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Amazon Conservation Team President


Dr. Mark Plotkin is a renowned ethnobotanist who has studied traditional indigenous plant use with elder shamans (traditional healers) of Central and South America for much of the past 30 years. 


As an ethnobotanist—a scientist who studies how, and why, societies have come to use plants for different purposes—Dr. Plotkin carried out the majority of his research with the Trio Indians of southern Suriname, a small rainforest country in northeastern South America, but has also worked with elder shamans from Mexico to Brazil.


Dr. Plotkin serves as President of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nonprofit organization he co-founded with his fellow conservationist and wife, Liliana Madrigal in 1996, now enjoying over 20 years of successes dedicated to protecting the biological and cultural diversity of the Amazon.  The Amazon Conservation Team has partnered with more than 50 South American tribes to map and improve management and protection of over 80 million acres of ancestral rainforests.




Dr. Plotkin has authored or co-authored many books and scientific publications, most notably his popular work Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, which is currently in its fortieth printing and has also been published in several languages.  Acclaimed filmmaker Miranda Smith produced a related documentary titled The Shaman's Apprentice featuring Dr. Plotkin’s work, which has since garnered awards at eighteen different film festivals. His children’s book The Shaman’s Apprentice – A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest (1998), co-authored with Lynne Cherry, was called “the outstanding environmental and natural history title of the year” by Smithsonian magazine.   That same year, he played a leading role in the Academy Award-nominated IMAX documentary Amazon.


He is currently completing his next book: The Amazon – What Everyone Needs to Know, which will be published by Oxford Press in 2019.


Dr. Plotkin's 2014 TED Talk on the protection of the Amazon's uncontacted tribes has attracted well over a million views.




Time Magazine hailed Dr. Plotkin as an environmental “Hero for the Planet” in 1999. 


His work has been featured in a PBS Nova documentary, in an Emmy-winning Fox TV documentary, on the NBC Nightly News and Today Show, CBS’ 48 Hours and in Life, Newsweek, Smithsonian, Elle, People, The New York Times, along with appearances on National Public Radio.  Smithsonian magazine’s 35th anniversary issue profiled Dr. Plotkin as one of "35 who made a difference" in November 2005.  In March 2007, he was honored with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens Conservation Award.  And in March 2008, Dr. Plotkin and Liliana Madrigal were awarded the Skoll Foundation’s prestigious Award for Social Entrepreneurship.


In 2010, Dr. Plotkin received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. The degree citation read in part: "For teaching us that the loss of knowledge and species anywhere impoverishes us all; for combining humanitarian vision with academic rigor and moral sensibility; and for reminding us always, with clarity and passion and humor, that when we study people and plants, we are simultaneously exploring paths to philosophy, music, art, dance reverence, and healing."  In October of the same year, Jane Goodall presented Dr. Plotkin with an award for International Conservation Leadership.


Dr. Plotkin was educated at Harvard, Yale, and Tufts University.

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