Chelsea grew up in sunny San Diego. She often spent her time chasing lizards and snakes in the back yard or snorkeling in the local kelp forest. From a young age she was introduced to hunting and fishing, hobbies she still has today. In 2009 she graduated from University of California Davis with a degree in Animal Science, she had spent four years learning and helping with ranching and agricultural development. With a promising career as a vet ahead of her, Chelsea switched gears towards conservation. Her parents had often taken her to the local zoo as a kid and wildlife documentaries were always on the television growing up. This passion for wildlife and conservation never left her and she saw a unique opportunity to use all her skills and knowledge to make a difference. After graduating from college she went looking for opportunities to work with a wildlife organization that had the same values that she did. A place that saw that all interest; ranching, hunting and conservation, could live together and even benefit from one another. In 2009 she became an intern for the California Wolf Center, an organization that prides itself on coexistence. She left for a short time to work at a large cat rescue before returning to the wolf center in 2010 and has worked with them as Animal Curator ever since.
Mark Gibson – Michigan State University
Mark is a dual citizen of the United States and Ireland interested in the science and practice of marine conservation, particularly with regards to fisher compliance with management rules. His current work focuses on understanding the diversity of motivations that lead to fisher noncompliance, developing a better terminology to talk about illegal fishing, and piloting the use of fisher surveys to improve compliance with fishery and protected area management. Mark conducts his work as a PhD student with the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University and closely aligns his work with the school’s Conservation Criminology initiative. He received his master’s degree in international economics and environmental policy from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 2010 and his bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Prior to his research at MSU, Mark worked with the World Wildlife Fund to promote rights-based management for fisheries in Latin America and the Pew Charitable Trusts to advocate for progressive reforms of the European Union’s deep-sea fisheries management regime. Mark’s interest in conservation criminology results from his passion for the ocean and his long- standing fascination with why people “break the rules”.
Jill Gottesman – The Wilderness Society
Jill has made her home among the deep forests and clear creeks of the Nantahala Mountains of western North Carolina. She is the Southern Appalachian Conservation Specialist for The Wilderness Society’s southeastern regional office, where she advocates for greater protection of crucial public wildlands and organizes stakeholder collaboration for the current land management revision process for the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. Jill received her Bachelor degree in Recreation and Resource Management from the University of Georgia, but regards her years working and studying in the outdoors from California to Maine as the most valuable experience of all. She received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, concentrating on macro and community level engagement. She brings the skills of a diverse work history in nonprofit management, environmental education, wilderness therapy and social work to her role in public lands advocacy. She believes that these elements are key to forging solutions to our complex environmental challenges as humans become more disconnected from the natural world.
Megan Haidet – Seeds of Success
Megan is passionate about translating conservation science into action for land managers and policy makers. She is the National Collection Curator for Seeds of Success (SOS), a native seed collection partnership led by the Bureau of Land Management. She supports native seed collection teams, manages and analyzes collections data, provides guidance regarding the SOS Technical Protocol and works with Bureau of Land Management botanists to prioritize collections. She teaches seed collection training courses each spring and is the content developer for the SOS website and outreach materials. Megan has represented Seeds of Success at multiple national and international conferences and is committed to working on conservation partnerships that elevate the status of plants, especially those native species that fill key roles for wildlife, humans and ecological communities. Prior to joining SOS, Megan worked for The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, Center for Plant Conservation and with the Elders’ Circle of the Plant Conservation Alliance Medicinal Plant Working Group. One of her most formative experiences was an apprenticeship with the United Plant Savers at their botanical sanctuary in southeastern Ohio, her home state.
CT Harry – International Fund for Animal Welfare
CT is the Assistant Stranding Coordinator for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program and is based at their international headquarters on Cape Cod, MA. CT helps lead a team of highly skilled field biologists in response and rescue efforts for stranded dolphins, seals, and whales. His primary interests are in the health, physiology, ecology, and conservation of marine mammals and how they are affected by a constantly changing marine ecosystem. With over a decade of field experience working with marine mammals, his skills include clinical health assessment, satellite tagging and post-release tracking, disentanglement from marine debris and fishing gear, and diagnostic necropsies. He was also part of an international response team deployed to Madagascar to investigate an unusual mortality event caused by acoustic disturbances from oil and gas exploration, which resulted in a high number of stranded dolphins. Previously he worked on sea turtle mortality research as well as marine mammal stranding response for the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.
