Announcing the Inaugural Cohort of the American Bird Conservancy Conservation and Justice Fellows

ABC welcomes eight talented Fellows from across the United States.

The 2022 Cohort of American Bird Conservancy Conservation and Justice Fellows, from left to right, top row then bottom row: Claudia Santiago, Ellen Sanders-Raigosa, Barbara Kipreos, Noah Gomes, Javier A. Román Nieves, Swapna Shepherd, Harrison Watson, and Katia Pilar Carranza.

(July 7, 2022) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is proud to announce our inaugural cohort of Conservation and Justice Fellows, who will explore varied and context-based approaches to simultaneously supporting the needs of people and birds. The Fellows will work on eight specific projects related to bird conservation throughout the Americas. Over six months, they will interview ABC's staff and partners, reach out to new communities, ask questions, and carry out research. Products from the Fellowships will include articles, visual art, blog posts, and guidelines. Fellows will share stories about their own experiences and about what they learned about how bird conservation and justice can be interwoven in the places ABC works to conserve. Ultimately, we hope to use what Fellows discover to inform our own conservation work and bird conservation more broadly.

The Fellows are listed here in alphabetical order by last name:

Project: Indigenous Grasslands Stewardship
Fellow: Katia Pilar Carranza
Mentor: Aimee Roberson, Southwest Region Director

Katia Pilar Carranza is a researcher and community organizer who believes that sustainability will transform all aspects of society, and if we are intentional, could be used as a tool for reducing the exploitation of people and natural resources. As a Conservation and Justice Fellow, she looks forward to supporting Indigenous communities by amplifying their perspectives and priorities for grasslands, which have been essential to the resilience of their socio-ecological systems for thousands of years.

Katia will work with partners and communities to communicate the cultural and relational importance of grasslands and birds to Indigenous People, First Nations, and Tribes. 

Project: Pilina: Stories about People's Relationships with Hawaiian Birds
Fellow: Noah Gomes
Mentor: Chris Farmer, Hawaiʻi Program Director and Lukanicole Zavas, Outreach Associate

From Wahiawā, Oʻahu, Noah Gomes has Kamaʻo, Lānaʻi, and Kauaʻi heritage and sincere love for his homeland. He feels that social justice and conservation are inextricably intertwined, and that the personal relationships we hold with our lands shape who we are and inform the best approach we can take to stewardship.

As the Pilina Fellow, Noah will collect personal, historic, and cultural stories from community members about their pilina — or intimate relationships — with native Hawaiian birds. This work will continue the narrative started by Hawaiians centuries ago, using modern media to build a bridge from our present moment to future generations.

Project: Communicating Climate Justice
Fellow: Barbara Kipreos
Mentor: Erica Sánchez, Digital Content Manager

Barb Kipreos recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a master's in Conservation and Restoration Science. Through her internship working with Parks California and the California Landscape Stewardship Council JEDI Roundtable for Healing Severed Connections, she combined her passions for social justice and conservation, learning how to expand diversity, equity, and inclusion in collaborative conservation.  Barb applied for the Communicating Climate Justice Fellowship to explore how bird conservation nonprofits can advance, rather than impede, climate justice in local to international scales.

As the Climate Justice Fellow, Barb will carry out research into projects and organizations that effectively address climate justice in the context of conservation. She will also interview ABC staff and partners across the Americas who are working on projects that benefit birds and people while also addressing the impacts of climate change. 

Project: Bird City and Community Engagement
Fellow: Javier A. Román Nieves
Mentor: Joanna Eckles, Bird City Network Coordinator

Javier A. Román Nieves is a Puerto Rican artist, writer, and naturalist. He holds a master's degree in architecture from the University of Puerto Rico and another in environmental management from the Yale School of the Environment. Javier combines his design background with human ecology and ecosystem conservation, creating a professional practice at the intersection of environmental communications and land management. He applied to the Bird City program to help increase appreciation of birds among people in urban environments.

As the Bird City and Community Engagement Fellow, Javier will gather ideas, carry out research, and help Bird City partners and communities ensure they are bringing a diversity of people, perspectives, and topics to their work. He will also create stories about how Bird City communities are (or intend to) embed aspects of social and environmental justice within their bird conservation work.  

