Mark Plotkin was born and raised in New Orleans and educated at Harvard, Yale and Tufts. In 1995, Plotkin and prominent Costa Rican conservationist Liliana Madrigal formed the Amazon Conservation Team to protect the rainforest in partnership with local indigenous peoples. ACT has now worked with 32 tribes throughout Amazonia. Plotkin received the San Diego Zoo Gold Medal for Conservation (1993) and the Roy Chapman Andrews Distinguished Explorer Award (2004). Time magazine called him an "Environmental Hero for the Planet" (2001) and Smithsonian magazine hailed him as one of "35 Who Made a Difference" (2005), along with other notables like Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, and fellow New Orleanian Wynton Marsalis. In March 2008, Plotkin and Madrigal won the Skoll Award. In May 2010, Mark Plotkin received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. In 2013, he published articles in Harvard magazine, Forbes, and the Huffington Post.