NIYANTA SPELMAN - Chief Executive Officer
Niyanta Spelman, founder and CEO of Rainforest Partnership, knew from an early age that she wanted her life’s work to focus on protecting tropical rainforests.
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.
FANNY M. CORNEJO - Country Director, Peru
In 2008, she helped create the Peruvian NGO Yunkawasi, where her actions have been focused on the largest endemic vertebrate of Peru, the critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey; and have involved the creation of community-owned protected areas, conservation education programs, and sustainable development of rural communities.
Since 2011, she has also led the organization of the symposiums and congresses of primatology in Peru. Fanny is a member of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and Vice Chair for Peru. She also serves as the President of the Peruvian Primate Society.
Her work has been recognized by various organizations; in 2014 she received the Medal of Honor of the Order of Merit to Peruvian Women for Outstanding Professional Activity by the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Peoples of the Peruvian Government and she has been the first recipient of the Sabin Primate Conservation Prize by the Sabin Family Foundation and Conservation International. Recently, she contributed, with the Minister of Environment and the Central Bank of Peru, on the release of a 1 Peruvian Nuevo Sol coin featuring the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, with the coin based on one of her photographs of this critically endangered species.
She will officially join the RP team in July when she returns to Peru and will be directing and managing the vision and actions of RP’s work in Peru.
MARSHALL HUGGINS - Engagement Director
Marshall Huggins coordinates RP’s Rainforest Partner network around the globe, building new relationships and support to grow RP’s impact on rainforest conservation. He works closely with the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Strategy Officer on strategic outreach and partner development.
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.
SUSAN JENKINS - Chief of Staff
Susan has over 15 years of experience in managing business operations and leading enterprise-wide systems integration projects. Adept in working with others at all levels of an organization, she is a hands-on problem solver and facilitator.
Susan’s past work experience includes co-founding and running operations for one of the first companies to deliver both cloud software and consulting for whiteboarding techniques and training. In addition, she has managed multiple systems integration teams for Fortune 500 companies in telecommunications, airlines and retail industries. Susan is a proud graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Management Information Systems.
BETH CAPLAN - Chief Strategy Officer
As Chief Strategy Officer, Beth works with Rainforest Partnership’s CEO and leadership team to design and implement strategies across the organization: from top-level strategies such as vision and mission; to the operational strategies that inform campaigns, partnerships, messaging and initiatives.
A professional analyst and strategist, Beth’s 30 + years of experience is rooted in a two-decade career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, before moving to the nonprofit sphere. Beth has been part of Rainforest Partnership since inception, first as a strategic planner, later as strategic advisor to the Executive Director, and now also as CSO where she works with the team to formulate and execute strategy at all levels of the organization.
Beth’s 30+ years of experience and lifelong learning span the public and non-profit spheres. Her last role at NASA focused on advancing space commercialization and strategic alliances for the International Space Station Program. This required her to develop a sensitivity to private sector thinking that she brings into her work at Rainforest Partnership, along with her project management and planning background.
She seeks to understand patterns and trends that might be otherwise lost in noise and disorder. Her natural inclination is to look at any given situation and try to understand not just what is happening, but why; to look at every experience as one from which we can gain learning and use it to improve what comes next.
MONICA ALZAMORA - Natural Resources Director
Monica graduated as a biologist from Universidad Nacional de Piura (UNP), she has a Master of Science in Integral Management of Hydrographic Basins from Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM). She also holds a certificate on Natural Protected Areas Management from Colorado State University, US; and a certificate on Public Management, Environment and Natural Resources, with specialization in Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Services from Universidad Nacional de Piura.
Monica is interested in using her vast skills in working with regional governments of Peru for the development of policies that would frame and guide the direction of conservation actions. She joins Rainforest Partnership’s team to guide RP’s partnership with government agencies and to assess our intervention on various protected areas proposals.
JHORDY ORCUHUARANGA - Anthropologist
Jhordy has been involved in several projects that include development of proposals for Indigenous Reserves for Indigenous Peoples in Situation of Isolation and Initial Contact (PIACI) working with the Center for the Development of the Amazonian Indigenous (CEDIA). Jhordy is a founding member and part of the board of directors of Cuencas- Red de Asuntos Amazonicos, an institution in charge of research in the Amazon concerning social sciences at the UNMSM. He is passionate about understanding different cultures and the human dimensions of nature conservation and hopes to bring his experience and passion working with RP’s partner communities and the RP team.
