About Yale ISTF



Blanca Begert - Conference Co-chair

Blanca Begert is a 2020 Master of Environmental Science Candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Her academic interests include applied forest ecology and the political ecology of natural resource management. Before coming to Yale, she worked as a program coordinator with the National Parks of New York Harbor, as an associate producer and producer on projects for media companies like Viacom, HBO, and Time Inc., and as a staff photographer/video producer at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She also spent six months working in forest restoration and plant conservation at the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kaua'i. At Yale, Blanca works for The Forests Dialogue as a program associate on the Tree Plantations in the Landscape Initiative. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Brown University.



Gabriela M. Morales Nieves - Conference Co-chair

Gabriela is a second year Master of Forestry student at Yale F&ES. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras Campus. During her undergraduate studies, Gabriela performed research in Puerto Rico, California and Costa Rica, working on tree dendrochronology, phylogenetic community structure and carbon sequestration estimates, among other topics. Prior to starting graduate studies, Gabriela worked in El Yunque National Forest with the US Forest Service on their new Land Management Plan as an early adopter of the 2012 Planning Rule, focusing on participatory forest management and planning. At F&ES, Gabriela is interested in working and performing research in community-based forest management, agroforestry and food sovereignty in Puerto Rico.



Seth Inman - SIG Leader

Seth Inman is a 2020 Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with a focus on biodiversity and land conservation. While a history major during his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, Seth took several courses in zoology that added academic detail to his childhood background growing up in Costa Rica, with ornithology in particular sparking an interest in bird-watching from the perspectives of ecotourism and research alike. Seth has conducted field work in Jamaica, the intermountain Rockies of the US, and Rwanda, as well as worked at ecolodges in Costa Rica, Belize, and Baja California Sur, Mexico. At Yale, he works as a curatorial assistant in the ornithology collections of the Peabody Museum of Natural History. In his free time he copy-edits for the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology, a peer-reviewed publication of BirdsCaribbean.



Katherine Meier - Treasurer

Katherine Meier is a second-year PhD student in the combined Anthropology/School of Forestry degree program. Her focus at Yale is great ape ecology and tropical forest conservation. She was launched into primatology as an undergraduate at Macalester College where she was able to conduct research on wild blue-eyed black lemurs in Madagascar. After completing her BA in Anthropology she spent a year studying wild Bornean Orangutans in Indonesia, sparking an ongoing love for great apes and a commitment to their conservation. For her PhD, Katherine is broadly interested in answering questions about how human disturbance affects apes and ape habitats in the Congo Basin forests of Central Africa.


Ryan Dougherty - Breakout Session Coordinator

My name is Ryan Dougherty. I am a candidate for Master of Environmental Science, and I am focusing my thesis research on tropical amphibian conservation in Ecuador. My plan is to conduct fieldwork this upcoming summer in the western cloud forests of the tropical Andes which have some of the most biodiverse forests in the world. I will compare historical survey data from as early as 1968 to the same plots which I will resurvey to compare population abundances and potential biodiveristy flucuations. This data can be used to assess which species need conservation assistance and which populations are of least concern. Given that amphibians are particularly sensitive to environmental degredation of any kind, and 42% of species are vulnerable to extinction worldwide, it is critical to monitor these animal’s population dynamics to prevent extinction. I also am a member of Yale’s chapter of Internatinal Society of Tropical Foresters, where I aid in organizing the annual tropical forest research conference. Additionally, I spend my time organizing with the Endowment Justice Coalition whose goal is to pressure Yale into divesting from it’s fossil fuel- and Puerto Rican debt- related investments.




Alicia Entem - Logistics Coordinator

Alicia Entem is a second-year PhD student at Yale F&ES. 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 Property 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.



