy, a nonprofit dedicated to changing the narrative for our world's oceans. Popular on social media, she is the first female photographer to reach one million followers on Instagram.

Cristina lives on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada, with her partner, Paul Nicklen, co-founder of SeaLegacy and National Geographic photographer.

About Dr. Russell Mittermeier

Named a “Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine in 1999 and winner of the Indianapolis Prize in 2018, wildlife conservationist, Russ Mittermeier was born in the Bronx, New York, and grew up on Long Island. He attributes his interest in wildlife principally to two factors. One was his mother, a German immigrant and housewife who loved animals and took him almost weekly to the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History as a child, and the other was the legend of Tarzan, created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs. Very early on, Russ discovered Tarzan through the comics, films and books, and decided that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of this legendary character. When asked what he wanted to be in the first grade, he replied “Jungle Explorer”, and little has changed to the present day.

As a trained primatologist and herpetologist, he has traveled widely in 169 countries on seven continents and has conducted field work in more than 30 − focusing particularly on Amazonia (especially Brazil and Suriname), the Atlantic forest region of Brazil, and Madagascar.

Mittermeier’s work concentrates heavily on conserving tropical rainforests and their primates and developing the mechanisms necessary to conserve them. He is considered the world’s preeminent primate conservationist, and in April 2019, he became the first person in history to see all 79 primate genera in the wild.

Mittermeier’s significant fieldwork has led to describing 21 new species (three turtles, seven lemurs, four tarsiers, and seven monkeys) and has eight species named in his honor (three frogs, a lizard, two lemurs, a saki monkey, and an ant). For the past several years, a major focus of his work has been centered on Madagascar. This special island is about the size of Texas but 90 percent of it has been deforested. The remaining forests, about the size of two or three New Jerseys are packed with an incredible number of unique, endemic species found nowhere else.

Currently, Dr. Mittermeier is Chief Conservation Officer of Global Wildlife Conservation. Prior to this position, he served for three years as Executive Vice Chair at Conservation International and as President of that organization from 1989 to 2014; before that he was at the World Wildlife Fund-US for 11 years. As president of Conservation International, he concentrated on finding and documenting biodiversity hotspots. Over the course of 20 years, based on research conducted by Mittermeier and colleagues, the number of known hotspots has been increased to 36 with a land mass roughly the size of India. He has published over 40 books and more than 700 popular and scientific articles.

As the consummate conservationist, his two messages are simple: First, conservation can work, if we all pitch in; and second, get out and experience nature firsthand, whether in your backyard or in some remote tropical destination. It will change your life.

Created in 1995, the International Award of Excellence in Conservation is presented to honor individuals and organizations that exemplify the ideals expressed in BRIT's two-fold mission of conservation and education. Honorees include scientists, conservationists, heads of state, philanthropists, Pulitzer Prize winners, politicians and other notables.

Tickets to BRIT’s award presentation dinner may be purchased at:  


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