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Masters in Conservation Leadership


The 2020-2021 cohort comprises of 19 students from 16 countries.

Mrunmayee (India)

Growing up in the Bhadra-Kudremukh tiger landscape of the Western Ghats in India, I joined a local wildlife conservation advocacy group, WildCAT-C, in my hometown, Chikkamagaluru as a student and took part in many nature education programs. While I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management in 2009 and started working for Northern Trust Bank as a financial analyst, I volunteered all my free time participating in various scientific surveys by walking forests, collecting tiger prey and wildlife distribution data, interacting with people to gather human-wildlife conflict data and identifying individual tigers and leopards captured in camera traps. My love for forests and wildlife, knowledge acquired through field work and my professional background in finance landed me at Wildlife Conservation Society - India as Head of Finance and Administration in 2013 where I managed budgets, grants, finances, regulatory aspects and administration of the Country Program. As I was more passionate and committed to make a difference in my home landscape, I switched to field conservation by late 2018. Since then, being part of grassroots NGOs WildCANE as Executive Director and an active member of WildCAT-C, I worked closely with local people, government, partner NGOs in understanding and addressing key conservation challenges like unregulated tourism, voluntary resettlement of people from forests, wildlife trade, human-elephant conflict, legal matters of ill conceived developmental projects planned through wildlife areas, organising awareness programs and documenting wildlife mortality.


Kadir Boru (Kenya)

I was born and brought up in a pastoralist family in Northern Kenya where the primary occupation is livestock keeping. I grew up knowing that our life as a pastoralist is directly dependent on the environment as source of livelihoods, which is directly linked to our survival. Conservation of the environment was largely a communal responsibility in that respect and traditional conservation knowledge is generally passed from generations to others through stories from elders, folklore, and songs. This in a great way influenced my choice of course at Kenyatta University in favor of Environmental studies (community development). I graduated in 2012 and since then I have worked for an International NGO as an advocacy officer for natural resources management in Marsabit and Samburu Counties. The project worked with two rural communities on forest conservation in two major dryland forests which are under immense pressure from demand for land for agriculture, wood fuel, building and construction materials, among others. The Marsabit forest for example was over 18,000 Ha in 90s but has reduced to just about 11,000 Ha in 3 decades. I later joined another vibrant community led conservation initiative to facilitate communities to devise climate resilient local adaptation solutions to climate change. As a climate change officer, my role was to lead communities identify, develop a funding proposal and implement conservation based local adaptation solution.


Evelyn Britez Navarro (Paraguay)

I discovered my passion for biodiversity conservation when I was an undergraduate student. Hence, I sought volunteering opportunities to get involved in my field of interest, such as at Paraguay´s Secretary of the Environment and Guyra Paraguay, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to conservation in the country. I became part of Guyra Paraguay’s staff in 2015, supporting protected area management, ecological restoration and mammal monitoring. In 2016 I was trained in Natural Resources Management by Ducks Unlimited de México A. C.; in the same year, I started coordinating the operation of projects aimed at reducing pressures in the Atlantic Forest through the empowerment of local communities for the implementation of agroforestry systems with Yerba Mate. In 2017, I attended a course on Leadership for Protected Area Managers, conducted by Colorado State University. Moreover, in 2018 I was a fellow of the US Forest Service for the International Protected Area Management Course conducted by Colorado State University. Thanks to teamwork, 51 families managed to certify 100 hectares of shade-grown yerba mate under sustainable standards in 2019, as well as their first sale at premium markets.  Through these experiences I realized that strong leadership skills are vital to take biodiversity conservation into action. Therefore, I decided to become a conservation leader and I am determined not to give up until I can make a significant contribution to protect natural resources.


