ISTF 2021 | Presenters



Meet the people on our growing list of speakers, panelists, and presenters.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speaker
William Karesh

Executive Vice President for Health and Policy for EcoHealth Alliance

Dr. William (Billy) Karesh is an internationally recognized expert on infectious diseases, wildlife and the environment. He is the Executive Vice President for Health and Policy for EcoHealth Alliance and is a member of World Health Organization’s IHR Roster of Experts. Dr. Karesh also serves as the President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Working Group on Wildlife. In 2016, he was appointed as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Karesh has pioneered initiatives focusing attention and resources on solving problems created by the interactions among wildlife, people, and their animals. In 2003, he coined the term “One Health” to describe the interdependence of healthy ecosystems, animals and people and the term has been adopted by many organizations, including the United Nations and the World Bank, in local and global health efforts. Dr. Karesh has created dozens of initiatives to encourage linkages among public health, agriculture and environmental health agencies and organizations around the world. He has personally lead programs and projects in over 45 countries, covering terrain from Argentina to Zambia.

In addition to his work in the private non-profit sector, Dr. Karesh has also worked for the USDA, DOD and DOI. He served as a consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., and is currently on the Steering Committee of OFFLU (OIE-FAO Network of Expertise for Animal Influenzas). Dr. Karesh is internationally recognized as an authority on the subject of animal and human health linkages and wildlife. He has published over one hundred and eighty scientific papers and numerous book chapters, and written for broader audience publications such as Foreign Affairs.

Keynote Speaker
Sunita Narain

Director General of Center for Science and Environment (CSE)

Sunita Narain is a Delhi-based environmentalist and author. She is currently the Director General of Center for Science and Environment (CSE) and Editor of the fortnightly magazine, Down To Earth. Dr. Narain plays an active role in policy formulation on issues of environment and development in India and globally. She has worked extensively on climate change, with a particular interest in advocating for an ambitious and equitable global agreement. Her work on air pollution, water and waste management as well as industrial pollution has led to an understanding of the need for affordable and sustainable solutions in countries like India where the challenge is to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth. She was a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change and has been awarded the Padma Shri. In 2005, the Centre for Science and Environment, under her leadership was also awarded the Stockholm Water Prize. In 2016, Time magazine selected her as one of the most influential people in the world. She received “The Order of the Polar Star” award from the Swedish Government in 2017. Narain also received the Edinburgh Medal 2020 conferred by the City of Edinburgh Council in the UK. She continues to serve on national and international committees on environment.

Florencia Montagnini

Senior Research Scientist, and Director, Program in Tropical Forestry and Agroforestry

Dr. Montagnini’s research focuses on variables controlling the sustainability of managed ecosystems with emphasis in the tropics:  forest, tree plantations and agroforestry systems; sustainable land use systems that integrate ecological principles with economic, social, and political factors; the principles and applications of forest landscape restoration; the reforestation of degraded lands with native species; mixed-species plantations; identification and quantification of ecosystem services, including biodiversity, carbon sequestration and watershed protection; organic farming using indigenous resources; payments for environmental services as tools to promote restoration, conservation, and rural development; biodiversity conservation in human dominated landscapes; biodiversity islands ( Dr. Montagnini has written eleven books on agroforestry systems and ecological restoration, including a major textbook in tropical forest ecology and management, and about 250 scientific articles, of which 80% have been published in international refereed journals. She teaches and advises individual project courses in agroforestry, landscape restoration, and soil conservation and management. She holds honorary professorships at several universities in Latin America. She also works as a consultant advising projects related to her expertise in tropical forestry, agroforestry and rural development worldwide.


Corine Vriesendorp

MacArthur Senior Conservation Ecologist and Director of the Andes-Amazon Program at the Field Museum

Dr. Corine Vriesendorp is a MacArthur Senior Conservation Ecologist and Director of the Andes-Amazon Program at the Field Museum. She is a field biologist working to advance conservation and the quality of life of local people in some of the remotest corners of the Western Amazon.
Corine has been an integral part of the rapid inventory team since 2003, a program that has led to the discovery of more than 150 species new to science, and helped governments protect more than 9.4 million hectares of forest in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Her interests and research bridge the continuum from basic to applied science. She began her career studying mahogany in Bolivia, researching the impact of logging practices on mahogany populations, and creating recommendations for better management practices.
She went on to research seedling dynamics of a tropical forest community in Costa Rica, to understand birth and death processes in high-diversity forests and their implications for the conservation and management of these forests. Her seedling work is ongoing—she and her team have marked more than 60,000 seedlings since 1999.
Dr. Vriesendorp is most fascinated by the connections among organisms, and although she has published peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and technical reports about plants, she also has written short natural history notes about mammals and amphibians.She received her B.A. from Princeton University, and her Phd from Michigan State University. Her dissertation was on the maintenance of plant diversity in a Costa Rican rainforest.
Dennis Garrity

Chair, Global EverGreening Alliance
Senior Fellow, World Agroforestry Centre
Senior Fellow, World Resources Institute
Board Member, Global Landcare

Dr. Garrity is a systems agronomist and research leader whose career has been focused on the development of small-scale farming systems in the tropics. He is currently Drylands Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Distinguished Senior Research Fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Nairobi. He served as Director General of the Centre from 2001 to 2011. He is currently leading an effort on the perennialization of agriculture in the 21st Century, building more productive and environmentally sound farming systems through a global Partnership to Create an EverGreen Agriculture. He also chairs the Steering Committee for Landcare International, a worldwide effort to support grassroots community-based natural resource management.

