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 Applied Scientist for the Caribbean Division of The Nature Conservancy, based in the Dominican Republic (DR) where she’s from. Montse supports 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). Recent accomplishments include leading the development of a portfolio of nature-based solutions for a community in Jamaica under the TNC Resilient Islands project.
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.
Samantha Cheng is a biodiversity scientist at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History. She is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist whose research draws from the biological, social, and computer sciences, to understand connections between nature and human well-being, the drivers of marine biodiversity and evolution, and builds tools and assessments for evidence-based conservation decisions. In particular, she focuses on evidence synthesis methodologies and computational and visualization approaches for improving science communication, working in close collaboration with practitioner agencies and organizations. She has published on a number of different areas focusing on the links between conservation and human well-being, and improving knowledge on impacts of conservation.
Previously, she worked on squid fisheries and marine diversification projects in California and Southeast Asia. She is also a former SNAPP postdoctoral researcher and a member of the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence.
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.
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.
Yuta is a policy scientist with TNC. His research explores the intersection of international development policy, environmental policy, and social policy, with an emphasis on gender, quantitative methods, and microeconomics. Yuta focuses on investigating the impacts and links between conservation programs, the environment, and human well-being.
Formerly, Yuta conducted research on water infrastructure, time use, and gender in Ethiopia. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia and worked as an Economics Research Assistant at RTI International. Yuta has published in many economic and policy journals and has experience working on projects with a range of stakeholders in Africa, Asia, and Central Europe.
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.
As Executive Director of Rights + Communities for the Wildlife Conservation Society, David Wilkie seeks to strengthen the practice and impact of WCS conservation worldwide, by creating respectful and effective alliances with Indigenous Peoples and local communities. David joined WCS in 2001. Since then, he has led efforts to ensure that WCS field programs identify explicit conservation objectives for which we hold ourselves accountable, and tactically monitor and report our conservation progress. For five years he led our 5-measures approach to evidence-based conservation.
He is a founder of the Conservation Measures Partnership – a joint venture of conservation NGOs committed to improving the practice of conservation by promoting adoption of a consensus-based set of standards for planning, implementation and measuring conservation impact. He was co-chair of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force and helped establish the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights. He helped establish the WCS Institutional Review Board for protection of human subjects. He co-founded the Conservation Social Science Partnership and leads an initiative to encourage conservation NGOs to value and learn from failure. David has over 30 years of experience working in international conservation in Central Africa, Central and South America and Asia. He is a Ph.D. wildlife ecologist with a post-doctoral anthropology specialization in the socio-economic drivers of natural resource use practices. His work covers the impacts of commercialization of non-timber forest products on forest conservation; the role that logging plays in the commercial wildlife trade; the role that income, prices, and taste preferences play in determining demand for wildlife; the use of conditional direct payments as a tool for biodiversity conservation in developing countries; the use of satellite imagery, and agent-based, spatial simulations to model present and future tropical forest loss, and the use of no-tech or low-tech games to help local communities explore the impacts of their lifeway decisions. He has published more than 150 peer reviewed articles and books.