Class 7: When They Joined EWCL
Valerie Akuredusenge – Conservation Heritage – Turambe
Valerie is the Program Director of Conservation Heritage – Turambe, a local Non-Governmental Organization based in Musanze District in the Northern Province of Rwanda. She teaches local Rwandan schoolchildren and community members living near Volcanoes National Park (VNP) about conservation and health to ensure they live in harmony with gorillas and their habitat. Valerie started working as a guide. Later on, she became an assistant for a conservation education program and developed a love and appreciation for the wild. She began to understand the interconnectedness of nature, and how all of us play a role in conserving it. She has taught over 4,000 children across 11 years. She is creating the next generation of Rwanda’s wildlife conservationists by encouraging, engaging and inspiring schoolchildren to care about their natural resources, and act on behalf of wildlife. She has initiated a “Connecting Children to Nature Initiative” to take younger kids to the Volcanoes National Park to see mountain gorillas in the wild.
Carson Barylak – International Fund for Animal Welfare
Carson is a Campaigns Officer with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in Washington, D.C. She has considerable experience with legislative and regulatory issues affecting wildlife protections at the state and federal levels. She leads IFAW’s U.S. Big Cats in Captivity policy campaign and spearheads wildlife policy efforts related to predator control reform and Endangered Species Act implementation. Prior to joining IFAW, Carson worked as a federal policy advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute. She also completed a post-graduate litigation fellowship with the Natural Resources Defense Council and, while in law school, served as an intern with local and national conservation advocacy organizations. She holds a J.D., B.S. and B.A from Ohio State University, where she was active in advancing sustainability policies. Outside of work, Carson is involved with the Rotary Club of Dupont Circle and the Udall Alumni Association Board of Directors, a coordinating body for current and former Udall Foundation Scholars.
Jeff Baughman – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Jeff is the Field Conservation Coordinator at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He grew up in Colorado where he earned both his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees while working as an animal keeper at CMZ starting in 1999. After volunteering for a field project in Madagascar he changed his major from biology to anthropology as he learned that wildlife conservation is more about how humans interact with wildlife and not solely about animals. He wanted to better understand human culture and behavior in hopes to positively improve our coexistence with animals and their habitat. Since 2008, Jeff has been involved with the zoo’s Quarters for Conservation program. He hopes to share the significance and possibilities of this program with other zoos, aquariums and field conservation partners. Jeff has a strong interest in amphibian conservation and has volunteered for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. He has helped bring the last of some species into assurance care for future generations in addition to some husbandry construction needs. He is actively involved at CMZ in the breeding and reintroduction programs of black footed ferrets and Wyoming toads. In 2013 he initiated a headstart program with Wyoming toads to overcome the lifestage hurdles of tadpoles and have more reproductive adults released into the wild.
Clarice Brewer – White Oak Conservation
Clarice is a lead wildlife specialist at White Oak Conservation Foundation where she specializes in conservation breeding programs for three species of rhino and critically endangered equine, in addition to managing imperiled antelope and gazelle species. She has worked with South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation performing hormone analysis of various exotic species and has co-authored a study involving the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow. Additionally, Clarice has participated in White Oak’s Mississippi Sandhill Crane program releasing captive hatched Mississippi Sandhill Cranes into their native habitat in Mississippi. Clarice grew up spending summers and breaks at her family owned and operated Southwick’s Zoo in Massachusetts. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont majoring in Animal Science, where a study abroad program in South Africa ultimately led to her passion and career in wildlife. Clarice is an active member of the International Rhino Keepers Association and enjoys connecting with colleagues on conservation topics.
