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Masters in Conservation Leadership

 

The 2021-2022 cohort comprises 21 students from 19 countries.

Fariza Adilbekova (Kazakhstan)

Looking back to the history of my nomad ancestors, who roamed the steppes and mountains of Kazakhstan for centuries, I know that it is indeed possible to live in harmony with nature. This hope for human-wildlife coexistence was the main reason why I decided to dedicate my career to the field of biodiversity conservation. So, during my studies at the Lomonosov Moscow State University I focused on building my knowledge in geoecology and sustainable resources management and, after my graduation, worked in science for a couple of years. In 2018, I was lucky to join the national nature conservation NGO – Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK). Throughout these three years, I have been engaged in numerous challenging tasks ranging from strengthening law enforcement to combat illegal wildlife trafficking to leading a national campaign against highway construction through pristine steppe ecosystems of Central Kazakhstan. In my most recent role, I coordinated the Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative – a large-scale grasslands conservation programme that aims to benefit biodiversity, habitats and local communities of the territories a total area of which can be compared to the size of France.   

 

Farhana Aktar (Bangladesh)

Being fascinated by nature, I am always eager to learn about biodiversity and decided to enroll in zoology (with a specialization in Wildlife Ecology, Management and Conservation Biology) at my graduate level.  After completing my study, I worked in the Wildlife Conservation Society, Bangladesh and International Union for Conservation of Nature, Bangladesh to conserve the whales and dolphins of Bangladesh. I worked on translating knowledge of research to local people and policymakers to improve awareness and understanding. I was amazed by the amazing dolphins of Bangladesh and touched by the emotions of people who are living around these animals. At the same time, I have realized the disconnection among science, people and policymakers. I found the so-called “Paper-based” protected measures are just tools for creating an ephemeral image of effective conservation. I want to work on developing effective conservation initiatives and ensuring the sustainability of the activities in Bangladesh by filling the gap at the policy level and developing a proper framework to support them. I believe, the Masters in Conservation Leadership will enhance my ability through learning the diversified sectors and knowledge of conservation and will enable me to implement effective actions in my field.

 

Florencia Chiapero (Argentina/Italy)

am a conservation biologist with a background in education and social and legal sciences. After obtaining my Biology degree, I volunteered for different research projects focused on the ecology and conservation of various species in Argentina. Since 2019, I am part of the Andean Cat Alliance, where I am currently the Field Coordinator in Patagonia of a new project we are developing to address the threat of feral dogs to wildlife. I am also passionate about outreach and science communication. In 2016, some colleagues and I realized the lack of social awareness about a major conservation issue in our region: illegal wildlife trade. Therefore, we founded an educative team to deliver workshops about this issue, reaching the  general public, both locally and regional. I am also the President of the Southern Cone of South America Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, where we aim to develop an interdisciplinary network of southern conservationists. Through this Masters, I plan to gain strong leadership skills and experience in partnership-building towards common conservation goals so I can contribute to address some of the major conservation challenges in my country and inspire young southern conservation leaders.

 

Christopher Foot (Keyna)

I studied Environmental Biology at the University of St. Andrews, qualified as a UK barrister, then a Kenyan lawyer before moving into business (farming, tourism, property development, media and education). On the conservation front, I have been fortunate to work at many levels of the Kenyan conservation narrative, from being a qualified safari guide to drafting and formulating land and wildlife policies and legislation. I currently chair several conservation entities including Naboisho Wildlife Conservancy, a model community-based conservancy in the Masai Mara ecosystem (which has benefited 10,000 community members to date); Arocha Kenya (a faith-based conservation and scientific organisation operating in both marine and coastal forests ecosystem, which has put over 1,000 children through secondary school); and a private wildlife conservancy in the Laikipia plateau ecosystem. Previously, I chaired the Milgis Trust, a community-based conservancy in a remote part of Northern Kenya.

I have worked in government by leading the national entity responsible for film and tv for six years and was also on the Presidential Taskforce for the recovery of tourism. As I transition into full time conservation work, I am looking forward to joining the Conservation Leadership course and to meeting like-minded individuals from the global conservation community.

