WCS North America

Staff

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Heidi Kretser
Conservation Social Scientist
As a Conservation Social Scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Kretser improves conservation of wildlife and wildlands by using tools and perspectives from the social sciences to incorporate the human dimensions of natural resource policy and management into conservation practice. She is a member of the WCS Social Safeguards Management Team and serves on the WCS Institutional Review Board. Dr. Kretser has worked in conservation over 25 years and has been with WCS for over 20 years in numerous capacities, notably establishing two community-based conservation programs in the Adirondacks and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Her current projects include building constituents for conservation through creating effective communication that generates action on topics as varied as wildlife trafficking and white-nose syndrome, devising strategies for reducing the impacts of private lands development and recreation on wildlife, and building collaborative approaches for increasing community and natural resource governance capacity and achieving conservation outcomes for wildlife while safeguarding human well-being across diverse constituents. Dr. Kretser’s work receives research support from many state and federal agencies including the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense. She is widely published and her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and a variety of regional media outlets. She completed her Ph.D. in the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University and holds a master’s degree from the Yale School of Forestry. In addition to her work at WCS, Dr. Kretser serves as Adjunct Associate Professor at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources where she’s affiliated with the Center for Conservation Social Sciences.
Justina Ray
President & Senior Scientist
Dr. Justina Ray has been President and Senior Scientist of Wildlife Conservation Society Canada since its incorporation in 2004. In addition to overseeing the operations of WCS Canada, Justina is involved in research and policy activities associated with land use planning and large mammal conservation in northern landscapes. Having worked for years in African and Asian tropical forests, North America has been her predominant geographic focus over the past two decades. Justina has been appointed to numerous government advisory panels related to policy development for species at risk and land use planning in Ontario and Canada. She was the co-chair of the Terrestrial Mammals Subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) from 2009-2017 and is currently a member of the IUCN Taskforce on Biodiversity and Protected Areas. She has been editor or author of 3 books and numerous peer-reviewed articles, and is Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto (Faculty of Forestry) and Trent University (Biology Department) and Research Associate at the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Bryan Aber
Carnivore Conservation Specialist
Involved with WCS wolverine program since 2000, Bryan is currently filling a collaborative carnivore biologist position between WCS, Idaho Fish & Game and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Bryan was previously employed by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest as the District Biologist for the Ashton/Island Park Ranger District. He has a 27-plus year tenure with the US Forest Service. Bryan grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, but has lived in the Yellowstone Ecosystem since 1981.
Cheryl Chetkiewicz
Conservation Scientist
Cheryl Chetkiewicz is a Conservation Scientist. Her current program of work includes cumulative effects, environmental assessment, land use planning and policy, monitoring at community and regional scales, and engagement with Indigenous Peoples across our programs in Canada. More recently, Cheryl led Ontario's Northern Boreal program where her work focused on conserving the boreal region in the far north in Ontario through applied and field research on fish and wildlife. Cheryl has a PhD in Ecology from the University of Alberta where she developed models to design wildlife corridors to conserve grizzly bears and cougars. Cheryl is a board member of the Ontario Association for Impact Assessment. In addition to her current work with WCS Canada, she has worked with governments, Indigenous Peoples, and interested stakeholders on wildlife management and conservation in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and Peru.
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Donald Reid
Conservation Zoologist
Don Reid leads our Northern Boreal Mountains landscape program in northwest Canada, having helped establish Wildlife Conservation Society Canada by opening our Whitehorse office in 2004. He coordinates a team of biologists who are pursuing new protected areas through land use planning, improved land and wildlife habitat management policies, collaborations with indigenous governments on mutual conservation interests, and research on focal conservation issues including climate overheating and new road developments. His own field research involves river otters as indicators of aquatic ecosystem health, beavers as agents of change in riparian ecosystems, and spatial scale of forest disturbance as an influence on food webs where snowshoe hares are the dominant trophic species. Don has spent 40 years working as a wildlife biologist in academic, government, and non-government sectors, with an MSc (University of Calgary) and PhD (University of British Columbia). His experiences include Arctic trophic ecology (terrestrial food webs, seabird reproduction), boreal aquatic ecosystems (otter and beaver ecology), trophic ecology of temperate montane forests (eastern Himalaya), integrating wildlife in boreal forest management (numerous species), integrating wildlife conservation in land use planning (coastal rain forests, taiga cordillera, boreal cordillera), and protected areas management (British Columbia, Yukon, China).
