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Rhett Butler

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rhett butler
Rhett Butler


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Rhett Butler founded Mongabay.com in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife. For the first ten years of the project, he operated Mongabay on his own, publishing thousands of stories and tens of thousands of photos.

Today Rhett Butler serves as editor-in-chief of the web site as well as president of Mongabay.org, Mongabay's non-profit arm. Rhett Butler is also Mongabay's senior writer and photographer, continuing to create much of the site's content.

Beyond Mongabay, Rhett Butler runs WildMadagascar.org, a site that highlights the spectacular cultural and biological richness of Madagascar and reports on environmental news for the Indian Ocean island nation.

Rhett Butler is also co-founder of Tropical Conservation Science, an open-access academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research, and the Tropical Forest Network, a social network in the San Francisco Bay Area broadly interested in tropical forest conservation and ecology.

Outside of these pursuits, Rhett Butler has advised a wide range of organizations, including governments, multilateral development agencies, media outlets, academic institutions, foundations, and private sector entities. He has been an information source for the BBC, CNN, CBS, NBC, Fox News, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, Business Week, Bloomberg, the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Reuters, Voice of America, the Associated Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the L.A. Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among others.

Rhett Butler also speaks regularly on topics surrounding forests and the environment (especially trends in deforestation) and new media. He has spoken at Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the National University of Singapore, USAID, ETH Zurich, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, UNFCCC COP 16 in Cancun, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Stony Brook University, among other places and events. In 2011 and 2012 he participated in the U.S. State Department Speakers Program in Indonesia.

rainforests
Rhett Butler's work has been published outside of his web sites, including magazines, newspapers, online media, and academic journals (see below). His photos have appeared in hundreds of publications.

In September 2011 Rhett Butler published RAINFORESTS, a book about rainforests geared toward kids. The text is based on the popular mongabay kids' section and includes more than 150 photos.

In April 2012 Rhett Butler hired a team in Indonesia to run mongabay.co.id, an Indonesian-language provider of environmental news and analysis. Mongabay.co.id officially launched in May 2012.

Rhett Butler has been profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle (2006), the Wall Street Journal (2006 and 2008), and Voice of America (2008).

See Rhett Butler's motivation for starting mongabay.com. Further background on Rhett Butler is available at the FAQs/Interview page


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Highlighted publications (outside of mongabay.com, since 2007):



Other activities :
In California, Rhett Butler has been affiliated with University of California at San Diego (UCSD), Menlo Atherton High School (M-A), Stanford University, Menlo Park, Atherton, La Jolla, and Palo Alto.

Selected mongabay articles by Rhett Butler :
Rhett has written more than 8,000 articles on mongabay.com. The following is a partial list of recent articles.


Tropical deforestation could disrupt rainfall globally
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(12/18/2014) Large-scale deforestation in the tropics could drive significant and widespread shifts in rainfall distribution and temperatures, potentially affecting agriculture both locally and far from where forest loss is occurring, concludes a study published today in Nature Climate Change.


Boosting the conservation value of 4M sq km of rainforest logging concessions
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(12/12/2014) Short of buying back logging concessions, switching from conventional logging approaches to reduced impact logging techniques across existing forestry concessions may be the best way boost biodiversity in areas earmarked for timber extraction, argues paper.


Tradeoff: Sabah banks on palm oil to boost forest protection
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(12/05/2014) Last month Sabah set aside an additional 203,000 hectares of protected forest reserves, boosting the Malaysian state's extent of protected areas to 21 percent of its land mass. But instead of accolades, Sabah forestry leaders were criticized for how they went about securing those reserves: allowing thousands of hectares of deforested land within an officially designated forestry area to be converted for oil palm plantations


What we can learn from uncontacted rainforest tribes
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(11/26/2014) If you have ever wondered about the connection between hallucinogenic frogs, uncontacted peoples, conservation, and climate change — and who hasn't? — check out this TED talk from ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin. An ethnobotanist by training, Plotkin serves as President of the Amazon Conservation Team. Plotkin took a few minutes from his busy schedule to answer a few questions from Mongabay.