 

Marija Jurčević (Croatia)

A lifelong labour of love towards conservation is how I would like to see my life. After twenty years in the field, my enthusiasm is only growing. I keep searching for opportunities to learn more, and to do more. The first project I designed and implemented took place in Kopacki Rit Nature Park. Thanks to enthusiasm and dedication of a strong team in the Association for Nature and Environment Protection ‘Green Osijek’, the resulting Zlatna Greda Eco Centre bloomed into an important place for learning and conservation practice. In 2016, the Centre was recognised as the best sustainable tourism project in Croatia. As my understanding of conservation and management challenges of protected areas deepened, my career led me to work for the United Nations Development Programme, where I was part of the team that developed and implemented a wide-ranging project aimed at improving management of nineteen protected areas in Croatia. During this period, I also earned an MBA degree that provided me with a range of business management skills useful for furthering conservation objectives. For the past two years, I have worked as the Balkans Capacity Development Officer at BirdLife International. This position has enabled me to build capacity for, and provide support to, civil society organisations on the front line of conservation. My career goal is to further develop my knowledge and skills, in order to maximize the potential for conservation leadership in our common environment.

 

Nebat Kasozi (Uganda)

My passion for conservation was nurtured during my undergraduate days at Makerere University (2005-2009) where I graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science. In February 2010, I began working in the primate conservation world, as a Research Assistant for a PhD Student from Switzerland. In 2012 I joined the Chimpanzee Trust, a national Non-Governmental-Organization, were I spent 8 years, five of these managing the Conservation Field Program in the Northern Albertine Rift of Uganda. I was able to study for two Post Graduate Diplomas, one in Project Planning and Management, and another in Monitoring and Evaluation as I advanced in my career with the Trust. In my management role I led a team of 27 passionate people whose dedication towards conservation of primates and forests in Uganda was admirable. Since January 2021, I have been overseeing the Grants Office for the Uganda Biodiversity Fund, an organization that mobilizes, manages and channels grants and other forms of support to other institutions and individuals that are involved in the implementation of initiatives to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. I have been managing and supporting sub grantee Organizations under the USAID’s Uganda Biodiversity Fund Activity in the Albertine and Karamoja Regions of Uganda.

I will strengthen my capacity in conservation management and leadership when I complete the MPhil in Conservation Leadership. The skill-sets that shall be harnessed while at Cambridge University shall enhance my development as a Conservation Leader in Uganda. This shall enable me to gain practical experience and greater maturity, which are important attributes for my professional life in Uganda.

 

Chloe King (US)

I am a PADI Divemaster and avid ocean advocate, leading marine research projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste as a Boren Scholar, Projects for Peace Fellow, and Fulbright Scholar. Integrating tools from political ecology, behavioral economics, and marine science, my research adopts interdisciplinary research methods to interrogate the complex relationships between the marine environment and human society. As a 2019-20 Fulbright Scholar, I spent a year in Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia analyzing how tourism can help improve the resilience and adaptive capacity of local ecosystems and communities in response to crises like climate change and Covid-19. As a Project Manager for Solimar International, I have facilitated training and capacity building programs for dozens of tourism destinations from Trinidad and Tobago to Timor-Leste, with a deep understanding of how the private sector can be mobilized to support communities and protect the environment. My research centers around the emerging practice of “regenerative tourism” in which tourism is an industry that foregrounds the health and prosperity of local people and ecosystems above all else. I spend my free time fangirling over nature via far too many adrenaline-inducing hobbies including freediving, surfing, scuba diving, running, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

 

Glenn Rodriguez Labrado (Philippines)

I started a career in development after my bachelor degree in Anthropology led me to work with poor farming communities in central Philippines as a social researcher, and project manager in various rural development NGOs. After completing a Masters of Development Administration in ANU (2003), I led and managed the Bohol Alliance of NGOs as Executive Director (2005) where we implemented river basin management, marine biodiversity conservation, and ecotourism projects. The beautiful land and seacapes of Bohol province ignited my passion to focus on conservation underpinning sustainable development. This continued at the Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (2008) where I developed and implemented Marine Protected Area, mangrove conservation, and gender in fisheries projects as Project Manager, and Development Director. In 2010 I joined a fisheries management and fisheries livelihoods project of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Zamboanga del Norte province as Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. I led ZSL Philippines as Country Manager (2013), and Conservation Development Manager (2017—present) where I co-develop, resource and supervise the implementation of marine, mangroves, freshwater, and recently, pangolin conservation, community banking and sustainable livelihoods across five provinces in the country. Through the masters programme I aim to gain solid understanding of conservation science, governance, and finance and translate these into innovative and practical solutions that will improve and accelerate the protection of our seas and marine biodiversity in the Philippines.