Megan Sullivan - Logistics Team

Megan is a PhD candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a New York Botanical Gardens Cullman Fellow. Her research focuses on forest regeneration, forest disturbance, and ecosystem services. Her dissertation research uses seedling survival and mortality patterns to understand how classic tropical forest coexistence mechanisms is affected by logging. Much of her work focuses on tropical tree species in central African tropical forests, in particular using vegetation plots to examine seedling dynamics and plant-predator interactions. She has also worked in Panama, conducting seed removal studies and studied macroecological associations between precipitation gradients, plant biogeography, and leaf trait variation in the Brazilian Cerrado.




Lorena Benitez - Content Director

Lorena Benitez is a second year Master of Environmental Science student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She holds a B.A. in Integrative Biology with a minor in Archaeology from Harvard University. Prior to coming to Yale, Lorena’s research focused primarily on how ecology impacts mammalian postcranial morphology. She has also conducted research on the effects of overfishing on fish fecundity and fertility in Ghana, Pleistocene paleoecology in Kenya, and pangolin ecology and rehabilitation in Namibia. At Yale, Lorena studies how elephant trails can be used to understand patterns of elephant movement and resource acquisition in Kibale National Park, Uganda.




Alexa Duchesneau - Flash Talks Coordinator

Alexa is a first-year Ph.D student in Biological Anthropology. She is interested in behavioral ecology and anthropogenic landscape change as a platform for Neotropical primate conservation. Before embarking on field work expeditions, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Operations & Information Management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Post-graduation, she conducted field work on white-faced capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica and Anubis baboons in Kenya. She also spent a year exploring her conservation interests monitoring and managing endangered and invasive species with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Maine.




Paul Hatanga - Grants Team

Paul is a candidate for Master of Environmental Management at Yale F&ES, specializing in Business and Environment. His most recent work at Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) focused on establishing a Biodiversity Conservation Trust Fund in Uganda. The work involved setting goals for the fund and working with government, academia, private sector and NGOs to put in place fund management structures. Paul has over 10 years’ working experience managing large scale conservation projects with funding from bilateral and multilateral agencies including the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP, UNEP and USAID. He is interested in market-based mechanisms to promote conservation of critical species and landscapes. At Yale, Paul is focusing on mitigation strategies of impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects. He coordinates Nature’s returns webinars hosted by Yale Centre for Business and Environment (CBEY) and support the Environmental Leadership and Training Initiative (ELTI) with fundraising. Paul has a postgraduate certificate in Conflict and Development from Open University-UK, project planning and management-UMI-Uganda, and B.S Forestry, Makerere University-Uganda.



Khin Htet Htet Pyone - Innovation Award Team

Khin Htet Htet Pyone is a 2020 Master of Environmental Management Candidate at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a graduate fellow of Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She is specializing on Ecosystems, Land Management and Conservation with a focus on landscape management and community based conservation. She received Bachelor of Science in Forestry from University of Forestry and Environmental Science in Myanmar. Prior to Yale, she spent 3 years working with local forest and Land Governance organization called EcoDev/ALARM, USAID Land Tenure Project and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Myanmar. During this period, she worked on stakeholder engagement for New National Land Use Policy formulation, documenting land uses and environmental issues, customary land tenure recognition and capacity building programs for civil society organizations. Currently she is working as a Program Associate with The Forest Dialogue (TFD)on the Land Use Dialogue initiatives for Myanmar and Indonesia.


Jeamme Chia - Panels Team

Jeamme is a 2021 Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is interested in using political economic and geospatial techniques to understand the interactions and dynamics between economic development, land use/land use change, and restoration of large-scale agricultural landscapes in the tropics. She has a background in management consulting where she worked with corpora te and non-profit clients on sustainability strategy and sustainable operations management. She was most recently a research associate working on using geospatial and political economic approaches to understand land use change in palm oil landscapes in Malaysia and Indonesia. Jeamme has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Political Economy, Geography, and French. At Yale, she works as a research assistant at the Tropical Resources Institute. Jeamme’s interest in the tropics started at birth – she was born and raised on Penang island in Malaysia.



