NIYANTA SPELMAN - Chief Executive Officer
A winding path took her from childhood in Tanzania and boarding school in India, to work at the first lobbying firm in London. After moving to Texas, she ran a management consultancy and worked with Texas environmental agencies as part of a legislative agency. She chaired a chamber of commerce, served on the Austin planning commission, and sat on a national health advocacy board.
Along the way, she gathered critical knowledge, experiences and education. Then in 2007, she began conducting extensive research and holding in-depth conversations with about 200 people. The idea for Rainforest Partnership crystallized, followed by a business plan – a rarity for a nonprofit. The inspiration became a collective vision with the selection of a founding board, and RP was born on December 17, 2007.
Niyanta now leads a dedicated team in Peru, Texas, and elsewhere in fulfilling RP’s mission to protect tropical rainforests.
JUAN MILLAN - Director of Projects, Latin America
Juan has extensive training in the execution of development projects in international organizations, along with broad experience working with the native and indigenous communities of Peru. His approach to environmental conservation emphasizes protection of the forests through projects promoting economic sustainable activities.
In his 20 years as a lawyer, Juan has served as an advisor to the Peru Subsidiary of NGO Mennonite Economic Development Associates, the NGO Mechanism of Alternating Developments, and the Natural Resources and Environment Management division of the regional government of Junín. He was also legal manager of the regional government of Huancavelica in Peru.
Juan holds a Masters’ degree in International Economic Law from the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. He also serves as a professor at Universidad Peruana Los Andes (UPLA) in Huancayo and Lima, and Alas Peruanas University (UAP) in Lima.
MARIELA PALACIOS GONZALEZ - Director of Programs - Austin HQ
Mariela has an M.S in Biodiversity of Tropical Areas and Conservation from Menéndez Pelayo International University and a B.S In Ecology from University Foundation of Popayan. During her time as a graduate student, Mariela focused on the conservation of amphibian habitats in Northwestern Ecuador.
Mariela has worked with many different ecosystems ranging from the tropical dry forest and the tropical Amazonian rainforest to the biogeographical region of Choco. She worked on several projects in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, as a consultant for leading environmental conservation organizations including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. As a consultant for the Colombian Government, she coordinated hydrographic basin management plans. Prior to that, she served as a Biology teacher at Amazon State University in Ecuador.
BETH CAPLAN - Chief Strategy Officer
A professional analyst whose skillset includes strategic planning, project management, and strategic alliances, Beth’s experience is rooted in her two decade career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and subsequent work with nonprofit organizations. Her last chapter at NASA focused on pursuing space commercialization and strategic alliances for the International Space Station Program. That transformative experience fuels her passion for building strategic alliances enable each partner to achieve their goals while they do good for the world together.
EUSEBIO ALANYA QUIÑONES - Community-based Coordinator, Colibri Cloudforest Project
Working directly with the communities of San Antonio and Calabaza and RP teams in Peru and Austin, Eusebio is developing the cloudforest ecotourism project. His work focuses on sustainable conservation through the creation of protected areas, coordination with different governmental entities, and engagement with engineers and specialists. Eusebio is also currently studying administration at a university in Satipo funded by RP.
VOLODYMYR IZERSKYY - Entomologist
Dr. Izerskyy currently serves as the legal representative and general manager of the Victoria SAC, a conservation concession area of 2,470 acres neighboring the UNCP conservation concession area and the San Antonio community in Peru. He also manages a wildlife rescue area permitted and supported by the federal government of Peru. With the help of local community members, he rehabilitates and reintroduces illegally poached species into their natural habitat.
Working with Eusebio Quinones, he will lead training for the implementation and maintenance of the butterfly sanctuary.
JANELLE SYLVESTER - Regeneration Project Coordinator
SEAN MCHUGH - Reasearch Biologist
Sean McHugh is a Large Mammal Research Biologist, very passionate about conserving biodiversity and habitats as a whole. His work and general research include predator ecology, animal behavior, habitat connectivity, mammalian diversity, land management, and protection of wild areas/hotspots. He believes that using animals as flagship or umbrella species we can provide a conservation blanket for the less known but equally important organisms that depend on the same environments.