Stacie Cole – Discovery Cove/SeaWorld Orlando
Stacie is the Supervisor of Aviculture at Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida, where she works on the front lines of conservation education in the zoological field, helping people make real and meaningful connections with animals and the environment. Stacie studied biology at Southampton College in New York, and began her career working for the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program. In addition to her rescue and rehabilitation work, she played an integral part in obtaining several large grants to fund research on the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. Stacie has also worked as an Environmental Consultant, and was trained to monitor and protect the nesting habitat of endangered shorebird species such as Piping Plovers and Least Terns. Stacie has also put her 15 plus years of animal training and handling experience to use outside of the zoo environment, assisting with field research for National Audubon Society’s Project Puffin, and volunteering her time with The Nature Conservancy.
Danielle Fisher – National Geographic Society
Danielle’s commitment to wildlife conservation is closely tied to her work at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.. As Marketing and Engagement Specialist for Impact Programs, she is responsible for communicating the scientific work of National Geographic’s grantees and initiatives, with the goal of inspiring audiences to care and take action to protect species and their environments. She works closely on the Pristine Seas ocean conservation project, the Big Cats Initiative and the National Geographic Photo Ark, and also collaborates with external partners to plan and execute opportunities at events such as the IUCN World Conservation Congress and the Economist World Ocean Summit. Danielle is particularly interested in the implementation for protection measures and how success is evaluated. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in media studies and a minor in French.
Justin Grubb – National Wildlife Federation
Justin Grubb is currently a communications biologist for the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio and is responsible for developing communication strategies pertaining to conservation messaging as well as developing educational content, videos, websites and citizen science campaigns. Prior to moving to his current position, Justin served as a conservation biologist for three years at the Zoo specializing in field research and conservation pertaining to a wide array of projects and species including habitat restoration, hellbender rearing and release, butterfly conservation, turtle ecology, wildlife distribution surveys, reptile population surveys and Pacific bird conservation. In addition, Justin also co-founded a production company called Running Wild Media that specializes in wildlife and conservation filmmaking and recently finished an assignment with Nat Geo Wild in South Africa. Justin studied biology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and is currently a Master’s student studying geospatial science at BGSU.
Andrew Harmon – The Nature Conservancy
Andrew Harmon is the Associate Director of Communications for The Nature Conservancy’s Asia Pacific division, where he works across philanthropy and marketing teams to tell the story of TNC’s regional work, from creating sustainable fisheries to protecting forests and reducing energy sprawl. Based in San Francisco, Andrew is the former Communications Director of WildAid, and directed multiple online campaigns for the wildlife conservation group including #JoinTheHerd, which won two Silver Lions at the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and the Grand Prix at the Drum Awards. His work to increase WildAid’s visibility in the United States through high-value earned media and social media directly helped to cultivate many new donor and celebrity relationships for the organization. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Andrew worked as a magazine editor for Condé Nast and a contributor for multiple publications, including the Los Angeles Times and The Atlantic, before joining the ranks of conservation as communications director of Bay Area-based International Bird Rescue in 2012. Outside the office, Andrew is a classical pianist, a novice CrossFit enthusiast and a member of the El Cerrito Chicken Co-op.
Mark Hofberg – International Fund for Animal Welfare
Mark is an assistant campaigns officer at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Washington, D.C. where he works to increase protections for wildlife through policy change in the U.S. and abroad. Mark earned his M.S. in Conservation Biology and M.P.P. in Environmental Policy through the CONS program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before arriving at IFAW, Mark worked for The Wildlife Society and served as an intern for the Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the National Wildlife Federation. Mark’s experience lies at the intersection of science and policy, bringing research experience to the lobbying field. He primarily works on federal and state policy and legislation that deal with wildlife trade issues, most notably the ivory trade and the pangolin trade. More recently, Mark has worked at the international level promoting pangolin conservation at the IUCN World Conservation Congress and the CITES Conference of Parties.
Maria ‘Masha’ Kalinina – Humane Society International
Maria (Masha) Kalinina, is an International Trade Policy Specialist with Humane Society International (HSI). Specializing in wildlife trade, she co-leads the HSI campaign to end trophy hunting, advocates to increase protections for a variety of wildlife species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and works to include strong wildlife provisions in the environment chapters of global free trade agreements. Prior to HSI, Masha worked for Booz Allen Hamilton providing consulting services for clients including the US Department of Defense, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Intelligence Community. Masha earned her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from The George Washington University and her law degree from the William and Mary School of Law. She is a barred attorney in the state of Maryland. Masha was born in Russia and moved to the United States at the age of ten and speaks fluent Russian as well as intermediate Spanish.
