Rhett Ayers Butler Bio

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

Today Rhett serves as editor-in-chief and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit media organization with more than 90 staff across five bureaus and a network of around 1,000 correspondents in 80 countries who pursue stories ranging from conventional news articles to deeply-reported investigative projects.

Rhett in California in 2023. Photo by Topher White.

Beyond Mongabay, Rhett founded 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 was also co-founder of Tropical Conservation Science (acquired by SAGE Publications in August 2016), an open-access academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research, and the Tropical Forest Network (BATFN), a social network in the San Francisco Bay Area broadly interested in tropical forest conservation and ecology. BATFN ran from 2009-2019.

Outside of these pursuits, Rhett has advised a wide range of organizations, including governments, multilateral development agencies, media outlets, academic institutions, foundations, and private sector entities. He has been a source for a large number of media outlets and agencies.

Rhett in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

Rhett’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.

Rhett regularly speaks at events and universities around the world on topics ranging from non-profit journalism to tropical forests to trends in conservation.

Rhett has been profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Voice of America and The Almanac, among other publications.

In 2014, Rhett became the first journalist to win the Parker/Gentry Award, a conservation prize given annually by the Field Museum in Chicago. Rhett was honored with the Pongo Environmental Award in 2020, the SEAL Environmental Journalism Award in 2021, and the Heinz Award in 2022.

Awards and Accolades: Katerva Award for Global Innovation – Finalist (2013), Parker/Gentry Award for Conservation (2014), Pongo Environmental Award (2020), Wall of Heroes from the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) (2020), the 2020 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award (2021), and the 27th annual Heinz Award (2022)

Highlighted non-Mongabay publications: