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MPhil in Conservation Leadership

Biographical Sketches for the Masters in Conservation Leadership students 2015-16

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Sylvanna Antat (Seychelles)

Student

I hold a Bachelor of Social Science in Environment Studies (Hons) from James Cook University in Australia. I have worked with the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) since February 2008, mainly undertaking marine research. I also joined the Plant Conservation Action Group in 2008. I develop and implement strategies and policies to support the work of SNPA, provide support and coordination for the marine monitoring programme and manage specific projects as appropriate. I have experience in leading development of proposals and identification of potential donors and funding priorities, as well as providing support for the development and implementation of activities, so that SNPA and the government maintain its commitments to local and regional partners. Recently I completed a 2-year EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) Fellowship with the Zoological Society of London, working on three EDGE coral species in the Seychelles.

Jenny Arias Escandon (Colombia)

Student

I studied Biology at the National University of Colombia (2006), gained a Diploma on Environmental Management at Dresden University of Technology (Germany, 2012) and took a postgraduate course on Applied Anthropology and Development Processes at La Sapienza University of Rome (Italy, 2008). My professional career has focused on developing and implementing environmental policies and projects to conserve biodiversity, including work for both government and non-governmental organizations in Colombia, and for regional and indigenous authorities, the Ministry of Environment and more recently with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). I coordinated national initiatives such as the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), and drafted policy proposals to protect traditional knowledge systems, and to create a National Marine Protected Areas System. I also worked on projects implemented with local stakeholders including farmers and indigenous people. I wish to learn more about how local dialogue and participation contributes to long-term conservation outcomes, and about instruments to reconcile environmental and development objectives.

Michelle Cooper (Australia)

Student

Since completing my BSc in Animal Biology from the University of Melbourne in 2003, I have worked zoos and aquaria, spanning different roles from educator, to safari guide, to zoo keeper, and to wildlife conservation & science support officer. My current post is Zoos Victoria's grants manager in Melbourne, Australia. In 2009 ,I worked alongside community members of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance in Papua New Guinea, and conducted a protein needs assessment to provide recommendations on improving food security whilst reducing hunting pressures on local threatened species. My recent focus is community engagement, supporting research and sustainability projects, fundraising and communicating the plight of some of Australia's lesser known species, including the Baw Baw Frog Philoria frosti - a little guy found only in one remote mountain top in Victoria's alpine zone. I have also helped develop a $30M Wildlife Conservation Master Plan, to secure a future for endangered species in Melbourne's own backyard. I wish to develop my skills and knowledge in the fight against extinction and to promote positive behaviour change in the hearts and minds of global citizens.

Odacy Davis (Guyana)

Student

After completing my BSc in Biology, I was preparing to study in medicine. However, an opportunity to travel to the rainforests and meet the indigenous people of Guyana drew me to the beauty and richness of the hinterland. It was then that I decided to pursue my career in conservation and caring for the environment. My subsequent experience spans some 14 years working with environmental based organizations in protected area management, sustainable development and community-based conservation. I've coordinated and managed several conservation projects, the most recent research project involved indigenous communities of the Guiana Shield sharing their community-owned solutions that addressed challenges to natural resource management and climate change. My mission now is to build on my knowledge and experiences through this Masters programme so I can be a more effective Conservation Leader.

Mayke De Freitas Santos (Venezuela)

Student

A lawyer by profession, I obtained an LLM in Environmental Law from SOAS, University of London, in 2010. Since early 2011 I have been working in my home country, Venezuela as a project manager, researcher and consultant for the Ministry of Environment and several NGOs in Venezuela. I have focused on the mechanisms for implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at country level, how international environmental agreements are integrated into national legislation, and how governance, accountability and transparency are bigger factors than the law itself in nature conservation. I am particularly interested in the role of protected areas as classical indicators of biodiversity protection, and how these areas are reported to the CBD. I am looking forward to exchange views with colleagues from all around the world in Cambridge this year, and learn as much as I can both from the MPhil in Conservation Leadership and my colleagues' different cultural perspectives in conservation.

Claudia Diaz Guzman (Colombia)

Student

I am a Marine Biologist, born and raised in Colombia. In 2002 I traveled to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, driven by my passion to learn more about marine mammals. Shortly after, I completed a Master's Degree in Marine Science with a focus on Whale Ecology. I continued work as a research assistant for the next 5 years, and enjoyed long and incredible journeys at sea, surrounded by the most wonderful creatures. I then decided to focus my career on more applied issues and became part of the team of a conservation non profit organisation dedicated to empowering youth from North, Central and South America through environmental education. My main responsibilities were outreach, community events, local fundraising, grant proposal and report writing for funders. I am strongly committed to conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources and I am convinced of the importance of education and fostering conservation for future generations.