Amazon deforestation moratorium extended 18 months
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(11/25/2014) The Brazilian soy industry has extended its deforestation moratorium for another 18 months. The moratorium, which was established in 2006 after a high-profile Greenpeace campaign, bars conversion of forests in Brazilian Amazon for soy production. Independent analysis has shown it to be highly effective — just prior to the moratorium, soy accounted for roughly a fifth of recent deforestation, while today its share is less than one percent.


Jane Goodall: 5 reasons to have hope for the planet
Rhett A. Butler and Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
(11/19/2014) Jane Goodall is not only arguably the most famous conservationist who ever lived, but also the most well-known and respected female scientist on the planet today. Her path to reach that stature is an unlikely as it is inspiring. Told to 'never give up' by her mother, Goodall set out in her 20s to pursue her childhood dream: to live with animals in Africa. By the time she was 26 she doing just this.


Using games to teach kids the value of nature and philanthropy
mongabay.com
(11/18/2014) Kids are spending more time using tablets and smart phones for learning and entertainment. But hours spent gaming, Tweeting, and playing on Instagram and Facebook, may mean less engagement with nature, potentially making it more difficult for conservation organizations to inspire and influence the next generation of donors and decision makers. Given the state of the world's environment, that is a troubling thought.


A nature photographer's dream: staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(11/17/2014) Julie Larsen Maher has what many wildlife photographers would consider a dream job: staff photographer for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a non-profit that runs five zoos and aquariums in New York City as well as numerous site-based field programs in the U.S. and overseas. As staff photographer, Maher helps tell the stories behind WCS's conservation work, which ranges from veterinary procedures with Bronx Zoo animals to working with local communities in remote parts of Zambia to protect wildlife.


Surprising reasons to be optimistic about saving forests
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(11/14/2014) In the 1990s, the world watched with alarm as vast tracts of tropical rainforest were torn down for timber and croplands, dug up for minerals and energy, and flooded for hydroelectric projects. Conservation groups, governments, philanthropists, and institutions like the World Bank collectively spent billions of dollars on programs to stop the carnage. But as viewed from satellites high above Earth's surface, those efforts barely dented deforestation rates.


Only place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist is under threat
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(11/12/2014) A forest that is the only place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans coexist is under threat from planned infrastructure, mining, logging, and plantation projects, warns a new report from the Rainforest Action Network. The report looks at one of the last vestiges of wilderness on the island of Sumatra, which for the past three decades has been heavily ravaged by logging, fires, and conversion to industrial timber and oil palm plantations. This area, known as the Leuser Ecosystem, is today a battleground between business-as-usual interests seeking to mine its forests and a collection of conservationists, local communities, and a collection of companies seeking to steward its resources.


Peru has massive opportunity to avoid emissions from deforestation
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(11/10/2014) Nearly a billion tons of carbon in Peru's rainforests is at risk from logging, infrastructure projects, and oil and gas extraction, yet opportunities remain to conserve massive amounts of forest in indigenous territories, parks, and unprotected areas, finds a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


Indonesian law bars palm oil companies from protecting forests
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(10/21/2014) A law passed by the Indonesian government last month makes it even more difficult for palm oil companies to conserve tracts of wildlife-rich and carbon-dense forests within their concessions, potentially undermining these producers' commitments to phase deforestation out of their supply chains, warns a new report published by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group.


Brazil unlikely to sustain gains in reducing deforestation without new incentives for ranchers, says study
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(10/09/2014) Cattle ranchers that drive the vast majority of forest clearing in the Brazilian Amazon are unlikely to be held at bay indefinitely unless they are afforded new incentives for keeping trees standing, argues new analysis published by an economic research group. The findings suggest that Brazil's recent progress in reducing deforestation — annual forest loss in the region has dropped by roughly 80 percent since 2004 — could easily be reversed.