CARLOS TELLO - Administrator & Biologist
Carlos Tello has been studying small mammals since
in Peru (PCMP).
Currently, he is working as Administrator and Biologist as part of the Rainforest Partnership team in Peru to consolidate
CHRIS BRUCE - Chief Business Development Officer
LINDA BERGMANN - Accountant
Linda Bergmann retired from the State of Texas after 21 years working as a manager and accountant at several state agencies, including nine years at Texas Parks and Wildlife as Director of Financial Management. She began volunteering her skills as the accountant for Rainforest Partnership in 2013. The mission of RP is dear to her heart, and she finds working with the staff to be a rewarding experience. Linda also works with other non-profits, and enjoys gardening, traveling with her husband, and spending time with her grandchildren.
MARIELA PALACIOS GONZALEZ - Director of Projects - Austin HQ
Mariela Palacios Gonzalez currently works directly with the CEO in Austin, overseeing the development of all project objectives and their implementation. She works closely with RP’s teams in Peru and Austin on the compilation of project data and project processes.
Mariela has an M.S in Biodiversity of Tropical Areas and Conservation from Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo and a B.S In Ecology from Fundacion Universitaria de 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. As a consultant for the Colombian Government, she coordinated hydrographic basin management plans. Before moving to Austin, she served as a Biology teacher at Universidad Estatal Amazonica in Ecuador.
BRUCE SHARRAR - Information Technology Specialist
Bruce is a proud volunteer at Rainforest Partnership. His tech skills keep our global network running, and keep our partners in communication.
ALEJANDRO HERNANDEZ - Multimedia Specialist
Alejandro Hernandez is a Filmmaker currently residing in Austin, Texas. He is a Film Production graduate and Valedictorian of Full Sail University and owner of the company A Plus Media Solutions.
His interest in Film began at the age of 13 with the rise of video in mobile cell phones and has since developed an interest in short narratives. They Are Alright is his first directorial debut, followed by They Are Alright. He has since gone to write several produced short films such as My Successor, The Ring, Santa Clara, etc. and has taken part in 30+ film, TV, and commercial productions including the Hope and Help Symposium and World Wrestling Entertainment.
He currently serves as a liaison between Rainforest Partnership team and those interested in partnering with RP, using RP’s reach media content.
JENNIFER JIN - Digital Marketing
Jennifer Jin is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and currently works as a Product Marketing Associate at M.io. She was previously Head of Marketing at another startup, Threatcare. While at Threatcare, she co-authored a book, Tribe of Hackers, which pledged to donate a portion of all sales to Rainforest Partnership. In the past, she has helped plan many of RP’s annual events such as Films for the Forest and Amazon in Austin.
She currently serves as the main website designer and editor and oversees email campaigns and newsletters, operational processes, and other aspects of digital marketing.
Board of Directors
FRANK RICHARDS - Board Chair
Frank Richards is a seasoned entrepreneur, CEO, and growth executive with 20+ years success founding, building, and growing companies. A serial entrepreneur, Frank is at the forefront of coupling internet marketing strategies with traditional marketing and customer loyalty.
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.
LUIS FELIPE DUCHICELA - Treasurer
Luis Felipe Duchicela joined our board in 2015 and has known Rainforest Partnership’s work and the team since our inception. He introduced RP to our Ecuadorian partner CyD, which led to the creation of our Sani Isla project, and he continues to serve RP with the wise counsel and substantial experience gained from his work in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors throughout Latin America.
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.
HAZEL BARBOUR - Secretary and Immediate Past Chair
Hazel worked for many years at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), where she was the manager of the agency’s Mobile Source Emission Reduction Programs. When she learned that more carbon is released into the atmosphere from cutting down and burning trees than from all the cars and trucks in the world, Hazel decided that helping Niyanta start Rainforest Partnership could be a positive way to make a difference regarding carbon emissions and climate change.
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.
LINA CONSTANTINOVICI - Board Member
Lina Constantinovici is an applied economist, investor, and pioneer in biomimetic innovation who has launched several organizations focused on building an economy that creates conditions conducive to life and is aligned with 4.4 billion years of our planetary systems. As in impact investor, Lina has launched BVC (Better Value Creation) Fund, investing in alternatives to petroleum-based products, alternatives to toxic chemicals, and film/media that can accelerate the adoption of such solutions. Lina also founded Innovation 4.4, a non-profit with the mission to accelerate the commercialization and deployment of solutions most relevant to the Paris Agreement and the UN SDGs.
