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MPhil in Conservation Leadership

Biographical Sketches for the MPhil in Conservation Leadership students 2013-14

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Mialy Andriamahefazafy (Madagascar)

Student

Coming from one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world, my passion for conservation emerged during my third year of law school when I was fascinated by my environmental law course and discovered all the beautiful natural resources we have. I hold a Public Law degree from the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar (2008). I then decided to pursue an LL.M in Environmental Law at Pace Law School New York (2010), which led me to be an adviser at the Permanent Mission of the Comoros to the United Nations. Back in Madagascar, I was an environmental law consultant working on different cases including environmental justice and community based management. Most of my career was was spent with the fascinating marine conservation NGO, Blue Ventures (from 2011) for which I was the Environmental Policy Officer. My work consisted of advising the projects, partners and local communities on laws and policies, which cover a range of disciplines including fisheries, carbon finance, endangered species and environmental management. Originally a trained lawyer, I am extremely excited to do the Masters in Conservation Leadership, which will help me become an accomplished conservationist. I have two ambitions. One is to support organizations, governments and local communities in establishing long-term and self-funded conservation measures for natural, and especially, marine resources. At the same time, I would like to teach and set up an environmental law department in a public university in Madagascar.

Luciana Leite de Araújo (Brazil)

Student

My bonds and connection with nature, as well as my profound interest for everything that is alive, came much earlier than my Bachelors degree in Biology. Growing up in a place like Brazil and being raised by the ocean were definitely the driving forces that pushed me into marine conservation. Before my graduation from Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), I worked for several NGOs in Brazil such as the Humpback Whale Institute and the Spinner Dolphin Center. In 2012 I joined an environmental consulting company to work mitigating anthropogenic impacts. Throughout the past years I acquired experience developing and coordinating environmental education programs in protected areas, collecting scientific data about endangered species, and assuring that oil and gas operations comply with Brazilian environmental law - as an onshore/offshore consultant for seismic operations. Seeking to access the debate and conservation efforts in other contexts, I also attended international conferences, participated in an exchange program in the US and volunteered for a research project in KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa. I believe the Masters in Conservation Leadership will strengthen my abilities to address conservation issues at a deeper level, helping the development of effective measures, agreements and legislation worldwide.

Stephen Awoyemi (Nigeria)

Student

A Tropical Biology Association (TBA) alumnus and Earthwatch Fellow, I am a graduate of the Department of Zoology University of Ibadan, Nigeria. I completed my Masters in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the same department and university in 2008. My life's aspiration to be a conservation biologist became ignited after a TBA field course in tropical ecology and conservation on the East Usambara Mountains in Tanzania in 2002. Since that time I have ardently served society through volunteer work with Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) and Biodiversity Conservancy (BC). My passionate drive to learn and utilize the leadership mind to solve conservation problems has elicited a sustained commitment spanning a decade in studying leadership principles in management literature, philosophy, psychology and religion. I thrive in the social dimensions of conservation biology, and led the founding of the Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative (RCRC) a committee under the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group (RCBWG) of the SCB. Besides serving as Chair of the RCRC, I am also board member of the RCBWG. I bring to the Masters a strong desire to learn and contribute based on my own experience in conservation action at a global level.

Achilles Byaruhanga (Uganda)

Student

I completed my MSc degree in 2005 in Environment and Natural Resources management but also have BSc Zoology, PGDip in Education and a Diploma in Law. I have been the head of NatureUganda a research and nature conservation NGO for 10 years where I have developed passion to save nature and provide opportunities for local communities to derive benefits. In particular, I worked with Batwa people (pygmies) to integrate them after they lost land to protected areas and helping to negotiate for their rights through collaborative forest management agreements. In 2001, I published a book on 'Important Bird Areas' in Uganda, that describes site status, threats and conservation initiatives needed to save globally threatened bird species. I have worked in collaboration with government to implement MEAs including Ramsar, CBD, AEWA, UNFCCC and others. The Whitley Fund for Nature recognized my conservation work with a Leadership Award in 2004, followed by an Environmental Leadership Award in 2005 from the Eastern Africa Environment Network, and a Conservation Achievement Award from BirdLife International in 2008. Currently I am Chairman of the Board of Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust, established to provide sustainable funding to Mountain Gorilla conservation and also Chairman of the Board of Nile basin Discourse, a civil society network operating in 11 Nile Basin countries promoting corporation and sustainable utilization of resources. My future career plans are to continue working on biodiversity conservation, improving leadership in natural resources management and sustainability of our environment.

