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 Conservation. 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 census at the Mar Chiquita Lake in Córdoba 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 directs the Famatina National Park project and one of her main interests is to help local communities with environmental care projects. She started as an intern at Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2016 and then joined Natura International 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 the University of Salamanca, Spain.

Agustina Di Pauli

Agustina Di Pauli

GIS Coordinator

Agustina began working at Natura International in 2018. She currently coordinates a project to create protected areas in Salta and collaborates on the work with local communities. She is in charge of the Geographic Information Systems for planning of the 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.

Andrea Michelson

Andrea Michelson

Coordinator and Program Advisor

Andrea coordinates a project to create protected areas in the province of Salta. She has worked in biodiversity and conservation for more than fifteen years, especially focused on project design and development, and  strategies and policies related to 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, for non-profit sectors in Argentina, and for the IUCN South American Regional Office. She is also 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 International projects. She started as an intern at the Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2017. She is a Biology student at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. Her thesis addresses the biodiversity of mammals in a Natural Defense 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. 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 earned B. A. 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.

Rosario Espina

Rosario Espina

Program Coordinator and Advisor

Rosario is the coordinator of Natura’s protected areas programs, both on technical aspects and the links between environmental, social and political issues. Between 2018 and 2019 she was an advisor to the Vice President of the National Park Administration in the creation of new protected areas. She worked for more than 10 years with Greenpeace Argentina; was an advisor to the President of the Natural Resources and Human Environment Commission of the Argentine Chamber of Deputies; and was a campaign coordinator for Amnesty International in Argentina. Since 2012 she has been working as a freelancer advising governments and non-governmental organizations on environmental policies. Rosario has a degree in Environmental Sciences and a Masters in Social Anthropology.

Belén Díaz

Administrative Secretary

Belén is in charge of logistics and organization, providing support for all the projects we carry out and ensuring that the needs of the staff are met. Previously she was in charge of volunteer programs and professional internships for several NGOs involved in international educational tourism, among other activities. Belén studied English translation and social communication at the University of Córdoba.

Paulina Gomez Pascale

Paulina Gómez Pascale

Communicator

Paulina is in charge of communications for our organization. She works together with all Natura International team members to promote the various projects being carried out. She was part of the Communication team of the Environmental and Human Rights Coordinator of Sierras Chicas, in the province of Córdoba, between 2013 and 2015. She is a Social Communicator, with a focus on institutional communication, who graduated from the Catholic University of Santiago del Estero.

Sofia Antonena

Technical Consultant

Sofia is a technical consultant. Their 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 at a research assistant on projects related to the management of surface and groundwater resources. She worked in the private sector as a site environmental manager. She 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

Gabriel Weggener

Accountant

Gabriel, is responsible for providing the financial resources necessary for the operation 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.

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.

Fernando Barri, PhD

Fernando Barri

Scientific Advisor

Fernando holds a PhD 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). He 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 a consultant 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.