Class 8: When They Joined EWCL
Abby Hehmeyer – World Wildlife Fund
Abby is a Program Officer at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C., where she works to inform and adapt conservation strategies to meet the challenges of a changing climate. Abby currently manages the WWF PARC Index – an interactive tool that measures the impact that climate change will have on the world’s protected areas. Abby is also working to launch Wildlife Insights, a collaborative platform that utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze global camera trap data, delivering near real-time wildlife information directly to decisions makers. Previously, Abby helped found City Wildlife, the first ever urban wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington D.C. Abby studied biological anthropology at the George Washington University before completing her master’s degree in wild animal biology at the Royal Veterinary College in London. Her graduate project analyzed threats to Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.
Alex Goetz – Running Wild Media
Alex Goetz is a two-time Emmy nominated wildlife filmmaker and photographer, who has been recognized by National Geographic WILD as winner of the 2016 “Wild to Inspire” film competition, and is the co-founder of the production company Running Wild Media, that specializes in wildlife and conservation filmmaking. He is an Ohio native whose extensive travels have taken him from the countryside of Tasmania, to Alaska, the vibrant islands of the Caribbean, and road-tripping around four amazing African countries filming wildlife and conservation efforts. Prior to becoming a freelance filmmaker, Alex was a social media coordinator for the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, producing educational photo, video and social media content. Alex is a TEDxToledo 2017 speaker, the chairman of REST USA, a nonprofit that supports the wildlife rehabilitation center, Rare and Endangered Species Trust, in Namibia, Africa, and a 2013 graduate from Bowling Green State University, with a degree in Film Production and Environmental Science.
Andrew Schatz – Conservation International
Andrew is a legal advisor at Conservation International (CI) in Arlington, Virginia, where he advises on projects, law and policy relating to conservation finance, wildlife trafficking, and climate change. Within CI’s Conservation Finance Division, he helps establish conservation trust funds and other innovative finance mechanisms that provide financing to conserve critical ecosystems and habitats in developing countries or offering natural solutions to climate change. As part of CI’s Wildlife Trafficking program, he advises on international wildlife legal issues and leads CI’s wildlife law reform efforts in a variety of countries. Prior to joining CI, Andrew practiced environmental law for seven years at DLA Piper LLP in Baltimore, Maryland. Andrew studied policy analysis and environmental economics at Cornell University and received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. Andrew is passionate about climate change, saving wildlife, and loves hockey, hiking, photography, and travel.
Angela Noakes – Wildlife Conservation Society
Angela Noakes is the Senior Officer, U.S. Policy in the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Washington, D.C. office. As part of WCS’s Federal Affairs team, Angela has worked on variety of international and domestic conservation issues, including the federal budget, wildlife trafficking, endangered species protection, and marine conservation. Before joining WCS, Angela was a Sea Grant Knauss Legislative Fellow in the office of Senator Edward J. Markey in Washington, D.C., where her portfolio focused on marine conservation. Angela earned her J.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington and Bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Management and Government from the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.
Cara Martel – Busch Gardens
Cara is the Zoological Supervisor for Rhinos & Hoofstock at Busch Gardens Tampa in FL, where she manages a diverse ungulate population on a 65-acre multispecies habitat and works to promote the conservation of threatened species through inspiring people to conservation action. Cara is the park’s representative for the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and manages zoological research at the Florida park. Growing up on a farm, Cara quickly learned about conservation and the importance of habitat preservation for the next generation. This concern for the environment and the need to evolve our natural resource practices led to a Biology degree, followed by an M.S. in Parks Administration with Graduate Certification in Conservation Biology from the University of Missouri—Columbia. With 15 years in the zoo field, Cara continues to promote staff development while assisting with local and global field research initiatives, including representing the SWBG Conservation Fund in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and locally throughout Florida.
Christina Vallianos – WildAid
Christina is the program and grants manager at WildAid in San Francisco, where she works to raise global awareness of wildlife crises, strengthen legislation and promote behavioral change as it pertains to consumption of wildlife products. Christina helps to develop, oversee and secure funding for WildAid’s campaigns to protect rhinos, elephants, pangolins, sharks and sea turtles. Before joining WildAid, Christina designed enrichment programs for river otters and flying foxes at the Oakland Zoo, taught ecology to youth at summer camps in Massachusetts, and worked at a design agency. Having grown up on a lake in a tiny village in Western Massachusetts, she has always had a love for the outdoors, particularly hiking and backpacking, and is passionate about sustainable food projects. Christina earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Though a dedicated environmentalist from the get-go, it was a course in wildlife ecology that inspired her to build upon her love of animals and pursue a career in wildlife conservation.
