December 2016


Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders’ mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders who have the skills, motivation and network to address current and emerging wildlife conservation challenges to protect biodiversity. Our sixth successful U.S.-based class graduated in December, 2016. The class completed a two-year program designed to provide interdisciplinary training in leadership and campaigning skills, networking and mentoring opportunities and designing and implementing tangible on-the-ground conservation projects that benefit imperiled wildlife.

EWCL participants came together three times over the two-year training – twice at White Oak Conservation in Yulee, Florida for week-long training courses, and once in Washington , D.C. for further training, networking, and final project presentations and evaluations, hosted at World Wildlife Fund and Defenders of Wildlife.

The 2015/2016 EWCL class included twenty-four impressive up-and-coming leaders in the wildlife conservation field, with representatives from the not-for-profit sector, private businesses, and government agencies. In addition to eighteen professionals from U.S.-based organizations, four conservationists from local groups in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, India and Malaysia filled out the course. International participants received sponsorship through Wildlife Conservation Network, World Wildlife Fund Education for Nature Professional Development Grants and Houston Zoo. The participants were chosen from a highly competitive pool of over 150 qualified applicants.

Training topics were selected by the EWCL Board prioritizing specific skills and knowledge needs. Topics were presented by specialists in the conservation and leadership field at the three training sessions. These lectures, trainings and activities included:

  • Wildlife Conservation Leadership Basics
  • Skills for Successful Conservation Campaigning
  • Team Building
  • Strategies for EWCL Project Success
  • Campaigning Tools in Digital and Social Media
  • Organizational Ambassador and Development Training
  • Strategies for Wildlife Conservation Policy Initiatives
  • Communications Planning
  • 360 Evaluation Analysis
  • Grant Writing Tips
  • Strength-finder Theory
  • Planning and Evaluating Conservation Impacts
  • Conservation Education Tools
  • Dealing with Conflict
  • Strategic Advocacy
  • Fundraising Skills
  • Managing Work Life Balance
  • Team Building
  • On-camera Media and Ambassador Training
  • Tools and Techniques for Successful Publicity and Promotion
  • Developing and Refining Presentation Skills
  • Evaluating and Assessing Conservation Impacts
  • Techniques for Creating Conservation Action through Behavior Change
  • Strategies for Successful Crucial Conversations in Professional Settings
  • Developing Strategic Partnerships
  • The Value of Professional Networking
  • Effective Techniques for working in International Conservation and Governmental Agencies
  • Building and Engaging a Professional Network
  • Diversity and Inclusion-Understanding and Overcoming Cultural Bias and Misunderstandings
  • Lessons in International Diplomacy from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Director
  • Understanding the Endangered Species Act
  • Presentation Skills
  • Science and Communication in Conservation
  • Facilitation Skills
  • Using Innovations to Solve Endangered Species Challenges

At the final D.C. session the EWCL Board of Directors hosted a luncheon for DC-based conservation colleagues and EWCL alumni, as we have done for every graduating EWCL class to date. This year, to optimize networking opportunities, the focus was on a round-table style Leadership Luncheon. Six conservation leaders with diverse expertise, joined as guest speakers, leading roundtable discussions focused around the topic “Tools and Audiences-How to Reach People”. Once again held at World Wildlife Fund headquarters, this year’s luncheon attracted guests representing a wide array of expertise from the NGO, private and government sectors.

In addition to the formal training sessions, participants are provided with networking and mentoring opportunities as part of the two-year program. Individuals received formal and informal one-on-one mentoring sessions with members of the EWCL Board of Directors, EWCL alumni, and EWCL guest presenters, who offered career guidance and advice. Participants were also offered the opportunity to be paired with a member of the EWCL Alumni Advisory Group as mentors for the full two-year program.

The other major component of the EWCL program is the design, implementation and evaluation of a wildlife conservation campaign. EWCL Class 6 undertook four hands-on conservation projects benefitting imperiled wildlife. These conservation campaigns, spanning the course of the two-year training, focused on the following issues:

  • Increasing the coordination of monarch conservation stakeholders, creating partnerships with local governments, and providing milkweed seedling grants resulting in the increase of monarch butterfly habitat along the I-35 flyway migration route.
  • Creating a global network that provides trail cameras to field biologists in Southeast Asia to increase the research capacity of clouded leopards, and other rare and endangered small felids in the region.
  • Creating a media campaign and associated materials, and first ever international trade assessment of giraffe, to increase the global awareness of the conservation threats facing giraffe for use with the 2016 IUCN giraffe up-listing announcement.
  • Establishing a training program and data collection standards to collect and disseminate information on the impacts of, and local response to, global warming effects in coastal communities of Belize, to result in the development of response plans to reduce human impact on coral reefs and coastal environments.

In addition to significant time spent on these conservation campaigns by the 24 class participants, Class 6 also directly raised $30,600 for conservation, and $4,450 of additional in-kind support for these wildlife programs.

Success of EWCL Class 6 and the overall EWCL initiative has been gauged through detailed evaluations after each training session. Success is also marked by the impact of group projects and involvement of the expanding EWCL alumni network. Our graduate and partner testimonials demonstrate additional support and praise for this program. Finally, indicators of success have been collected from EWCL graduates, including numerous professional accomplishments attributed to EWCL training, networking and project experiences.

Class six formed an incredibly bonded group of participants that have been eager to form professional collaborations. Feedback from the class through anonymous surveys conducted directly after the trainings was overwhelmingly positive, including the following quotes:

“EWCL has completely accelerated my professional life and development. I’m so grateful to have been a participant. Thank you for creating such an outstanding program and family.”- Class 6 participant

“Thank you so much for this opportunity-it has been life-changing. It is already having a huge impact on my life.” – Class 6 participant

“This has been the most important leadership and conservation workshops I’ve ever attended. I wish everyone in the field could attend.” – Class 6 participant

“I have done some significant things in my life-and the EWCL training ranks right up there with one of the most significant things I have ever done. This program needs to stay around as long as wild animals need protection. Thank you!” – Class 6 participant

“The EWCL experience has changed my life in ways I never thought would be possible. My horizons have been broadened. My network has expanded and I now have a ‘family’ working with me to protect wildlife.” -Michael Starkey, EWCL Class 6

“Thinking back about the past two years- about all I’ve learned, all I’ve done, and all the friends I’ve made and the people who helped make me who I am today, has had an everlasting effect on me in nothing but the most positive way imaginable.” -Robby Mraz, EWCL Class 6

“EWCL training helped improve my skill sets pertaining to various aspects of effective conservation planning. The program offers an excellent platform for networking, knowledge building and ideas exchange through interaction with some of the finest professionals in the field as our mentors.” - Murthy Kantimahanti, EWCL Class 6

With the graduation of these 24 participants, EWCL has trained more than 120 up-and-coming leaders in six U.S.-based trainings, and an additional 17 Caribbean wildlife professionals in a Caribbean-based training, throughout our 12 year existence.

EWCL is a unique collaborative project supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of International Conservation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System, Houston Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Network, and White Oak.  Additional support was provided by World Wildlife Fund, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Disney Conservation Fund.  In-kind support was provided by Defenders of Wildlife and International Fund for Animal Welfare.