Project: Gender Inclusion in Preventing Species Extinction in Latin America
Fellow: Claudia Santiago
Mentor: Amy Upgren, Director of Alliance for Zero Extinction and Key Biodiversity Areas Program

Claudia aspires to use her experiences across disciplines to promote the contributions of under-represented communities to science and facilitate science literacy and engagement that advances communities' objectives. She has a master's degree in Geophysics and a master's in Rhetoric from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Claudia's academic background has led her to projects in astrophysics, planetary science, geophysics, science communication, and community engagement. Currently, as a Biological Science Technician at Congaree National Park in South Carolina, she helps bring science to broader audiences by translating written park materials into Spanish, assisting with science communication videos, and recruiting diverse volunteers for citizen science programs. 

ABC and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) want to better understand how our joint efforts to safeguard Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites can enhance women's participation in decision-making processes and as agents of change at all levels. Through this Fellowship, Claudia will carry out research and partner engagement on integrating women in a Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project to conserve AZE sites in Chile, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.

Project: Envisioning Conservation with Indigenous Communities on California's Central Coast
Fellow: Ellen Sanders-Raigosa
Mentor: Connor Jandreau, California Central Coast Joint Venture Coordinator

Ellen Sanders-Raigosa is Nomlaki from Paskenta and was raised in Pecwan, California. She is passionate about traditional foods, food sovereignty, and working to restore Native lands and stewardship practices. Ellen graduated from the University of California Davis in 2019, where she studied Environmental Policy and Planning with an emphasis in conservation management. During her time as a student, she worked to facilitate partnerships between the university and local Tribes in an effort to support traditional land management and Native-led conservation. Through her fellowship, she hopes to continue this work by finding ways to support the Indigenous stewards of the central coast and to amplify tribal conservation work. 

Ellen will work alongside the California Central Coast Joint Venture to explore strategies for building a conservation approach that supports and uplifts Indigenous stewardship and sovereignty.  She hopes to use this fellowship to lay the groundwork for building inclusive and mutually beneficial relationships with local tribes in a way that is reciprocal without being extractive. 

Project: Artist Residency
Fellow: Swapna Shepherd
Mentor: Naamal De Silva, Chief Diversity Officer and Lynne Mecum, Development Officer

Swapna Shepherd is a wildlife conservation artist working to raise awareness of the impact that habitat loss and other human activities have on the Earth's biodiversity and unique ecosystems. She believes that art is an important visual expression of the natural world that can help bring wider attention to environmental justice and conservation.  

As the Artist Residency Fellow, Swapna will explore the connections among birds, conservation, and culture through visual art. She will, in particular, create art that relates to each of the other 2022 Conservation and Justice projects.

Project: Farmworkers and Pesticide Exposure
Fellow: Harrison Watson
Mentor: Hardy Kern, Director of Pesticides and Birds Campaign

Harrison Watson is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. His dissertation focuses on how declines in large herbivore biodiversity will impact the exchange of carbon between soils and the atmosphere in the sub-Saharan Africa savanna ecosystem. He is looking forward to sharing his voice and research skills on behalf of farmworker communities who risk their lives every day to grow the food he loves so very much.  

Through his Fellowship, Harrison will examine the detrimental effects experienced by farmworkers disproportionately exposed to unforgiving pesticides. He will also identify areas for regulatory improvement to help better protect farmworkers, especially in areas which overlap with critical bird habitat.

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We also identified finalists for most of the projects. The Finalists are listed first in order of the projects listed above, then in alphabetical order by last name:

Project: Indigenous Grasslands Stewardship
Finalist: Francesca Edralin

Project: Communicating Climate Justice
Finalists:  Lucienne Noel and Kristan Pitts

Project: Bird City
Finalists:  Deborah Carlin, Kevin Salgado, and Lisette Perez

Project: Gender Inclusion in Preventing Species Extinction in Latin America
Finalist: Helen Gutierrez

Project: Envisioning Conservation with Indigenous Communities on California's Central Coast
Finalist: Eric Medina-Can 

Project: Artist Residency
Finalists: Emma Childs, Sebastian Levar Spivey, and Noelle Stillman

Project: Farmworkers and Pesticide Exposure
Finalists: Christa Avampato, Zev Cossin, and Caroline Powell

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations| jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter

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