His research methods are based on the use of remote camera traps. For wildlife, this type of studies is an effective non-invasive way to estimate species occupancy, diversity, densities, and abundance. As a conservation ecologist, he advocates not only for the species he wishes to study but also the habitat these organisms rely on. Sean believes that “we must look to conserve our remaining forest, natural habitats, or wild places and encourage wildlife-human coexistence for the increased quality of life nature provides us. Without the presence of these intact ecosystems and the countless organisms, they harbor the future of the human race is even more uncertain.”
JASMINA MCKIBBEN - Wildlife and Research Documentarian
Jasmina McKibben is a wildlife documentary filmmaker and photographer, who specializes in exposing the stories of species and ecosystems that are threatened by human activity. She aims to unite conservation and art in order to demonstrate the value of these species to a wider audience, and contribute toward their protection through increased public awareness, as well as presenting her documentation to the appropriate government officials in order to strengthen the protection of these areas and species.
Jasmina received a B.A. in Cinema Production from Point Park University and achieved PADI Divemaster certification in Komodo National Park. In addition to her documentary work with Rainforest Partnership, at their Colibri Cloudforest region. She has worked to highlight the conservation struggles of marine species such as Great white sharks and Reef manta rays through the mediums of film and photography. Jasmina aims to continue documenting terrestrial rainforest species and reveal their undiscovered beauty as well as the threats that they face for survival. As part of her work in Peru with Rainforest Partnership, Jasmina has filmed and photographed the elusive Andean bear, as well as a previously unknown population of Woolly monkeys.
LINDA BERGMANN - Accountant
MARSHALL HUGGINS - Rainforest Partner Coordinator
With a background in management consulting and supply chain management, Marshall draws on his robust problem-solving experience to improve communication, strategy, and operations at RP. Whether they are organizational or environmental, he has learned that effective solutions are powered by a strong network of dedicated people.
Marshall graduated from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, where he started and led an environmental organization for students interested in clean tech, resource sustainability, and conservation. He coordinated UT student participation in several international campaigns for climate and tropical rainforests, driven by his growing awareness of deforestation and its contribution to climate change.
Board of Directors
HAZEL BARBOUR - Board Chair
Hazel’s past work experience includes serving as Shell UK’s first community affairs adviser. She was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire medal from Queen Elizabeth II for her service to the UK community through her work at Shell. A graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Hazel researched the effects of climate change on the state of Texas in the early 1990s, before most people were paying attention to this critical subject. She believes that RP’s model and way of working is one of the keys to saving the rainforests for us all.
LUIS FELIPE DUCHICELA - Treasurer
Luis Felipe is Ecuadorian, of Quechua descent from the Puruha People of the Chimborazo province in the central Andes of Ecuador. In 1994, he became Ecuador’s first National Secretary of Indigenous Affairs. He currently serves as the Senior Advisor for Indigenous Peoples for the World Bank, where his primary job is to create a constructive dialogue with Indigenous Peoples worldwide to achieve deeper understanding and to work together toward sustainable development. Prior to that, Luis Felipe served as Executive Director of the Amazon Conservation Association, leading the organization with special focus on the Peruvian and Bolivian Amazon regions. He also served as the Regional Director for Rainforest Alliance, first in Central America and Mexico and later in Ecuador and the Andean Amazon Region.
FRANK RICHARDS - Chief Governance Officer & Secretary
Currently, Frank is the founder and CEO of Rally4 a leading technology and solutions providers to the nonprofit industry. Frank was the founder and CEO of SmartZip Analytics, Inc., a big data and predictive analytics firm serving the home services industry, which is a venture-backed (CCV, Javelin, and Intel Capital) company he
founded in 2008.
Frank has made a career out of helping fortune 1000 companies acquire new
customers and create loyalty, bringing that to the nonprofit industry to empower social and mission-driven organizations to grow and have more impact to make the world a better place.
Board of Advisors
CHARLES ATTAL - Advisor
Charles leads all talent booking and concert promotion for C3. With 16 ACL Music Festivals and 13 Lollapaloozas (each averaging 130+ artists per festival) under his wing, he has developed long-lasting, professional relationships with top tier artists, managers and talent agencies across the globe. C3 books and promotes thousands of concerts, selling almost a million in tickets in 2017 for arena, theater, and club shows, as well as drawing over a million attendees for casino concerts across the country. Since Live Nation acquired a controlling stake in C3 in 2015, Charles took the lead on all global deals built with the Live Nation International Team.
