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The Nat Welcomes John O. Niles as Vice President of Science and Conservation

February 15, 2024

Expertise on climate resilience will bolster efforts to preserve biodiversity in our region

San DiegoAfter an international search, the San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) has appointed John O. Niles as its new Vice President of Science and Conservation. He steps into this role at the height of The Nat’s 150th anniversary—a historical moment for the Museum and its role in the region’s conservation. 

As a member of the executive team, Niles, who goes by Johno, will lead the Museum’s Science and Conservation departmentcomprised of 55 exceptionally talented staffdirectly impacting scientific activities in Southern California and the Baja California Peninsula. 

Johno’s background and expertise in conservation and climate change is a critical component of our work as we enter our 150th year and plan for the future of the Museum,” said Judy Gradwohlthe Christy Walton President and CEO 

San Diego-based Niles will integrate science and conservation across Museum activities, develop a strategic plan for its research goals, and oversee the department’s well-established contract services division that generates nearly $3 million annually. 

Niles has led corporate sustainability, climate change, and nature strategies at national and international organizations throughout his career. He most recently served as the Senior Manager for Natural Climate Solutions at Salesforcewhere he managed grants, contracts, reporting, and administration of the company’s global nature restoration and climate change programs.   

The San Diego Natural History Museuhas been doing the research that makes conservation possible for 150 years—studying threatened species, documenting how our natural world is changing, and drawing focus to diverse areas needing protection. Niles’ experience in international conservation work, climate resilience, and non-profit management will help The Nat take a more proactive role in applying its biodiversity research to today’s most pressing issues. 

His coalition and partnership building skills will translate well to The Nat’s binational mission region and will enhance its ability to serve as a convener and “hub” around regional conservation issues.  

It is a huge honor to join The Nat and its amazing staff during this historical anniversary,” Niles said. “Science-led and community-grounded partnerships can make the region a model for sustainable and equitable conservation. The Nat is perfectly poised to help lead that vital work. 

Niles earned his B.S. in Natural Resource Economics from the University of Vermont and his M.S. in Biological Sciences from Stanford UniversityA lifelong natural history museum enthusiast, Niles grew up in Vermont, spent three years in Africa with endangered primates, and now lives with his family in Mission Hills. 

The VP of Science and Conservation position was previously held for 13 years by Dr. Michael Wall, who left the Museum in 2022 to serve as the Executive Director for the Balsam Mountain Trust in North Carolina. The Nat's Curator of Botany Dr. Jon Rebman served as interim VP throughout 2023 

Niles’ appointment continues The Nat’s mission to lead with our science and be a voice for nature in our region. 

About the San Diego Natural History Museum  

The San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat) is one of California’s oldest and most respected cultural and scientific institutions. Founded in 1874 by a small group of citizen scientists, the Museum works to preserve and protect this amazing place we call home. The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park. For more information, call 877.946.7797 or visit Follow The Nat on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on Facebook. 


Press Kit

Media Info

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: 

Paula Sternberg Rodríguez, Science Communications, 619.255.0220 

Toni Robin, TR/PR Public Relations, tr@trprsandiego.com858.483.3918