 

Matthew Lewis (Ireland)

Growing up in urban Ireland, it was during part of my early childhood spent in southern Tanzania where my connection to nature was first nurtured, over time developing interests in tropical ecology and conservation. In 2015 I received my Bachelor’s degree in Zoology (Trinity College, Dublin), swiftly taking up a position with the Max Planck Institute studying population dynamics of central African chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas in Loango National Park, Gabon. I then spent a further year in Gabon, as a team leader for the forest elephant movement and behavioural ecology project with Duke University in Ivindo National Park, following which I co-led a survey of chimpanzees and other biodiversity in Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. I returned to Gabon in 2019 for a further two years as project manager of the Loango Gorilla Project. I realise we face many varied challenges today in successful and sustainable conservation, many of which have been highlighted over the course of the pandemic. I look forward to broadening my understanding of conservation issues across the globe through the diverse backgrounds and experiences of all those involved in the Masters in Conservation Leadership at a critical point in global conservation.

 

Ivan Machado De Vasconcelos (Brazil)

Born in the southeast region of Brazil, I always had a deep connection with nature, which led me to study Biology as an undergraduate student. In my first professional years, I worked as a Science Teacher in public schools. However, in 2009, I started my career in the management of protected areas in the Amazon, at Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), a Brazilian federal agency. These years have brought me a lot of experience in the challenge of conservation in this region. I work in several sectors and projects, such as law enforcement, firefighting, biodiversity management, tourism and administrative activities. However, my main focus has always been in the social issues of conservation, seeking to increase the public participation in environmental management and supporting local populations in their search for improvements in the quality of their lives and territories. I also organize and act in several training courses for different audiences, such as local communities, park rangers and public managers. This Masters will give me the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with colleagues and professors, allowing me to reflect on my performance over these 12 years and learn new perspectives, strategies and tools to improve my work.

 

Christina Meister (US)

I first became interested in the intersection between social and environmental justice while working as an AmeriCorps volunteer for the Ocean State Environmental Education Collaborative. At AmeriCorps, I was responsible for teaching environmental science to youth in hospitals, assisted living facilities, and after-school programs. My experience working with underserved groups taught me the importance of community-based conservation and inspired me to study environmental science at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. During college, I worked for a fisheries laboratory, published a scientific paper, and interned with the White House Office of Digital Strategy. I also volunteered for various wildlife conservation projects and taught environmental science to local youth. Today, I lead outreach initiatives that help protect human rights and endangered species on a global level. I am particularly passionate about ensuring the health and safety of indigenous communities while working with others to end the illegal wildlife trade. Before starting graduate school, I was a member of various conservation organizations, including the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance and the National Geographic Climate and Urban Systems Partnership. I also volunteered with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and served as a student mentor for the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy Fellowship Program.

 

Nathan Mesnildrey (France)

I am a French environmental professional, with a lifelong interest in biodiversity. Since 2017, I have been working for an initiative hosted by the World Resources Institute and the UN Climate Change Secretariat that supports developing countries in implementing their commitments as part of the Paris Climate Agreement and in mobilizing resources to achieve those targets. My work has led me to engage governmental and corporation stakeholders in West and Central Africa. Through this work, I was exposed to some of the most pressing challenges countries face when trying to combine environmental protection and socio-economic development. I am undertaking the Masters in Conservation Leadership to study and explore ways to shape conservation programmes and reinforce environmental governance. I have completed a MA in Political Science at Université libre de Bruxelles and a BSc in Business Administration at Erasmus University Rotterdam. When not working, you can find me birding, looking for unusual critters, or reading about a wide range of geography topics.

 

Vanessa Ospina Lopez (Colombia)

I am passionate about the conservation of marine biodiversity and the local development of coastal communities. Growing up in Colombia, a country with an impressive biodiversity, I developed a particular appreciation for its marine environment. I studied economics and a specialisation in Environmental Management at the Icesi University in Colombia.  Driven by my desire to apply my knowledge to the protection of marine ecosystems, I joined the Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR). There I had the opportunity to work for five years as a researcher in the Valuation and Sustainable Use of Marine and Coastal Resources area. During this time, I participated in different international co-operation projects focused on the financial sustainability of marine protected areas, as well as on the strengthening of sustainable community enterprises in the Caribbean.  Recently I have collaborated with WWF Colombia in the formulation of projects in the Colombian Pacific. My field of interest is in conservation approaches that link marine biodiversity protection with sustainable and dignified livelihoods for coastal communities.  In my free time I enjoy bird watching, scuba diving and salsa dancing, as well as traditional music from my hometown of Cali.

