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.

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. Her geography degree included extensive study of environmental sciences and ecology, and she has thoroughly enjoyed being able to support the conservation work of PBI and now Natura International. Born and raised in Zambia, Sarah has traveled extensively in Africa, Europe and Central America, and looks forward to someday visiting Argentina also.

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.

Natura Argentina (Argentina Chapter)

María Laura Steffolani

María Laura Steffolani

General Coordinator

Laura coordinates the project for the creation of a protected area in the Sierras de Famatina. Her main interests are helping local communities in environmental education projects, the development of regional economies linked to protected areas and the promotion of good governance. In addition, she has experience in carbon footprint measurement. She started as an intern at Pacific Biodiversity Institute in 2016 and then joined Natura International in Córdoba. She also coordinates Natura’s human resources team. She holds 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 in Project Management for Results certified by the Inter-American Development Bank. She is a biology student at the National University of Córdoba, Argentina. Her thesis addresses mammal biodiversity in a Defense Nature Reserve in the province of Córdoba. Victoria volunteered in sea turtle studies in Uruguay and is currently doing a research internship related to mammal loss in the Chaco ecoregion. Her main interests are conservation and ecology.

Agustina Di Pauli

Agustina Di Pauli

Project Coordinator

Agustina began working at Natura International in 2018. She currently coordinates projects to create protected areas in Salta and Mendoza, and collaborates in work with local communities. She is in charge of Geographic Information Systems for protected area planning and territorial database management 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 shorebird and sea turtle conservation in Uruguay. She holds a degree in Biology from the National University of Tucumán, Argentina.

Sofia Antonena

Technical Coordinator

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

Gisela Bruhn

Field Technician

She is a Ranger Technician from the Provincial University of Córdoba. She is a partner and member of the NGO ACEN Argentina, where she provides technical support in the creation of new protected areas.

She is in charge of the organization and planning of trips to the territory in the Natura Argentina team and collaborator of the Technical Department.

She worked in the Commune of Cabalango (Córdoba) as a Ranger and Environmental Inspector, and in the Patagonia Program for Argentine Birds as a field technician and colony guardian of the Macá Tobiano. She was an advisor in the cartographic viewer project of the La Matanza-Riachuelo basin, together with FARN.

She specializes in Geographic Information Systems, and is currently studying the Diploma in Geomatics Applied to the Environment issued by the National Commission for Space Activities and the National University of Córdoba, and venturing into the teaching career in the chair of Information Systems Geography of the Provincial University of Córdoba.

Tomás Aguirre Vallés

Technical Consultant

He has a degree in Biological Sciences from the National University of Córdoba, and is currently studying for Technician in Park Ranger at the Provincial University of Córdoba. In his thesis he studied the responses of birds and arthropods to plant invasion in a protected area. He collaborated on other studies on ecology and conservation, and on environmental education and extension projects, his main interests.

He started as a volunteer and intern at Natura International, and currently provides technical collaboration to Natura Argentina projects, especially in biological diversity studies.

Gabriela Sibilla

Gabriela Sibilla

Communications Coordinator

Gabriela has a degree in Advertising and a Master’s degree in Audiovisual Communication. She currently coordinates the communications department at Natura International, outlining the organization’s communications strategies. She has more than eight years of experience coordinating communication projects in public and private organizations, including the Real Madrid Foundation, Booking.com and The Walt Disney Company. Gabriela is also interested in writing, mainly travel chronicles, which led her to write for La Voz del Interior newspaper, Naranja X, Destino & Hoteles magazine and to edit her own book, Rutas, historias cortas de viaje (Routes, short travel stories).

Gonzalo Strano

Communication for Projects Coordinator

He has a degree in History from the National University of Luján and a diploma in Sustainable Development from the National Technological University. After several years of teaching, he is in charge of project communication at Natura Argentina. He began his professional career in the third sector at Greenpeace, developing different activities for 15 years. As a freelancer, he collaborated in the planning of campaigns for organizations in Argentina and the region.

Agustina Conci

Copywriter

Agustina Conci has a degree in Communication Sciences from the National University of Córdoba and a diploma as a Social Media Manager. As a journalist, she worked on radio and in different graphic media in Córdoba. She has collaborated with local and national media on environmental topics, especially focused on the loss of Córdoba´s forest, the advancement of agribusiness, and the situation of protected areas. As a freelancer, she helped medium and large startups to find their brand, develop their web and social media strategies, and tell their own story. At Natura Argentina, she collaborates with the writing of all communication pieces, especially on social networks.

Billy Petrone

Designer

Billy Petrone is a graphic designer with more than 20 years of experience working with different organizations and companies, both in Argentina and abroad. He has worked as a consultant and designer in the areas of corporate visual identity, packaging design, and editorial design. He is also a professor at the Provincial University of Córdoba. In Natura Argentina, he is responsible for the design of all institutional and project graphic pieces.