David Kuvawoga – Painted Dog Conservation
Growing up in rural Chirumanzu and Zimbabwe’s National parks, David developed an affinity for wildlife and all things natural. His father, a conservationist himself, inspired him with his commitment to duty and passion for wildlife. David realized early on in his career, that, to help conserve wildlife the following were critical, Education and awareness, community development, training and development, resource mobilization, proper management and a bucketful of passion. David studied a Bachelor’s Degree in Nature Conservation, from Tshwane University of Technology in South Africa. He joined Painted Dog Conservation in 2015 having had eight years of experience as an Estate Manager at the Glenburn Lodge in South Africa. David has a great pedigree to combine with his experience of Wildlife and Habitat Management, Human Resource Management, Training and Development, Project Management and Research and Monitoring. He currently runs the day to day operations of Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe.
Eddie Love – The Ocean Foundation
Eddie grew up in Alabama received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management from Auburn University. Growing up in Alabama and attending Auburn University provided him with an opportunity to recognize the lack of diversity within the conservation field. Being the lone African American male in his wildlife courses inspired him to pursue a career that would allow him to raise awareness around the importance of diversity issues while protecting wildlife. Eddie works for The Ocean Foundation as a Program Associate and manages their Fiscal Sponsorship Program, serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and contributes to their strategic development. Although his passion for protecting wildlife and diversifying the environmental sector is what led him to his current position; His affinity for Cheetah’s encouraged him to take this career path at an early age. Eddie hopes to create a world where both nature and humans thrive, and as he continues this journey, he’s constantly rooting for this “Big Cat Underdog” which faces tremendous challenges.
Gabriel Massocato – Giant Armadillo Conservation Project
Gabriel is the biologist of the Giant Armadillo Conservation Program in Brazil, where he works to help establish the first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos as well as other species of Xenarthra in the Brazilian Pantanal. Gabriel currently leads the coordination the Pantanal Program through experience acquire over the years in capture, monitoring, environmental education and communication with local communities. Worked as a tourist guide in the Pantanal for two years awakened his interest for the place, culture, beautiful natural and the research. Gabriel grew up in a family of biologists and since he was a child had respect and admiration for the environment. Gabriel studied biology in the Federal University in Brazil and decided to follow a carrier in wildlife conservation after seeing the rare giant armadillo in the nature for the first time in 2012. Since then he has helped to make this specie as ambassadors for biodiversity.
Indah Sartika Sari – Yayasan Planet Indonesia
Indah is the Biodiversity Coordinator at Yayasan Planet Indonesia based in Pontianak, Borneo. Indah specializes in field research and conservation relating to Bornean avian vocalizations, hornbill biology and herpetology. In addition, Indah also serves as project coordinator for the International field course with Tanjungpura University (Indonesia) and University of Exeter (England). The program focuses on Bornean rainforest biodiversity and community empowerment in rural areas. Previously, she worked on community-based conservation issues in coastal areas with a focus on replanting degraded areas in West Kalimantan. Indah is originally from a rural area in Borneo where it is rare for women to partake in conservation fieldwork but her passion has led her to work in conservation and she is ultimately committed to continue. Indah studied Forestry at Tanjungpura University based in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. She enjoys hiking, camping, and any form of outdoor activity.
Jenna Duarte – San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Jenna is a Senior Keeper in the Bird Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where she works with a vast collection endangered species. Jenna is also the Founder and Executive Director of Intertwined Conservation Corporation where she works to conserve biodiversity in Latin America through education and collaboration. Born and raised in Southern California, Jenna obtained a Bachelors Degree in Sociology from the University California Santa Barbara and a minor in Education and applied Psychology. Jenna made a vow to become a trailblazer in the world of conservation traveling the globe to insure the safety and survival of many of earth’s endangered species. Jenna has made it her passion to help give a voice to the voiceless by educating the public about the dangers of species loss in order to create a greater awareness of the pitfalls that currently face our world’s wildlife.
Joseph Colbert – Jekyll Island State Park
Following an enlistment in the Marine Corps after the events of September 11th, Joseph Colbert attended University of South Carolina in search of a profession that was critically needed, and service driven. He was introduced to wildlife research and management, which got into his blood, and he couldn’t picture himself doing anything else after that. After graduation, Joseph enrolled in two national service contracts as an AmeriCorps service member with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which involved establishing predator research in a sustainably developed community. Following AmeriCorps, he got his M.S. from Odum School of Ecology as UGA’s first Tillman Scholar. In 2016, Joseph joined the Jekyll Island Conservation Department as their first community Wildlife Biologist and in 2018 he joined the Rattlesnake Conservancy as a volunteer Research Associate. His background involves working with wildlife in developed landscapes, population ecology, and habitat ecology, all important skills that he will continue to use to make positive advancements in wildlife conservation.