During the 1990s he was based in Indonesia where he launched and developed the Southeast Asia Regional Programme of ICRAF. As Head of the Farming Systems Program at the International Rice Research Institute, and as a Professor at the University of the Philippines in the 1980s he advised 47 PhD and MSc students and post-doctoral fellows from Africa, Asia, Europe and the US, and published over 175 journal articles and books. Dr. Garrity has a BSc degree in agriculture from The Ohio State University, an MSc in agronomy from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, and a PhD in crop physiology from the University of Nebraska. When visiting Washington from his base in Nairobi he invites other WRI motorcycle enthusiasts to join him on the backroads of Maryland and Virginia and get a few bugs in their teeth.

David Ganz

Executive Director, RECOFTC
Steering Committee Member, The Forests Dialogue

David has over 20 years of experience in natural resource management including several years working in Asia on large-scale natural resource management and biomass energy projects. Before joining RECOFTC, David served as the Chief of Party on SERVIR-Mekong, a joint initiative between USAID and NASA aimed at developing geospatial data to respond to the environmental and disaster needs of the region. Prior to SERVIR-Mekong, David was Chief of Party on USAID’s Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (USAID LEAF) programme. From 1999 to 2002, David worked as an Assistant Project Officer at RECOFTC headquarters. He is a graduate of two distinguished forestry institutions, University of California at Berkeley and Yale University, which promote multi-disciplinary decision-making through strong communication and teamwork skills. He has successfully taken these skills into project management of international organizations including TNC, FAO, IUCN and WWF in China and Southeast Asia

Javier Mateo-Vega

Global Director of Partnerships & Communications at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Javier Mateo-Vega is the Global Director of Partnerships & Communications at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Prior, Javier served as Director of the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative (ELTI) of the Yale School of Environment, holding a joint appointment at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Panama). He also held positions at The Nature Conservancy and the Organization for Tropical Studies, both in Costa Rica. Javier is a PhD Candidate (Biology) at McGill University (Montreal, Canada), and his research focuses on understanding the drivers, constraints and trade-offs for forest conservation in pluralistic landscapes, shared by Indigenous peoples and farmers. He works primarily in eastern Panama, including the Bayano region and Darien Gap, areas known for their magnificent forests and rich cultural diversity. 

Javier has more than 20 years of experience providing technical and managerial leadership in natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture, capacity development, and ecological research in developing countries. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders Program. A native of Costa Rica, Javier has lived in 10 countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe, and is an avid surfer and art collector.

Pauline von Hellermann

Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Pauline von Hellermann is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Goldsmiths University in London. Her research on landscape change, policy and crisis narratives in Nigeria and Tanzania sits at the intersection of political ecology and historical ecology. She currently holds a Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship (2018-2021) with​ the project Red Gold: A Global Environmental Anthropology of Palm Oil. Her publications include numerous journal articles, Multi-sited Ethnography: Problems and Possibilities in the Translocation of Research Methods (Routledge 2011, edited with Simon Coleman) and Things Fall Apart? The Political Ecology of Forest Governance in Southern Nigeria (Berghahn 2013). 

Lye Tuck-Po

School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia

I’m an environmental anthropologist with experience in consultancies, newspaper reportage, NGOs, teaching and training, and independent research. I joined USM in 2010. My primary research focuses on the environmental knowledge and relations of local communities, especially Southeast Asian tropical forest dwellers. My long-term work is with the mobile, hunting-and-gathering, forest-dwelling Batek (Orang Asli) of Pahang. This study developed into an abiding interest in the knowledge and knowing of landscapes and in indigenous epistemologies.I’ve also conducted fieldwork with Khmer and Kuay communities in central Cambodia. There I switched my attention from forests to hydrological systems, and from hunting-and-gathering to agriculture, and investigated contemporary classifications of religious sites in the pre-Angkorian templescape of Sambor Prey Kuk monument complex. I’m currently preparing a book of photographs depicting the agricultural cycle in my field village. I continue to be interested in forest management and politics, vulnerability and climate change adaptations, the politics of knowledge, Southeast Asian societies and cultures, and the Orang Asli and other indigenous minorities of Malaysia.

Laur Kiik

School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford

I have studied war-torn Burma’s Kachin region since 2010, focusing on nationalism and nature. My first publications are now (slowly) coming out, including on the Chinese Myitsone mega-dam project, on Kachin popular nationalist worldviews, and on the anthropology of nature conservation. My doctoral research explored how struggles over nature led the Kachin ethnonational movement to encounter Burmese ethnic majority activists and Western biodiversity conservationists.

