Byron Swift

President

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 is currently working with Global Wildlife Conservaiotn; Previously, he 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 Argentina Director of Natura International. She has a lifelong interest in conservation, population ecology and protected areas, and her work addresses the articulation of scientific and technical work, institutional and government sector interactions and local community outreach, all aimed at the accomplishment of clear conservation goals. Lucila is a member of the GCFA (High Andean Flamingo Conservation Group), and coordinates the Flamingo population census at the Mar Chiquita Lake in the Cordoba Province. She is also a member of the Flamingo Specialist Group and the Connectivity and Conservation Specialist Group of the IUCN; a Board Member of the International Society on Salt Lake Research; and a Collaborative Researcher at the Mexico National University’s Institute of Ecology. Lucila graduated with a degree in Biology from the National University of Córdoba, Argentina and is working for her PhD focusing on mammal conservation.

Staff

María Laura Steffolani

María Laura Steffolani

Program Manager

Laura is the manager of the Famatina National Park project and one of her main interests is to assist local communities in environmental care projects. She began as an intern at the Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2016 and then joined the Natura International office in Córdoba. She has a degree in Biology from the National University of Córdoba, Argentina and a Master’s degree in Biology and Biodiversity Conservation from Salamanca University, Spain.

Agustina Di Pauli

Agustina Di Pauli

Program Manager

Agustina co-manages Natura’s programs to create protected areas in Salta province, and collaborates on the work with local communities for all our projects. 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 where she focused mainly on biological interactions and bird ecology.

Andrea Michelson

Andrea Michelson

Program Manager and Advisor

Andrea manages Natura’s project to create protected areas in Salta Province, and provides program advice in other projects. She has been working on biodiversity and conservation for more than fifteen years, focused on project design and development, strategies and policies related to the creation and effective management of protected areas. Andrea specializes in large-scale projects (regional, eco-regional, national). She has worked for the National Parks Administration, for the non-profit sector in Argentina, and for the South American Regional Office of the IUCN. She is an active member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. Andrea is a specialist in Ecology graduated from the National University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Victoria Lassaga

Victoria Lassaga

Project Manager

Victoria is in charge of organizing internal processes and monitoring all Natura’s projects. She started as an intern at Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2017. She is a senior student of Biology 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 volunteered with sea turtles in Uruguay and is currently conducting 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 that our staff have the tools and support they need to work efficiently, and previously worked with our team at Pacific Biodiversity Institute for several years. Her professional experience includes an internship with the Whatcom Land Trust, and several years in the insurance and risk management realm. She earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in geography and French from Western Washington University. Her work in the geography program at Huxley College of the Environment included extensive environmental science study.

Rosario Espina

Rosario Espina

Program Manager and Advisor

Rosario works on Natura protected areas programs, both on technical aspects and the links between environmental, social and policy matters. Between 2018 and 2019 she was an advisor to the Vice President of the National Park Administration in the creation of New Protected Areas. Previously she worked for more than 10 years with Greenpeace Argentina; was an advisor to the Presidency of the Commission of Natural Resources and Human Environment of the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina; and coordinated campaigns at Amnesty International in Argentina. Since 2012 she has worked as a consultant advising governments and non-governmental organizations on environmental policy. Rosario has a degree in Environmental Sciences, with a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology.

Belén Díaz

Administrative Secretary

As Natura’s administrative assistant, Belén is in charge of logistics and organization, providing support for all the projects we carry out and ensuring the needs of staff are covered. She was previously in charge of volunteer programs and professional internships for various NGOs participating in international educational tourism, among other activities. Belén studied English translation and social communication at the University of Córdoba.

Gabriel Weggener

Accountant

Gabriel works as an independent advisor in the tax, labor, accounting and financial areas, providing service to commercial, industrial and service companies as well as non-profit organizations such as foundations, cooperatives and NGO’s. He is also a Professor at the National University of Cordoba, Head of the Practical Works department, and works as a tutor for students at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, performing Supervised Professional Practices. He graduated from the National University of Córdoba as a Public Accountant, Professional Enrollment: 10-18882-4 C.P.C.E. Cba.

Barbara Mestrallet

Intern

Barbara is an intern at Natura International, showing great interest in environmental care and conservation. She is a biologist graduated from the National University of Córdoba, and during her studies she was part of the EduChagas group where she carried out educational and research activities, as well as participating in the “Museums Night”; at the Museum of Zoology of the UNC for three consecutive years. She is currently a high school teacher, with a great passion for environmental education.

Sofia Antonena

Intern

Sofia, a volunteer at Natura International, studied Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the National University of La Pampa. She worked as a research assistant in projects related to the management of surface and underground water resources in the western pampas. She also worked in the private sector as Head of the Environmental Area, focused on road works in the NEA Region.

Advisory Committee

Gerardo Ceballos, PhD

Gerardo Ceballos

Scientific Advisor

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

Malena Srur

Malena Srur

Scientific Advisor

Malena is a biologist with a focus in ecology, adept at using Geographic Information Systems for the planning, implementation and management of protected natural areas. She has focused her career on the conservation of land in Argentina, participating in the creation processes of the Iberá, El Impenetrable, Patagonia, Traslasierra National Parks and the future Ansenuza National Park. Malena is currently in charge of GIS and management of the territorial database in the Gran Chaco project of the Argentine Rewilding Foundation.

Fernando Barri, PhD

Fernando Barri

Scientific Advisor

Fernando has a doctorate in Biological Sciences and is a professor at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina, and a researcher at the Institute of Animal Diversity and Ecology (IDEA-CONICET). Fernando has extensive experience studying the forests of the Chaco region and working with communities in biodiversity conservation. Since 2018, he has been part of our team as an advisor on conservation projects.

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.

Valeria Merino

Valeria Merino has over 20 years of experience in the social sector working on environment, democracy, anti-corruption, and social entrepreneurship. She founded and led the Latin American Center for Development and co-founded Citizen’s Participation in Ecuador (Participación Ciudadana), while working to grow Transparency International into a global anti-corruption movement. More recently, she led the Venture/Fellowship Program at Ashoka, identifying and supporting social entrepreneurs with innovative, system-changing ideas and, at the Skoll Foundation, created programs to increase the impact of social entrepreneurs.

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.