Lina serves on various Boards such as Schmidt Marine Technology Partners, American Sustainable Business Council, Environmental Health Sciences. With the mission to move more capital towards urgently needed solutions, Lina advises family offices around the world and is the Founding Co-Chair of the Nexus Global Impact investing Working Group (a network of over 5,000 next-generation inheritors).
Lina has advised Fortune 500 companies on sustainability strategy and implementation, written legislation for the San Francisco Department of Environment, and designed standards for the US Environmental Protection Agency. Lina has also given back to the next generation by teaching Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the MBA level. She has spoken at over 500 conferences globally, such as the United Nations, the Nobel Peace Prize Summit, SXSW Eco, the International Strategic Management Conference.
LUCIA GALLARDO - Board Member
Prior to starting Emerge and joining Penta, Lucia co-founded Dona un Libro, Cambia una Mente, a Honduran education-focused non-profit and 2016 recipient of President Obama’s Young Leaders of the Americas Fellowship. She is currently its Board of Directors Vice President.
Lucia has past experience in both the public and private sectors, ranging from immigration and trade relations on diplomatic missions to AI-enabled mobile tech and early-stage investments. Her academic studies took place at globally renowned McGill University, with studies in International Development, focused on creating economic opportunities in post-conflict, resource-scarce, or poverty-stricken areas, as well as in International Trade & Business. Prior to this concentration, she also studied Communications Strategy.
Lucia is a 2017 Venture for Canada Fellow, a 2018 RBC Future Launch Fellow, a 2018 Money 20/20 Rise Up Fellow, and a certified UN SDG Advocate. Most recently, she was nominated for MIT Technology Review’s Latin American Innovators under 35 and the Royal Bank of Canada’s 2019 Women of Influence. She is Acquisition International’s North American Female Blockchain CEO of 2019.
SERGIO A. LIRA - Advisor
Sergio A. Lira (Alejandro) serves as advisor, translator, connector and occasionally gentle mediator in RP’s partner community. Alejandro is a lawyer, artist, and art collector who studied both fine arts and law at Cornell University before building a career as a Cultural Manager. His long talks with the scholar Carl Sagan introduced him to the concept of ‘healing the world,’ which inspired him to do ecosystem restoration and work with neglected communities.
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.
DEBORAH TOMPKINS - Project Consultant
Deb Tompkins is the founder of Sage Point, a consulting firm that specializes in strategic marketing, communications and training for organizations in the non-profit and development sector. In her 25-year career, she has spent extensive time in southern Africa, southeast Asia, and Latin America working with non-governmental organizations, community-based groups and women’s cooperatives to build entrepreneurship skills. She believes investing in the education, support and livelihoods of women is the key to promoting sustainable development. For Rainforest Partnership, she is working on communications projects as well as with the project teams at RP’s headquarters and within programs, and is working directly with the Sani Isla community to provide targeted training for the staff of Sani Lodge and for the Sani Warmi women’s project.
ANUPAM GOVIL - Advisor
We live in a time of unprecedented threats and opportunities related to our environment. Climate change impacts everyone’s lives and those of future generations. At the same time, emerging technologies can address many of the challenges facing our planet today. Rainforests are the lungs of our planet and reservoirs of immeasurable value. Protecting and preserving them is of paramount importance and a matter of great urgency. I am very privileged to have a chance to make an impact on an ecosystem that is essential for the survival of all species. Rainforest Partnership is dedicated to finding innovative solutions that can sustainably grow the global economy while ensuring the survival of this critical ecosystem.
Anupam Govil is a Partner with Avasant, a leading management consulting firm focusing on Digital Transformation, Sourcing and Globalization services. He is also the President of
As a renowned digital transformation and globalization advocate, Anupam has been providing strategic advisory services to global enterprises, technology firms and private equity funds for over 20 years. Prior to Avasant, Anupam was CEO of leading globalization advisory firm Global Equations, He has advised governments and investment promotion agencies across more than 40 countries on driving economic development through ICT and Digital services. Nearshore America has consistently ranked him in the Top 30 Influential Industry Executives. Mr. Govil is also a sought-after keynote speaker and chairs several industry-leading conferences such as Empowering Beyond series, Digital Convergence and IRPA’s Automation Innovation Conference.
