Eleanor J. Sterling

Past Director and Chief Conservation Scientist 1999-2022



  • Yale University, Ph.D., 1993
  • Yale University, M.A., 1989
  • Yale University, B.A., 1983

Research Interests

Dr. Eleanor Sterling has interdisciplinary training in biological and social sciences and has over 30 years of field research and community outreach experience with direct application to biodiversity conservation in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. Her work currently focuses on the intersection between biodiversity, culture, and languages; the factors influencing ecological and social resilience; and the development of indicators of wellbeing in biocultural landscapes. She is a world authority on the aye-aye, a nocturnal lemur endemic to Madagascar and collaborates on an initiative integrating biology and econometrics across multiple scales for sustainable wildlife trade in Vietnam. Dr. Sterling spearheaded the establishment of the CBC's Network of Conservation Educators (NCEP), an international group that develops sound biodiversity conservation practice by improving conservation training at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. She has curated five exhibits at AMNH and is most recently the co-curator of the Museum's exhibit on the global food system: Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture. She is currently Deputy Vice Chair for the International Union for Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas Core Capacity Development group where she co-leads working groups on Capacity Development Evaluation and on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. She co-founded the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Society for Conservation Biology and the Women in Natural Sciences New York chapter of the Association for Women in Science.


Center for Biodiversity and Conservation

Richard Gilder Graduate School

Water: H2O=Life


In Press

  • Betley, E., A. Sigouin, E.J. Sterling, F. Arengo, N. Gazit, and A.L. Porzecanski. (In revision) Evidence-Based Guidance: Stakeholder Engagement for Biodiversity Conservation Goals. United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington, D.C.
  • Wynn-Grant, R., C. Lackey, J. Ginsberg, E.J. Sterling, and J. Beckmann. (In Revision) Risky Business: modeling mortality risk near the urban-wildland interface for a large carnivore. Global Ecology and Conservation.


