Byron Swift

President

Byron has worked to help partner groups and governments throughout Latin America create and sustain protected areas, conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, and build capacity in sustainable development and environmental policy. He has collaborated to preserve more than 14 million acres of tropical forests and other critical ecosystems. Byron has served as President of Nature and Culture International, founder and President of Rainforest Trust, director of the Energy and Innovation Center at the Environmental Law Institute, and head of the United States office of IUCN – the World Conservation Union. An environmental lawyer, he graduated from Columbia Law School and Stanford University.

Lucila Castro

Lucila Castro

Argentine Director

Lucila is the Argentine director of Natura International. She has a lifelong interest in conservation, population ecology, and protected areas. Her work addresses the articulation of scientific and technical work, institutional and governmental sector interactions, and local community outreach, all directed towards achieving clear conservation goals. She is also working on a Ph.D. project focused on mammal conservation. Since 2010, Lucila has been a member of the GCFA (High Andean Flamingo Conservation Group) and coordinates the flamingo census in Laguna Mar Chiquita, Córdoba. She also belongs to the IUCN Flamingo Specialist Group and the IUCN Connectivity and Conservation Specialist Group; is a board member (general member, early career scientist) at the International Salt Lake Research Society; and serves as a collaborating researcher at the Institute of Ecology of the National University of Mexico. Lucila graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Biology from the National University of Córdoba, Argentina.

Staff

María Laura Steffolani

María Laura Steffolani

Program Director and Staff Coordinator

Laura manages the project to create a protected area in the Sierras de Famatina. One of her main interests is helping local communities with environmental education projects. She started as an intern at Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2016 and then joined Natura International in Córdoba. She also coordinates Natura’s staffing. She has a degree in biology from the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, and a master’s degree in biology and biodiversity conservation from the University of Salamanca, Spain.

Victoria Lassaga

Victoria Lassaga

Project Manager

Victoria is in charge of organizing internal processes and monitoring all Natura International projects. She started as an intern at Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2017. She is a PM4R Master certified by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). She is a biology student at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. Her thesis addresses the biodiversity of mammals in a Defense Nature Reserve in the province of Córdoba. Victoria was a volunteer with sea turtle studies in Uruguay and is currently doing a research internship related to the loss of mammals in the Chaco ecoregion. Her main interests are conservation and ecology.

Sarah Knudsen

Operations Manager

Sarah helps ensure our team has the tools and support necessary to work efficiently. She previously worked with our team at Pacific Biodiversity Institute. Her professional experience includes an internship at Whatcom Land Trust and several years in the field of risk management and insurance.  She has degrees in geography and French from Western Washington University. With the geography program at Huxley College of the Environment, her degree included extensive study of environmental sciences.

Agustina Di Pauli

Agustina Di Pauli

GIS Coordinator

Agustina began working at Natura International in 2018. She currently coordinates projects to create protected areas in Salta and Mendoza; and collaborates in working with local communities. She is in charge of the Geographic Information Systems for planning protected areas, and the management of the territorial database for all our projects. Her prior experience focused mainly on bird ecology and biological interactions. She has worked in environmental education, ethology and wildlife management for the Horco Molle Experimental Reserve in the province of Tucumán, and in the conservation of shorebirds and sea turtles in Uruguay. She received a degree in Biology from the National University of Tucumán, Argentina.

Sofia Antonena

Technical Consultant

Sofía is a technical consultant. Her work focuses on providing collaboration and technical support to the organization’s protected area projects. She started as an intern at Natura International. Previously, she worked as a research assistant on projects related to surface and groundwater resource management. She worked in the private sector as a site environmental manager, and also worked as a collaborator in a foundation dedicated to the development of sustainable policies. She is a natural resources and environmental engineer from the National University of La Pampa and holds a diploma in geomatics applied to the environment from the National Commission on Space Activities, together with the National University of Córdoba.