Lina Caro (Colombia)

Student

The fact that biology is both a physical and social science is what inspired and motivated me to further my studies. As an undergraduate, I investigated the reproductive success of Tropical Mockingbirds. I also led a research group at Universidad de los Andes, seeking to learn about the biology of bats. After two years, this group established Fundación Chimbilako, a non-governmental organization developed to lead bat conservation in Colombia. In 2008, I worked at the Smithsonian Institution as a research assistant to a project on behavioral mechanisms in the Spotted Antbird. In 2010, I studied for an MSc in Ecology and Evolution at Universidad de Los Andes, producing a thesis on speciation of Grey-breasted Wood-wrens associated with elevation in populations from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Furthermore, my academic background is complemented by my teaching experience in formal and non-formal education. I believe that my research and teaching experience has given me a critical view of science and of the importance of interconnecting different disciplines for successful conservation strategies. Learning about novel approaches to the promotion of conservation will be an exciting and essential opportunity for me to progress in my career, and will make a positive contribution to my future work in conservation strategies for valuable ecosystems.

Jingjing Chen (China)

Student

My interest in sustainable development began early, when as an undergraduate, I worked as a volunteer manager of various research projects in urban and rural areas of China. Before joining the Masters in Conservation Leadership, I gained a Master degree in International Public Management of Sciences Po Paris (Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris), specializing in environmental governance. In 2011, I worked for the Division for Sustainable Development of the United Nations to help coordinate the 19th Commission for Sustainable Development and assist the Small Island Developing States Unit. I was responsible for inter-agency outreach, country profile monitoring, and monitoring and resilience policy analysis. After the UN, I worked for the Commission of Urban Planning and Land Resources of Shenzhen Municipality and then the Industrial Design Service of Georges Pompidou Centre in order to a gain broader understanding of differet environment-friendly initiatives. I believe effective communication skills and cross-cultural interaction are crucial in developing fresh mindsets to build conservation leadership. I have been taking charge of the communication role of the China Institute, a French think tank, since 2010. Here I am developing a Sino-French mutual dialogue, and gaining experience in creating common ground in a multicultural environment. My working experience in the Institute of Research and Education on Negotiation of ESSEC Business School allows me to exercise initiative in problem solving and stakeholder coordination. My research and career plan is to address the incoherence in conservation policies and to develop innovative means of social community engagement.

Marcelo Oliveira da Costa (Brazil)

Student

After a BA in Biological Sciences, I have been working for over a decade as a conservation biologist. I started out as a field assistant in the Iguassu National Park, I faced the challenge of conserving the remaining jaguar population in that region. Thereafter, I decided to focus on strategies for the creation, management consolidation of protected areas in Brazil. I have experienced an exciting and challenging learning environment from a government agency and three environmental NGOs. Through the development of several conservation projects relating to social and environmental development linked to sustainable development alternatives, I gathered a wide experience of field campaigns, project design and management, implementation and management of protected areas, research planning, ecology of mammals, development of protected areas management plans, institutional strengthening, local governance, and sustainable development alternatives for communities in and around protected areas. I have enjoyed the opportunity to live in three different Brazilian biomes: Atlantic Forest, Caatinga and Cerrado. In the last four years I worked in WWF-Brasil as project manager for the Amazon programme, which allowed me a more detailed understanding of the impacts of national policy decisions at a local scale.