 

Abhik Palit (India)

Having worked at the confluence of the conservation and development sectors for several years, I have slowly realised the importance of striking a balance and establishing a synergy between our conservation initiatives, development efforts and the rights of self-determination of traditional forest dwelling communities.

Upon completing my Master’s in Development Studies, I worked with WWF-India in several biodiversity hotspots across the country on community based conservation initiatives with a wide range of stakeholders including indigenous communities, government agencies, civil society organisations and private sector entities. Inducted into the prestigious Young Conservation Professionals Programme, I was posted to the Western Ghats landscape where I assessed the health of critical wildlife corridors particularly with respect to elephant populations. Subsequently, I led the Community Based Conservation programme in Balaghat in Central India, one of WWF-India’s tiger landscapes. Here, I conceptualised and implemented multiple projects with forest dwelling communities on several themes including human-wildlife conflict management, sustainable agriculture, alternate livelihoods and environmental education. I then worked in the Western Arunachal Landscape on a project centred around snow leopards and red pandas, helping local communities set up community conserved areas achieve better conservation outcomes through means such as natural resource management, community based tourism and community monitoring of forest resources. After this I worked on a project with India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, leveraging my experience to introduce a conservation ethic in government projects. Working in these diverse regions, I began to understand the complex interplay of legal frameworks, governance regimes, socio-cultural practices and the exigencies of development. It is this understanding that I would like to further hone and deploy upon the completion of my Masters in Conservation Leadership.

 

Fanny Paravicini Crespi (Itsly)

For the past three years I have been living in Africa working on two major health crises, Ebola and COVID, and on the set-up and management of a new Protected Area in North-Eastern Chad. Until the end 2020 I was based in the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve working for African Parks Network. I was in charge of setting up a community department capable of mediating between the needs of semi-nomad communities inhabiting the Reserve and the actions taken by biologists to protect the unique biodiversity that characterizes its landscape. I started working in Conservation after having witnessed, first hand, the failure of the Ebola Response in Eastern DRC. As manager of an Ebola response program in Butembo, the epicenter of the pandemic where I was stationed, it became evident that focusing only on medical needs was not enough to curb the spread of the virus due to increased community resistance and violence. With an academic background in anthropology, conflict management and human rights, it is my strong belief that when faced with multi-faceted threats, such as a zoonotic virus, a One Health approach that works upon the convergence of human, animal and environmental domains, should be applied. Conservation is another crisis that requires, more than ever, the application of such a multidisciplinary approach, recognizing that humans are an intrinsic part of nature. 

 

Geanisa Viandra Putri (Indonesia)

I am passionate about strengthening biodiversity financing. My long-term goal is to incorporate biodiversity value into the Indonesian national fiscal system. I started my career in bilateral cooperation between the Government of Indonesia and the Government of the US solving climate change and environmental conservation issues. There, I realized how hard it is to secure sufficient funding for biodiversity conservation, especially in Indonesia. After I realized this financing problem, I spent my last four years focusing on building non-fiscal incentive mechanisms to compensate conservation activities, making it desirable and self-sustained without donor interventions. In 2017, with BirdLife Indonesia, I developed a non-fiscal conservation incentive through Village Funds mechanism. In 2019 with Indonesia Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD), I started to initiate a formal incentive mechanism for mining companies that are willing to conserve biodiversity in their area. I am currently helping the UK FCDO’s Multistakeholder Forestry Programme team to support the Government of Indonesia in strengthening the nationwide system of Sustainable Forest Management standards. I can say that this work is super cool – it is a conservation effort on a country scale, and it is permanent because it was underpinned by strong legislation covering the entire country jurisdiction. In my free time, I enjoy travelling, yoga and museum-hopping!

 

Þorgerður Þorbjarnardóttir (Iceland)

I grew up in a small town in eastern Iceland called Egilsstaðir. At the age of 13 I witnessed the construction of the controversial Kárahnjúkar hydropower plant which damaged almost 1000 square kilometres of local wilderness, close to my hometown. Ever since nature conservation has been important to me. I joined the Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association in 2013 and then studied geology in my undergraduate. Since my graduation in 2019 I have been volunteering and working full time for the Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association, first as

treasurer and then as chair. In early 2020 I co-wrote a short handbook aimed at young people in upper secondary schools or universities about the governance network around environmental matters in Iceland. My leadership within IYEA has played a prominent role in upholding the momentum of youth in climate action demands in Iceland. Additionally I have worked as a Park ranger in the Vatnajökull National Park during summer and I am training to be part of the search and rescue in Iceland. The past year I have also worked part time with refugees in Iceland teaching them to read.

