Our team of world-class science advisors spans social, economic and ecological disciplines and has substantial experience in the conservation, sustainable development, humanitarian and private sectors. The Science Advisory Council:
- Reviews proposals for teams
- Makes recommendations for funding to the board of directors
- Brings us the newest approaches to rapid, high-impact science-to-solutions
Montserrat Acosta-Morel is an Operations Officer for the International Finance Corporation, one of the World Bank Group’s private sector development arms. She is supporting the implementation of the new Climate Change Action Plan that aims to deliver record levels of climate finance to developing countries, reduce emissions, strengthen adaptation, and align financial flows with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Formerly, Montse served as an Applied Scientist for the Caribbean Division of The Nature Conservancy, based in her homeland, the Dominican Republic. In this role, she supported the Caribbean team in leading the development of science-based analyses and products including innovative academic research, managing projects and teams, monitoring and evaluation, climate adaptation, and making the economic case for coral reef restoration to abate climate-driven hazards, as well as geographic information systems (GIS).
Montse received a Ph.D. in the economics of climate change mitigation from Ohio State University, where she focused on the costs of carbon sequestration and potential leakage effects at a global level. Upon completing her Ph.D., she joined TNC as a Climate Change Adaptation Specialist, a role she later fulfilled at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), working with local and national government counterparts in building their capacities on climate change adaptation and local-level, urban planning. She is also an avid triathlete and marathoner, mindfulness trainer, certified yoga instructor, and amateur open water diver.
Paul is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Paul is also on the leadership team of US National Science Foundation’s National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, coordinating post-doctoral activities including professional development opportunities for the institute’s fellows.
Paul has worked in universities in Britain, Australia and the US. Paul’s research examines how ecology and economics can be integrated to inform more effective conservation and natural resource management strategies. His research group collaborates closely with partners around the world drawn from public agencies, nonprofits and for profits as well as academics from a range of disciplines. Paul has authored more than 90 peer reviewed publications and participated in relevant national and international science panels.
Dr. Sam Cheng is WWF’s Director for Conservation Evidence and works across the organization and with external organizations to advance evidence-informed practice in conservation programs. She has extensive experience partnering with government agencies, conservation non-profits, multilateral institutions, and foundations to systematically evaluate the impact of conservation on ecological and social outcomes and identify key insights to guide policy, practice, and research. Her work also focuses on the process of utilizing evidence to inform decisions in conservation and development. She works with diverse partners to understand where, when, and how to provide timely and responsive evidence for different policy and program scenarios. Most recently, she was the founding co-director of the Conservation Solutions Lab, a multi-institutional initiative aimed to design evidence-informed approaches to community engagement in biodiversity conservation and sits on the National Ocean Protection Coalition’s Science Advisory Team.
Prior to joining WWF, Dr. Cheng was a scientist at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History where she was the lead for the first U.S.-based center with the global Collaboration for Environmental Evidence and the Research and Evidence Lead for USAID’s Integrated Natural Resource Management Activity. Throughout her career, she has worked to develop and improve open-source methods and tools for identifying, synthesizing, and delivering evidence for pressing policy questions for conservation and development.
Molly Cross is the Climate Change Adaptation Lead for the Wildlife Conservation Society in North and South America. Her work brings together climate experts and conservation practitioners to translate climate change science into on-the-ground adaptation goals and actions for nature conservation. Molly is helping to lead climate change planning efforts involving diverse stakeholders at several landscapes across North and South America, focused on a range of targets from individual species to more complex ecosystems. She co-edited the book Climate and Conservation: Landscape and Seascape Science, Planning and Action, and co-wrote a guidebook and associated training course on Scenario Planning as a tool for climate change adaptation. Molly has contributed to several national climate change efforts including the U.S. National Climate Assessment, the Climate-Smart Conservation guide to climate adaptation, and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ guidance on incorporating climate change into state wildlife action plans. She is the Director of Science for the WCS Climate Adaptation Fund, which supports applied projects demonstrating effective interventions to help wildlife and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate.
Molly got her Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied ecosystem responses to climate warming and plant diversity loss in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
James (J.T.) Erbaugh is an Applied Social Scientist with The Nature Conservancy and a Research Associate/Lecturer at Dartmouth College. He specializes in environmental governance and policy.
