ISTF 2019 Leadership

The Yale chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters provides a forum for students with interests and experiences in tropical forestry. The 2019 leadership team was comprised of 34 members from 11 countries spanning 4 continents and represented all Master and PhD degrees offered by Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Renata Lozano - Conference Co-chair

Renata is a 2019 candidate Master of Environmental Management at the Yale F&ES, specializing in Environmental Policy Analysis with a strong focus on sustainable landscape initiatives. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from the Tec de Monterrey in Mexico. Before coming to Yale, Renata was the Climate Change Advisor in Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources where she worked on international environmental agreements. For two years, she was the Project Manager in Policy Advocacy at the Mexican non-profit organization ‘Reforestamos Mexico’. Renata coordinated the Landscape Restoration Initiative under the Bonn Challenge, as well as projects related to Global Forest Watch and forest legality policies with the World Resources Institute. She started her professional career as a researcher in environmental economics, first at the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change and later at Centro Mario Molina. More recently, Renata has been working for The Forests Dialogue as Program Associate on the Land Tenure Reform and Land Use Dialogue initiatives.

Caroline Tasirin - Conference Co-chair

Caroline is a 2019 Master of Forest Science candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies focusing on tree floristics and biodiversity in the Wallacea biogeographic region. Her previous experience includes community engagement and environmental education for forest and wildlife conservation in Indonesia. Before coming to Yale, Caroline was the Education Assistant in Selamatkan Yaki, a local NGO that focused on protecting the crested black macaque endemic to North Sulawesi, Indonesia, through holistic approaches that brought together government, law enforcement, and communities living around forests. She holds a B.Sc. in Forestry from Sam Ratulangi University in Manado, Indonesia, and is a CIFOR-USAID scholar and TRI fellow at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Sara Santiago - SIG Leader

Sara is a Master of Forestry student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. At F&ES, her academic focus has concentrated on tropical forest ecology, management, and conservation. Holding a B.A. in Geography and International Studies from the Ohio State University, Sara’s work and research has always been situated at the intersection of people and the environment, especially in the friction between forests and agricultural development. Sara’s current research focuses on forest and farm recovery and resiliency after hurricane disturbances in Cuba and Puerto Rico. Previous to starting her Masters, Sara worked in environmental education for the U.S. Forest Service in Puerto Rico and on forest conservation policies for global agricultural supply chains as a stakeholder engagement manager at San Francisco based non-profit Future 500.

Andy Lee - Treasurer, Grants Coordinator

Andy is a 2019 Master of Environmental Science candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with a focus on wildlife conservation and conservation policy. His thesis research focuses on understanding the social and decision processes of large carnivore reintroductions in South Africa protected area to promote conservation. His previous experience in wildlife research include studying African elephants in South Africa, snow leopard in the Tibetan Himalayas region, as well as wildlife trafficking in Asia. Before coming to Yale, he worked in the Cetacean Ecology Lab in the University of Hong Kong as a research assistant to study the population structure, socio-behavioural ecology and spatial movement of the endangered population of Indo-pacific humpback dolphins in the coastal city. He holds a B.Sc. in Ecology & Biodiversity from the University of Hong Kong.

Melaina Dyck - Content Director

Melaina Dyck is a Master of Environmental Science candidate from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She interested in environmental justice and indigenous rights. Melaina conducts research on smallholder banana farming and traditional ecological knowledge with indigenous Shipibo communities in the Peruvian Amazon. Prior to Yale, Melaina investigated marshland restoration in southern Iraq and building Iraq-US research relationships, and also studied in Chile and Nicaragua. Melaina was born in Canada and grew up in Chapel Hill, NC. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science from University of South Carolina with a minor in Spanish.


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.