Despite high deforestation, Indonesia making progress on forests, says Norwegian official
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(10/02/2014) Despite having a deforestation rate that now outpaces that of the Brazilian Amazon, Indonesia is beginning to undertake critical reforms necessary to curb destruction of its carbon-dense rainforests and peatlands, says a top Norwegian official. Speaking with mongabay.com in Jakarta on Monday, Stig Traavik, Norway's ambassador to Indonesia, drew parallels between recent developments in Indonesia and initiatives launched in Brazil a decade ago, when deforestation was nearly five times higher than it is today.


Brazil confirms last year's rise in Amazon deforestation
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(09/12/2014) Brazil's National Space Agency INPE has officially confirmed last year's rise in Amazon deforestation.


FSC meeting weighs old-growth forest protection, smallholder participation
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(09/11/2014) The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a body that sets social and environmental certification criteria for forestry products, is weighing measures that could step up protection for old-growth forests and make it easier for indigenous people and traditional forest communities to qualify for certification. The measures are set for a vote this week at the body's General Assembly, which is held every three years to establish and revise criteria that underpin the standard.


A path to becoming a conservation scientist
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(09/05/2014) The path to finding a career often involves twists and turns. Serendipity is important — one rarely anticipates what small events, chance occurrences, and seeds of inspiration will spur decisions that lead to pursuing one job or another. For Zuzana Burivalova, a PhD candidate based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), the road to becoming a tropical forest ecologist began as a child in a small Czech Republic village with a foldout children's book about rainforests.


Invasive species worsen damage from Hawaii's storms
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(08/22/2014) Damage from Hurricane Iselle, which recently battered Hawaii's Big Island, was exacerbated by invasion of non-native tree species, say experts who have studied the transformation of Hawaii's native forests. selle, which made landfall on the Big Island on August 7, was the third-strongest tropical cyclone to hit Hawaii since 1950. It caused upwards of $50 million in damage.


Indonesia's forests so damaged they burn whether or not there's drought
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(08/21/2014) Air pollution caused by fires set for land-clearing on Sumatra has become a regularly occurrence in Southeast Asia. While these fires are often termed forest fires, the reality is much of the area that burns each year has already been deforested and today mostly consists of grass, scrub, and remnants of what was once forest. But the impacts are nonetheless very substantial, finds a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Indonesian govt reiterates plan to clear 14M ha of forest by 2020
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(08/16/2014) The Indonesian government is pressing forward with plans to clear 14 million hectares of forest between 2010 and 2020 despite a commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions.


Big palm oil companies move forward on carbon study
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(08/14/2014) Seven palm oil giants have agreed to fund a study that will define what constitutes "High Carbon Stock" (HCS) forest, a move that will potentially determine the fate of ecosystems around the world as more companies commit to "zero-deforestation" policies based on the amount of carbon stored in vegetation.


Jane Goodall: how many elephants will be killed on World Elephant Day?
mongabay.com
(08/12/2014) Marking World Elephant Day, a designation intended to raise awareness about the plight of elephants that are being widely poached for the ivory trade, primatologist Jane Goodall urged people to have greater compassion for Earth's largest land animals.


Ecologists are underestimating the impacts of rainforest logging
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(07/31/2014) Ecologists may be underestimating the impact of logging in old-growth tropical forests by failing to account for subtleties in how different animal groups respond to the intensity of timber extraction, argues a paper published today in the journal Current Biology. The study, led by Zuzana Burivalova of ETH Zurich, is based on a meta-analysis of 48 studies that evaluated the impact of selective logging on mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates in tropical forests.


The future of tropical biology research and conservation
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(07/30/2014) Last week, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) held its 51st annual meeting in Cairns, Australia. In addition to the normal symposia, plenaries, and poster sessions on a wide range of conservation topics, the convening produced a declaration calling for stronger protection of the Great Barrier Reef and two resolutions on expanding research funding in Papua New Guinea and >imploring Australia to restore its environmental leadership.


30% of Borneo's rainforests destroyed since 1973
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
(07/16/2014) More than 30 percent of Borneo's rainforests have been destroyed over the past forty years due to fires, industrial logging, and the spread of plantations, finds a new study that provides the most comprehensive analysis of the island's forest cover to date. The research, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, shows that just over a quarter of Borneo's lowland forests remain intact.





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