His work investigates how groups make rules or provide incentives for the management of environmental resources, and how those rules or incentives effect social, economic, and environmental change. As a quantitative social scientist, J.T. uses statistical models to analyze data from surveys, censuses, and remotely sensed imagery. He often complements such analyses with mixed-methods findings from interviews and focus-group discussions. J.T.’s recent research contributes to better understanding community-based resource management, national policies for forest and fisheries management, the socioeconomic dimensions of global forest restoration, as well as the role of information and group deliberation in promoting sustainable development.
J.T. retains an academic appointment in the Department of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College as an affiliated faculty member and lecturer. Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy, J.T. was a National Science Postdoctoral Fellow in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. He has a BA in Philosophy and Environmental Studies from Miami University, an MPhil in Geography from the University of Oxford, and a PhD in Natural Resource Policy and Behavior from the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. J.T.’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the World Bank, the IUCN, the Institute for Social Research, the Social Science Research Council, and other generous supporters. Before beginning his research career, J.T. taught middle school science on the Navajo Nation with Teach for America, and he taught conversational English through the Fulbright Program in Java, Indonesia.
Jon Fisher leads Pew’s efforts to design and plan research projects on land and in freshwater habitats, and contributes to the Trusts’ exploration of new environmental lines of work, including the sustainable management of global natural resources.
Before joining Pew, Fisher worked at The Nature Conservancy in a variety of global science roles, including developing sustainability impact metrics, data management, conservation planning, sustainable agriculture, and corporate sustainability. His research focused on how to deliver the information needed to make conservation decisions more efficiently and effectively. He also worked at the University of Illinois on a project to reduce airplane-bird strikes through custom radar and ecological spatial analysis.
Fisher holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry, a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental sciences, and a master’s degree in environmental engineering with a concentration in stream ecology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Germán Forero Medina graduated in biology from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where he studied the population ecology and natural history of the white-throated mud turtle in a Caribbean Island in Colombia. In 2007 he received his MS degree from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, studying the perceptual and dispersal abilities of small marsupials from the Atlantic forest and implications for landscape functional connectivity. In 2012 he received his PhD in conservation ecology from Duke University, in North Carolina, USA, as a Fulbright Scholar. His doctoral dissertation addressed the issue of elevational range shifts in tropical mountains as a result from climate disruption. His paper on this subject received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding PhD manuscript, by Duke University. His main research interests and expertise are tropical ecology, conservation biology, natural history of tropical vertebrates (reptiles, amphibians, and mammals), landscape ecology, climate change effects on tropical ecosystems, and impact evaluation on conservation programs. He has extensive field work experience in South America, having worked in Colombia, Brazil and Peru. He is a corresponding member of Colombia´s National Academy of Science.
Carter has over 15 years of experience at the forefront of integrating nature into sustainable development across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States. Currently, Carter is an Executive Director at Pollination, a climate change investment and advisory firm with a mission to catalyze the transition to a low carbon economy with a focus on nature-based solutions. Prior to joining Pollination, Carter was a Senior Manager in EY’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services practice where she advised food/agriculture, real estate, infrastructure, and tourism businesses in designing and implementing ESG goals and strategies, programs and impact measurement, with a focus on natural capital. Carter’s previous experiences include launching and leading the Ecosystem Services program and the Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) for the Wildlife Conservation Society, where she worked with governments, multi-lateral institutions, NGOs and businesses to conduct scientific analyses, develop new collaborations, and implement initiatives to advance conservation and sustainable development globally. Carter completed a Post-doctoral fellowship at the Earth Institute of Columbia University and has a M.Sc. and D.Phil. from the School of Geography and the Environment of Oxford University. She has co-edited two books and written over 60 articles, reports and publications on biodiversity and ecosystem services, climate change, poverty reduction, and economic development. Carter is currently an Adjunct Associated Professor in the School for Foreign Service at Georgetown University and serves on the SNAPP Science Advisory Council, the Technical Advisory Council for the UNDP Equator Initiative, Terra Alpha Investments Advisory Board, and has been co-leading a USG working group on Natural Capital Accounting in the United States.