Robb Krehbiel – Defenders of Wildlife
Robb is the Northwest Representative for Defenders of Wildlife in Seattle where he works to conserve imperiled species across the region, including grizzly bears, orcas, salmon, and sage grouse. Before joining Defenders, Robb was the Yellowstone Wildlife Fellow with the National Parks Conservation Association. In this role, he helped ranchers modify their fences to make them wildlife-friendly. He also worked on several projects in Montana as an independent consultant, including identifying carnivore connectivity areas and recommending bighorn sheep conservation strategies. Prior to moving to Montana, Robb was the Program Associate with Environment Washington in Seattle. There, he worked on banning plastic bags in over a dozen cities and securing a National Monument designation in the San Juan Islands. Robb graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland with a Master’s of Science in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology. He also graduated Magna Cum Laude from Drake University with two Bachelors in Environmental Science and Politics.
Jeneria Lekilelei – Ewaso Lions
Jeneria is a warrior from Westgate Community Conservancy in Samburu. Jeneria first joined Ewaso Lions in 2008 at just 19 years old. Since then, Jeneria has progressed from Lion Scout to Field Assistant, before assuming his current position of Field Operations and Community Manager in 2013. Jeneria’s knowledge of lion identification, ability to transform conflict, and exceptional relational skills are key to Ewaso Lions’ functioning. Recognizing his age-set was being neglected from conservation, Jeneria conceived Ewaso Lion’s flagship outreach program, Warrior Watch. He has since been responsible for engaging dozens of Samburu warriors in lion conservation, and together with his team, has stopped lions from being killed on hundreds of occasions. In 2015, Jeneria received two accolades: Disney’s Conservation Hero Award and Houston Zoo’s Wildlife Warrior Award.
Christina ‘Chrissy’ Manto – Wildlife Conservation Society
Chrissy is the Manager of Government and Community Affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society based at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Chrissy leads engagement on state and local wildlife campaigns with a particular focus on wildlife trafficking. She works to develop a local constituency for WCS Bronx Zoo by engaging elected officials, government agencies, NGO partners and community organizations. Previously, she has worked on a number of grassroots funding campaigns for WCS.
Chrissy holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University and spent a semester studying abroad at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. More recently, she earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College in New York City. Chrissy lives in Queens, NY and is interested in spending time in nature, playing soccer, and embroidery projects.
Ailey Mastantuono – World Wildlife Fund
Ailey is an Associate Development Officer for Foundation Relations at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. where she leads foundation fundraising efforts for the Wildlife team and other priorities. Liaising with program and foundations’ staff, Ailey works to identify and support funding opportunities that further their mutual conservation visions. Initially, Ailey supported the Africa & Madagascar Program at WWF after being inspired by an internship at the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. While her career in conservation only began in 2008, Ailey has always been passionate about preserving wildlife: she has interned for institutions like Zoo New England, University of New England’s Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center, and the Live Animal Center at the Boston Museum of Science. Ailey studied neuroscience at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and earned her Master of Science in Environmental Science & Assessment at American University. Ailey grew up in the tide pools of coastal Massachusetts and maintains her love for the outdoors.
Lily Maynard – University of Florida
Spending years in zoos and with conservation-focused African communities instilled Lily Maynard’s passion for spreading conservation. Lily grew up surrounded by inspiring animals at the Cincinnati Zoo. More recently, she was a zoo educator and program evaluator, as well as a leader of environmental education programs in Kenya and Belize. She conducted ecological and conservation research during her biology degree at Smith College, in national parks in South Africa and Zambia, and with communities in Botswana and Kenya. While investigating the coexistence of Maasai communities and lions in southern Kenya with the South Rift Association of Landowners, she learned people’s capacity to choose conservation. Currently, Lily is augmenting her environmental education and conservation management skills with further studies as a PhD student at the University of Florida to explore how collaboration can enhance conservation. Her master’s degree assessed stakeholder collaboration in Kenyan community-based conservancies, and her doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology is examining the collective conservation impacts of zoos and aquaria.