  • Kodis, M., P. Galante, E.J. Sterling, and M. Blair. 2018. Ecological niche modeling for a cultivated plant species: A case study on taro (Colocasia esculenta) in Hawai‘i.  Ecological Applications. 0(0), 2018, pp. 1-11.
  • Thach, H.M., M.D. Le, N.B. Vu, A. Panariello, G. Sethi, E.J. Sterling, and M.E. Blair. 2018. Slow loris trade in Vietnam: Exploring diverse knowledge and values. Folia Primatologica 2018; 89(1):45-62.     https://doi.org/10.1159/000481196
  • McCarter, J., E.J. Sterling, S. Jupiter, G. Cullman, S. Albert, M. Basi, E. Betley, D. Boseto, E.S. Bulehite, R. Haroni, P. Holland, N. Horning, A. Hughes, N. Jino, C. Malone, S. Mauli, B. Pae, R. Papae, F. Rence, O. Revo, E. Taqala, M. Taqu, H. Woltz, and C. Filardi. L. Gunderson and C. Folke, Eds. 2018.  Biocultural approaches to developing well-being indicators in Solomon Islands. Ecology and Society. 23(1):32. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09867-230132
  • Gray, S., A. Voinov, M. Paolisso, R. Jordan, T. BenDor, P. Bommel, P. Glynn, B. Hedelin, K. Hubacek, J. Introne, N. Kolagani, B. Laursen, C. Prell, L. Schmitt-Olabisi, A. Singer, E.JSterling, and M. Zellner. 2017/2018. Purpose, Processes, Partnerships, and Products: 4Ps to advance Participatory Socio-Environmental Modeling. Ecological Applications.  January 2018 8(1): 46-61. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1627 
  • Arengo, F., A.L. Porzecanski, M. Blair, G. Amato, C. Filardi, and E.J. Sterling. 2018. "The essential role of museums in wildlife conservation.” Pp 82-100. In Eric Dorfman ed., The Future of Natural History Museums (ICOM Advances in Museum Research), 1st Edition. Routledge, New York and London.  
  • Caillon, S., G. Cullman, B. Verschuuren, and E.J. Sterling. 2017. Moving beyond the human-nature dichotomy through biocultural approaches: including ecological well-being in resilience indicators. Ecology and Society 22 (4):27. 
  • Sterling, E.J., C. Filardi, A. Toomey, A. Sigouin, E. Betley, N. Gazit, J. Newell, S. Albert, D. Alvira,  N. Bergamini,  M.E. Blair, D. Boseto, K. Burrows, N. Bynum, S. Caillon, J.E. Caselle, J. Claudet, G. Cullman, R. Dacks, P.B. Eyzaguirre, S. Gray, J. Herrera, P. Kenilorea, K. Kinney,  N. Kurashima, S. Macey, C. Malone, S. Mauli, J. McCarter, H. McMillen, P. Pascua, P. Pikacha, A.L. Porzecanski, P. de Robert, M. Salpeteur, M. Sirikolo, M.H. Stege, K. Stege, T. Ticktin, R. Vave, A. Wali, P. West, K.B. Winter, and S.D. Jupiter. 2017. Biocultural approaches to well-being and sustainability indicators across scales. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0349-6
  • Blair, M., M.D. Le, H.M. Thach, A. Panariello, N.B. Vu, M. Birchette, G. Sethi, and E.J. Sterling. 2017. Applying systems thinking to inform studies of wildlife trade in primates. American Journal of Primatology. 79(11): e22715. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22715 
  • Blair, M., M.D. Le, G. Sethi, H.M. Thach, V.T.H. Nguyen, G. Amato, M. Birchette and E.J. Sterling. 2017. The importance of an interdisciplinary research approach to inform wildlife trade management in Southeast Asia. BioScience 67(11): 995-1003. 1 November 2017.  https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix113
  • Sterling, E.J., T. Ticktin, K. Morgan, G. Cullman, D. Alvira, P. Andrade, N. Bergamini, E. Betley, K. Burrows, S. Caillon, J. Claudet, R. Dacks, P. Eyzaguirre, C. Filardi, N. Gazit, C. Giardina, S. Jupiter, K. Kinney, J. McCarter, M. Mejia, K. Morishige, J. Newell, L. Noori, J. Parks, P. Pascua, A. Ravikumar, J. Tanguay, A. Sigouin, T. Stege, M. Stege, and A. Wali. 2017. Culturally Grounded Indicators of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. Environment and Society: Advances in Research. Special issue on Measurement and Metrics. 8(1): 63-95.   
  • Keeler, B.L., R. Chaplin-Kramer, A.D. Gerry, P. F. E. Addison, C. Bettigolo, I.C. Burke, L. Chambliss, C. Darimont, B. Gentry, D.R. Gordon, J.J. Hellmann, P. Kareiva, S. Monfort, L. Olander, H.P. Possingham, T. Profeta, C. Schlotterback, E.J. Sterling, T. Ticktin, A.J. Travis, B. Vira, and C. Young. 2017. Society is ready for a new kind of science — is academia?  BioScience May 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix051
  • Sterling, E.J., E. Betley, A. Sigouin, A. Gomez, A. Toomey, G. Cullman, C. Malone, A. Pekor, F. Arengo, M. Blair, C. Filardi, K. Landrigan, and A.L. Porzecanski. 2017. Assessing the evidence for stakeholder engagement in biodiversity conservation. Biological Conservation. May 2017. Vol. 209: 159-171.    DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.02.008
  • Betley, E. and E. Sterling. 2016. Exhibiting the Food System at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Food and Museums. Edited by N. Levent and I. Mihalache. London: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 149-158.
  • Sterling, E.J. and E. Betley. 2016. Food and Water Exhibitions: a Lens on Climate Change. Curating the Future: Museums, Communities, and Climate Change, Part II: Vibrant Matter. Edited by J. Newell, L. Robin, and K. Wehner.  Routledge Environmental Humanities, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. Chapter 13, pp 105-114. 
  • Sterling, E.J., A. Bravo, A., A.L. Porzecanski, R. Burks, J. Linder, T.A. Langen, D.S. Fernandez, D. Ruby, and N. Bynum. 2016. Think before (and after) you speak: Practice and self-reflection build student confidence and bolster performance in oral communication skills in ecology and conservation biology classes. Journal of College Science Teaching. July 2016. 45(6): 87-99.
  • Bravo, A., A.L. Porzecanski, E.J. Sterling, N. Bynum, M. Cawthorn, D. Fernandez, L. Freeman, S. Ketcham, T. Leslie, J. Mull, and D. Vogler.  2016. Teaching for higher levels of thinking: developing quantitative and analytical skills in environmental science courses. Ecosphere, April 2016: 7(4): 1-20 Article e01290 DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1290.
  • Valencia, V., S. Naeem, L. Garcia-Barrios, P. West, and E.J. Sterling. 2016. Conservation of tree species of late succession and conservation concern in coffee agroforestry systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 219: 32-41. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2015.12.004

Teaching Experience


Faculty Appointments

  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University
  • Affiliated Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History 
  • Adjunct Faculty,  The Graduate School and University Center, Department of Biology, City University of New York 

Courses Taught

  • 2011-2016  Food, Ecology, and Globalization, Graduate Level, Columbia University
  • 2009, 2012  Cultural and Biological Diversity, Graduate Level, Columbia University
  • 2011  Conservation Biology, Undergraduate Level, Princeton University
  • 1999-2010, 2013  Conservation Biology Seminar, Graduate Level, Columbia University
  • 2002-2009  Topics in Conservation Biology, Graduate Level, Columbia University
  • 2009   Cultural and Biological Diversity, Graduate Level, Columbia University
  • 2010-present  GIS Methods and Applications, Graduate Level, Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History
  • 2007  Teaching Conservation Biology, Graduate Level, Columbia University

Graduate Advisees

  • Christian Rivera M.A., Columbia University 

Graduate Committees

  • Jennifer Tinsman Ph.D.,  Columbia University, AMNH
  • Maressa Takahashi Ph.D., Columbia University