Brurce Mecca - Grants Team

Brurce is a 2019 Master of Environmental Science candidate at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies focusing his research on political ecology of tropical peatland and renewable energy development in Kalimantan. His previous experience includes policy analysis on urban Waste-to-Energy problem and community education in energy conservation in Indonesia. Before coming to Yale, Brurce was a researcher in Indonesian Institute for Energy Economics (IIEE), a think-tank organization that focuses on collaborative energy research that brings together governments, academia, industry, and non-profit organizations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia and is a research scholar under joint CIFOR – USAID fellowship program.

Nora Moraga-Lewy - Communications Coordinator

Nora Moraga-Lewy is a student at the Yale F&ES. She holds a BA in environmental studies from Yale College, where her research assessed the potential of non-state market-driven initiatives for improving the environmental and social outcomes of Southeast Asia’s palm oil industry. Prior to graduate school, Nora worked as a Research Associate at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) in Washington, DC. At ELI, she coordinated the Environmental Peacebuilding program, contributed to a report on environmental rule of law, and worked on a judicial education project focusing on biodiversity conservation in Colombia and Ecuador. Nora currently supports a comparative forest law project with the IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law. At F&ES, she is researching the stringency of forest regulations and the durability and effectiveness of sustainable forest management practices. Nora is interested in how securing land and terrestrial resource tenure can support sustainable development and play a role in preventing the escalation or recurrence of social and civil conflict.

Alexandra Golden - Communications Coordinator

Ali Golden is specializing in corporate environmental management at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She is excited to be on the communications team for this year’s ISTF conference. Ali is interested in commodity-driven deforestation and the role of the private sector in addressing tropical forest challenges through jurisdictional approaches and responsible supply chain management. Ali has interned in the Markets Transformation department at the Rainforest Alliance in New York City, where she supported efforts to develop sustainable sourcing policies and practices for consumer goods companies in Latin America. She has volunteered in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica and conducted independent research on gold mining in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Azuay, Ecuador. 


Jesse Gehrke - Logistics Coordinator

Jesse Gehrke is from Livermore, CA, and studied International Development and Spanish at the University of Oregon. He has worked in agriculture across the U.S. and in Thailand and Guatemala. He is a Master of Forestry Candidate at Yale FES, focusing on Forest Ecology and Agroforestry.



Khin Htet Htet Pyone - Logistics Coordinator

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.

Gabriela M. Morales Nieves - Logistics Coordinator

Gabriela is a first 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.

Brittany Williams - Keynotes Team

Brittany is a 2019 Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a focus on sustainable land use and climate change adaptation in the tropics. Brittany previously served as an Agroforestry Volunteer with the Peace Corps in Guinea where she led several projects including community reforestation and capacity building among beekeepers. She also worked in Washington DC on a Feed the Future program increasing food security among smallholder farmers in Haiti, Guatemala, Benin, Kenya and Bangladesh. Most recently, she worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Caribbean supporting development of national climate change policies and monitoring climate change adaptation pilot projects focused on sustainable agriculture, water resource management, resilient infrastructure and renewable energy. She holds a B.A. in International Development and a B.S. in Environmental Policy and Management from University of California, Berkeley.

Ki’ila Salas - Keynotes Team, Social Chair

Ki’ila is a 2019 Master of Forestry candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies focusing on tropical restoration and community-based forestry. Before coming to Yale FES, she worked as an assistant biologist at the Blackadore restorative island in Belize, where she conducted wildlife surveys and collected water quality data along the island. She also has experience in rehabilitating howler and spider monkeys and manatees at the Wildtracks rehabilitation center in Belize. Ki’ila holds a B.A. in Environmental Science from Loyola University New Orleans.



Bethany Linton - Panels Team

Bethany Linton is a 2019 Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a focus on African land use management. She earned her BA at Brigham Young University in Political Science and International Development, with a research focus on the political economy of gender in East Africa. Following her undergraduate studies, she joined the office of Senator Coons, then the co-chair of the sub-committee on African Affairs, conducting environmental and foreign affairs research. Later at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), she worked on programs in Cabo Verde and Sierra Leone to assess environmental and social performance projects for poverty reduction through economic growth. Her thesis work as a Land Use Dialogue Fellow in Northern Uganda partnered with IUCN for a project on gender inclusion in multi-stakeholder decision making for sustainable land governance. Bethany is currently working for The Forests Dialogue as Program Associate on the Land Use Dialogue initiative for East Africa.