Lucas Meers – Okapi Conservation Project
Lucas was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by nature and the encouragement of his parents to always be outside. Those early experiences with the natural world helped cultivate his appreciation and passion for the outdoors. After graduating with a degree in biology and marine science from Jacksonville University, he is now the Conservation Program Officer for the Okapi Conservation Project (OCP) and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (JZG). He coordinates all marketing and development efforts for OCP, including grant writing, social media, and brainstorming new and exciting ways to bring awareness to the reclusive okapi, including the launch of the inaugural World Okapi Day. For JZG, he reviews all grant proposals and field conservation awards that filter through the zoo’s quickly growing conservation department. He is developing the conservation messaging within the zoo and directing zoo events to be more conservation-focused. His volunteer work has included six years of sea turtle conservation in Florida, including a summer in Costa Rica with the Sea Turtle Conservancy.
Tara Meyer – Fish and Wildlife Service
Tara is a Biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife where she works with stakeholders to reduce and prevent wildlife-caused damages and contributes to statewide policies regarding species conservation and management. In 2015, Tara earned her Master’s in Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. For her thesis Tara partnered with Panthera to examine snow leopard population dynamics and livestock-predator conflicts in western Tajikistan. Also while at Yale she co-founded a scholarship recognizing students who demonstrate leadership in the conservation sciences. Tara currently serves on the Yale F&ES Alumni Board and as a Technical Advisor for the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. Tara is driven by her commitment to species conservation through a combination of scientific research, adaptive management, working to empower diverse participants in conservation, and helping humans and wildlife (and humans and humans) coexist in a rapidly changing world. Tara lives in her hometown of Portland, Oregon.
Britius Munkombwe – Game Rangers International
Britius was born and raised in a small community outside of Kafue National Park, the second largest park in Africa. He has always been passionate about wildlife and working with communities to ensure that people and wildlife coexist. Having worked for numerous community oriented programs such as reducing HIV/AIDS transmission in Zambian school children, managing the Musungwa Community Resources Board, and currently at Game Rangers International, he brings a unique perspective about how to tackle challenging conservation problems in some of the world’s most impoverished areas. Britius’ key roles and responsibilities under Game Rangers International remain focused on working with communities to find solutions to human/wildlife conflicts as well as designing and implementing communications materials on human – elephant conflict. Further to this, he designs and produces a weekly radio conservation program that covers 6 Districts, 150km radius and more than 30,000 people. Additionally, Britius provides mentorship for women’s groups on practical solutions that mitigate wildlife risks. He takes a leading role on human – elephant conflict mitigation as well as managing day to day activities of an elephant release facility when needed. Working all alongside the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, he remains committed to conserving wildlife in key protected and community areas.
Melissa Ann Ocaña – University of Massachusetts Amherst
Melissa is a Project Manager in the Dept. of Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst working primarily on aquatic connectivity, climate change adaptation, and partnership building across academia, government, and the nonprofit sector. Prior to arriving at UMass, she coordinated a capacity building and grant program for environmental nonprofits in New Jersey. Melissa also previously worked in D.C. on natural resource policy at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. House of Representatives as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Fellow. Melissa has a M.S. in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University and B.A. in Biology from Vassar College. Melissa grew up in NY and has studied in Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. For her graduate research, she studied marine turtle nesting behavior and community use of eggs in Mexico.