Natalia Cisneros (Peru)

The history of violation of rights of vulnerable populations in Peruvian forest ecosystems — be they indigenous populations, women, or illegally trafficked animals—  led me to study Forest Sciences. I always believed in the power of the voice of youth, and was electedPresident of the Latin American Forestry Students’ Association (ALECIF) and later Vice-President of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA). I participated in multiple international events with a large variety of landscape actors that made me realise that most problems regarding land-use change have socio-political origins, most of which arise from the unmet needs of marginalised groups, the clashing interests of different landscape actors, or the priorities of decision-makers. Thus, “technical” issues are, in reality, socio-political: forests are about people. For the last 6 years, I have worked as a scientist at the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR), focusing on the politics of multilevel governance in forests, land and climate policy and practice, indigenous land rights, and participatory processes. However, even with the most robust scientific studies, if no bridges are established between researchers and policymakers, the possibility of achieving an impact is greatly hindered. What I seek to achieve through the Masters in Conservation Leadership is learning how to effectively bridge this gap. When I’m not working, you can probably find me windsurfing, playing hockey, waterskiing, swimming, singing, dancing or diving.

Jessa Belle Garibay (Philippines)

I am the Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Centre for Sustainability PH (CS), a women-led youth conservation NGO that successfully spearheaded the declaration of the Philippines’ biggest Critical Habitat with a size of 41,350 hectares, a little over 1/4 the size of London! My current work is focused on community organizing, scientific research, and political lobbying in our mission to protect the Philippines’ last remaining forests through the legal establishment of protected areas. In 2017, I was awarded the Sabin Prize for Amphibian Conservation in New York, USA. And in 2019, my organization was recognized as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) in the country recognizing our contribution to nation-building by protecting the environment. Outside my organization, I am a Climate Reality Leader, a member of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group, and a Licensed Environmental Planner.


Xuesong Han (China)

I was born in a small town on the Mongolian Plateau, where the wilderness enchanted me and finally led me to the field of conservation. In 2012, as a Bachelor’s student majoring in Wildlife & Nature Reserve Management, I began to conduct field investigations, scientific research and also conservation projects on the Tibetan Plateau, with particular interest in the breeding habitats of the Black-necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis), the Eurasian Otters (Lutra lutra) and the Chinese Mountain Cats (Felis bieti). In 2017, right after acquiring my master’s degree, I joined SHAN SHUI Conservation Center, an NGO in China promoting community-based conservation, and began my exciting career as a professional conservationist on the Tibetan Plateau. During this period of time, as the leader of the wetland projects of the Sanjiangyuan Region, I have been doing my utmost to keep the unique culture, pristine landscape and also unbelievable harmony between humans and nature from the impact of booming human activities and accelerating climate change. All these years, the wilderness brings me endless peace and joy, and now being a member of this amazing cohort of global conservationists will provide me with the best chance to return this favour.


Maria Ines Hernandez De La Pena (Mexico)

In the context of climate change, an extinction crisis, and an accelerated urbanization process, I am a political scientist interested in exploring ways to integrate biodiversity conservation in cities, especially through nature-based solutions that promote environmental justice, such as urban forests. After three years working in the NGO Reforestamos México promoting more and better urban forests in Latin America, I have learned about the true potential of biodiversity for more resilient, equitable and livable cities. I want a future where cities and nature are not necessarily opposite concepts, and biodiversity conservation is a global priority. Before working for Reforestamos, I was a research assistant for the Research Centre on Equitable Development (EQUIDE), where I took part in a project for public policy making towards environmental poverty alleviation in cities. In 2019, I was awarded a full scholarship by the UNEP, UNESCO and the German Environmental Agency to attend the 77th International Short Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries (Ecosystem Management - Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services) at the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies of Environmental Management. In my free time I enjoy hiking (volcanoes are my favorite), photography, and live music.


Fabrice Inkonkoy (Democratic Republic of Congo)