Iris Dicke (Netherlands)

Student

I have a Bachelors in Biology (2005) as well as Religious Studies (2009), both from the University of Amsterdam. After my Bachelors I gained a masters degree in Environment and Resource Management (2008) at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. For my Master's thesis I researched the growth potential of a cacao company in Bolivia that worked in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. I am currently a policy advisor for the 'Party for the Animals' in the municipality of Amsterdam. The main focus of this political party is to improve animal rights, protect the environment and promote sustainable use of resources. As a policy advisor, I strive to make the city of Amsterdam more environmentally- and animal friendly. In the party's Nature Advisory Group, I've worked on drafting the party's political point of view on the state of Dutch nature and nature conservation for the elections program of 2012. During a traineeship at the Nicholas G. Pierson Foundation, I researched the role of a protein transition as part of the answer to the current ecological, biodiversity and food crises. My objective is to work on the large-scale implementation of payment for environmental services schemes to rehabilitate damaged ecosystems.

Eni Hidayati (Indonesia)

Student

Born and raised in a country bestowed with high biodiversity and high rate of its depletion, I often feel amazed and frustrated. This combination of feelings has led me to indulge myself in natural resources conservation. In 2009, I and two friends established a local organization concerned with nature conservation. We have been focusing on increasing knowledge and capacity of youths to save coral reefs. I have learned much about the challenge and opportunity of youth-based coral reef conservation. Our activities have been funded by several donors such as the Rufford Foundation, the Conservation Leadership Programme, and USAID. Our initiative to create youth-based ecogarden for alternative sources of nutrition during extreme weather for youths from the fisher community has won international and national awards. With other youths, we are on our path to create a community-based coral reef conservation area for educational purpose in our village. By attending this course, I will gain knowledge, skills, and network to advance the work of our organization and create more leaders. Apart from my work on coral reefs, I gained my Bachelors degree in forestry from Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia, and my master's degree from the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY, USA.

Samuel Kemp (UK)

Student

I grew up in the Lincolnshire Fenlands of England, which is one of the world's most intensively cultivated landscapes. Consequently, I am fascinated by the relationship between the environment and human activity. I graduated from the University of Nottingham (2007) with a BA in Geography specialising in Biogeography, Landscape Ecology and Rural Environmentalism. Following graduation, I took part in an ornithological research expedition to Krakatau, Indonesia. This was focused on interrogating theories of island biogeography and succession. From 2008-2011 I broadened my experiences by completing a graduate placement with a multinational organisation. During this time I gained insights into the business world and the key drivers of decisions which have impacts on conservation issues. I qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant during this time. Since 2011 I have worked in the Development sector. My first role was as the Operations Director of a grass roots Ugandan NGO. Recently I have completed roles with Save the Children as the finance lead of their global restructure and as Regional Finance Director for West and Central Africa. The Conservation Leadership course provides a perfect platform to develop my academic and business leadership experiences in order to enact macro-scale conservation solutions in my future career.

Radhika Kothari (India)

Student

My extensive travel in the Himalayas has only increased my fascination and outlook towards nature. I worked with Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim based in the Eastern Himalayan state of Sikkim (India). I was involved in developing and implementing ecotourism and environmental awareness programs in remote villages near protected areas along with the local communities. I also pursued a distance learning Masters degree in Sustainable Development, majoring in Natural Resource Conservation from Sikkim Manipal University. Thereafter, I was working with Snow Leopard Conservancy India Trust (SLC-IT) based in the Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh (India) as the Deputy Director and subsequently as its Director. Apart from the management responsibilities, I was involved in assessing human-wildlife conflict issues and developing incentive-based community conservation programs. I was also involved in developing snow leopard estimation and environmental awareness programs. I am particularly interested in researching social, cultural, economical and scientific aspects of human-wildlife interactions and supporting developing community driven conservation actions. Through the MPhil program, I am keen on learning a systematic approach of managing conservation projects and add international perspectives to local experiences and knowledge I have gained in remote regions of Himalayas.

