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Leenders to head Roger Tory Peterson Institute

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History's board of trustees has named Anton Leenders its fifth president and chief executive officer.

The Jamestown institute provides nature education programs and preserves the lifetime work of Roger Tory Peterson, an American naturalist who illustrated the natural world.

Leenders, known as "Twan" to his family and friends, will begin at the institute July 30, said Mark Baldwin, interim executive director of the institute.

Leenders and his family are currently looking to move to Chautauqua County.

"That's the main reason he's not hitting the ground running now," Baldwin said.

Leenders is replacing James Berry, who retired in April after serving as the head of the institute since 1996.

Baldwin said it was important that the institute hire someone who wasn't just an administrator, but also had a passion for the natural world. Leenders has both, Baldwin said.

"What Twan brings first is a passion for environmental education," he said. "He has an understanding of how the natural world works firsthand."

Leenders, who currently resides in Connecticut and is a native of the Netherlands, has been involved with research and collection management of the vertebrate zoology collections at Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History.

He was previously an assistant professor of biology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Most recently, he was a conservation biologist for the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Leenders was educated in the Netherlands and earned his Ph.D. in biology at Radbound University Nijmegen in 1988.

Before moving to Connecticut in 2000, he lived and worked in various countries in Central America, where he performed biodiversity studies for conservation organizations and universities.

Although he has mostly focused on the conservation of birds and their habitats in Connecticut over the past four years, his previous work dealt with the study of amphibians and reptiles in Central America.

Leenders, an artist and photographer, maintains a database of more than 230 original illustrations and 150,000 photographs.

His works are used at the Royal Ontario Museum, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the California Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian's "BioMuseo" in Panama City.