Wonderful Women Wednesday: Dr. Brandie Smith

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series titled Wonderful Women Wednesday.

See our first Wonderful Women Wednesday post about Dr. Brandie Smith in 2018.

Dr. Brandie Smith has been the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute since November 2021. She had served as acting director of the Zoo since May 2021. As director, Smith manages the Zoo’s facilities in Washington, D.C. and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) campus in Front Royal, Virginia.

To the role, Smith brings not only her expertise in animal conservation and reproductive biology, but also a deep knowledge of the Zoo and its staff. She first joined the organization in 2008 as senior curator of mammals. Smith was directly in charge of the giant pandas, and therefore was no stranger to speaking to the press on behalf of the Zoo. During her tenure, the Smithsonian community has celebrated the births of three surviving giant panda cubs—Bao Bao in 2013, Bei Bei in 2015, and Xiao Qi Ji in 2020. Among her many accomplishments as curator, she oversaw the opening of Elephant Trails, a major new outdoor habitat for Asian elephants. In 2016, she was promoted to Associate Director of Animal Care and charged with managing the Zoo’s entire animal collection. 

Before her time with the Smithsonian, Smith was the vice president of animal conservation at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums from 2004 to 2008. She coordinated the cooperative conservation and scientific activities of more than 200 member institutions and nearly 1,000 animal programs. 

Smith earned a Ph.D. in behavior, ecology, evolution and systematics from the University of Maryland, master’s degree in zoology from Clemson University, and bachelor’s degree in biology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Smith stands in front of bushes and leans against a ledge.

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