M. Sanjayan is a conservation scientist and chief executive officer of Conservation International, an organization working primarily in the Global South to secure nature for humanity.

Sanjayan joined Conservation International in 2014 as Executive Vice President; he was named Chief Executive Officer in 2017. Since his arrival, he has led two landmark capital campaigns totaling $2.7 billion; the development of critical scientific tools, including the irrecoverable carbon atlas; public-private coalition-building for massive forest restoration efforts across the globe; and the launch of a pioneering blue carbon project in Colombia, as well as the multilateral Blue Nature Alliance, which aims to protect 18 million sq. km of ocean over five years. Previously, Sanjayan served as lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy.

Born in Sri Lanka and raised in West Africa, Sanjayan brings a unique perspective to his work, which has attracted media coverage from The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and Outside Magazine. He has testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and appeared on The Today Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS This Morning, and Fareed Zakaria GPS. He has also hosted more than a dozen award-winning documentaries from PBS, BBC, National Geographic, Discovery, Showtime, and Vox Media. His latest series, Changing Planet, debuted on PBS in 2022. This unprecedented reporting effort shines a light on how climate change is affecting six of Earth’s bellwether biomes — and how Indigenous and local communities are meeting these challenges with inspiring ingenuity; a new
episode will air every Earth Day for the next seven years.

Sanjayan holds a master’s degree from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in conservation biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His peer-reviewed scientific work has appeared in Science, Nature, and Conservation Biology. He has been a visiting researcher at UCLA, distinguished professor of practice at Arizona State University, and a fellow at the Aspen Institute.

Sanjayan lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and daughter. He enjoys spending time fly fishing in Montana, or birding, cycling and diving around the world.