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John Weaver
Senior Conservation Scientist
John Weaver is a carnivore conservation biologist for WCS based in Missoula, Montana with field programs in the western United States and Canada that are focused on large landscape conservation, wildlife connectivity and adaptation to climate change. Over the past 25 years, John has played many key roles in large carnivore conservation in the United States and Canada. His dissertation research was on the ecology of wolf predation in the high-diversity ungulate environment of Jasper National Park, Alberta. John has held leadership positions with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on endangered species and has served on several recovery teams, including for both wolves and grizzly bears. Over the years, he has perfected hair snaring techniques for lynx and bear surveys and invented a lynx lure that is now widely used. He has authored more than 20 scientific publications and served as a reviewer for five scientific journals. John has an academic appointment at the University of Montana. He is particularly interested in conservation strategies that address the resiliency mechanisms of vulnerable species.
Jon Beckmann
Connectivity Initiative Coordinator
As a Conservation Scientist at WCS, Jon is the Connectivity Initiative Coordinator for the North America Program. As Principle Investigator or Co-PI on several projects in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Sierra-Nevada, Great Basin, and other regions of North America, Jon’s current research and conservation portfolio includes: 1) examining impacts of natural gas development on pronghorn; 2) protecting ungulate (pronghorn, moose and elk) migrations by understanding and reducing impacts of wildlife-vehicle collisions and rural residential sprawl in migration corridors; 3) investigating and reducing human-bear conflicts along the wildland-urban interface; 4) using resource selection modeling, Brownian Bridge models, and circuit theory modeling to examine connectivity for large carnivores and ungulates; 5) examining impacts of the border fence along the US-Mexico border on wildlife connectivity (jaguars and other species); and 6) understanding how human-altered environments impact cougar ecology, behavior and population dynamics. Along with >40 publications, Jon is lead editor on a book titled Safe Passages: Highways, Wildlife and Habitat Connectivity. Jon has given over 60 scientific meeting presentations and over 40 invited university and professional training presentations. His research has been the subject of more than 100 radio, television, and newspaper features including NBC Nightly News, Discovery Channel, NY Times, LA Times, Newsweek, National Geographic, and The Wall Street Journal. Jon applies science to affect conservation through the public policy arena; for example, his collaborative field research motivated the $9.7M construction of under- and overpasses on a Wyoming highway to provide the Path of the Pronghorn migration safe passage across the road, and his published research and outreach on human-bear conflicts prompted new bear-resistant dumpster laws and ordinances in several counties in California and Nevada.
Sarah Reed
Associate Conservationist with Livelihoods Program
Sarah Reed is Associate Conservation Scientist with the Livelihoods Program. She is currently a Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Colorado State University. Her research examines how human development patterns and land use practices affect wildlife and biodiversity. Sarah has worked extensively with government agencies and conservation organizations, addressing issues from local to national scales of resource management, in public as well as private lands contexts. She is especially motivated by research projects that have the potential to inform land use decisions and conservation policies as well as to expand our understanding of how species respond to human disturbances. Sarah’s current research investigates alternative strategies for residential site design to protect biodiversity on private lands. Sarah recently joined the Board of Directors for the Society of Conservation Biology – North America Section. She also lead several projects—Dr. Reed: 1) Co-leads an interdisciplinary working group on the social, economic, and ecological dimensions of conservation development (School of Global Environmental Sustainability); 2) Integrates social and biological information to map human-wildlife conflicts (National Wildlife Research Center), and 3) Maps how habitat connectivity and threats to connectivity in southern Colorado (Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Collaborative). Sarah earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy & Management from University of California, Berkeley. She is based in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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