Crystal Davis

Director, Global Forest Watch

Crystal is the Director of Global Forest Watch, a powerful near-real-time forest monitoring system that unites technology and human networks to create never-before-possible transparency on what is happening in forests around the world. She works with companies, governments, and civil society organizations to use better information about forests to mobilize more effective, rights-based conservation and sustainable management. Crystal previously worked on strengthening forest governance Brazil, Indonesia, and Cameroon with WRI’s Institutions and Governance Program. Prior to joining WRI, she worked in environmental consulting in Half Moon Bay, California.  Crystal holds a B.S. and M.S. in Earth Systems Science from Stanford University. Her research encompassed environmental governance in Uganda and conservation biology in the tropical rainforests of South America and Eastern Africa.
Efren Nango

Dirigente de Educación, CONFENIAE, Member of the Shiwiar

An environmental engineer by training, Efren Nango has taught bilingual courses and seminars on agro-ecology, the socio-economic environmental development of Amazonian nationalities, purposeful leadership, and theology. He has worked as a director for social projects of the Christian church, as an environmental management technician is psychosocial projects, was an administrator of the Jatun Sacha Biological Station in Ecuador, and is currently the education leader of CONFENIAE, an organization that represents the twenty-three indigenous organizations of the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Ana María Durán Calisto

Lecturer, Yale School of Archtecture; Doctoral candidate at UCLA

Ana María is doctoral candidate at UCLA. Under the advice of Susanna Hecht, she is writing a dissertation on the history of urbanization in the Amazon basin, with a focus on the oil urbanisms of Ecuador. In the year 2010, she received a Loeb Fellowship in advanced environmental studies from the GSD for her proposal to develop an open research network devoted to study the infrastructural integration of South America and provide alternative models of intervention, in lieu of the primarily entropic urbanization that follows the deployment of extraction infrastructures, particularly highways. The network became the South America Project and was spawned in close collaboration with Felipe Correa. Ana María has taught design studios and research seminars at PUCE, Harvard, Columbia, University of Michigan, UC Temuco; and has been teaching fellow at the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. She curated the XV Quito Architecture Biennial: Visible Cities, was National Curator for the IX BIAU, and academic advisor for the UN Conference Habitat III. She is currently a member of the Scientific Panel for the Amazon (SPA) convened by the SDSN and the UN.

Special Guests

Special Guest
Liza Comita

Associate Professor of Tropical Forest Ecology, Yale School of the Environment

Dr. Liza Comita is an Associate Professor of Tropical Forest Ecology in the School of the Environment at Yale University, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. She is also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Plant Biology from the University of Georgia. She was previously an Assistant Professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University and held postdoctoral positions at the University of Minnesota, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).  As a plant community ecologist, Liza is interested in ecological mechanisms driving patterns of diversity, dynamics, and species distributions in both pristine and human-altered tropical forests.

Special Guest
Mary Evelyn Tucker

Co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology

Dr. Tucker teaches in an MA program between the School of the Environment and the Divinity School. With John Grim she organized 10 conferences on World Religions and Ecology at Harvard. They were series editors for the 10 resulting volumes from Harvard. She co-edited Confucianism and Ecology, Buddhism and Ecology, and Hinduism and Ecology. She has authored with John Grim, Ecology and Religion (Island Press, 2014). They also edited Thomas Berry’s books including Selected Writings (Orbis 2014). Tucker and Grim published Thomas Berry: A Biography (Columbia University Press, 2019). With Brian Thomas Swimme she wrote Journey of the Universe (Yale 2011) and was the executive producer of the Emmy award winning Journey film that aired on PBS. She served on the International Earth Charter Drafting Committee and was a member of the Earth Charter International Council.

Special Guest
Charles McNeill

Senior Advisor, Forests & Climate, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

For over 25 years, Dr. McNeill has been a leader in the United Nations’ work on sound environmental management in the developing world. He is currently the Senior Advisor on Forests & Climate for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and is overseeing the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, an international alliance bringing faith-based leadership to local and global efforts to end tropical deforestation. Previously, Dr. McNeill managed UNDP’s work on forests, biodiversity, climate change, sustainable energy, stakeholder engagement, the SDGs and public-private partnerships. In that capacity he founded and led catalytic global initiatives, including the Indigenous Peoples Initiative for the Paris Climate Conference (2015), the global coalition that delivered the New York Declaration on Forests at the 2014 UN Climate Summit, the UN-REDD Programme (2008-2016) and the Equator Initiative (2002-2014). In the 1990s, Dr. McNeill developed Global Environment Facility (GEF) programs throughout Africa and then managed GEF global programming and policy. Prior to the UN, he worked with NGOs on hunger eradication and sustainable development in South Asia and Africa. After receiving his Ph.D. in Genetics with a focus on conservation biology, from the University of California at Davis, Dr. McNeill held several academic posts addressing a range of environmental and development issues.

ISTF 2021 Conference made possible by our sponsors

Class of 1980 Fund

Cullman Institute

Leitner Family Fund

Macmillan Center

Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies

YSE Learning Communities

People, Equity, and the Environment

Ecosystem Management and Conservation

Business and Environment