COLBORN BELL - Advisor
Colborn Bell is a Founder of the 5th Element Group PBC and Director of the SDG Impact Fund, whose vision is to help create a new socio-economic era that closes historic gaps in last mile inclusion and engages the “bottom billion” to take true quantum leaps for humanity, prosperity and planet through integrating the most innovative blockchain and smart contract technologies into new impact capital vehicles and products. He is the Founder and Managing Principal of Finite Square Well, a pioneering crypto-assets management and services company that develops and executes investment strategies for select private families and UHNW individuals seeking intelligent access to the rapidly emerging, global capital paradigm shift in crypto and digital assets. Highly respected among some of the world’s most influential families, Colborn also leads the US-based private family office for a prominent Middle Eastern family managing investments in green energy, education, hospitality, aviation, real estate and art and specializes in enabling tech and innovation focused companies develop or expand their Middle Eastern presence. Prior, he was with Abacus Wealth Partners leading daily trading of over 1000 client accounts with $1B+ AUM. He previously worked with UNCDF and began his career in investment banking with Laidlaw and Co allocating PIPE deals for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and eHarmony.
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.
SCOTT THOMAS - Development and Marketing
Scott’s background includes corporate/marketing strategy and execution, lead generation, intellectual property licensing, and software selection/implementation. With experience working for and with such industry leaders as Accenture, American Express, AT&T, Bank of America, Citicorp, HP, IBM, Siemens, Yahoo, and numerous high growth companies.
Prior to founding Intelechy Group, a leading Revenue Growth Marketing Agency, Scott was the Director of Client Marketing, Lead Development at Rainmaker Systems, where he created and executed lead generation programs for respected technology leaders such as Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Panasonic, and Red Hat. At AT&T Knowledge Ventures, Scott played an integral role in the group’s rapid expansion from $1 million in revenue with nine employees to more than $125 million ($98 million EBITDA) in revenue and more than 50 employees in just three years.
Scott enjoys college basketball (and never misses a game played by his alma mater, Duke), adventure travel and live music (good thing he lives in Austin). He also serves on several non-profit boards including Austin Sunshine Camps and Austin Habitat Young Professionals (earning him two Austin under 40 finalist awards). Scott believes that some of the best stewards of our natural world are the indigenous people who live there and there is no one better in enabling them to protect their land than Rainforest Partnership.
KAR DHILLON - Partnership Advisor
UC Berkeley meets Silicon Valley. Kar organized marketing programs for the European Innovation Academy, co-founded Paladin Partners (consulting company spanning 9 countries), founded Berkeley Startup Grind (events), and established the business development arm of 6×7 Networks (fully encrypted telecom carrier – fiber optics, cloud computing, and datacenters). He is now in charge of long-term revenue generation and sustainability for Rainforest Partnership.
ROBERT H. KAESER - Strategic Adviser
Robert serves as a strategic advisor to Rainforest Partnership, advising and representing RP in Germany while working to identify and connect to potential strategic partners in German-speaking countries across Europe. Robert specializes in policy, strategic advising, advocacy on sustainable development, clean energy, global climate change for non-profit organizations, trade associations, and public funding.
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.
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.”
Volunteers & Interns
NABEEL VIRA – Operations Consultant
CHAMP TURNER – Digital Media Intern
INDRANI SARKAR – Salesforce Administrator
MAITRAYEE BASU – Projects
JENNA WADMAN – Project Coordinator Intern
JANELLE SYLVESTER – Regeneration Project Coordinator
AMELIA NELSON – Education Program
ALLAN SSEMATIMBA – SEO, PPC, Analytics
SVAJA PAKALNISKIS – Video Editor
MARIKA VESIN – Operations
STEPHANIE SMITH – Program Manager
ERIC ADAMS – Database Specialist
KASHIF MUHAMMED – Database Specialist
CHRIS DAVIS – Marketing Manager
SARAH DOYLE – Copywriter
BAYLOR JONES – Videographer/Editor
DIEGO PESANTES – Marketing Coordinator
COURTNEY TAYLOR – Engagement Coordinator
ADRIENNE GILG – Program Manager
ANNE MARIE STAPPER – Program Coordinator
SAMANTHA DEGAVRE – F3 Coordinator
FEIPU SONG – Graphic Designer