Claire Hood – World Wildlife Fund
Claire grew up in Montana and spent much of her life in the West where she fell in love with its beautiful, wide-open landscapes. Currently, she is a Wyss Fellow and Program Associate with the World Wildlife Fund Northern Great Plains program based in Bozeman, Montana. With the goal of conserving one of the last intact grasslands in the world, her work focuses on preventing wildlife impacts and habitat fragmentation from energy development through smart landscape-scale planning. In 2014, Claire graduated from the University of Maryland with a M.S. in Conservation Biology and a M.P.P. in Environmental Policy. Her graduate research focused on hydrocarbon development on the National Wildlife Refuge System and its impacts on water resources. Prior to finishing grad school, Claire worked for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and multiple conservation nonprofits. She also has a variety of conservation skills, including experience in fieldwork, environmental education, and communications. Her interest in public policy and love of the outdoors has driven her to a career in public lands management. Claire hopes to continue working in the West to conserve some of our country’s cherished landscapes.
Bentley Johnson – National Wildlife Federation
Bentley is passionate about the preserving the outdoor experience in order to provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds to connect to nature and wildlife. He developed this excitement for outdoor recreation early in life, through yearly vacations to the American West to visit extended family and backpacking trips during his days as a Boy Scout. Bentley is the Manager of Federal Advocacy for Public Lands at National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C., coordinating a variety of efforts at the national level to advance conservation of natural resources and wildlife throughout the West and across the country. Bentley represents NWF on legislative and administrative policy issues ranging from the creation of new land protections such as wilderness areas as well as conflicts around wildlife management and resource extraction on public lands. Prior to NWF, he worked for The Wilderness Society on budget and appropriations issues. Bentley is a huge Michigan Wolverine fan, having grown up in Ann Arbor, MI and earning an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Program in the Environment from the University of Michigan.
Taylor Johnson – Conservation Media Group
Taylor is a member of the Conservation Media Group, a Maine-based organization that provides media training and production for various conservation initiatives around the world. With a background in Geology and Environmental Studies from Whitman College, Taylor earned an MFA from the premier program in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University. Since then, Taylor has worked on a wide gambit of projects, ranging from the National Science Foundation to National Geographic. His work has been screened at film festivals world-wide. Taylor’s recent conservation work includes topics such as White Nose Syndrome in bats, Brucellosis in elk, and deep-sea trawling in the North Sea. He is currently exploring new storytelling possibilities for science and conservation media through emerging technologies like VR-based platforms. In addition, he is also a founding member of the Rodinia Media Collective, a collaborative venture between other non-fiction media producers.
Agostinho Jorge – Niassa Lion Project
Agostinho developed his interest for nature during his childhood in Tete Province, central Mozambique, when he used to help his grandfather collect wood in the forest for his carving work. His grandfather taught him that it is important to look after the forest properly for it produces wood over a long period of time. Agostinho obtained his Honours Degree in Forestry Engineering from Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, in 2005. In 2006 he started working for the Management Authority of Niassa National Reserve (SGDRN). While working for Niassa National Reserve (NNR) he started collaborating with the Niassa Carnivore Project implementing the Monitoring Oriented Management System (MOMS) in some villages of NNR. Later Agostinho assisted NCP with conservation activities that included lion and hyena call up surveys, lion and leopard capture and radio collaring, trophy monitoring of lions, hyena and leopards; camera trapping of leopards, human carnivore conflict interviews across the reserve and use of living fences to prevent human carnivore conflict. In 2012 he was awarded his MSc in Zoology by the University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa for his thesis entitled “” The sustainability of leopard sport hunting in Niassa National Reserve Mozambique”. Agostinho has worked as the Conservation Manager of NCP based in the field in Niassa Reserve. At the same time he is pursuing his PhD on Bushmeat snaring and consumption in NNR.
Murthy Kantimahanthi – Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society
Murthy is a conservation biologist working with the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society and the Fishing Cat Conservancy for community-based conservation of endangered species in the Eastern Ghats hill ranges and coastal areas of South India. He holds a masters degree in zoology and has been actively involved in organizing diverse programs to raise awareness on wildlife conservation to varied target groups including state government forest departments and grade schools in cities and villages. After working as a zoo biologist and education officer, he successfully conceptualized, designed and developed several wildlife education and interpretation centres across India in collaboration with local wildlife authorities. He is passionate about conserving the endangered fauna of Eastern Ghats and coastal South India, which to date have been largely neglected by the government, researchers and conservationists. Over the last decade, Murthy has also extensively travelled and conducted reconnaissance surveys on birds, sea turtles, snakes, and Asiatic wild dogs in his native state of Andhra Pradesh in India. Murthy is currently working on community-based conservation of the endangered fishing cats and their habitat along the east coast of Andhra Pradesh.