Midori Paxton is a former journalist, humanitarian worker, and author who leads UNDP’s efforts to protect biodiversity and ecosystems in more than 130 countries. She also oversees a portfolio of biodiversity financing initiatives including the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), The Lion’s Share, the UNDP support for the Task for Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), among others. Previously, she worked as a Bangkok-based UNDP Regional Technical Adviser, the project coordinator for the Strengthening the Protected Area network project of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia, and programme officer in UNDP Namibia Country Office.
Prior to joining the UNDP in 2000, Midori began her career as a journalist for the Japan Times newspaper, focusing on environmental reporting. She worked with the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Somalia and on the Rwanda-Tanzania border coordinating work in a post-genocide refugee camp offering shelter to 80,000 people. After this experience, she became a freelance writer, traveling to 80 countries and meeting and writing about people at the frontlines of environmental work – from rhino conservation in Zimbabwe to gibbon conservation in Thailand.
Midori holds a master’s degree in Environment and Development from University of Cambridge and is the author of six books and hundreds of published photos and articles.
Ruth Sitienei is the soil scientist for The Nature Conservancy’s Africa Region. She leads TNC’s Africa work on agriculture-soil-climate interactions, sustainable intensification, climate-smart agriculture, multifunctional landscapes, and food systems analysis and planning. She works with farmer networks for the deployment of soil condition diagnostic and leads a participatory process to identify suitable agricultural soil management recommendations and put in place appropriate monitoring frameworks. Through improvements in soil health practices, she contributes to farmers’ livelihoods resilience and helps to mitigate climate change.
Ruth helps farmers grow more food on less land under the new TNC-led soil health training program. In the upper Tana region in central Kenya, she has worked to test soils and provided tailored recommendations on treatments and practices to improve the soil health of more than 150 farmers. In the IHEMI cluster of the Iringa and Njombe regions of Southern Tanzania, she has worked with smallholder farmers to improve their land’s soil health and drive sustainable intensification.
Ruth represents the Africa region in TNC’s Science Cabinet which works to ensures that TNC is at the forefront of the science relevant to its mission.
Her training is in the management of agro-ecosystem and environment with a master of soil science from the University of Nairobi. Her previous work focused on the quality assurance program of the agriculture sector that affects the whole chain of agriculture, food, and life from soil to folk. She has published articles in scientific journals on integrated soil fertility management and soil carbon stocks.
Jin Tong works as Science Director in The Nature Conservancy China Program, where she is responsible for leading a team to provide strategic and technical supports to conservation programs to demonstrate “science-based approach” of TNC. She has over 18+ year’s research and on-site practices in biodiversity conservation and natural resources management, specialized in conservation planning, monitoring and evaluation for conservation programs, protected areas governance and management, as well as biodiversity surveys and monitoring. Her experiences also extend around analytical work, case studies and policy briefs in nature-based solutions, watershed management, urban conservation, sustainable agriculture, among others. Jin serves as China coordinator of Conservation Coaches Network (CCNet), board member of International Land Conservation Network, executive member of Chinese Alliance of Civil Protected Areas, China expert group member of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) Consortium, and board member of China Primatology Society.
Jin has been with TNC for more than 11 years and initially led the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey conservation project and participated in the national park pilot project. Then she moved on to oversee the monitoring, research and conservation planning for the first land trust reserves in China and accumulated abundant experiences in protected area planning, management and monitoring & evaluation. Jin holds a Ph.D. in Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology from Peking University, studying the socio-ecology and conservation biology of a critically endangered primate species in China.
Michelle Wieland is the Socio-Economic Advisor for WCS Africa Program. A Fulbright fellow with a PhD in conservation biology, she’s worked for the last two decades in Africa at the people-biodiversity interface. Her focus is on strategic designs to reduce threats to wildlife through sound natural resource management, behavior change strategies, and the strengthening of socially and ecologically sustainable rural livelihoods. With WCS since 2009, she has designed WCS’s bushmeat portfolio, led the development of the Africa program’s institutional capacity building developing for socio-economic teams, and directed the implementation of social monitoring systems for adaptive management.