Andrea Michelson

Andrea Michelson

Project Coordinator

Andrea coordinates a project at Natura International to create protected areas in Salta and advises on protected area creation planning for all the NGO’s projects. She has worked in biodiversity and conservation for over fifteen years, especially focused on the design and development of projects, strategies and policies related to the creation and effective management of protected areas. She 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.

Cristina Casavecchia

Cristina Casavecchia

Advisor in conservation planning and management of protected areas

Cristina works in strategic planning and management of conservation and protected areas, strengthening the application of conceptual frameworks and innovative methodological approaches to projects. She works with our team to strengthen good governance processes in the creation of protected areas. With 20 years of experience, she coordinated the IUCN Protected Areas Program for South America; was a consultant for the National Parks Administration; and advises different organizations in Latin America. She has led large-scale conservation programs and projects, working with national and international organizations, in coordination with different sectors in Latin America. She has a biology degree from the National University of Córdoba and holds a Master’s degree in protected areas management from the Autonomous University of Madrid.

Yanina Druetta

Yanina Druetta

Local Coordinator

Yanina is the territorial coordinator in the project to create Ansenuza National Park. With the mission of working for the conservation of natural areas she became a nature photographer, showing the beauty and value of ecosystems through her images. She also promotes environmental education in local communities to positively transform the relationship they have with the natural environment and create possibilities for a healthier future. She took courses in Park Ranger and Environmental Guide at the UTFORMA Institute; Astronomy for Naturalists (Aves Argentinas); and Illegal Wildlife Trafficking at the Proyecto Ambiental Environmental Education School. Currently, Yanina is studying to become a Field Naturalist, a career offered by the NGO Aves Argentinas.

Alejandra Bonino

Technical Consultant

She is a biologist graduated from the National University of Córdoba, a professor of Biology and has a master’s degree in Neuroscience for Education. She carried out waste management and disease vector mosquito control projects, and worked as a teacher in a Tourism and Sustainability technical course.

She participates in the preparation and execution of Natura Argentina’s environmental education programs, especially the Ansenuza project. Her job is to raise awareness in the care of the environment to promote conscious behaviors, which allow enjoyment without damaging. She is passionate about conservation activities with young people, tutoring projects that are carried out in the wetland.

Alejandro Briones

Local Coordinator

Since 2016 Alejandro has been president of the NGO CeDRUS, and since 2019 he has worked with Natura International as a local consultant, promoting participatory processes for the creation of protected areas in Salta to generate positive impact on the environment, and improve the quality of life of communities. He participated in the transfer of solar technologies to isolated communities in Salta and Jujuy. He conducts biodiversity surveys and formulates and implements native forest management and conservation plans with a participatory approach. He has assisted in the coordination of environmental education projects and in the elaboration of cartography. In the private sector, he has implemented clean production standards and environmental management systems (ISO 14001). Alejandro is a Natural Resources and Environmental Engineer graduated from the National University of Salta.

María del Carmen Villalba

Territorial Communication Coordinator

María joined Natura International in May 2021 as a territory collaborator. She has worked in institutional communication in several public and private organizations. She has also taught at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Universidad Champagnat and Universidad de Congreso. María has a Bachelor’s Degree and Professor in Communication, graduated from the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. She also has a Diploma in Communication and Digital Marketing. She completed her thesis with a Tourism Communication Project for the East Zone of Mendoza, with which she was a speaker at a Tourism Congress in San Martín de Los Andes, organized by ASERPRETURE.

Silvana Rufini

Silvana Rufini

Socio-environmental Liaison Manager

Silvana is part of the team working on the creation of protected areas, and focuses especially on the link with local communities with a focus on participatory governance. Silvana is a Biologist and Professor of Biological Sciences at the Faculty of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of the National University of Córdoba. She has participated in numerous outreach and education projects related to conservation, environmental education and the creation and implementation of protected areas in Córdoba and San Luis. In addition, she was a technician in municipal and provincial Environmental Secretariats and is currently a Professor of Environmental Education in the University Degree in Park Rangers at the Provincial University of Córdoba.

Gabriel Weggener

Administration and Finance

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, 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 School of Economics performing supervised internships. He graduated from the National University of Córdoba as a Certified Public Accountant, Professional Registration: 10-18882-4 of the Professional Council of Economic Sciences of Córdoba.

Lourdes Firma Paz

Administrative Assistant

Lourdes is characterized by her quality of attention, her creativity, and her facility to manage tasks by assigning priorities, adapting them to the changes that arise. Her humanitarian personality, emotional intelligence, and creativity allow her to recognize difficulties and facilitate solutions. Her interests are conservation and the commitment to establish development models for communities in a context of coexistence with nature. She is in charge of assisting all the activities we carry out. She provides support to all teams and projects and is in charge of organizing and generating communication channels within and outside the organization.

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.