Caitlin Kelly – Defenders of Wildlife
Caitlin is the Foundation Relations Associate at Defenders of Wildlife, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of North American biodiversity. She focuses on the strategic development of foundation and corporate giving to support programs for imperiled species with an emphasis on coexistence with predators such as the Florida panther, Mexican gray wolf and polar bear. She also helps raise funds for landscape-level habitat conservation, particularly on federal lands, and the promotion of public policies that strengthen key environmental safeguards such as the Endangered Species Act. Prior to joining Defenders, Caitlin worked and volunteered for a wide variety of environmental initiatives from organic farms and vineyards to game preserves and great white shark research while traveling from the Norwegian Arctic to South Africa. Born and raised in New Jersey, Caitlin graduated from the University of Virginia with a double major in Foreign Affairs and Religious Studies.
Kathayoon Khalil – Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
Kathayoon is the Director of Evaluation for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. She recently received her PhD from the Learning Sciences and Technology Design program at Stanford University, using social network analysis to understand how innovation and information spread among the zoo and aquarium community. Kathayoon’s research and professional interests include the role of informal learning institutions in connecting people to nature and promoting conservation. She started her career at the age of 14 as a teen volunteer at the Oregon Zoo and quickly developed a passion for wildlife and conservation. Through over a decade of work in zoo education, Kathayoon has explored and implemented authentic approaches to evaluating visitor learning, including attitude and behavior changes that may have resulted from their visit. She has consulted on education and evaluation for a variety of zoos and aquariums throughout the country and now serves as the co-champion of the AZA’s visitor studies initiative. Kathayoon received her Masters of Environmental Science degree from the Yale School of Forestry and her Bachelors in Organismal Biology from Claremont McKenna College.
Jenny Kordick – The Wilderness Society
Jenny is the renewable energy campaign representative at The Wilderness Society in Washington, D.C. where she works to ensure renewable energy development proceeds in a manner consistent with the protection of land and wildlife. Jenny currently leads a legislative campaign for the organization to fund wildlife conservation efforts from revenue generated by wind and solar energy projects on public lands. Previously, Jenny worked for the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest conservation organization, where she helped build grassroots support for national campaigns to protect wildlife habitat and reduce carbon and mercury pollution. Jenny grew up in rural Iowa which instilled on her a pragmatic approach to conservation and a love for the outdoors. Jenny studied biology at Wartburg College in Iowa and ultimately decided to pursue a career in wildlife conservation after living and studying on the Galapagos Islands in 2009.
Jessie Lowry – Blank Park Zoo
Jessie is a wildlife conservationist. She has studied primates in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Uganda and cared for many species of zoo animals, from sea lions to snakes. She earned bachelor degrees in Environmental Science and Anthropology from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Through her role as Conservation Manager at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, she has raised funds and awareness for over 50 wildlife organizations, developed creative events and fundraisers and mentored others on how to channel their passion. She is the founder and leader of the conservation initiative Plant.Grow.Fly., which encourages citizens and organizations to preserve and restore pollinator habitat. She spearheaded the 2013 Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) Conference held at Blank Park Zoo and now serves on the ZACC Steering Committee. Jessie has a wide range of skills and experiences ranging from campaigning for roadless national forests and the elimination of coal-burning power plants to positive reinforcement training and behavioral enrichment for captive animals. She is particularly interested in the impact small zoos can have on wildlife conservation and empowering the general public to take real conservation action.
Ru Mahoney – Stokes Nature Center
Ru was raised along the beaches and backwater of Florida’s gulf coast, with summers spent as one of the token kids hanging around biological stations throughout Minnesota and Michigan. She studied Biology at New College of Florida, with a focus on neuroethology and scientific illustration, and went on to pursue field work running the gamut from tracking wolves in northern Minnesota to tagging endangered birds in the Everglades and Florida Keys. Ru’s career has focused on an interdisciplinary approach to conservation, including education and outreach, illustration and graphic design, and creative development and strategic planning efforts for a number of successful projects, startups and nonprofits. She currently serves as Executive Director of Stokes Nature Center, a nonprofit environmental education and citizen science organization in northern Utah. She also serves on production teams for international environmental media events, including the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival and Conservation Summit, the Science Media Awards and Symposium, and the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit. And finally, Ru is the Strategic Partnerships Coordinator for Celine Cousteau’s CauseCentric Productions.