Rachel Lipsy (USA)

Student

After four years of in-class and hands-on training, interspersed with summers working for organizations such as Oceana and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), I graduated from the University of Washington, Seattle, with a BSc in Physical Oceanography. Previous work on research vessels led me to a position as an Educator Deckhand on a schooner in the San Francisco Bay. While living and sailing on the boat, I taught students of all ages (from 7 to 70) about the marine ecosystem and the fundamentals of sailing. At the end of that sailing season I moved back home to Washington, DC and taught kindergarteners chemistry. Included in my lessons were the instructions not to eat our experiments, and not to put lemon juice on our faces – very important basics! At the start of the next sailing season I moved to New Jersey, working and living on a different schooner as it sailed up the Delaware River. There I taught kids and adults about watersheds, water chemistry, oyster biology, and the history of the Delaware Bay oyster industry. I am now excited to start the Masters in Conservation Leadership.

Zurina Moktar (Malaysia)

Student

I hail from a megadiverse country and gained an abiding enthusiasm for conservation while studying for a BAppSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Management at the University Malaysia of Terengganu. I obtained First Class Honours in 2006, and my thesis on Forensic Entomology left me in wonder at the complex life cycle of flies. I have remained passionate about biodiversity while pursuing my career. As a Training Consultant in the National Institute of Public Administration Malaysia (INTAN), I conduct trainings related to environmental management and public policy studies. These include Environmental Protection for Malaysian Technical Corporation Programme (MTCP), Green Productivity for Asian Productivity Organization (APO), Japan and Environmental Training for INTAN-Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). I am also a keen wildlife volunteer, and enjoy encounters with Asian elephants, orang utan, sun bear and turtle in Department of Wildlife and National Parks Rehabilitation Centers throughout the country. My three years of study and another three years of practical employment served as a strong baseline for the MPhil in Conservation Leadership. I am looking forward to expanding my judgment and maturity towards the challenges facing biodiversity and to change attitudes among policy makers through focused training.

Trang Nguyen (Vietnam)

Student

I first became interested in conservation and the study of animal behaviour whilst a secondary school student. When I was fourteen I decided to work as a volunteer at the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Soc Son nursing bear cubs. In 2006, I was able to find my interest more specifically in the field of conservation by presenting my project: "Grey Shanked Douc Langur (Pygathrix cinerea): A cry for help" at Thailand International Science Fair in Bangkok. I then worked as a paid volunteer at TRAFFIC - the wildlife trade monitoring network, in an awareness raising campaign to address unsustainable wildlife consumption. From 2006 - 2008, I have been working as a volunteer and intern with other conservation organisations such as Fauna and Flora International in Vietnam on the Cao Vit Gibbon conservation project (Nomascus nasutus), People Resources and Conservation Foundation Vietnam Programme on the Francois' langur (Trachypithecus francoisi). This enthusiasm for trying to understand how humanity and nature influence each other, and my love for the forest and wildlife led me to pursue both a Bachelors degree in Wildlife Conservation and my first Masters degree in Primate Conservation. I believe that this course will allow me to take on different roles in conservation and enable me to find the most effective way to adapt to conservation in Vietnam.

Stephanie O'Donnell (Australia)

Student

My first taste of practical conservation came during university, when I took six months out to volunteer in Africa. Radio-tracking predators for research and rehabilitating vervet monkeys was an extraordinary experience and cemented my determination to pursue a career in conservation. In my career, I have been drawn to projects that offer pragmatic solutions to environmental problems. This has taken me across Australia, from the tropics to the temperate forests of Tasmania. In northern Australia, I developed a method of training a critically endangered native predator to avoid cane toads as prey, thereby ameliorating the key impact of a toxic invasive species. In Tasmania, I was involved in implementing the first Improved Forestry Management projects in the world, which used carbon finance to protect 30,000 hectares of threatened native forest. Most recently, I was a field ecologist in the Simpson Desert, collecting data for a long-term research project monitoring the boom-and-bust desert ecosystem. While I am proud of the positive impact I have achieved though my work, I remain deeply concerned about the state of our natural heritage and how we are approaching issues such as food security, peak oil and population growth. I am keen to debate these issues, and more, with my peers, and reach solutions that can be translated into practical projects and behavioural change in the real world.