 

Mercy Waithira (Kenya)

I am a Kenyan Ecologist and have been in the conservation practice for the past seven years. I grew up on the Kenyan highlands in Limuru and learnt early on about our dependency on natural resources on the farm. As years progressed, I witnessed the changes that occurred on the farms - prolonged droughts, flooding, lesser yields and increased human wildlife conflict from a neighbouring protected forest. I decided to pursue a career that would help me understand the changes I was witnessing and how they can be mitigated. I hold a Higher Diploma and a BSc. in Wildlife Management and Conservation from The University of Nairobi. During my studies, I volunteered in different conservation organisations and got experience in data collection, conservation policies, project management, community development and research and monitoring.  I am an alumnus of the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) and have since worked at Birdlife International Africa Secretariat, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and The Zoological Society of London. I have interests in geospatial mapping, use of technology in conservation and community development. I enjoy creating content for conservation awareness, participating in mentorship programmes, birdwatching and chasing waterfalls. I am convinced that the survival of wildlife and their habitats is crucial for human survival; it is our collective responsibility to maintain a healthy balance in our environment for the sake of all life on the planet.

 

Mariam Weston-Flores (Mexico)

Growing up in the fifth most biodiverse country in the world, Mexico, influenced my deep love for nature and wildlife; however, the country´s extreme environmental challenges and lack of resources for environmental protection influenced my decision to pursue a career in conservation. I am an Engineer in Sustainable Development with a passion for wildlife conservation and sustainable social development. As an undergraduate, I started volunteering at the Animal Karma Foundation where I am now Conservation Projects Director. For more than six years I have promoted and developed sustainable and community-based conservation strategies for biodiversity, especially for small wild cats and jaguars. I currently work with Animal Karma and the government of the state of Morelos to develop the state’s first conservation and threat mitigation program for small wild cats. Additionally, I implement scientific dissemination strategies for wildlife conservation through social media content, community workshops, murals, drawing contests for children, and other creative educational tools. I am also conducting a consultancy to improve the coexistence between wild cats and cattle ranchers through the implementation of self-sustaining deterrent measures in the Mayan Forest for WWF Mexico, and working with Panthera Mexico and local NGOs to develop a jaguar friendly eco-label for responsible ecotourism. Lastly, I am a contributor to the Small Wildcat Conservation Foundation through the Ocelot Working Group, and I am a member of  the Climate Reality Project and the Wild Felid Research & Management Association. My biggest dream is to help stop extinctions by engineering sustainable conservation solutions!

 

Rory Wilson (UK)

I read International Relations and Politics at the Universities of Sheffield and Hong Kong before going on to serve two years as a UK government policy advisor in Whitehall. I then pursued a Masters in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. Here I wrote my thesis on “Crimes Against Non-Humanity: The Case of the African Elephant”, considering how acts of collective violence against non-human persons should be conceptualised. I subsequently developed these ideas into a paper which I presented at the 2018 Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics Summer School, and in turn was invited to become an Associate Fellow. I retain a special interest in animal ethics issues, not least in the sometimes fraught relationship between wildlife conservation and animal welfare. I have worked in both applied conservation and conservation advocacy in France, the UK, and South Africa, where I became a qualified member of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. Prior to taking my place at Cambridge, I combined work as a freelance consultant for small wildlife charities with a full time job as a forestry operative felling diseased ash trees, as well as practicing coppicing, continuous cover forestry, and habitat management.

 

Gal Zanir (Israel/Germany)

From the time I was a kid till this very day, my biggest passion and focus were dedicated to the biodiversity that surrounds us and that we are a part of. At the age of twelve I used to run off to the hills next to my hometown, to explore and document every animal or slight seasonal-change at my local ecosystem. This affair went on for years in this tiny jewel, up until the moment when bulldozers came about and devastated the habitat for construction. As a kid who grew up to know and love this ecosystem, this was both devastating, and driving. Ever since, my life course went through Wildlife Conservation and Science. I’ve participated in multiple research fields - from bird-ringing and wildlife hospitals, to entomological and marine studies. In 2018 I completed my B.Sc. in Marine-Sciences while sharpening my entrepreneurship skills and co-founding the biotech start-up- Wild Biotech Ltd. There, I led worldwide expeditions to unravel the secrets of wild-animals and their microbiome. This experience has offered me plenty of hours of watching wildlife up-close. It was then that I finally decided to dedicate my life to their conservation and to do my best to ensure the protection and rewilding of nature, in as creative ways as possible.