In 2007, Charles was named Independent Promoter of the Year by Pollstar, and received live music’s highest honor in 2005, 2013, and 2014— Pollstar’s Bill Graham Award for Promoter of the Year. Billboard also named C3 Presents Billboard’s Top Independent Promoter 2010-2014.
“Front of house, back of house,” says Attal. “You have to make it a comfortable environment for everyone, or they’re not coming back, whether that’s a band, a patron or a vendor.”
Each year Charles lends his talent booking expertise to C3’s expanding portfolio of events domestically and across the globe, including Music Midtown (Atlanta), Voodoo Music + Arts Experience (New Orleans), FPSF (Houston), Shaky Knees (Atlanta), Shaky Beats (Atlanta), Auckland City Limits Music Festival (New Zealand), as well as international editions of Lollapalooza in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Berlin, and Paris.
“I’m a believer in controlling your own data,” he explains. “Bands have to understand who they’re marketing to, and that’s our job as promoters, to collect and use that information correctly by working with the groups to facilitate the knowledge of who their audience is and how to best reach them. That’s a growth area which is just getting started.”
Charles’ eclectic background includes playing baseball at Concordia University and even a stint in a punk band. Attal is an avid collector of fine art and antiques, and spends free time with his daughters Gemma and Milla.
JOHN DOGGETT - Advisor
John is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Management at the University of Texas. He received his B.A. from Claremont Men’s College, his J.D. from Yale Law School and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Since 1999, John has spent part of each summer and winter teaching courses on entrepreneurship and global competition in Austria, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. Since the spring of 2003, he has led MBA students on observation tours to China and India.
HUGH FORREST - Advisor
Hugh was named “Austinite of the Year” in 2012 by the Austin Chamber of Commerce (along with fellow SXSW Directors Roland Swenson, Louis Black and Nick Barbaro). In 2014, Hugh and these other SXSW Directors were named Austin Entrepreneurs of the Year by Ernst & Young.
In addition to his work at SXSW, Hugh previously served on the National Advisory Board for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for Austin Habitat for Humanity and as a trustee for the Austin Awesome Foundation. Before joining SXSW in 1989, he founded a small alternative publication called The Austin Challenger and wrote for several other local newspapers and publications. Hugh majored in English at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
KARLA JOHANNING - Advisor
Karla’s passion and experience focus on environmental biology, in particular eco-toxicology. She is an active member of the Human and Environmental Safety Institute, Washington DC, the Bioaccumulation Sub-committee and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC).
Karla worked for several years at Life Technologies and CellzDirect as a Project Manager/Study Director responsible for overseeing drug metabolism studies and building and leading the ecotoxicology unit. Prior to that, she worked as a Sr. Research Scientist in the Environmental Endocrinology Lab at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane in the field of endocrine disruption.
Karla holds a B.S. degree in Zoology and Marine Biology from the University of Costa Rica in her native country. She later earned an M.Sc. in Fisheries and Aquaculture and a Ph.D. in Zoology/Comparative Endocrinology from the University of Rhode Island. She did post-doctoral research at the Louisiana State University Medical Center (Dept. of Biochemistry) and at Tulane University Cancer Center.
SERGIO A. LIRA - Advisor
At a young age, as part of the ‘Libertad’ movement led by Nobel laureate Mario Vargas-Llosa, Alejandro was appointed Editor of the International News Bulletin. For decades he turned his personal art-studio into the project ‘Estudio 235,’ providing artistic opportunities to Peruvian and international artists and allowing him to be a promoter of culture and the arts. Alejandro splits his time between Lima and his newest project, Lyria, in Lamas, San Martin, where his love for art and culture meets his interest in ecosystem restoration and sustainability.
BOB WARNEKE - Advisor
From 2004 to 2013, Bob served on the Board of Directors of the American Birding Association. For over a decade, he has served as President of the Board of the Malcolm C. Damuth Foundation, a private philanthropy focused on the conservation of wild lands.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Conservation Alliance, a statewide conservation organization that advocates primarily for East Texas forests and rivers. He is also an adviser to the Tropical Forest Forever Fund, which was established to help protect tropical forests and is administered by the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.