Leonor Fishman (UK)

Student

I worked in London for seven years after graduating in Geography. My first job was as a consultant with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), investigating the potential value of hydrological data in institutional finance. This opened my eyes to the interface between industry and science, through discussions of global water resources. I further explored this interface when at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a global sustainable seafood certification scheme, where I spent 4 years. At MSC I focused on traceability, auditing mechanisms and the seafood industry. This work has fuelled my interest in conventional food supply chains, their interaction with illegal environmental damage, and causality. For example, which logistical or technical systems can prevent illegally-sourced raw materials from entering the food supply chain? What internal decision-making mechanisms are necessary? Can good practices be replicated across organisations and industries? It is now time to return to the study of conservation, and I look forward to exploring such interesting questions with our lecturers, fellow students, and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative during the course.

Saeeda Gouhari (Afghanistan)

Student

I grew up in the mountainous northeast of Afghanistan, home to a diverse flora and fauna that taught me to appreciate and care for nature. I pursed the new BSc in Environmental Protection and Disaster Management at the Geo-Science Faculty of Kabul University. I also hold a diploma in Banking and Finance from Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance. I joined the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2013 as a Training, Advocacy and Outreach Officer and was promoted to lead the UNEP Afghanistan Knowledge Management Unit. There I worked closely with government partners, UN agencies, civil society, and local communities to raise awareness about environmental issues. I am passionate about climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, gender and environment, and advocacy on environmental laws, policies, and multilateral environmental agreements. Previously I have worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as a Gender and Livelihoods Officer and with the Aga Khan Education Service in the Himalayan mountains of Pamir, Afghanistan as an instructor for youth development.

Konstantin Gospodinov (Bulgaria)

Student

My home city almost lies within a very significant wetland complex for congregations of waterfowl in Europe, the Burgas Wetlands along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. I hold a Master's degree in Ecology from the Plovdiv University (2000), where I became a member of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB). For the last six years I worked for different projects run by BSPB and I managed one of them. We successfully involved a range of stakeholders initially considered antagonistic towards conservation activities. Recognizing the importance of involving different players in nature conservation, I founded a pro-biodiversity association of entities with seemingly opposing goals: environmental organizations, hunters, and anglers. I represented Bulgarian environmental non-governmental organizations in the decision-making groups for preparation and the monitoring committees of Operational Program Fisheries Sector Development, and Maritime and Fisheries in Bulgaria; and in the Regional Advisory Council for the Black Sea. This course will make me more efficient and successful in contributing to nature conservation in Bulgaria and beyond.

Jodi Gustafson (Canada)

Student

I grew up in Canada's sub-Arctic which instilled a passion for circumpolar environments. My BSc in Global Resource Systems from the University of British Columbia focused on circumpolar regions, and included exchanges with the University of Lapland's Arctic Studies Program in Rovaniemi, Finland and the University of Canterbury's Gateway Antarctica Research Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand. I produced my first documentary highlighting the impacts of climate change on Inuvialuit communities in Canada's Western Arctic based on undergraduate research. I then worked on climate change outreach at Yukon Government's Climate Change Secretariat. I was then a researcher for the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs Secretariat, and an intern at the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources Secretariat, both positions which gained me exposure to a level of international cooperation unseen elsewhere on Earth. I will use the Masters to address challenges related to the rights of Arctic indigenous peoples in natural resource development, and the conservation of climate-threatened habitat and wildlife in circumpolar regions.

Alina Ionita (Romania)

Student

I grew up in one of Romania's most iconic rural landscapes in the Carpathians. I graduated from Al.I. Cuza University of Iași, with a BSc in Geography and Environmental Science and I hold an MSc in Protected Areas Management from University of Klagenfurt, Austria. I started in the field of nature conservation in 2006, when conducting my PhD on participatory national park management in Romania. This, and protected area governance, remain my key foci. I have conducted assessments and participatory processes for protected area management, developing guidelines for practitioners, and training manuals and recommendations for policy making. More recently, I have diversified my competencies by working on protected area planning, organizational capacity and professional development for nature conservation. Most of my work covers Eastern European countries, at local and national levels. I worked for and with several NGOs, such as WWF-Danube-Carpathian Programme, Danube Parks, The Association of Ecotourism in Romania, Indigenous peoples' and Community Conserved territories and Areas (ICCA) Consortium, and since 2011 I have worked with ProPark Foundation for Protected Areas in Romania.