Gabriela ‘Gaby’ Ochoa – MarAlliance
Gabriela is Country Coordinator for Honduras with MarAlliance, where she works towards improving understanding and conservation of threatened marine species, specifically sharks and rays on the Mesoamerican reef system. She currently leads MarAlliance’s education, outreach and research programs in Honduras. Most recently she completed the first marine megafauna monitoring in the country and results will be translated into better management decisions for these iconic species. Prior to working with MarAlliance, Gabriela worked for the GEF Small Grant Programme working on different developmental projects with strong conservation emphasis. There she had the opportunity to work along side artisanal fishers on the pacific coast of Honduras to standardize sea turtle monitoring methods for Olive Ridleys. She is very passionate about marine conservation in her home country and working together with community based organizations and fishers to improve marine megafauna stewardship. Gabriela grew up in the mainland of Honduras and studied Marine Biology at Texas A&M University, she is currently based on the Island of Roatan.
Martha Parker – Houston Zoo
Martha is the Conservation Impact Manager at the Houston Zoo where she is responsible for evaluating and collecting results from the Zoos’ and conservation partners’ work to save wildlife. Raised in rural Western New York, most of her childhood was spent outdoors – exploring nature, climbing trees, and bringing wildlife home! Although connected to animals, she never considered a career in wildlife conservation a viable option. Fascinated by human culture, she graduated from Lafayette College with a BA in International Affairs and Spanish. Following her undergrad and building from experience mentoring kids of all ages, she worked as an educator, which eventually led her to a position in the education department of the Houston Zoo. Her experience in an educator role solidified her passion for connecting people to wildlife. After 3 years teaching and designing educational programs she moved into the conservation depart of the Houston Zoo. Martha feels fortunate to be surrounded by more than 450 staff working to save wildlife at the Houston Zoo, in addition to the more than 30 field conservation partners the Zoo works with globally. She is interested in the use of social and behavioral sciences, how conservation psychology can become a major tool to protect wildlife, and how zoos and aquariums can engage their guests to be agents of change for the protection of species.
Anya Rushing – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Anya is a biologist and grants manager at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Falls Church, VA, where she works on bird habitat conservation via the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. She joined USFWS in 2014, as a Presidential Management Fellow. During her fellowship she worked at the Council on Environmental Quality for six months as a Wildlife Policy Advisor. Her portfolio included wildlife trafficking, endangered species, and ecosystem services. Previously, Anya worked at the International Fund for Animal Welfare as a Policy Analyst, focusing her efforts on polar bear and African lion conservation, and the ivory trade. Although she lives in Maryland, Colorado is home and where she first fell in love with hiking, fishing, camping and the great outdoors. Anya studied biology at Colorado State University and decided to become a conservation biologist after a summer as a field assistant working on loggerhead sea turtles. She later received her Master’s in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland.
Sean Russell – Mote Marine Laboratory
Sean Russell is a youth engagement strategist – empowering young people with the tools and motivation they need to become involved in leadership initiatives. Sean is the founder and director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. Through this program, Sean works to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to address ocean conservation issues in their local communities. Sean holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Florida. He currently works with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment where he launched and coordinates the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council, helps manage the SeaWorld myActions platform, and supports SeaWorld’s youth leadership programs. Sean also serves as a Youth Leadership Fellow with EarthEcho International, overseeing the implementation of EarthEcho’s inaugural Youth Leadership Council and is a Youth Programs Specialist at Mote Marine Laboratory, leading a high school coral research program in the Florida Keys. Sean serves as a member of the National Marine Educators Association Board of Directors.
Joyce Wang – Wildlife Conservation Network
Joyce is the Conservation Network Manager at the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN), where she is responsible for executing the growth strategy of WCN’s conservation and partner network. She oversees the strategic delivery of technical and capacity-building services to help field conservation programs achieve their goals and scale, accelerate, and sustain efforts to save endangered species. Joyce also stewards WCN’s corporate and cause marketing partnerships. In her earlier career, Joyce was an attorney at Latham & Watkins LLP working on M&A and strategic corporate transactions. She studied at UC Berkeley and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and her lifelong passion for wildlife led her to pursue a career in conservation. Joyce lives in San Francisco, California and enjoys hiking, camping, and rock climbing.