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MPhil in Conservation Leadership

Biographical sketches for the MPhil in Conservation Leadership students 2010-2011

Ali Aghili


I was born in Tehran and have been active in biodiversity conservation in Iran since 1996. As an undergraduate at the Tehran Azad University, I studied for a BSc in Natural Resources, Ecology and Environment. I later joined the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford in 2008, in the first cohort to follow the new Postgraduate Diploma in Wildlife Conservation. Highlights of my conservation career include: collaboration with the UNDP/GEF/WCS Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah project; coordination of IUCN/CEESP projects in Iran on Asiatic cheetah, empowerment of local communities, pastoral nomads, and community-based conservation of wetlands; coordination of WWF/CI Caucasus hotspot project in Iran; Founder and Director of the Persian Leopard Conservation Society, a charitable Tehran-based NGO; Deputy project manager of the UNDP/GEF Conservation of Iranian Wetlands project; consultant and advisor to UNDP and Department of Environment of Iran; and project manager to the UNDP/GEF/SGP Conservation of endangered Persian leopard in Golestan National Park, Iran. My practical interests include: managing multi-dimensional and multi-stake holder conservation projects and protected area management. My research interests lie in community ecology, spatial ecology, applied ecology and conservation of threatened and endangered species, human-wildlife conflict and community-based conservation.

Update: October 2012. Ali is currently working as a Senior Environmental Scientist with the Department of Fish and Game, Government of California, USA

Isadora Angarita-Martinez


I am a Colombian biologist who has worked for more than 10 years in ecology and conservation, mainly but not only with a focus on birds. Since, completing my studies at Universidad del Valle, I have carried out various voluntary and paid activities in this field. I have gained experience in the planning and implementation of research and conservation projects, the coordination of multidisciplinary teams as well as in the administration of funds. I have also had the opportunity to combine research with awareness and capacity building of the inhabitants of my study areas.

In 2005, I completed a Diploma in Endangered Species Management at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK. Subsequently, I returned to Colombia to apply what I had learned during the diploma course to my then current job. In 2007, I moved to Cambodia, as project manager of a rescue, conservation, education and breeding centre for endangered species. This position gave me another taste of conservation and research work on endangered species. I had the opportunity to carry out and coordinate in situ conservation activities of endangered species. Before joining the course I worked as a consultant for various non-governmental environmental organisations.

Update: October 2012. Isadora is currently working as a Conservation Projects Officer with BirdLife International in Ecuador

Thomas Christensen


I am part Danish and part Brazilian, yet went to university in the UK, gaining a BSc in Zoology at the University of Reading and an MSc in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation at Imperial College London in late 2007. Growing tired of rejections for both PhD's and conservation jobs, I attended the Endangered Species Recovery course offered by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2009, which focused my mind on managing species recovery as my future professional goal. The course also deepened my awareness of international conservation policy and the issues arising from multilateral negotiations and implementation of these same. This, together with the UNFCCC meeting in Denmark, influenced me to learn more about the legal framework of international conservation practise. Soon after, I took a distance-learning diploma with the UN Institute of Training and Research on International Environmental Law. Academically, I specialised on spiders for the theses of both my degrees. However, I consider myself a general zoologist, and working on other taxa is always enticing and have done so whenever possible. Tackling species recovery projects or conservation policy internationally greatly appeal to me as it builds on my previous experience and personal background.

Francisco Oliveira Filho


I am a biologist with a Masters Degree in Landscape Ecology from the University of Sao Paulo-Brazil, in which I explored the relationships between Amazon forest fragmentation and biodiversity conservation from a landscape perspective. I subsequently joined the development of the Surveillance System for the Brazilian Amazon Region-Sivam Project. In 2002, I started work with the Brazilian Environment Agency, and in 6 years became Vice-Director of Environment Protection. In this time, I participated in the development and implementation of the strategic plan Brazilian Government Plan for Deforestation Reduction and Control in the Amazon, which was crucial for the expressive reduction of deforestation in the past six years. My next challenge was as head of the Protected Areas Program at WWF-Brazil, where I participated in the Brazilian Government Amazon Protected Areas Program (ARPA). This multi-institutional programme of the World Bank, KFW- Germany Bank, GTZ-German Cooperation, WWF, Brazilian Federal Government, Amazon States Government and civil society, had as its main goal, protection of biodiversity in the Amazon Biome by consolidating a representative portion of protected areas. My main interests in biodiversity conservation include systematic conservation planning, and tropical forest monitoring, particularly in the Amazon.