My interests in biodiversity conservation topics were first aroused during my undergraduate degree at the University of Kinshasa where I studied Natural Resources Management. In 2011 I joined WWF-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and I took over the position of GIS & Database Officer for the Protected Areas Programme. Part of my role was to update protected areas' geographical limits and train park rangers in data collection for law enforcement monitoring in protected areas. Working with rangers was an opportunity to visit beautiful places in the Congo Basin forest. Within these “protected forests”, I have not only seen wildlife and natural processes, but also came across local community and indigenous people, hunting and agricultural practices. Moreover, I had a chance to understand one of the root causes of the existing conflicts between local community and protected areas Management teams across the World. In 2015, I received a University Diploma in Protected Areas Management from the University Senghor of Alexandria, following an intensive training course offered jointly by WCS and IUCN. This experience helped me fine tune my vision for an effective Conservation approach, one that considers local communities as an active part of the solution. Over the last 9 years, I have been part of the design and implementation team for the WWF Conservation strategy in DRC. Most recently, I worked as an Indigenous People and Local Community Advisor, promoting local community’s development into Conservation agenda. Furthermore, I just completed the Humphrey Fellowship Programme at the University of California, Davis. Through this Masters in Conservation Leadership, I aim to gain advanced skills and network to scale up my contribution to protecting the Green Heart of Africa.


Akylai Kabaeva (Kyrgyzstan)

Growing up in the country surrounded by breath-taking mountains, lakes, and rivers it was inevitable for me to fall in love with the beauty and diversity of the natural world. So it was a true fortune to get an internship in a conservation organisation such as Fauna & Flora International in Kyrgyzstan and to be able to not only admire but also contribute to the protection of the wildlife. At the beginning of my internship I had a mostly theoretical knowledge of biodiversity protection that I received from the master’s degree course on Eco-development that I had graduated from the same year. So it is fair to say that this internship provided by the Conservation Leadership Programme was my introduction to wildlife conservation. After completing my internship I continued working with FFI and last year I was promoted to the position of a programme officer and was trusted to coordinate a project on the Saker falcon. Although challenging, my new responsibility nevertheless was exciting and invaluable. This experience allowed me to explore the illegal wildlife trade which was a new field for the whole team and to identify the gaps in my skills and knowledge. I believe that the Masters in Conservation Leadership is the best place where I could find important experience that would help me to grow as a wildlife conservationist.


Abhisheka Krishnagopal (India)

I grew up in a city but spending vacations at my grandparents’ in the southern Western Ghats of India helped me develop a deep connection to nature at an early age. Love for the animals led me to get involved in rehabilitation of displaced urban wildlife which had suffered from the unprecedented development of the city. Though I studied Fine Arts (Bangalore University) for my undergraduate degree, living in close proximity to wild animals, nursing and caring for injured wildlife influenced me to pursue my Masters degree in Ecology and Environment (Sikkim Manipal University) as I was keen to continue in the field of nature conservation. After a short corporate stint I forayed into ecological research work focused on birds, specializing in bird migration studies. Soon, realizing that involvement of local communities is integral to address conservation challenges I began involving myself in nature awareness programmes, where I wove art into education workshops which I conducted across India and developed innovative pedagogies that enabled learning and practice by children of different age groups. My long-term interests are to bring together art and ecology and to integrate research, outreach and conservation in order to create strong linkages between rural livelihoods and biodiversity conservation.


Mariana Martinez Del Rio De La Torre (Mexico)

I was born in Mexico and raised in a small village named Cuernavaca. Hence, I was able to grow up surrounded by nature and, with my father’s influence, that’s how I started to be amazed by animals and all living things. Being sure of my vocation to protect nature and pushed by my passion, I studied Engineering in Sustainable Development at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. As an undergraduate I led environmental projects where I understood the importance to pursue a conservation goal under a multi-actor scheme. Afterwards I worked with CCMSS, a Mexican NGO, where I learnt the value of strengthening local communities’ governance in order to sustainably manage natural resources, experiencing first-hand projects where indigenous communities benefited from nature and vice versa. Afterwards, I started to work in the Coordinator Unit of the GEF Species at Risk Project with UNDP and in collaboration with the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, strengthening protected areas to better conserve 14 species and their habitat. Throughout these experiences, I have been able to see how conservation issues in Mexico are addressed and I am sure that effective leadership is key to foster conservation effectiveness. Therefore, I want to keep strengthening my capacities, and help build a world where humans can thrive together with nature.


