Sharon Guynup (she/her)

NYU Alumni Changemaker of the Year
(GSAS ’99)

Changemaker Sharon Guynup

Science and Environmental Journalist, Producer, and Speaker

Investigative journalist, photographer, and explorer; devoted to wildlife conservation and nature's stories—illuminating critical environmental issues and catalyzing change.

Although Sharon Guynup has written since she was a child, her career as an investigative journalist wasn’t entirely deliberate. Her first book, Tigers Forever, co-authored with National Geographic photographer Steve Winter, won critical praise. But it also caught the attention of an Australian conservationist with evidence that the Buddhist Thai Tiger Temple was illegally trafficking tigers into a black-market trade fueled by poaching. Guynup learned on the job, immersing herself in a year-long undercover probe, documenting the temple/tourist-attraction’s illegal activities.

Her exposé sparked international outrage. Officials confiscated 178 tigers and shut down the entire trafficking operation. Guynup was hooked. Her next major investigative piece—a 30-page National Geographic article detailing the plight of captive tigers in the US—exposed criminal activity and animal abuse. It was distributed to every member of Congress, catalyzing the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which forbids private big-cat ownership, eliminating rampant breeding and the dumping of cats when they grow big and dangerous.

Today, Guynup is a revered speaker and high-profile reporter on environmental abuses. She serves as a policy fellow at the Wilson Center and is a National Geographic Explorer. Her writing has illuminated global species-trafficking, along with climate change, pollution, and other threats to biodiversity.  And she recently co-founded Big Cat Voices, a film, photography, and storytelling nonprofit focusing on protecting the world’s big cats and the lands they inhabit. “I’ve spent so much of my career exposing threats to wildlife,” Guynup says. “Now I want to report on solutions.”