Update: October 2012. Francisco is currently working as a Director of Policies with the Brazilian Environment Ministry, focusing on efforts to tackle deforestation

Shantanu Goel


I see myself leading a nature conservation organisation, working towards sustainable development of villages in protected areas of India. While my undergraduate degree at the University of Pune was in economics, my graduate degree, also at the University of Pune, was in ecology and biodiversity. Professional and volunteer work has further enhanced my skills. Initially, I was involved in wildlife and human impact research for the Indian Government. I then worked as a volunteer with local chapters of not-for-profit organisations such as WWF-India and Centre for Environment Education, and was involved in environmental education and promoting wildlife conservation. I have also carried out wasteland development through watershed management and organic farming. I believe that conservation of natural resources, when directly linked to much-needed economic progress for marginalised communities, can promote long-term sustainable development. I aim to work on issues, cost-benefit analysis and outcomes related to participatory or joint forest management systems and the role they have played in conserving biodiversity. Documenting the outcomes of relocation/displacement of villages from the protected areas of India also interests me, as it could provide some understanding of the effects they have on conservation of species such as tigers.

Update: October 2012. Shantanu is working as a Project Monitoring and Information Officer with the United Nations Development Programme, India

Julie Griffin


I earned my bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Policy at Duke University in the US. I have worked for the past 4.5 years at IUCN's headquarters in the Species Programme. I focussed on communications, project coordination and was most recently Network Support Officer for the Species Survival Commission (SSC), helping with the work of the SSC's Specialist Groups. My work has involved IUCN Red List workshops, CBD policy work, communications, fundraising, and facilitating international meetings. I have been closely involved in the work of SSC's Marine Committee and much of my work has focussed on IUCN's policy input to the CBD Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

I am especially interested in learning more about priority setting and how local dialogue and participation contributes to long-term conservation outcomes. Through the MPhil in Conservation Leadership, I aim to broaden my career focus from supporting policy-focused species work to leading other facets of conservation, particularly in the field.

Beyond work and studies, I try to get outside as much as possible, to hike, rock climb, back-country ski, and scuba dive. It may come as no surprise that I am most passionate about conservation issues facing mountain and coastal areas and communities.

Joy Juma


I gained a BSc in Environmental Studies, with a focus on community development, at Kenyatta University in Kenya in 2004. Before coming to Cambridge, I worked for Fauna & Flora International for over 5 years in their East African office. I was involved in managing several conservation projects within East Africa, and my role was to ensure that livelihood issues were considered in all projects. I was also keen to ensure that communities were involved in managing their own resources. This approach was shown to be very effective through successful interventions in a bat conservation project in Tanzania. Here, an endemic fruit bat that was previously assessed as critically endangered was down-listed to vulnerable because of a significant increase in population numbers as a result of effective community conservation efforts. Another innovative project in which I was involved was a marine project on the Kenyan coast, where we helped communities to set up community conserved areas covering both the marine and terrestrial areas, that we also hope will prove to be an effective conservation intervention. I have also acquired some additional training in environmental journalism, communication and in sustainable livelihood approaches.

Update: October 2012. Joy is working as a Programme Coordinator for Fauna & Flora International in Kenya

Vena Kapoor


I gained a BA in Commerce at the University of Madras in 1997. However, I realized my interests lay in the areas of sustainability and conservation, and so worked for 3 years for an NGO involved in sustainable agriculture, and completed a 2-year Masters in Ecology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Pondicherry in 2000. I joined the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) in 2003 to work on a long-term project to restore tropical rainforests in the Western Ghats, where I planned and executed conservation awareness and education programmes, and undertook research on spiders as bio-indicators. In 2006, I took on an administrative role at the head office, but also managed to co-author two conservation books for rural and tribal children living close to protected areas. I also took part in a UNDP-funded project examining the post tsunami effects on wildlife and on the sustenance of the locally affected people. I have published five papers in peer-reviewed journals, along with technical reports and popular articles on ecology and wildlife. In 2008 I was promoted to Programme Manager, responsible for coordinating and managing all aspects of the conservation programmes of NCF. Eventually, I hope to use my knowledge and experience to run a conservation organization successfully.

Update: October 2012. Vena is working as a Programme and Research Associate for the Cambridge Conservation Initiative

Sushmita Mandal


I gained an MA in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, in 2002, and have worked on natural resource management and governance in India for 8 years. I was project officer for the Foundation for Ecological Security, and spent 4 years working on community-based natural resource management and governance in the State of Orissa. I also raised funds to reconcile conservation and livelihoods issues in the Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary, now an elephant and tiger reserve in the Eastern Ghats. I joined the Conservation & Livelihoods Programme of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore in 2006. I was responsible for strengthening interdisciplinary research on human-landscape interactions in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats. I undertook participatory mapping exercises with the Soligas, the resident tribal community, and analyzed available policy spaces to advocate for protected area co-management.