Aníbal Cuchietti

Aníbal Cuchietti

Technical Consultant

Aníbal is in charge of the experimental design, processing, and analysis of data in projects that require information for their implementation and development. He works together with the Natura International team to ensure reliable and quality content in projects and publications that allow for a better understanding of the ecological aspects of the flora and fauna communities in projected future conservation areas. He coordinates Natura’s technical participation in the Ansenuza National Park and Bañados del Río Dulce project in the provinces of Córdoba and Santiago del Estero. Aníbal completed his biology degree and Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at the National University of Córdoba. Between 2017 and 2019, he worked as a specialist consultant for the FAO-UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation of Native Forests (REDD+) program and is currently a consultant for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Brenda Marella

Content Writer and Communication Consultant

Brenda is a professional journalist and national broadcaster who graduated from the University College of Journalism and the Higher Institute of Radio Education. She prepared a thesis in political communication to apply for a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Communication from the Catholic University of Santiago del Estero. Brenda worked in various mass communication media in Córdoba and was part of press teams in several institutions. She obtained scholarships for her academic performance and voluntarily collaborated with NGOs. She joined Natura International in January 2021 as a consultant in communication, press, and content creation for different platforms, and since April has been especially focused on communications in support of creating the Ansenuza National Park.

Florencia Gauna

Graphic Design

Florencia has a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design. She graduated from the National University of Córdoba and the School of Design Aguas de la Cañada. She works together with the Communication team to create the visual identity of the organization. Her projects over the past five years have included graphic design for websites, packaging, design and management in RRSS, editorial design, audiovisual, and branding, among others, for several companies and institutions.

Andrea Michelson

Andrea Michelson

Coordinator and Program Advisor

Andrea coordinates a project at Natura International to create protected areas in the province of Salta and advises on the creation of protected areas for all our projects. She has worked on biodiversity and conservation for more than fifteen years, focused on design and development, and strategies and policies concerning the creation and effective management of protected areas. Andrea specializes in large-scale projects (regional, ecoregional, national). She has worked for the National Parks Administration, other non-profit organizations in Argentina, and the IUCN South American Regional Office. She is also an active member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. Andrea has a degree in Ecology from the National University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Cristina Casavecchia

Cristina Casavecchia

Advisor

Cristina advises the organization and the various Natura International projects on strategic planning and management of conservation and protected areas, contributing to the implementation of conceptual frameworks and innovative methodological approaches for project components. She works with the team to strengthen good governance processes in the creation of protected areas, in coordination with key participants.

A biologist by training, with 20 years of professional experience, she has coordinated the IUCN Protected Areas Program for the South America Office, based in Ecuador; has been a consultant for the National Parks Administration of Argentina; and currently works as a consultant with various organizations in Latin America. She has extensive experience leading large-scale conservation programs and projects, working with national and international organizations, in articulation with the public and private sector, indigenous organizations, and academia, in different countries of the region, as well as in Spain. She graduated from the National University of Córdoba, and obtained a master’s degree in management of protected areas from the Autonomous University of Madrid.

Yanina Druetta

Yanina Druetta

Technical Consultant

Yanina is a technical consultant on the Ansenuza National Park project. She is a nature photographer, and took courses on Park Ranger and Environmental Guide at the UTFORMA Institute, Astronomy for Naturalists (Argentine Birds) and illegal wildlife trafficking at the Environmental Education School for Environmental Project. She is currently studying to be a Field Naturalist, a career offered by the NGO Aves Argentinas.

Alejandro Briones

Technical Consultant

Alejandro is a Natural Resources and Environmental Engineer who graduated from the National University of Salta. In 2019 he joined Natura International as a local consultant to support the creation of protected areas in Salta. His main interest is to generate a positive impact on the environment and improve the quality of life of communities. In the private sector, he worked on the implementation of cleaner production measures and environmental management systems (ISO 14001). He participated in the transfer of solar technologies (heaters, distillers, dryers, and solar stoves) in isolated communities in Salta and Jujuy. He is an expert in biodiversity surveys and the formulation and implementation of native forest management and conservation plans with a participatory approach. He collaborates in the coordination of environmental education projects and cartography. Since 2016 he has managed the NGO CeDRUS (Center for Rural and Urban Sustainable Development).