Ash Nino Torres (Colombia)

I am originally from Colombia, a megadiverse country that fostered my passion for the natural environment.  I moved to Canada to pursue my undergraduate degree in Natural Resources Conservation. After graduation, I co-wrote a peered reviewed poster on Brazilian Protected Areas, which I presented at the North American Conference for Conservation Biology (2018).

I worked as an environmental management intern for a plantation forestry company in South Africa. There I performed land-based analyses of riparian and conservation areas, including cataloguing wildlife with camera traps and helping with stream health assessments. Additionally, I advocated for alternative energy use through wind-turbine suitability analysis of plantations. I transitioned into background research for environmental site remediation of urban areas. However, I come into this program as a recent Project Manager in the sustainable building industry. This position allowed me to focus on urban conservation, from water and energy conservation to landscapes that reduce the heat island effects and promote pollinators and native plantings. The Project Manager position allowed me to balance client needs with environmental limitations while coordinating multiple teams. I hope this program allows me to develop more leadership skills to create positive change in the conservation world.


Reinhard Nyandire (Kenya)

I am a young Kenyan who has been on the frontline defending constitutional commitments to meaningful and effective Environmental Assessment processes in Kenya. I am a passionate champion of sustainable and equitable conservation practice in Kenya. In my role at the Friends of Nairobi National Park, I directly coordinated a diverse and expansive range of conservation organisations and interdisciplinary researchers, through various multistakeholder initiatives advancing sustainable models of development and conservation practice, in a range of national and international policy processes, as well as through legal processes. In parallel, I have mobilised communities – and supported them to peacefully advocate for their jurisdictional rights – through high profile media and community awareness campaigns. Recognising the need for greater professional freedom in a politically pressurised conservation landscape – and seemingly craving an outlet to represent and consolidate support for a broad range of emerging conservation and sustainability policy objectives -  I have recently founded the Africa Sustainability Network (ASNET), as a platform to coordinate like-minded civil society, research and grassroots organisations in conservation and sustainability action. I seek to combine technical knowledge of conservation and sustainability issues with creativity - and indeed fearlessness - in advocacy and campaign mobilisation.


Alerick Pacay Barahona (Guatemala)

I am a 29 year old Guatemalan conservationist. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Aquaculture from the State University of San Carlos in Guatemala. When I was 24, I founded the organization Semillas del Océano (Seeds of the Ocean) with the mission to promote ocean conservation in the coastal rural communities of my country. With my team, I have led and implemented several conservation projects including the construction of classrooms with “eco-bricks”, the development of environmental education programs for coastal communities and the Youth Leadership Summit to tackle plastic pollution through community action campaigns led by young Guatemalans. Personally, I have participated in scientific research projects such as the evaluation of coral reef health and the status of the invasive species Lion Fish in the Guatemalan Caribbean; the status of the populations of sea cucumbers, and the abundance of reef fish also in the Caribbean. All of these projects resulted in reports or scientific papers to increase the accessibility to information about marine and coastal resources in the region. I enjoy being in the field, where I always try to promote leadership among locals, sowing in them the seeds of conservation to make them replicators of positive impacts and change. 

Samuel Vanlalngheta Pachuau (India)

My name is Samuel Vanlalngheta Pachuau from India. I belong to the Indian Forest Service (IFS) batch of 2013 and currently serving in the southern Indian state of Kerala, India. I have obtained a Bachelor’s in Forestry and subsequently a Master’s degree in Wildlife Science. I then joined the IFS and have been serving as a Forest Officer in the biodiversity rich southern western ghats landscape in Kerala including Munnar, Palakkad and then Silent Valley National Park. Hailing from another biodiversity hotspot in the North Eastern side of the country, Mizoram, and now having to work for 5 odd years in Kerala, I have been exposed to a large portion of the complex natural resource management paradigms and challenges besetting forests and wildlife resources of the country. I believe the Masters in Conservation Leadership will expose me to the various facets of biodiversity conservation in vogue through learning from fellow students and from various institutions that have been playing vital roles in protection of the natural world. A self-professed biophile, anything that concerns the natural world interests me. I am looking forward to an excellent year of learning in these uncertain times!


