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.
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.
MARSHALL HUGGINS - Director of Engagement
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.
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
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 - Senior Consultant, Natural Resources Management
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.
JOSSY LUNA –Natural Resources Specialist
She is a biologist from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM), with experience in biological and social assessments. This led her to experience working with communities in various regions of Peru. She also has nearly 10 years of experience in research and conservation of Peruvian primates and their habitats, and is part of the current board of directors of the Peruvian Association of Primatology (APP).
She has worked as coordinator of the NGO Proyecto Mono Tocón since 2016. There, she supervised all the project activities, financial budgets, and administrative needs.
Furthermore, she led the development of community conservation initiatives, including the creation of protected areas.
She has extensive experience in the coordination of teams focused on conservation practice. She is passionate about the management of nature conservation activities, strategic thinking, and decision-making based on science. She is really excited to be part of the RP team, sharing its mission and care concerning tropical forests.
CHRIS BRUCE - Vice President of Operations
KAR DHILLON - Director of Partnerships
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.
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.
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.
HAILEY THOMPSON - Executive Assistant
Hailey is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin working towards a B.A. in Sustainability Studies. She has worked as the Event Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability at UT, as the Student Government Representative on the Green Fund Committee at UT, and as the Activity Head of Farm and Garden at Camp Merrie-Woode. Hailey also studied abroad in Barcelona in the Spring of 2019 and at the Alzar School in the Spring of 2015.
At Rainforest Partnership, Hailey assists Niyanta Spelman, CEO, as a part of the Austin team. She works to create and improve connections between Rainforest Partnership and other individuals, businesses and organizations worldwide. She also assists in keeping the team organized and connected, as the RP staff works across many timezones and continents.
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.
Board of Advisors
CHARLES ATTAL - Advisor
Charles Attal has been a driving force in the entertainment industry since he first launched his independent promotions company, Charles Attal Presents (CAP), 20 years ago. In 2007, he teamed up with long-time friends Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker to form a partnership that would evolve to become C3 Presents, a venture that combines booking expertise and large-scale production strategy to produce some of the biggest, premier music events in the country, including the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo.
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 Doggett served as Board Chair for Rainforest Partnership from 2011 – 2014, where he used his expertise in research and teaching and his interests in international entrepreneurship, global competition and sustainability to guide RP.
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 Forrest is our most recent addition to the Rainforest Partnership Team. Hugh serves as Chief Programming Officer for South by Southwest (SXSW), the annual Spring festival in Austin that brings together more than 50,000 industry creatives from across the US and around the world. SXSW inspires these creative minds through nine days of panels, presentations, brainstorming, networking, deal-making, socializing, creating, innovating, and fun.
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 Johanning, a native of Costa Rica, is the CEO and founder of KJ Scientific LLC, an environmental chemical testing company located at the Texas Life Sciences Collaboration Center in Georgetown, TX. Her company tests chemicals used in pesticides, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, consumer goods, and personal care products that have the potential to affect human or environmental health. Under new regulations in the European Union, these regulations affect US and global companies that have or will do business in Europe.
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
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.
BOB WARNEKE - Advisor
Bob Warneke is a founding board member who re-joined the RP board from 2015-2018, and now serves as an advisor. A Texas lawyer who has been involved in habitat conservation issues for over 30 years, he is now retired and devotes much of his time to protecting habitat, with a focus on sustaining bird populations.
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.
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.
LEAH BARCLAY - Rainforest Listening
Dr. Leah Barclay joined the RP board in 2015. She created Rainforest Listening, the augmented sound reality project made in partnership with RP. Leah is an Australian interdisciplinary artist, creative producer, composer, and researcher, who specializes in electroacoustic music, sound art, and acoustic ecology. She has received critical acclaim for her immersive performances, installations, and large-scale community projects that explore volatile environments ranging from the central Amazon Rainforest to the floor of the Australian ocean.
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
When he was just a child watching nature documentaries on public television in Chicago, Mike knew that someday he would live in the tropical American rain forest. Now living in Costa Rica, he owns and protects several hundred acres of coastal rain forest there. He is focused on wildlife conservation, with a special interest in jaguars and other wild cats, and has a desire to expand his rain forest properties to help create biological corridors.
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 is recognized as one of the world’s foremost media authorities on advertising. She recently worked as Cabletron’s Marketing Director for one of their spin-off companies, where she was responsible for coordinating the marketing efforts for 70 countries out of the London headquarters. She started her career at McCann Erickson in Dallas, buying time for Coca-Cola USA, before going on to New York and then back to Austin. She has been involved with over 2,500 clients in her career, from presidential candidates to international placement for Dell and AMD. Eileen authored a textbook on media and has been teaching her craft for over 20 years.
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
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.
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.
ALEXANDER SANTA MALDONADO - Media Advisor
Alexander Santa Maldonado currently works with media production, mainly shooting and video editing the audiovisual material to spread the Rainforest Partnership message to our audiences.
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.
KEVIN READY - Communications Strategy
Kevin is an entrepreneur, business author, and public speaker. He assists Rainforest Partnership in strategy, branding, and communications. He has built companies in the online retail, real estate, and digital mapping industries. In addition to his startup work, he has applied his startup skillset leading corporate innovation projects for a number of fortune 500 companies.
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.
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 – Database Manager
MAITRAYEE BASU – Projects
JENNA WADMAN – Project Coordinator Intern
JANELLE SYLVESTER – Regeneration Project Coordinator
MAITE SACO – Outreach and Education
JEMMA MILLER – Marketing and Data
AMELIA NELSON – Education Program
SVAJA PAKALNISKIS – Video Editor
MARIKA VESIN – Operations
JOHN BRICKLEY – Marketing Coordinator
SEEMA DESAI – Admin Support
STEPHANIE SMITH – Ecuador Projects Coordinator