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
SENAIDA CERDA - Field Consultant
For Senaida it is a challenge and it demands a lot of effort that its people, being isolated from the development, have managed to consolidate a solid work in the community life. This brings many advantages to them, as they own the wisdom of their ancestors and have learned about the equity and solidarity of their peoples, as well as finding the harmony between nature and the human being. This is the main motivation of Senaida and it is for this reason that she says: “I will not stop until the world knows the wealth that our peoples possess, especially showing the struggle of women who are seldom heard in the remoteness of big cities. I will listen to my voice from the heart of the Yasuní – Ecuador, Sani Isla commune.
Senaida is our Sani Warmi project coordinator and she is now looking for expanding this successful project toward to communities that surround Yasuni National Park in the Rio Napo Ecuador.
LINDA BERGMANN - Accountant
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
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.
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.
JOEP MEIJER - Climate Change Consultant
Joep is a trained chemist and life cycle assessment expert, which enables him to be a system thinker and to put numbers to our activities from the life cycle perspective. He met his Texan wife, Courtney, in London, and after a stay in Europe of five years decided to relocate to Austin.
Climate change is Joep’s passion. He knows that if enough people take action, we can make a difference. He founded Climate Buddies in Austin and was the initiator and co-creator of the Austin Community Climate Plan that established the goal of having no climate impact by 2050 for the city and 2030 for our utilities. Joep serves as a team member and regional advisor of 2020 or Bust, a global organization aiming to end the climate crisis through individual action. His personal carbon footprint is minus 4000 metric tons, as opposed to a global average of around 5 metric tons.
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
Volunteers & Interns
FRANCISCO GARCIA – Films for the Forest
CAMILLE CATER – WRD Coordinator
JENNIFER JIN – Outreach and Events
MARSHALL HUGGINS – Outreach and Research
CHRISTIAN KELSO – Outreach and Legal
TAYLOR SCARBOROUGH – Communications Specialist
LESLIE LINDSEY – Event Coordinator
PHILIP RUSSELL – Translation
MARIANNA GRENADIER – Graphic Design
YARITZA TORRES – Projects
KASSANDRA BARRERA – Projects
THOMAS SAMUELSON – Projects
RYAN MITAMURA – IT Intern
ANKITA KHANNA – Project Management
LOGAN CONCIENNE– Media Intern