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Kolby, Jonathan E. view

Applied Research Ecologist/Project Manager (Human Dimensions of Conservation)


Geographic Focus

Background And Education

Education And Training

  • Ph.D. in Wildlife Disease/Biosecurity, James Cook University , College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, Pathways of amphibian chytrid fungus dispersal: global biosecurity and conservation implications. 2011 - 2016
  • B.S. in Biological Sciences, Rutgers University , School and human dimensions. of Environmental and Biological Sciences (Cook College) 1999 - 2003

Public Biography

  • Dr. Kolby works at the intersection of science and policy to facilitate effective applied conservation outcomes. He views conservation through a transdisciplinary lens and is particularly interested in the multifaceted relationships between people and the environment in the context of international wildlife trade, health, and sustainability.  He holds a Ph.D. from James Cook University where he studied biosecurity and the international spread of wildlife pathogens, using amphibian chytrid fungus and global amphibian declines as a case study. He earned his B.S. in biological science from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

    Dr. Kolby has invested considerable effort to help strengthen conservation law and policy, both within the United States and internationally, through his many roles with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).  He possesses 10 years of specialized experience regulating international wildlife trade and enjoys helping to facilitate the flow of scientific information between data collectors and decision-makers to enable the development of more effective science-based regulations. He first worked as a USFWS Wildlife Inspector based at the Port of Newark, NJ, where he performed thousands of inspections of wildlife shipments to investigate compliance with applicable US laws and treaties, and later served at USFWS Headquarters as a CITES Policy Specialist for the Wildlife Trade & Conservation Branch of International Affairs. Dr. Kolby’s strong ability to draw from his experiences as a biological field scientist, law enforcement officer, and international policy negotiator have guided his career path into the human dimensions of conservation.

    At the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Dr. Kolby is a Research Ecologist and Project Manager of a Congressionally directed effort to assess the zoonotic disease risk of wildlife entering the United States through international trade.  This project requires a strong understanding of the dynamics of wildlife trade arriving in the country, which draws upon data maintained by USFWS in a trade database called the Law Enforcement Management Information System (LEMIS).  Interpretation and communication of LEMIS data are one of Dr. Kolby’s greatest strengths and interests, and through this project he is leading an effort to improve the scientific integrity of these millions of data points which are frequently used in making conservation policy decisions, both in the US and globally.  He is also working to developing curricula to provide training about the international wildlife trade, data interpretation and application to policy, and improved science communication.

    Much of Dr. Kolby’s work involves a core component of capacity building and mentorship and he is strongly committed to training the next generation of conservation practitioners.  Although he considers his own career path to have been a winding path through the woods, he always welcomes contact from students seeking career advice and/or potential research project inspiration. 

    Outside of his professional duties, Dr. Kolby is also a herpetologist studying global amphibian declines caused by emerging infectious pathogens (amphibian chytrid fungus and ranavirus). He has designed and conducted pathogen surveillance expeditions around the world, from Honduras to Madagascar to Hong Kong. He is also a National Geographic Explorer and rediscovered a frog in the cloud forest of Honduras that was previously declared to be extinct.

    When not at work, Dr. Kolby is often planting plants and out looking for toads on his tiny homestead farm in Luray, Virginia.

Research And Grants

Co-principal Investigator On

Has Expertise In Technique


  • Human Dimensions of Conservation, International Wildlife Trade, Applied Ecology, One Health, Transdisciplinary Science, Conservation Policy, CITES


Selected Publications