Gabriel Weggener

Accountant

Gabriel is responsible for tracking the finances of the organization. He works as an independent consultant providing services to commercial, industrial, and service companies, also to non-profit organizations, such as foundations, cooperatives, and NGOs. He is a professor at the UNC, head of the department of practical works, and works as a tutor for students of the Faculty of Economic Sciences, doing supervised professional practices. He graduated from the National University of Córdoba (UNC) as a Public Accountant, Professional Registration: 10-18882-4 C. P. C. E. Cba.

Lourdes Firma Paz

Administrative Assistant

Lourdes is known for her attention to detail, her creativity, and ease of managing tasks, assigning them priorities, and adapting to the changes that arise. She assists all teams and projects, and she is in charge of organizing and generating communication channels inside and outside the organization. She is studying for Technician in Park Rangers at the Provincial University of Córdoba and is in the final stage of the Technician in Medical Emergencies.

Advisory Committee

Gerardo Ceballos, PhD

Gerardo Ceballos

Scientific Advisor

Gerardo is a researcher at the Universidad Autónoma de México and a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. He is dedicated to the conservation of species and their ecosystems, linking advances in research with concrete solutions to environmental problems. Gerardo is an ecologist and conservationist with numerous books published in Mexico and articles in the best scientific journals. His work has won multiple awards around the world. He has been part of our team as a consultant on conservation projects since 2018.

Malena Srur

Malena Srur

Scientific Advisor

Malena is a biologist with a focus on ecology, an expert in the use of Geographic Information Systems for planning, implementation and management of natural protected areas. She has focused her career on land conservation in Argentina, participating in the process of creating the Iberá, El Impenetrable, Patagonia, Traslasierra and the future Ansenuza National Park. Currently, Malena is in charge of the GIS and the management of the territorial database in the Gran Chaco project of the Rewilding Argentina Foundation.

Board Members

Ambassador Eric J. Boswell

Ambassador Eric J. Boswell, a career Foreign Service Officer, served as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security from 2008 to 2012, and previously from 1996 to 1998, under three presidents.  During that time he led the security and law enforcement arm of the Department of State. He has also been Director of Administration for the Pan American Health Organization and was Senior Advisor for Security Change Management at UN headquarters in New York. His international experience included postings in the Middle East, Canada, and Africa. Ambassador Boswell graduated from Stanford University, and is an enthusiastic birder.

Catherine Plume

Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist and Principal of BlueGreenPlume, LLC. Cathy has designed, implemented, and evaluated natural resources, climate change adaptation, and waste reduction projects for over 25 years. She has held senior positions at World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute, and CARE, and has worked with companies and governments on natural resources conservation and to adopt sustainable supply chains for a variety of commodities. Cathy grew up in Austin, and has lived in Paraguay, Bolivia, Togo, and Mali. She has an M.Sc. in Watershed Management from the University of Arizona, and a B.Sc. in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Byron Swift

Byron Swift has worked to help partner groups and governments throughout Latin America create and sustain protected areas, conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services, and build capacity in sustainable development and environmental policy. He has worked in almost all countries of the continent to conserve over 14 million acres of rainforests and other critical ecosystems. Byron has served as President of Nature and Culture International, founder and President of Rainforest Trust, director of the Energy and Innovation Center at the Environmental Law Institute, and  head of the United States office of IUCN – the World Conservation Union. An environmental lawyer, he graduated from Columbia Law School and Stanford University.

Margaret (Meg) Symington

Margaret (Meg) Symington began her career studying tropical ecology in the Peruvian Amazon, carrying out the first long-term field study on the black spider monkey. She has broad experience designing and implementing conservation and natural resources management projects throughout Latin America, and currently directs World Wildlife Fund’s Amazon programs working to ensure the long-term sustainability of protected area systems in Brazil, Peru and Colombia. Previously she served as an environmental advisor in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Dr. Symington received her B.A. in biology from Yale University and her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University.

William Ambrose

Bill Ambrose made a career pivot to the non-profit sector a decade ago after founding successful business research ventures in the fields of telecommunications, renewable energy, and water infrastructure.  He is now engaged at the board level with a number of organizations, including efforts to end extreme poverty and build resiliency in the drylands of Africa, programs to provide access to clean water in West Africa, and initiatives to conserve fragile ecosystems and address climate change in Africa and Latin America. He received an MBA from Columbia University and BA in economics and intercultural studies from Trinity College, Hartford CT.