Alexandra 'Sasha' Sebright (UK)

Growing up in rural Wales I experienced the joy and companionship that animals unknowingly provide, alongside the heart-breaking mistreatment pets and wildlife can needlessly suffer. This instilled a profound need to fight for their protection and welfare, my continual driving force. After graduating in Biological Sciences (Zoology) from the University of Birmingham I dedicated the following 4 years towards tackling global conservation issues abroad. In New Zealand I became an advanced open water diver to further study marine biology, training I utilised in Australia rehabilitating sea turtles on the Great Barrier Reef. My life is devoted to frontline conservation work and supporting animal welfare organisations both in a hands-on and administrative capacity, including as the secretary of a wildlife rescue charity in Brisbane and for the past 2 years as manager of a specialised wildlife rehabilitation unit near Cambridge. With the aid of an inspirational team of co-workers & volunteers, the unit’s success rate increased by 13% in my first year and furthermore received a DEFRA commendation. The diversity of knowledge held by tutors and peers will help me contextualise conservation issues so I can effectively prevent and resolve problems whilst inspiring change on a national, even global, level.


Lebogang Seitshiro (Botswana)

I became aware of the ecological problems that we are creating as humanity in the late 1990s while studying for a graphic arts degree in the US. I started off being active in caring for nature at university and on return to Botswana volunteered at several civil society organisations and started a paper recycling initiative. I subsequently earned a Master’s degree in Human Ecology in Belgium in 2006 and a Diploma in International Environmental Law. My work experience covers environmental conservation and community engagement and includes coordination of ESIAs and ESMPs; community stewardship of natural resources; and environmental mainstreaming into policy. As we enter a great mystery together, in view of continuing biodiversity loss and climate change, I hope that we can find the courage to face this moment with the resolve that it requires. To grow in our understanding, and reconsider the damaging and destructive views and values that we have lived with for so long as humanity, that imply our separateness from each other and nature. To become aware of our interdependence and interconnectedness, an understanding that could help us to collectively act - based on our shared vision for the future - to protect and restore nature, to survive.


Ahmad Sukma (Indonesia)

I am an Indonesian trained attorney focusing on regulatory compliance and financial crimes. Born and raised in Sumatra island- the home of endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, rhinos, elephants – made me realize that a lawyer has an important role in advocating the issue of biodiversity protection. My experience working in various sectors such as the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission, WWF Indonesia, and a law firm has made me finally decide to pursue my career in international development and biodiversity conservation. Previously, I acquired a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree in International Business and Economic Law at Georgetown University before working at the World Bank’s independent units focusing on anti-corruption and stolen asset recovery. After specializing in international business law and discovering the exciting world of natural resources, I have developed an expertise in illegal wildlife trade. I have also looked at the links between environmental regulation and biodiversity protection, how legal instruments can be used to increase compliance, and how we can induce behavior change. The Masters in Conservation Leadership will be my avenue as an environmental lawyer to understand the relationships between business law, environmental compliance, and conservation protection, specifically on the role of financial institutions in combatting illegal wildlife trade.


Iris Van Der Meer (Netherlands)

From a young age onwards, I had a strong interest and desire to explore different countries with their own landscapes, wildlife and cultures. This translated in the choices I made in my academic and career development. I have completed an BSc in Biology from Utrecht University (2006), a Btech in Nature Conservation from the NMMU in South Africa (2011) and an MSc in Forest & Nature Conservation from Wageningen University (2014). During and in between my studies I have conducted field research in Uganda (2012), Brazil and Guinea-Bissau (both 2013). In 2016 I joined the Young Expert Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which led me to Ethiopia where I worked on natural resource protection around Gambella National Park. Since 2017, I am the Wildlife Programme Coordinator for WWF Zambia focussing on protected area management in six key landscapes in Zambia (Bangweulu, Kafue, Liuwa, Sioma Ngwezi, South Luangwa and West Lunga NP). I am very eager to protect wildlife and habitats, to improve habitat connectivity, to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts and secure livelihoods through sustainable solutions. Joining the Masters in Conservation Leadership in Cambridge is the next step in my development with the aim to increase my conservation impact on this planet.