Justin Birkhoff – Cheetah Conservation Fund
As a Development Manager for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), Justin works with a team of volunteers and donors through educational outreach, fundraisers, and events to support CCF’s mission to conserve cheetahs in their home range. Justin’s career has focused heavily on the intersection of in situ and ex situ conservation efforts. Working in support of the Sand Tiger Shark Working Group he evaluated the environmental factors influencing ex situ reproduction of Sand Tiger Sharks as a Field Biologist with South East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction and Conservation. Additionally, he held conservation internship and fellowship positions with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and White Oak Conservation, where he supported in situ and ex situ conservation efforts through population management planning and grant writing. Justin started his career in the zoological field after spending his childhood frequenting local zoos, aquariums and national parks around the San Francisco Bay Area. Today he enjoys offering mentoring to early career zoo professionals. Justin received his B.S. at Sonoma State University in Biology and an M.Sc. in Wild Animal Biology from the Royal Veterinary College.
Katherine Jepson – Bat Conservation International
Katie is the Content Producer with Bat Conservation International (BCI) in Washington, D.C. Hailing from the vast wilds of New Jersey, Katie has always possessed a keen interest in the natural world. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Science and Natural History Filmmaking, a Bachelor of Science in Geology, and possesses a diverse background in environmental media production. With BCI, Katie leverages her cross-disciplinary approach to produce engaging print and digital content to communicate the organization’s conservation initiatives. She also serves as the editor of Bats magazine, BCI’s flagship membership publication. She has worked with organizations like the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geologic Survey, as well as distribution outlets such as CuriosityStream, National Geographic WILD, PBS, and other online and print media platforms. Katie believes that engaging visuals, meaningful narratives – and a dash of humor – are key to opening audiences’ minds to new concepts and inspiring action.
Kerston Swartz – Woodland Park Zoo
A lifelong animal lover, Kerston finally found a job where her conservation values meet her fascination with government and policy. As the Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Advocacy at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA, Kerston is leading the new movement for zoos and aquariums to use their reach to impact local, federal and international policy on behalf of wildlife and habitats. Previously Kerston worked for both the State of Washington and U.S. Federal Government in constituent relations and public outreach. Her circuitous professional journey made government pit stops at transportation, urban infrastructure and higher education, and now wildlife conservation policy and advocacy. Kerston graduated from the University of California, Davis in Rhetoric and Communications, and earned a Masters of Public Administration with an emphasis in Environmental Policy from the University of Washington.
Marja Diaz – National Geographic
Marja G. Diaz works at National Geographic in scripted series and documentary films in Los Angeles, California. She is a Stanford University graduate, class of 2016, with a degree in Human Biology: Behavioral Neuropsychology and an Italian minor. Marja grew up along the beaches of Southern California and prior to National Geographic was a RAY Marine Conservation fellow and Digital Coordinator at Ocean Conservancy. She is bilingual in both English and Spanish, and proficient in Italian. Her passion for travel, culture and language has led her to every continent but Antarctica (it’s on the list!), and inspired her love for photography. When not working, traveling, photographing, or determining the ways in which human behavior can shape conservation efforts, she can be found indulging in her fourth favorite past-time – bad comedies. Ultimately, she hopes to combine her passion for film, photography and science to spread awareness and inspire change for our planet and its wildlife.
Matt Lettrich – ECS Federal
Matt is a research associate supporting NOAA Fisheries Office of Science and Technology in marine protected species science issues related to climate change and climate variability. He currently coordinates climate vulnerability assessments for marine mammals and sea turtles, studying which populations are the most vulnerable to climate change and what factors drive that vulnerability. Previously, he contributed to the development of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow with the National Ocean Service. He has shared his passion for the outdoors as an environmental educator at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and along the beaches, marshes, and blackwater rivers of southeastern North Carolina. Matt received his Masters of Science in Marine Science and Bachelors in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Meaghan McCarthy – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Meaghan McCarthy is an Animal Care Specialist at Disney’s Animal Kingdom where she works with a diverse collection of imperiled species, educates and inspires conservation action with guests, and participates in the Disney Conservation Fund grant review process. Meaghan became involved in conservation early in her career volunteering with organizations such as Grevy’s Zebra Trust. She has coded community member surveys, wildlife photos, and participated in the Great Grevy’s Rally in Kenya, a citizen science event to generate updated population counts of Grevy’s zebra. These unique experiences inspired her to make a greater impact in conservation and community engagement through her role at Disney and beyond. Prior to becoming involved in animal care and conservation, Meaghan completed a bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire in Animal Science.
