About ISTF 2021

Yale’s Student Chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) was first organized in 1989, as part of a network of natural resource professionals concerned with tropical resource management. Dedicated to the advancement of tropical forest studies at the Yale School of the Environment, formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, an conference is organized annually to address a range of socio-ecological issues across the tropics. You can browse our publication and past conference materials at istf.yale.edu.

The 2021 conference will bring together an international community of academics, practitioners, activists, policy makers, artists, journalists, and community leaders to re-examine crises as opportunities for change. This year, the conference seeks to investigate crises as moments of learning and opportunities to seth forth on new trajectories. Seizing these moments requires us to reflect on the interconnected nature of society, economy and the environment while motivating efforts to mitigate future events in light of our past successes and failures in capitalizing on these moments in time.

While the conference will unfortunately not be held in-person as per tradition, we hope that the online format will allow wider access and participation from attendees around the world, especially for participants and speakers that have historically faced difficulities with travel to the United States. 

Organizing Team

Dewi Tan

Conference Co-Chair, MESc 21 Candidate

Dewi is a second-year Masters of Environmental Science student at the Yale School of Environment (YSE). Her interests lie in environmental anthropology and political ecology and her current research focuses on understanding Jakarta’s water supply crisis and its relation to anthropogenic disasters such as land subsidence, urban floods, and depleted aquifers in “informal” kampung settlements. Her previous research examined how the 2015 earthquake was intensified as a sociopolitical crisis in Nepal as well as the role of media in the circulation and production of disaster education. Dewi received her B.A. from New York University in anthropology and film.

Alicia Entem
Breakout sessions team, PhD Student

Alicia Entem is a fourth-year PhD student at Yale School of the Environment. Her area of focus is environmental and natural resource economics. Prior to starting at Yale, she worked as a researcher at the University of Alberta and Smart Prosperity Institute, an environmental research network and policy think tank based at the University of Ottawa. From 2015 – 2017 she was a research fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She holds a BSc in Conservation Biology and a MSc in Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics from the University of Alberta, Canada.

Jeamme Chia

SIG Leader, MEM Candidate

Jeamme is a 2021 Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of the Environment. She is interested in sustainable land use policy and forest restoration in the tropics. She has a background in management consulting where she worked with corporate and non-profit clients on sustainability strategy and sustainable operations management. She was most recently a research associate specializing in using geospatial and political economic techniques to understand commodity-driven land use and trade flows in Indonesia and Malaysia. Jeamme has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Political Economy, Geography, and French. Jeamme’s interest in the tropics started at birth – she was born and raised on Penang island in Malaysia.

Rachael Ross

Treasurer, MESc Candidate

Rachael is a 2021 Master of Environmental Science candidate at the Yale School of the Environment. She is interested in developing innovative strategies for human wildlife coexistence by incorporating science and technology into conservation policy and management. Her research focuses on using geospatial techniques to understand the impact of land use change on ungulate population and movement patterns in northern Tanzania. She is also partnering with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative to measure the change in human impact in the region over the last 25 years. Prior to Yale, Rachael was a research assistant in the American Museum of Natural History’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics in New York City. There she helped construct the phylogenetic relationships of deep-sea black corals using DNA sequencing techniques in the Black Coral Lab. She has also worked as a public investigator at Brooklyn Defender Services where she assisted criminal defense attorneys in their case development. Originally from Santa Barbara, California, Rachael holds a B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies from New York University.

Mariana Camacho

Conference Co-chair, MEM Candidate

Mariana is a second-year MEM student at the Yale School of the Environment. Her area of focus is environmental economics and policy, with a focus in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Prior to coming to Yale, she worked as a consultant in the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development in Bogota, Colombia. She holds a BSc in Environmental Engineering from Universidad de los Andes.

Ryan Smith

Conference Co-chair, MF Candidate

Ryan is a second year Master of Forestry student at The Forest School, within the Yale School of the Environment. He is interested in increasing the adoption and financial viability of smallholder agroforestry, community forestry, and forest restoration in the tropics. Prior to coming to Yale, Ryan spent 3 years living in South America. He has worked with reforestation and studied non timber forest products in the Peruvian Amazon and partnered with a cacao cooperative to verify ecological outcomes in Ecuador. Ryan also studies the barriers to adoption of agroforestry practices in temperate North America, with a particular interest in growing an east-coast chestnut industry. He has a BS in Environmental studies with a concentration in conservation biology from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.

