Rakan Zahawi

Executive Director and CEO

Dr. Rakan A. “(Zak”) Zahawi joined CDF as its Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer in March 2021. With an affinity for oceanic archipelagos, Rakan comes to CDF from the Lyon Arboretum, a research unit of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Prior to that, Zak was Director of Las Cruces Biological Station & Wilson Botanical Garden for 10 years, one of the largest and busiest in Costa Rica. He advanced the mission of the Las Cruces Biological Station by improving facilities, revitalizing collections, increasing staffing, and enhancing outreach with the local community. Zak is a tropical restoration ecologist who has worked in many areas of Latin America, including fieldwork for his master’s in northwestern Ecuador. He is committed to putting research into practice to promote conservation. He holds a B.S. in Botany from the University of Texas at Austin and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also an Associate Researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Adjunct Faculty at Duke University, North Carolina.