Priyanka Iyer (India)

Student

I am from incredible India, a land of bountiful biodiversity, myriad cultures and lots of people. I have always been passionate about wildlife and with an aim of documenting biodiversity I completed my Bachelors in Mass Media. I worked with the Bombay Natural History Society to produce their quarterly magazine, and on language edits for a field guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. This was followed by a field stint studying migratory shore and water birds in the east coast of peninsular India following the return migration from India to colder countries for summer. I also worked with urban school students for an education programme, which included interactive sessions, presentations and field trips. I found my true calling at Zoo Outreach Organisation, where I started working on the peer-reviewed, open access Journal of Threatened Taxa as an associate editor. With time I took the position of a researcher and worked for over three years on freshwater biodiversity policy interventions and threatened single location endemic freshwater fish species (Alliance for Zero Extinction species).

Oluwabunmi Jegede (Nigeria)

Student

I hold a BSc (Hons) in Wildlife Management form the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. After graduating in 2009, I immediately joined the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) as a Conservation Officer within the Technical Programmes department where I developed keen interest and knowledge in biodiversity management, conservation ecology and a unique ornithological experience. Before this I, had volunteered with the Nigerian Parks Service and NCF as an undergraduate student between 2006 and 2007 to leverage classroom theory with fieldwork. I currently coordinate activities of NCF's Forest Conservation Programme, which focuses on rehabilitation of forest areas and sustainable development of surrounding rural communities. Our major conservation concern in Nigeria remains the implementation of relevant frameworks and strategies, amidst over-exploitation of resources and habitat degradation. I am therefore trusting this MPhil opportunity to expand my knowledge and also equip me with the relevant repertoire to help ameliorate the current conservation condition from national to global levels.

Aditi Jha (India)

Student

I have worked on exciting conservation projects in India at various scales and in diverse landscapes. I have an MSc in Environment and International Development (2009) from the University of East Anglia, UK and a BA (Hons) in English (2008) from St Stephen's College, New Delhi. At Development Alternatives, an NGO and social enterprise, I implemented grassroots projects on capacity building and policy advocacy for biodiversity conservation linked livelihoods in the National Chambal Sanctuary and Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. As Programme Associate for UNESCO's World Heritage Biodiversity Programme, I assisted in coordinating this national level project in four Natural World Heritage Sites. I then worked as Programme Officer with IUCN's Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative. Here, I learned about transboundary ecosystem conservation and management in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin. After the Masters, I hope to implement projects that demonstrate the opportunities conservation can provide for enterprises and for sustainable development. My other interests include finding ways to eliminate plastic from my life, going on adventures and scuba diving.

Millie Kerr (USA)

Student

I'm an attorney-turned-journalist who focuses on wildlife conservation storytelling. A Texas native, I developed a passion for animals and nature at an early age, but I didn't appreciate the importance of this interest until volunteering at a Namibian wildlife sanctuary in 2009. I'd been practising law with a magic circle firm in London (after obtaining a BA in history from Wake Forest University and a JD in law from the University of Texas) when I took my African adventure, and it prompted me to leave law to pursue my love of wildlife and writing. Since taking the leap, I've: volunteered with additional wildlife conservation organizations in Namibia; worked as a staff writer for the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City; and published conservation articles with a range of international outlets, among them The Atlantic, The Economist, Scientific American, and Wired. I've also tried my hand at short-form video reporting and look forward to developing more methods for supporting conservation during my year at Cambridge.

Angelica Monzon (Philippines)

Student

I hold a BSc in Geodetic Engineering gained from University of the Philippines, Diliman in 2009. I specialise in remote sensing technologies that focuses on satellite image processing, land cover mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). I volunteered in conservation when I joined a student organization that advocates environmentalism and marine conservation. which fueled me to become a professinal in environmental conservation. I have 4 years of experience in conservation as a geomatics specialist, working with a group of biologists, ecologists and foresters. I have been mentored through an interdisciplinary approach to conservation, working on forest cover mapping and mapping high conservation value areas (HCVA). I believe maps have great power in identifying gaps and visualising potential solutions to these gaps on a landscape level. In the Masters I look forward to learning how to maximize the potential of using maps in improving how we look at HCVA, to include development of concrete program solutions and management plans that can be realistically implemented on the ground.

Monipher Musasa (Malawi)

Student

I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Malawi and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing for biodiversity conservation from Rakun Gaeken University in Japan. I have experience working with government and research institutions coordinating and facilitating biodiversity activities at national and community level in Malawi. In 2014 I coordinated the revision and update of Malawi's Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and successfully facilitated Malawi's accession to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. In addition I was appointed as a focal point for a number of international and national agreements and activities including Focal Point for the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Masters in Conservation Leadership, coupled with my passion and experience in biodiversity, will enhance my skills to be a successful leader in biodiversity conservation in Malawi, Africa and the rest of the world.