Al Lim

Panels Team, PhD Candidate

Al Lim is a PhD student in the joint Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Yale, and his current research focuses on smart water infrastructure in Laos. He holds an MSc in Urbanisation and Development from LSE, and a BA (Hons) in Urban Studies from Yale-NUS.

Alix Pauchet

Panels Team, MESc Candidate

Alix is a 2021 Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of the Environment, and a Master of Architecture candidate at the Yale School of Architecture. She is interested in adaptive re-use and how to utilize processes of urbanization to better integrate built and natural environments, particularly with regards to water systems. She has a background in design-build work, and has most recently been researching the impacts of large hydropower dams on their environments in multiple countries of the Amazon and in the Himalayas. Alix has a B.A. from Middlebury College where she concentrated in Architecture, Geography and Neuroscience.

Megan Sullivan

Panels Team, PhD Candidate

Megan Sullivan is a PhD candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a New York Botanical Gardens Cullman Fellow. Her focus at Yale is tropical forest ecology and conservation. Her love for plants and nature was nurtured in drawing classes, and when she studying botanical drawing in college, it lead to her completing a BSc in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. Since 2015, she has been doing research in the tropical forests of Gabon. For her dissertation, Megan is exploring questions about how selective logging - a widespread but patchy disturbance - affects forest structure, biodiversity, and function in northwestern Gabon.

Akshyah Krishnakumar

Keynotes Team, MEM Candidate

Akshyah is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of the Environment. She is interested in innovative business and policy solutions to promote resource efficiency, corporate sustainability and community resilience. Prior to Yale, she worked in renewable energy and socio-economic development sectors in South Asia and holds an Integrated Master’s degree in Developmental Studies from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras in India. She is deeply influenced by subaltern environmentalism and hopes to contribute to their historiography.

Vivian Bi

Innovation Prize and Flashtalks Team, MESc Candidate


Vivian Bi is a first-year Master of Environmental Science student at the Yale School of the Environment, working from the perspectives of environmental anthropology, political ecology, and feminist studies. Her current research focuses on rural household energy transitions in northern China to understand what makes clean cooking programs so attractive for institutions to push as a pollution mitigation strategy towards “modern” energy economies and how they are received by households. She received a B.A. in Political Economy and a B.S. in Society & Environment from UC Berkeley in 2016.

Chris J. Tapnio

Flash Talks Team, MEM Candidate

Chris J. Tapnio is a Social and Environmental Safeguards Specialist with the World Bank-funded Philippine Rural Development – part of his fifteen years of experience working as a consultant with other projects funded by USAID, Foundation for the Philippine Environment, Conservation International-Philippines and other organizations on environmental impacts assessment, community risk and vulnerability assessment, monitoring of social and environmental compliance of rural development projects, and research on climate change mitigation and adaptation, nature-based solutions, ecosystem-based adaptation, and ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction. Chris holds a Master of Science in Environmental and Conservation Biology from St. Louis University (Philippines), a Master of Disaster Risk and Resilience degree at Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) where he conducted his research on coastal protection through green-gray solutions. He is currently a student under the Mid-career Master of Environmental Management program of the Yale School of the Environment where he is seeking to enhance his knowledge and skills on Nature-based Solutions, Climate Change Policy, and Watershed Management to name a few. He plans to continue his environmental advocacy in the Philippines through his small start-up called the Mangrove Visual Project (MVP).

Soraya Walli

Breakouts Team, MEM Candidate

My name is Soraya Walli, and I am from Mombasa, Kenya. Since my graduation, I have been working in bringing clean energy to communities across Sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean’s. I have spent the last two years building mini-grids (off grid solar energy solutions) to connect rural villages to electricity in a number of countries in East and West Africa. I decided to return to university to complete my Masters at the Yale School of Environment because I noticed that the energy sector across Africa needed growth, specialized knowledge and empowered local young professionals to fill the current gaps that exist. The Masters in Environmental Management degree at Yale is a stepping stone for me to convert my vision into an applicable and implementable solution that can be used as building blocks for African countries that aim to bypass industrial growth reliant on greenhouse gasses emissions into nations that are economically and environmentally restorative and self-sufficient.

Ian Grosfelt

Breakout sessions team, MEM Candidate

Ian Grosfelt is a second year Master of Environmental Management Student at Yale School of the Environment. He received his bachelor’s degree in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University and subsequently served as an agriculture extension Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal from 2013 to 2015. He has been working in agricultural and environmental education in New England prior to starting at Yale. Ian is interested in the potential of agroforestry to promote sustainable agriculture in semi-arid tropical regions.