Robert Mraz – SeaWorld
Robert Mraz has a diverse background, ranging from prior military service to working with countless large and small wildlife species as a nature interpreter and as a conservation expert. After completing a tour of duty in the United States Navy serving onboard a nuclear powered submarine, Robert has resumed his collegiate studies as a biological sciences major at the University of California at San Diego. At SeaWorld California, Robert works as a wildlife conservation professional, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and return to the wild of numerous marine mammals in need of a second chance at life. At the Living Coast Discovery center, a small nature interpretative center in Chula Vista, California, Robert has worked with a variety of native species of raptors and marsh birds, one of which being the endangered Light-Footed Ridgeway’s Rail, and has taught wildlife and natural resource conservation through education and up-close animal encounters. Robert is a highly motivated, experienced, and dedicated wildlife conservation expert, a skilled communicator, and is self-motivated with high energy, initiative and focus.
Dominic Nyathi – Painted Dog Conservation
Dominic is from the coal-mining town of Wankie (Hwange) in Zimbabwe, home to the country’s largest National Park. As a child he was exposed to both the big and small five and developed his love and passion for wildlife. Wankie district was rife with poaching activities of all wildlife species by locals and foreigners in search of easy income, and this motivated Dominic to prepare for a career that would help him to ensure a future for Zimbabwe’s magnificent wildlife. Dominic is now the Conservation Education Officer at Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) in Zimbabwe, teaching school children the importance of keeping balanced biodiversity levels and sound ecosystems in their locality. He is also an Assistant HIV/Coordinator for the Wild4Life/PDC HIV Aids program. He holds a Bachelor of Educational Administration Planning and Policy Studies degree, a Better Environmental Science Certificate, as well as a Teaching certificate. Dominic runs various wildlife related competitions for clubs, conducts game drives, and is currently studying for his Learner Professional Guides License. He speaks eight languages, which allows him to speak fluently with all the communities in which he works, to more easily convey his love, passion and knowledge of wildlife to these communities.
Jody Palmer – Brevard Zoo
Jody developed a passion for conservation at a very young age and always knew she wanted to help ‘Save the World.’ Raised along the coast and being drawn to the water, as avid SCUBA diver, triathlete and adventurer; marine and estuarine conservation has come natural to Jody. Grateful for her employment at Brevard Zoo, Jody has learned a host of skills including team management, grant writing, event planning, partnership establishment and budget management. As the Assistant Director of Conservation for Brevard Zoo, located in Melbourne, FL Jody enjoys overseeing a dynamic team of ambitious conservationists who have dedicated their lives to the preservation and restoration of species ranging from the Eastern Oyster to the Florida Scrub jay to the Florida East Coast Diamondback Terrapin as well as Living Shoreline restoration and stabilization and a variety of international conservation efforts. With a background in environmental education, and animal behavior and a BS from Florida Institute of Technology, sharing conservation and sustainability messages makes it easy to get others excited about making eco-friendly choices that can a difference. This was recognized in 2013 by Walt Disney World Conservation Fund who named Jody and the oyster restoration team as a Heroes of Conservation, as well as Field & Stream magazine as a Conservation Hero for work in estuarine habitat restoration. She leads the efforts for some of the nation’s largest community based volunteer and citizen scientist outreach projects for oyster habitat.
Tan Poai Ean – ￼Malaysia Department of Wildlife & National Parks
Tan was born and grew up in Penang, Malaysia. She graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Forestry Science from University of Putra Malaysia. Tan has been a research and education officer in Penang Butterfly Farm. Her experience included work on nature education and recreational programming, butterfly sampling, butterfly host plant and breeding documentation as well as promoting butterfly conservation. Currently she is a Wildlife Officer in Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Peninsular Malaysia. Tan works as a coordinator to organize and manage the wildlife inventory programs as well as focus on mammals sampling. She also involves in in-house training programs for the wildlife inventory as well as developed a wildlife inventory management system to standardize the inventory requirements and measurements. Her aim is to be a leader and professional trainer in wildlife conservation to produce more conservationists for her nation.