Sylvie Rietmann (Belgium / Switzerland)

Student

I grew up in major cities all around the world. This didn't hold me from running around with my microscope as an 8-year old and analyzing all flying, crawling and flourishing things I could find. I eventually gained my diploma in veterinary medicine from the University of Berlin. My doctoral thesis, conducted at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology in Vienna, took me to Gabon on the Western coast of Africa and gave me an opportunity to prove my capabilities in a self-managed project, gathering baseline data on a population of common hippopotamus. This research gave me the opportunity to work with local and international NGOs, gave me an insight on the many threats posed to biodiversity, not least through illegal wildlife trade. It taught me about ecology, the sustainable management of natural resources, wildlife, biodiversity and the environment in a developing country. Most importantly it also offered the amazing experience of making a contribution to wildlife conservation. As a veterinarian I am especially interested in building up sustainable conservation, not only taking in account the complex interactions regarding biodiversity, management, local communities and stakeholders, but also health related dynamics taking place in a population as well as the possible interaction of health related issues in animals, human populations and the environment.

Stéphane Rivière (France)

Student

My initial background is in plant physiology, plant-microorganism interactions and forest ecosystems. Through my professional activities I have gained some experience of conservation. I previously worked for a European ex-situ seed conservation network where I led the data management-analysis part and contributed to seed collection and curation in different European bio-geographical regions. I participated in the production of newsletters, reports and publications describing progress toward Convention on Biological Diversity-Global Strategy for Plant Conservation ex-situ and restoration programmes targets. I also ran another project focusing on conservation strategy prioritisation for particular groups and communities of taxa occurring in specific ecosystems. This was achieved through the production of scores combining evolutionary history contained in available phylogenetic markers with extinction risks represented by IUCN Red List categories. The multidisciplinary approach of the MPhil in Conservation Leadership together with the Cambridge Conservation Forum network is a fantastic opportunity for me to deepen my understanding of the conservation big picture and interact with its main protagonists. I look forward to developing my leadership potential and helping deliver positive outcomes via forward-looking prioritised actions.

Shashank Srinivasan (India)

Student

I started out my career in conservation as a trained ecologist, with an MRes in Ecology and Environmental Management from the University of York. After brief stints with various NGOs, I've spent the past few years working as a freelance cartographer and spatial data analyst in Delhi, India. I've spent this time working on a variety of projects, with the common narrative being the use of spatial data to inform policy. With the expertise, technical and otherwise, I have acquired while working as a consultant, I can now focus on my core interests: applied geographic information systems, conservation policy, environmental governance and the intersection of these research domains. My professional career so far has taken me across India; I've worked in the trans-Himalayan plateau, the Western Ghats, the mountains and terai grasslands of north-eastern India and the coastal mangrove forests of Gujarat. On a personal level, I've trekked extensively in the Indian Himalaya, and have also worked as a cycle tour guide in Delhi. With the education, mentoring and peer support provided by the Masters in Conservation Leadership, I look forward to consolidating my research interests and gaining a better understanding of the field of conservation.

Angie Stringer (Australia)

Student

Growing up on the Australian coast inspired my interest in our natural environment and heritage and helped forge my path of studying and working in the conservation sector. I spent time living, working, bicycle touring and travelling abroad before completing my undergraduate degree in Environmental Resource Management. My journey has taken me from grass roots environmental groups to higher level strategic environmental management in both government and non government organisations. For the past four years I have worked managing the strategic planning, policy and stakeholder engagement of three natural World Heritage properties in Queensland. This has afforded me the opportunity to work with a diverse range of stakeholders and Traditional Owners involved in World Heritage management across properties that include the largest sand island in the world, ancient sub tropical rainforests and one of the world's best fossil mammal sites. I am passionate about working in the area of international conventions and improving the way in which such conventions are executed in regards to achieving better protected area and biodiversity outcomes for ecosystems and the species dependent on them. I hope that the Masters in Conservation Leadership at Cambridge will assist me to gain a better understanding of managing, leading and enhancing the protection, administration and governance of our natural heritage and environments.