I took the MPhil in Conservation Leadership to hone my skills to link local realities and contexts to global processes. I plan to take back a more nuanced understanding of conservation issues and apply them through practice and policy advocacy in South Asia.

Update: October 2012. Sushmita is working as Dialogue Coordinator for the Ecosystems for Life Project of IUCN India

Bruno Monteferri


I specialize in environmental law, and focus on conservation policy and strategies. I have worked for the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law since 2005 and am now one Peru's committed young conservationists. I have been legal advisor to various national, regional and local authorities responsible for establishing and managing protected areas in Peru. My support of the Private and Community-based Conservation Initiative has resulted in the Peruvian government granting ~8000 km2 for conservation and ecotourism. I have advised Pacaya Samiria National Reserve on the design and implementation of strategies against illegal logging and on how to allow commercialization of natural resources based on management plans.

I have a special interest in how communications, media and art can promote further engagement of the civil society in conservation issues. I have developed several projects including Regiones Sostenibles, a free newspaper distributed widely in the Peruvian Amazon. I chair the Young Professionals Group of IUCN Commission of Environmental Law, participate in the research initiative Advancing Conservation in a Social Context and have published several books, book chapters and papers. During my studies at Cambridge I sought to challenge my teachers, fellow students and myself.

Update: October 2012. Bruno is working with the Peruvian Environmental Law Society as Director of the Private and Communal Conservation Initiative

Robert Sassor


Raised in the State of Oregon, USA, I have long had an interest in social engagement with nature. I studied pelagic tar and plastic pollution in the Sargasso during six weeks at sea. In Tanzania, I coordinated the conservation action plan for the Greater Gombe Ecosystem and its famous chimpanzees, and co-coordinated the conservation plan for the Masito Ugalla landscape while fostering adaptive management expertise among local stakeholders. One of my most inspirational experiences was collaborating with stakeholders to develop a wildfire prevention campaign that incorporated local values associated with fire, in an effort to reduce the unsustainable incidence of wildfires in two regions of Tanzania. This experience enabled me to capitalize on my twin passions of conservation and communications. During my years as an English major at Willamette University and subsequently as a researcher and ghost writer on environmental themes, I learned that environmental literature can play an important role in shaping public opinion. I came to Cambridge to examine the methods for determining environmental values and their roots in order to develop conservation plans and communications grounded in the environmental values of the constituencies concerned, particularly among coastal communities.

Update: October 2012. Rob is currently working as a Senior Associate with the Metropolitan Group in Portland, Oregon, USA

Mxolisi Sibanda


I have an honours degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Zimbabwe, where I followed the ecology options because of my love for the natural world. Having worked for a few years as a field researcher and intern, I went for MSc in Resource Conservation Biology at Wits University in South Africa. On re-starting work, I gained valuable experience on various issues in several southern African countries within the miombo ecoregion. Miombo is a Swahili word for a type of woodland dominated by trees such as Brachystegia. My work was wide-ranging and encompassed activities on crocodiles, elephants, sustainable forest management, community-based natural resources management approaches, bio-fuels and climate change. As a result, my personal areas of interest now include: understanding and meeting the challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation; planning and efficacy of protected areas relative to climate change; use of the ecosystem goods and services concept within the carbon market, through Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD); good forest stewardship; human-wildlife conflict, as well as the management of organisations for more effective delivery of conservation.

Update: October 2012. Mxolisi is currently working as a consultant with the International Institute for Environment and Development

Anya Zavadskaya: Visitor for Michaelmas 2010


I was born and live in the Far East of Russia, in Kamchatka. After graduating, I started work in 2008 as a Staff Scientist responsible for studying environmental threats and impacts on Kronotskiy State Natural Biosphere Preserve in Kamchatka. I carry out annual recreational impacts and research on visitor use, mainly in geothermal areas of the Valley of Geysers and Caldera of Uzon volcano. I also undertake postgraduate research in the Department of Environmental Management of the Faculty of Geography, at Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia. My PhD thesis focuses on the ecological and social factors limiting the development of recreation in the wilderness and PAs of Kamchatka.

I also give lectures and work with students from local universities, and lead a scientific research camp each year in the Preserve. From 2008-2010, I was involved in various research and educational projects supported by the Russian Fund for Fundamental Studies, the UNDP/GEF Kamchatka Biodiversity Conservation Project, and Rufford Small Grants that focused on studying recreational impacts on the ecosystems of Kamchatka. I am a member of IUCN's WCPA Young Professionals Group, the Russian Geographic Society, the Kamchatka Ecotourism Society, and KamchatKAyaking Club.


The Conservation Leadership students with some members of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative at Churchill College, following the first Conservation Leadership Lecture by Mark Rose, CEO of Fauna and Flora International.