Katie Zacarian

Katie Zacarian

Cofounder · CEO

Katie Zacarian is a conservationist, human rights advocate, underwater photographer, and devoted surfer who also happens to be a leader in artificial intelligence research as the co-founder and CEO of Earth Species Project (ESP). ESP is a 501c3 nonprofit developing novel machine learning research that can advance our understanding of animal communication for a more empathetic, individualized, and effective approach to protecting the natural world. 

To date, ESP’s work has been published in Science, International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing, and Scientific Reports, as well as featured in The Guardian, WIRED, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and NPR, among others. Katie has co-authored two of ESP’s publications and authored one thus far. Her work can be found through her ORCID ID

Katie is no stranger to leading the tech world to new horizons. After graduating with honors in African and African American studies from Harvard University, Katie became an early Facebook team member as the first female advertising executive of its New York office and launched some of its most foundational features. Katie spent the next several years innovating technological solutions for those on the frontlines of conservation including biologists, park rangers, and wildlife veterinarians. In 2019 the International Seakeepers Society honored her with the Next Generation Conservationist Award for her work in conservation technology and public education. 

Despite Katie’s exciting, unfolding career in AI research, her happy place remains in the water: surfing, photographing, and communing with ocean wildlife. She has continued her role as producer and executive producer for SheChange, a documentary following female big wave surfers fighting for equality in the sport, throughout her time with ESP. This has allowed her to spend a lot more time in the ocean, truly living ESP’s mission to understand and listen to the natural world. Katie’s personal philosophy was captured in this photo where she is pictured with a baby sperm whale named Hope—different sizes, different habitats, different ways of communicating—but eye to eye and swimming alongside one another.