Sorosh Poya Faryabi (UK)

Student

Born in Kabul, I spent my childhood around Europe, and finally settled in the UK, where I gained an MEng Electronic Engineering at University of York. However, my future career would not be in electronics, so I worked as a consultant with number of UK-based organizations, and as a part-time teacher. When I travelled to my birthplace in Afghanistan, I came to realize the environmental challenges posed by rapid economic and social development. Thus, I have worked in Afghanistan as an adviser on environmental education, outreach and training with two prominent international organizations, for the past four years. During this period, I represented Afghanistan at the Asia Parks Congress, developed Environmental Education programs as well as providing technical support in development of Afghanistan's National Priority Program on Environmental Education, produced a number of handbooks and other booklets, and developed Afghanistan's Biodiversity Web portal. I am incredibly excited about joining the Masters in Conservation Leadership and learning from others in this field.

Carolina Proano Castro (Ecuador)

Student

I am an Ecuadorian biologist and sustainability professional with expertise in biodiversity conservation, climate change, sustainable development and scientific research. In 2008, I was awarded a BSc in Biological Sciences from Pontificia Universidad Catolica (Ecuador), and I later gained an MA in International Affairs from Ohio University (US). I have strong analytical, communication and facilitation skills. My greatest strengths lie in conveying complex technical concepts to broad audiences, developing and implementing effective project-based strategic plans, and building consensus among a diverse range of stakeholders in multicultural and multisectoral settings. I´ve been involved in conservation issues since 2004. First, as a scientist studying the biodiversity of insects of the cloud forest and other ecosystems in Ecuador, and later as a development practitioner understanding the links between conservation, health and development in rural communities. I developed tailored environmental education and social entrepreneurship programmes for children and youths from rural areas. Lately, I have been working at the policy level, supporting governments in Latin America to build inclusive, low carbon and resilient public policies.

Maafaka Ravelona (Madagascar)

Student

I obtained my BSc in Agricultural Science in 2006 from University of Antananarivo (ESSA). Research on illegal logging of precious wood and on slash-and-burn agriculture, led me to an MSc in Forestry, Development and Environment in 2009 at ESSA and an MSc in Agricultural Sciences in 2010 (ENGREF) in France, respectively. I have twice worked with CIRAD in the eastern humid forest of Madagascar (CAZ). In 2011, I was granted a fellowship to work for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi for one year on soil carbon. After my return to Madagascar, I did a few consultancies regarding payments for ecosystem services (PES) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) with the World Bank. Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Laboratoire des Radio Isotopes (LRI). Since November 2013, I have worked with P4GES (www.p4ges.org) seeking to understand hydrological processes in the forest. I believe this MPhil will help me forge a deeper understanding of the relationship between social and natural issues. I aspire to become an effective conservation practitioner in Madagascar.

Anke Salzmann (Brazil)

Student

In 2007 I was awarded a BSc in Forestry, in which I worked on conservation of Araucaria Forest in Southern Brazil. I also completed an MSc in European Forestry funded by Erasmus Mundus, in which my research focused on agroforestry systems managed by small-scale farmers in Dali (China) and Cerro Azul (Brazil). I started my career at a consulting firm that specialized in the Brazilian Forest Sector. I then joined the LIFE Institute, which develops LIFE Certification that recognizes organizations that promote biodiversity conservation. I worked on the development and improvement of the LIFE Certification Methodology. I also worked part-time on projects at the Chaua Society - an NGO that focuses on forest conservation in Southern Brazil. In 2015 I started working at the Boticario Foundation, in charge of the Araucaria+ project, which promotes conservation of the Araucaria Forest through the sustainable production of native forest products, such as yerba-mate and pine seeds. I am also involved in a study related to Ecosystem-based Adaptation to climate change, and issues regarding Business & Biodiversity.

Isabel Vique (Spain)

Student

Nature has been my passion since I can first remember. For that reason, I studied for a BSc in Biology in the Universidad de Alcala and a MSc in Biodiversity in the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in my native and biodiverse land, Spain. Since then, I have worked and volunteered in various Conservation institutions in Europe and Central America such as WWF, Friends of The Earth, IUCN and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) doing both field work and office management work. I am sure than the MPhil in Conservation Leadership will be an inspirational experience that will help me to grow personally and professionally as a future Conservation Leader.