Widely regarded as one of the world's foremost Tiger experts, Ron Tilson's interest in nature developed at a young age while camping, fishing and hunting in the mountains of southeastern Montana. Ron earned Bachelors and Masters degrees in Entomology from the University of California at Davis, and after conducting three years of fieldwork in the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, he earned his Ph.D. in ecology. He later held a four-year post-doctorate position in conservation biology at the Desert Ecological Research Institute in Namibia. Along the way he served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia.

For the past 20 years he has held various positions at the Minnesota Zoo in research, animal management, administration, and now as Vice President of Conservation, where he is responsible for the zoo's endangered species programs. He also holds the adjunct faculty positions of professor in fisheries and wildlife conservation and associate professor in conservation biology, both at the University of Minnesota. In support of these activities he has lived eight years under field conditions, primarily in Indonesia, but also in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and China. He has also spent time in Belize, Central America; and Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Morocco.

He has written or co-authored over 200 popular scientific articles, and given over 180 lectures or talks to a cross-section of academia and the general public.

Presently, in support of tiger conservation, Ron:

  • directs the Sumatran Tiger Project - a field study of wild tigers; rapid assessment of habitat and prey; tiger-human conflict; anti-poaching patrols and undercover investigation of trafficking in tigers since June 1995.

  • is senior technical advisor to the South China Tiger Project - a field census of wild South China tigers by the Chinese State Forestry Administration.

  • directs the Tiger Information Center - a World Wide Web site (http://www.5tigers.org) with comprehensive coverage on all issues concerning tigers since September 1995.

  • coordinates the Tiger Global Conservation Strategy (GCS), a program of the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (IUCN) that helps organize regional tiger programs around the world, and is a long-standing member of the IUCN's Cat Specialist Group.

  • coordinates the Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program of the American Zoo and Aquariums Association (AZA) that manages three subspecies of tigers in North American zoos.
  • For work in tiger conservation, the AZA (American Zoological Association) awarded Ron and his colleagues the Significant Achievement Award in conservation in 1993, the Edward Bean Award in 1994, and the Conservation Award in 1995.