Blanca Begert - Panels Team

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.


Jorge Nieto Jimenez - Panels 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.


Liz Felker - Leadership Award Team

Liz Felker is a Master of Environmental Science candidate from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is currently the Program Manager for The Forests Dialogue Land Use Dialogue Initiative. With interests in multi-stakeholder governance and land and resource tenure, Liz conducts research on local perceptions of land degradation and restoration in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. Prior to Yale, Liz worked as a research consultant for CIFOR in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and on an organic vegetable farm outside her hometown of Nashville, TN. She received her B.S. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from UC Berkeley with a minor in Forest Management.


Javier González - Leadership Award Team

Javier Gonzalez is a second year Student at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His professional studies span from participatory decision-making processes in natural resource management all the way to capacity building at the local level, as well as ecological restoration and agroforestry systems. Prior to coming to Yale, Javier worked for 4 years in a conservation NGO dealing with forest conservation, climate change mitigation and carbon offsets. That experience convinced him that conservation is compatible with development only if people is brought into the picture, and long-term commitments by different stakeholders are adopted. He majored in Mechanical Engineering from Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico City) and has specialization courses in Environmental economics, public policy and ecological urban design.


Fabiola Hernandez Alvarez - Leadership Award Team

Fabiola is a second-year MEM student at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Fabi is focusing her work on climate change policy and she is particularly interested in the opportunities arising from enhancing climate action by working with a gender-based approach. This summer, as the Speth Fellow she interned for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC. She helped write a report on the twenty most promising global measures to mitigate climate change and participated in projects related to grassland and marine species conservation in Mexico, her home country. Before coming to Yale, she worked for Mexico’s National Forestry Commission in the design of initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Kelsey Hartman - Tool Expo Team

Kelsey is a first 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 how people and institutions make decisions around sustainable natural resource use. Before coming to Yale, Kelsey did communications and project management for WWF’s Greater Mekong program. Most recently she spent a year in the littoral forests of southeastern Madagascar as a conservation research assistant doing biodiversity surveys.


Katherine Meier - Tool Expo Team

Katherine Meier is a first-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.

Leo Goldsmith - Flash Talk Team

Leo is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is interested in urban planning and climate change adaptation. Prior to Yale, Leo obtain his B.A in environmental studies at Oberlin College and worked at the New York Restoration Project conducting ecological restoration in Highbridge Park and the Sherman Creek Cove in New York City. He hopes to work on climate change adaptation in cities in Colombia.



Devon Ericksen - Flash Talk Team

Devon is a current Master of Forestry Student at Yale F&ES. She is focusing her studies on biocultural restoration with a focus on the tropics. Prior coming to Yale, Devon received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Virginia and worked in the sustainable food movement, from vegetable gardening in elementary schools to operating a food pantry in her town. Her pivot into the world of forest restoration was inspired by extensive travel in the tropics, where she visited villages and saw the impacts of reforestation projects firsthand.


Lorena Benitez - Posters Team

Lorena Benitez is a first year Master of Environmental Science student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She holds a 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 is interested in studying wildlife conservation, particularly understanding how ecological research impacts conservation decisions for mammal species. She hopes to study giant pangolin spatial ecology in Uganda for her thesis research this summer.

Shrabya Timsina - Breakout Sessions

Shrabya Timsina is a Master of Forestry Science student at Yale FES from Nepal. He is studying the distribution of medicinal flora in alpine forests of West Nepal Himalaya. He graduated with a B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago, focusing on ecology and evolution. After graduating, he worked at the Field Museum in Chicago developing a phylogenetics software tool for and a website for a biodiversity database.