Vice President, Conservation and Research
Dr. Charles Knapp oversees Shedd's on-site and global conservation research programs—including those of postdoctoral researchers studying aquatic issues in Guyana, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Great Lakes—with the ultimate goal of saving wild animals and imperiled ecosystems. Dr. Knapp’s programs are closely aligned with Shedd’s mission, demonstrating the aquarium’s commitment to the living world, increasing Shedd’s relevance and inspiring the public to become environmental stewards who protect aquatic life for future generations.
Dr. Knapp has two decades of experience working in the United States and other countries to advance conservation initiatives. Using iguanas as model organisms, his research focuses primarily on understanding the effects of anthropogenic disturbance on endangered taxa and designing conservation strategies to prevent further population declines and habitat degradation. His work with students, citizens, government officials and scientists led to the expansion of West Side National Park in the Bahamas, a considerable achievement in the region. With the expansion of Shedd’s research program, Dr. Knapp has been studying the range expansion of nonindigenous fishes in the Chicago region as well as assessing aquatic biodiversity in Guyana, South America.
Dr. Knapp began working at Shedd as an 18-year-old volunteer and was hired as the first tide pool aquarist in the Abbott Oceanarium four years later. He later worked as an aquarist in Shedd’s original galleries, where he not only garnered extensive experience working with Caribbean and freshwater fish species under ex-situ conditions but also developed a lifelong passion for West Indian rock iguanas.
Dr. Knapp has more than 20 peer-reviewed journal publications and book chapters along with over 40 technical and general publications. He is co-chair of the IUCN Iguana Specialist Group, assessor of two species for the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, sits on the board of directors for the International Iguana Foundation and is a science advisor to the Bahamas National Trust. Dr. Knapp also teaches marine and island ecology of the Bahamas to college students enrolled in a Shedd-based program with the Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area (ACCA). Additionally, he has lectured at the University of Florida on topics such as research techniques, tropical wildlife and conservation biology.
Dr. Knapp received his Ph.D. and M.S. in wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida and was a conservation research postdoctoral fellow with the Institute for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo. He lives in Chicago with his family.