Mike Evans – Defenders of Wildlife
Mike Evans is currently the conservation data scientist at the Center for Conservation Innovation (CCI) within Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, DC. His work focuses on better understanding and improving implementation of the Endangered Species Act. As a part of CCI, he analyzes administrative, geospatial, and remote sensing data to evaluating the efficacy of current conservation approaches and create tools that can help external conservation partners and federal agencies. Before coming to Defenders Mike trained as a spatial ecologist, studying the movement patterns and space use of black bears and mountain lions in relation to man-made features and human activity. He received a B.A. in Biology from Oberlin College, M.S. in Ecology from the University at Buffalo, and Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Connecticut.
Miguel Arvelo – Provita, Venezuela
Miguel Arvelo is a Venezuelan-born veterinarian with an MS in project management from the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA, Caracas-VE). He has professional and technical experience in zoos and municipal administration, as well as personnel and organizations management. Miguel is the project coordinator of the Red Siskin Initiative (RSI) in Venezuela, and is based at Provita, one of the leading conservation NGOs in the country. He is very creative, driven, and is constantly looking for new ways and opportunities to expand the project’s scope of action by building new alliances with different organizations around the world in order to do more and better conservation in Northern South America.
Nurzhafarina ‘Farina’ binti Othman – Project Seratu Aatai
Nurzhafarina ‘Farina’ binti Othman is the founder and director of Project Seratu Aatai, specializing in the conservation of wild Bornean elephant in Sabah. As a scientifically trained Malaysian national, she has studied the daily activities and behavior of elephant groups at Lower Kinabatangan for the last 10 years. Additionally, she is leading the revision of the management Action Plan for Bornean elephant and has been invited to speak about the plight and conservation of Bornean elephant both at national and international levels. Elephants are close to Farina’s heart, she has enjoyed learning the personalities of the animals she has studied, and plans to continue working with this species.
Olya Esipova – Saiga Conservation Alliance
Olya is the Project Coordinator of Saiga Conservation Alliance’s (SCA) Uzbekistan program, where she works with local communities to protect the critically endangered saiga antelope. Raised by a family of dedicated biologists, Olya learned at a young age to appreciate the remarkable beauty and value of the environment of Uzbekistan. She began volunteering with SCA as a teenager and quickly discovered the complexity of conservation, being tied to economic, political and social issues of the region. Her early community work led her to pursue a degree in Psychology from the University of New York in Prague. She has been active in conservation leadership having been a delegate at the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife, Conservation Optimism Summit, and Global Youth Summit. She is a founding member of Youth for Wildlife Conservation, has received a Young Conservation Leadership Award, and has presented at Wildlife Conservation Network Expo’s, given a TEDx talk and more. Olya is currently working to complete her psychology degree and is designing a new conservation project in the Aral Sea region of Uzbekistan.
Rachael Rost – Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center
Rachael Rost is the Education Specialist at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center in Kansas, where she has worked for six years. In this time, Rachael has taught nearly 2,000 environmental education classes to more than 100,000 people. Her mission is to increase environmental literacy within her community, which she achieves through hands-on citizen science, live animal interactions, and inquiry-based learning. Rachael was selected as a 2017 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow with National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. She continues her work with National Geographic by serving on their Kansas Advisory Council and is a facilitator for their Educator Certification Program. In 2018, Rachael was named a top 30 Under 30 environmental educator with the North American Association for Environmental Education and was also chosen as an “AZA Hero” with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Rachael graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a master’s degree in biology. She just completed her goal of visiting all seven continents before turning thirty!
Robyn Johnson – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Robyn is a zoological manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In this role she leads a phenomenal team tasked with providing excellent animal welfare and inspiring conservation action for a variety of African species. Robyn partners with leadership across zoological institutions for cooperative collection planning, conservation, and research initiatives. She sits on the annual grant review committee for the Disney Conservation Fund, which has provided over $75 million to date for wildlife conservation projects around the world. Robyn earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from The University of British Columbia, and a Masters in Zoology from Miami University. Her Masters research was focused on the impact of citizen science participation to engage and inspire zoo visitors. In her free time, Robyn leads citizen science trips to Baja for whale shark photo identification research, conducts local Florida butterfly surveys, and is an active member of the International Rhino Keepers Association.
T’Noya Thompson – Galveston Bay Foundation
T’Noya is the Report Card Coordinator for Galveston Bay Foundation, where she educates and encourages action to improve the overall health of Galveston Bay, Texas’ largest estuary. Additionally, she serves as a Community Learning Leader for Miami University’s Project Dragonfly’s Global Field Project Program. In this role, she assists with managing, supporting, and co-leading graduate students online and in the field. Being born and raised in the Bahamas, fostered a deep connection to the ocean that inspired her career path at an early age. T’Noya began her career at Moody Gardens in the Animal Care Department, where she served a number of roles including connecting with the community in various capacities. She is passionate about wildlife and collaborating conservation with community engagement. T’Noya has a BS in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston and a MA from Miami University through Project Dragonfly’s Global Field Project Program. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, traveling, and meeting new people.