Smithsonian Journeys Experts

Nina Zitani

photo of Nina Zitani

Dr. Nina Zitani bonded with nature as a young child growing up in a small historic New Jersey town with giant trees and lots of bugs.  During her first field season as an entomology graduate student she fell in love with tropical forests and their myriad creatures at the Área de Conservación Guanacaste in Costa Rica. After working throughout Costa Rica for nearly a decade, she began teaching a field course in the upper Amazon basin of Ecuador.  She holds a Master of Science and Doctorate in systematic entomology from the University of Wyoming.  Her published research includes discovering 15 new insect species of Costa Rica.  Other scientists have named six new insect species in her honor.  Currently she resides in London, Ontario where she is an advocate for the conservation of biodiversity both locally and globally.  In 2011 she launched a popular website about biodiversity gardening, or gardening to restore biodiversity using 100% native plants.  Monarch butterflies, Giant Swallowtails, and pollinators of all shapes and sizes frequent her family’s garden each year.  She has been teaching people of all ages for nearly 25 years, and is a part-time Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario.  “Dr. Z”, as she is known to her students, relishes any opportunity to show scientists and non-scientists alike the astonishing biodiversity – plants, fungi and animals of all sorts – found in Neotropical forests.  

What Our Travelers Say

What a find for Smithsonian. Nina is so very informed and absolutely loves to share her expertise. Great teacher and person.

- Gail B.

Dr. Zitani gave excellent presentations that enhanced our experience on the Amazon River. Her knowledge of entomology and her emphasis on the importance of conserving biodiversity were fascinating. All of her previous experience in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru makes her the perfect companion and expert for this trip.

- Cate F.

Nina’s knowledge of the animals, plants and the the native people was impressive to say the least.  Her lectures were very interesting and presented in an understandable and organized manner.  Thank You Smithsonian for having Dr. Nina Zitani on your staff!

- Betty O.

Upcoming Tours

Amazon River Cruise

9-10 days | Starting at: $5,295
Dec 21, 2018 - Dec 30, 2018

Aboard the Exclusively Chartered Riverboat Zafiro
Tour Details ››

Machu Picchu and the Galápagos

16 days | Starting at: $8,593
Mar 2, 2019 - Mar 17, 2019
Tour Details ››