Maria Szephegyi (Uruguay)

Student

I started my career in conservation as Biology student in the State University in Uruguay, when, along with friends, we created Cetaceos Uruguay, a whale and dolphin research and conservation group. As part of this group I had the chance to carry out whale research in Antarctica and the Atlantic Ocean as well as to develop many environmental education activities. Among them, the co-coordination of Arenas Project involved working with teachers from the whole Uruguayan coast to include local environmental education activities in schools. I also joined the Franciscana project, designed to evaluate bycatch of the endangered river dolphin Pontoporia blainvillei. In this project, I worked very close to artisanal and industrial fishermen, which made me change the way I thought of conservation. I became truly conscious about the complexity of human-animal conflict. Later, I obtained a MSc in Ecology at the Program for the Development of the Basic Sciences in Uruguay and short trainings in Protected Areas Planning and Conservation GIS, which I currently use for conservation planning as a member of Vida Silvestre Uruguay. During the last years I coordinated the Outreach and Extension Unit from the Faculty of Science, increasing my commitment in participatory research and community involvement.

Torsten Thiele (Germany)

Student

Successful conservation of the environment requires a wide range of skills. I studied in Wuerzburg, Geneva and Singapore, and graduated from Bonn University with degrees in law and economics, including public international law. I then gained a Master of Public Administration degree at the Harvard Kennedy School as a McCloy Scholar. I started my professional career in finance, working in capital markets. As Principal Banker at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development I was involved in structuring policies and transactions for the transition economies of Eastern Europe. I then worked in merchant banking in London, New York and Frankfurt, acting as advisor to public and private sector clients and providing debt and equity capital. I focused on infrastructure finance, headed the telecom projects team and have spoken regularly at industry conferences. I have been increasingly engaged with a number of charities and environmental NGOs. I am keen to combine my range of experiences with conservation leadership skills to help protect the global environment, particularly the ocean. This summer I attended the Rhodes Academy of Ocean Law and Policy and worked as a volunteer at the Adriatic dolphin project.

Karen Wong-Pérez (Mexico)

Student

I love to learn new things and understand how everything is related. After completing my BScin Chemical and Systems Engineering, I led an Environmental and Leadership Program at Monterrey Tech Institute for four years, working with rural communities of El Cielo Biosphere Reserve in Tamaulipas, Mexico and learning how to promote gender equality through conservation. During this period, I edited a Quarterly Conservation Newsletter for kids and broadcasted a radio program for children. For my MSc in Natural Resources Management thesis I studied the biochemical functions of geophagy in the Maroon-fronted parrot (Rhynchopsitta terrisi), an endangered species of the Sierra Madre Oriental, Mexico. After completing my graduate studies, I started working as Capacity Building Specialist at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), where I supported partners' institutional strengthening. In collaboration with the Monterrey Tech Institute, I designed and launched an Online Conservation Course that reached more than 600 participants in 11 countries of Latin America. A year later, in collaboration with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and local partners, I implemented a capacity building program to increase management effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in the Gulf of California. For the last 2 years, I coordinated a Mexican initiative to promote the collaboration among public, private and social sectors around a common vision of conservation, economic development and human well-being. As part of this initiative, I've been involved in the strengthening of multidisciplinary teams to achieve common goals. I have worked in REDD+ projects in Mexico, Water funds in Colombia, and in the creation of a fish-refugees' network in the Mesoamerican Reef.

Salma Zalat (Egypt)

Student

I earned a BA in English Language and Literature from Ain Shams University in Cairo. While studying I started translating children's stories for the BioMap project (Ministry of Environmental Affairs), which focused on different biodiversity issues. My interest in conservation grew owing to the information I learnt through my first job. Growing up in a scientific family also supported and nourished my passion for learning. As the Biodiversity Education Officer, I lead different programmes for children. These include storytelling at the British Council, and workshops about the PAs of Egypt and endangered species at the Ministry of Education. I grew a special interest in birds, as a result of coming across some very keen British birders. That gave me the chance to join the Operation Wallacea project in Egypt, where I worked as an assistant and lead the birding groups. After the fund for the BioMap ended, I together with keen members of the team decided to work for Nature and Science Foundation in collaboration with OpWall. In order to expand my academic horizon, I took a Diploma in Environmental Sciences. I hope to get the best out of this programme in order to implement all my knowledge in the foundation.