LEAH BARCLAY - Rainforest Listening
Leah’s work has been commissioned, performed, and exhibited to wide acclaim across the globe. Her dynamic career includes designing education programs for UNESCO, directing interdisciplinary research projects for universities across Australia and the US, and facilitating partnerships between communities, NGOs, and government to explore creative approaches to climate action. Leah is currently an artist in residence at the Australian Rivers Institute, the president of the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology, and the founder and artistic director of Biosphere Soundscapes, a large-scale interdisciplinary project exploring the changing soundscapes of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves across the world.
MIKE CANZONERI - Digital Consultant
A software engineer by trade, when Mike is not crashing through the Costa Rican rain forest, he’s busy running the custom technology services company he co-founded in 2010. Mike became connected with Rainforest Partnership shortly after its inception and has served as a technology advisor, working mainly with the web development team.
EILEEN KELLER - Social Physicist
Eileen currently serves as a member of the Media Managers Advisory Committee for BPA Worldwide, and has been named a member of America’s Professional Who’s Who, a past-president of the Austin Advertising Federation, recipient of the Silver Service Award for her Public Service activity, and was named Educator of the Year in 2004. She blogs at ideality.com.
CHRISTOPHER SCHMITT - Research Scientist
Christopher A. Schmitt is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Biology at Boston University where he is also Co-PI of the Sensory Morphology and Genomic Anthropology Lab. He has conducted over 70 months of field research on wild non-human primates, including in Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, The Gambia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa, and St. Kitts & Nevis.
His research interests include primate life history and development, conservation genetics and genomics, and using genomics techniques to better understand the influence of ecological variation and human impacts on primate metabolism and growth. You can learn more about his research at http://www.evopropinquitous.net.
DEBORAH TOMPKINS - Project Consultant
ROBERT H. KAESER - Strategic Adviser
Robert’s experience roots from seven years with helping strengthen the structuralize local NGOs in Ecuador with German cooperation GIZ. Born as a son of German parents in Ecuador, he’s combined both cultural backgrounds and speaks both languages fluently. Currently, he is setting up a volunteering program regarding the social and ecological segment in the Amazon basin of Ecuador for German-speaking students and teachers. As an economist, he’s also invested in solar photovoltaic panels within a second life cycle in Colombia and Ecuador as an alternative for the local industry.
ALEXANDER SANTA MALDONADO - Media Advisor
Alexander has a M.S in New Trends and Innovation Processes in Communication from University Jaume I, Spain, and a B.S in Social Communication and Journalism from University of Antioquia, Columbia. During his time as a graduate student, Alexander focused on media production for communities with educational goals.
Alexander has worked with many different media projects ranging from educational documentaries to travel series. He has also served as an assistant researcher and teacher in audiovisual production, video editing, and cinema history for the University of Antioquia and the Cooperative University of Colombia.
BRUCE SHARRAR - Information Technology Specialist
KEVIN READY - Communications Strategy
He is a frequent public speaker and educator on innovation, marketing, and startups. His first business book is titled “Startup: An Insider’s Guide to Launching and Running a Business.” In his support of Rainforest initiatives, he hopes to provide on soil conservation, reforestation, and social impact at the community level.
He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and holds degrees in Asian Studies, Computer Science, and Engineering. His business writing has been published in numerous outlets including Forbes and the Wall Street Journal.
Volunteers & Interns
FRANCISCO GARCIA – Films for the Forest
JENNIFER JIN – Outreach and Events
CHRISTIAN KELSO – Outreach and Legal
LOGAN CONCIENNE – Media Intern
BAKAYOKO VAFLALY – Corporate Sustainability Partnerships
TAYLOR SCARBOROUGH – Communications Specialist
LESLIE LINDSEY – Event Coordinator
PHILIP RUSSELL – Translation
MARIANNA GRENADIER – Graphic Design
JESSICA BAUMLER – Graphics and Marketing Intern
YARITZA TORRES – Projects
KASSANDRA BARRERA – Projects
RYAN MITAMURA – IT Intern
LAUREN THORNTON – Films for the Forest Coordinator
ALEJANDRO HERNANDEZ – Media Coordinator
MADDY CANTU – World Rainforest Day Coordinator