Megan Reed – US Fish & Wildlife Service
Megan grew up around the world being a daughter in a military family. She remembers seeing the different flora and fauna every time she moved, and was always fascinated by the vast differences from where she called home in Virginia. Her early fascination with the outdoors and enthusiasm for the natural world prompted her career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a young age. Reed has been employed at National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York, and has helped with other assignments in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Reed currently serves as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Director of External Affairs and Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Reed received a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in 2012, and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Old Dominion University. While at Penn State, Reed focused her attention towards declining bat populations and designed/executed a study on the day roosts of small-footed myotis and northern long-eared bats. Her more recent interests are focused on public policy and communication of conservation
Michael Starkey – Advocates for Snake Preservation
Michael G. Starkey is a biologist, activist, ecological consultant, and public speaker working to educate and involve the public in animal rights and wildlife conservation issues. Mr. Starkey has a diverse background in the field of wildlife conservation and he has worked as an ecological consultant for environmental consulting firms and government agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. He has worked with a wide diversity of California wildlife, including San Francisco gartersnakes, giant gartersnakes, California tiger salamanders, bats, and ringtails. Mr. Starkey worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, studying larval development and parental behavior of the neo- tropical frog, Leptodactylus insularum. He is also the Chairman of SAVE THE FROGS! Advisory Committee, working to increase and expand scientists’ role in amphibian conservation. Currently Mr. Starkey is a co-founder of Advocates For Snake Preservation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to snake conservation. He uses his knowledge of snake ecology, positive attitude to inspire, and enthusiasm for snake conservation to engage the public with protecting these beautiful animals. Mr. Starkey has given presentations around the world to inform the public about the threats facing wildlife and to help nurture a society that respects and appreciates nature and wildlife.
Kelly Stoner – Wildlife Conservation Society
Kelly is a Program Officer in the North America Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and provides communication & marketing and geospatial/analytical support to field programs across the U. S. and Canada. Shortly before joining WCS Kelly completed her Master of Environmental Science at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. For her thesis, Kelly co-designed and launched a long-term large carnivore monitoring program in northern Tanzania in partnership with the African People & Wildlife Fund. Kelly received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Villanova University, and since finishing her undergraduate studies Kelly has held a variety of field-based and administrative positions with the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, the Jane Goodall Institute, and Conservation International. From 2011 to 2012 Kelly held a Fulbright Fellowship to Botswana, where she studied attitudes toward large carnivores among rural pastoralists. Broadly, Kelly’s two primary interests are large carnivores and the interactions between carnivores and people, and making the field of conservation more effective via public outreach and communication.
Melissa Waterman Soloman – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Melissa Solomon was captivated by animals and nature from an early age. A childhood spent in upstate New York allowed for rich outdoor experiences and frequent trips to the local zoo. A high school summer job at the zoo shaped her career interests, experiences, and goals. Currently a zookeeper at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Melissa cares for a diverse collection of African species. She has worked on multiple in-situ conservation projects supporting Operation Migration and their efforts to reintroduce an Eastern population of whooping cranes through aircraft assisted migration. Her varied zoological background spans over ten years of animal husbandry, training, conservation education, and research experience. Melissa is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies through Green Mountain College with a self-designed curriculum combining conservation biology and organizational leadership. Her thesis focus is on management parameters and reproductive success rates in black rhinoceros. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Biology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, including a semester studying abroad at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Chip Weiskotten – Wildlife Conservation Society
Chip was raised by a family of naturalists, environmental educators, archaeologists, and ornithologists, and thus developed a strong conservation ethic at a young age. He is currently the Federal Affairs Communications Manager for the Wildlife Conservation Society, where he advocates for a range of wildlife conservation issues as they intersect with U.S. government funding and policy interests. Working closely with field scientists, policy makers and journalists, Chip is involved in campaigns to conserve elephants and other frequently trafficked species, as well as efforts to restore bison to the American plains. He has recently added communications for WCS European and international policy issues to his portfolio. Previously, he handled communications for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and worked as a field organizer on a Congressional campaign. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Analysis & Policy and a Master’s degree in Energy & Environmental Analysis from Boston University. Chip lives in DC and enjoys photography, hiking, maps, and Edward Abbey books.