Austin Dziki - Panels Team

Austin Dziki is a Master of Forestry Candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Austin studied biology and business while at the University of Vermont, where he also conducted phylogenetic research on island biogeography and evolution. After UVM he continued to conduct research in behavioral, acoustic, and forest ecology. During his time at F&ES, Austin has conducted research on financing large scale restoration, worked for the Quiet Corner Initiative and the Yale School Forests, and is the current president of the Society of American Foresters at Yale. This past summer, Austin conducted research on edge effects in Eastern Rwanda. He is looking forward to a career utilizing his forestry and ecological backgrounds to help build more sustainable communities and work on issues related to land use, climate change, and wildlife.



Manon Lefèvre - Panels Team

Manon is a second-year PhD student in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the department of Anthropology at Yale. Her work engages the fields of feminist political ecology, postcolonial studies, environmental anthropology, and critical geography. Her research takes place in Madagascar, where she conducts research on the uneven gendered and racial dimensions of climate change in a biodiversity hotspot, and the present-day coloniality of environmental conservation in a postcolonial context. 




Jorge Nieto Jimenez - Communications Team

Jorge is Master of Environmental Science Student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science. His interests span Science and Technology Studies, the Social Science of Conservation and Development, and human relations with water and its non-human inhabitants. He is developing a project to better understand the process of technology transfer for transition to renewable energies in developing countries, in the context of initiatives managed and directed by local communities. Before coming to Yale, Jorge worked for the Science and Technology Council of Mexico; he holds a Bachelor in International Relations from El Colegio de México.




Alejandra Hernandez - Communications Team

Alejandra is a second-year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She is pursuing a specialization in Ecosystems and Land Conservation and Management, and is interested in nature-based climate adaptation strategies. In addition, she is interested in local governance that incorporates participatory planning to implement environmental policy and programs to benefit vulnerable communities. Prior to Yale, she was working as the Environmental Projects Coordinator of the Lead Outreach Program at the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Dallas.





Sandra Chiri - Communications Team

Sandra is a Master of Environmental Management Candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES). She is interested in understanding and reconciliating the interdisciplinary aspects of conservation and the sustainable management of threatened natural ecosystems. Having worked in the Ministry of Environment of Peru with native communities of the Peruvian Amazon, she is deeply concerned with the relationships between vulnerable populations and natural systems, and how conservation efforts impact their livelihoods in usually overseen or ignored ways.





Amy Zuckerwise - Poster Coordinator

Amy Zuckerwise is a Master of Environmental Science candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Amy studies carnivore ecology and conservation, with a focus in small wildcat species. Prior to Yale, Amy worked as a wildlife biologist in environmental consulting in Southern California. During her undergraduate degree at Stanford University, she majored in Biology with honors in Ecology and Evolution. This past summer, she conducted her thesis research with the Wildlife Conservation Society on ocelot ecology in the Bolivian Amazon. She has also studied tropical ecosystems in Hawaii, Madagascar, Australia, and Panama. 



Dewi Tan - Keynotes Coordinator

Dewi is a 2021 Master of Environmental Science candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (F&ES). Her current research interests lie in environmental anthropology and the political ecology of urban floods, particularly among communities living in flood-prone kampung housings in Jakarta, Indonesia.   She holds a B.A. from New York University in anthropology and film, and is heavily influenced by storytelling and its application to both ethnography and visual media. 





Rachael Ross - Grants Team

Rachael is a 2021 Master of Environmental Science Candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is interested in developing innovative strategies for wildlife conservation. Prior to Yale, Rachael was a research assistant in the American Museum of Natural History’s Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. There she helped construct the phylogenetic relationships of deep-sea black corals through DNA sequencing and morphology in the Black Coral Lab. She also worked as an investigator at Brooklyn Defender Services where she assisted criminal defense attorneys in their case development. Rachael holds a B.A. in Politics and Environmental Studies from New York University.