WCS North America


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Emily Darling
Research associate
Emily Darling is a marine ecologist and conservation biologist motivated to find conservation solutions for coral reef ecosystems and the societies they support. Emily is currently a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at the University of North Carolina where she is leading a large collaboration of scientists to identify climate refuges for coral diversity in the Indo-Pacific. She also leads a global coral reef fisheries monitoring initiative with WCS Marine to promote shared monitoring tools and data management for improved fisheries outcomes. Emily completed her PhD at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada where she won the Governor General's Gold Medal for distinction in doctoral research. She was a recent plenary speaker at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress and will be featured in the journal Nature on moving towards effective protected areas at the World Parks Congress. Find out more by following her on Twitter @emilysdarling or at her website www.emilysdarling.com.
Erika Rowland
Climate Change Ecologist
Erika Rowland is a conservation scientist working for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s North America Program with a background in forest resources, palaeoecology, and applied conservation. For several years she has focused on climate change adaptation for natural resource conservation in sites across North America, applying both vulnerability assessment and other climate impact science and engaged in the decision-making and approaches that support it. She has also been involved in developing adaptation-oriented guidance and trainings with the many partners, including the USFWS National Conservation Training Center. Erika earned degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (MS) and University of Maine (PhD).
Gillian Woolmer
Director of Finance and Operations, WCS Canada
As Director of Finance and Operations Gillian brings her organizational skills to WCS Canada's management systems. Gillian has a wealth of conservation experience that includes large landscape conservation planning and the application of spatial analysis tools to address conservation challenges. Gillian first joined WCS in 2000 at WCS headquarters, Bronx Zoo, New York, as GIS Analyst and Lab Manager providing GIS support and training to WCS field scientists around the world. Gillian has a Masters degree in Geology and Mineral Exploration with extensive geological field experience ranging from the Highlands of Scotland and the mines of central Queensland, Australia to the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile. Gillian also holds a Certificate in Conservation Biology from Columbia University, an Advanced Diploma in GIS from the College of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Nova Scotia, and a certificate in Human Resource Management for Not-For-Profits.
Heather Gates
Conservation Assistant
As the Conservation Assistant with the Bat Program, Heather works with Dr. Cori Lausen to understand the distribution and winter ecology of bats in Alberta and British Columbia. Heather holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Victoria. Before joining WCS Canada in 2014, Heather worked for several years as the head grower for a leading forest nursery.
Heidi Kretser
Livelihoods and Conservation Coordinator
As the Livelihoods and Conservation Coordinator for WCS’s North America Program, Dr. Heidi Kretser uses tools and perspectives from the social sciences to achieve greater conservation impact by understanding the human dimensions of natural resource policy and management issues. She is using this approach to understand and resolve complex conservation questions pertaining to human-wildlife conflicts, the impacts of low-density rural development on wildlife, best practices for engaging local people in conservation projects across North America, effective communication strategies to reduce demand for and purchase of wildlife trade items by the U.S. military serving abroad, aligning state wildlife and public health messaging on bats and collaborative approaches to build capacity and achieve conservation outcomes across diverse constituents. Dr. Kretser serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor at Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources. Dr. Kretser 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.
Hilary Cooke
Associate Conservation Scientist
Hilary Cooke joined WCS Canada in 2010 as Research Associate for the Northern Boreal Mountains landscape. Here she is partnering with First Nation, territorial, and federal governments to identify priority areas for conservation and to fill information gaps for species and ecosystems of conservation interest, such as songbirds in valley-bottom habitats, with the goal of bringing science-based conservation solutions to resource management and land-use planning. Hilary began her career with WCS as a member of the North America Program in 1998, where she worked with WCS Researcher Dr. Steve Zack on riparian conservation issues in semi-arid regions of the western United States. Through field studies in Oregon, California and Wyoming, they linked healthy riparian bird communities with alternative riparian management practices used by private and public land managers. Throughout her academic and professional career, Hilary has been committed to developing and communicating science-based solutions for wildlife conservation in landscapes managed for resource use. Her research and conservation focus has been linking wildlife habitat ecology, primarily for birds, with best management practices in threatened or at-risk ecosystems. Her field studies have taken her from the high deserts of the western United States to the boreal forests of Canada. Hilary has a breadth of experience partnering with governments, industry, academia, private land managers, and non-governmental organizations. After earning a M.Sc. in Wildlife Management at Humboldt State University in 2002, Hilary returned to her native Canada in 2003 to complete a Ph.D. in Ecology at the University of Alberta.
Jake LaBelle
Research Coordinator, New York Seascape
Jake joined WCS's New York Seascape program in 2012 as an intern while he was a graduate student at Stony Brook University. Having worked at the world renowned Bimini Biological Field Station (or Sharklab) in the Bahamas, he began assisting WCS scientists working on acoustic and satellite tagging of sharks in New York waters. After receiving an M.A. in Marine Conservation and Policy from Stony Brook, Jake remained with WCS as a consultant, expanding his role to include projects such as monitoring American eels in the Bronx River and a 400-year historical retrospective exploring the relationship between New Yorkers and the marine fauna inhabiting New York's waters over the past four centuries. Now a part-time research coordinator, Jake continues to assist in the collection and analysis of data from all of the New York Seascape's projects as well as providing support for the Seascape's many outreach initiatives.
Jason Rae
Bat Program Manager
As a member of our Bat Program team, Jason is responsible for providing management and research support for the program from his base in Nelson, British Columbia. Jason joined WCS Canada in early 2016 and spent a year in the position of Conservation Intern. Jason completed his BSc in Ecology at the University of Calgary, and a subsequent MSc in Environmental and Life Sciences (Ecology and Conservation Biology) at Trent University. His passion for the natural world and experience from two research assistant positions have led him to develop a diverse set of multidisciplinary skills used to collect and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data to address unique scientific questions. Jason has worked in the field and in laboratory studies across Canada, including the far North Atlantic. He is well versed in amphibian, insect, plant, and mammal taxonomic identification, and proficient with statistical analyses in R.
Jeff Burrell
Northern Rockies Program Coordinator
Jeff Burrell is the Northern Rockies Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Jeff joined WCS in 2003 and has a Master's of Science degree in Range and Wildlife Management and a Master's of Science degree in Geology and Geophysics from Texas Tech University. He has more than 30 years of experience with federal and state agencies and Texas Tech University in stream and riparian habitat restoration science in the western U.S. In addition to developing and overseeing implementation of WCS conservation strategy in the Northern Rockies, Jeff leads WCS efforts to bring stakeholders together to conserve and restore wildlife connectivity within the Northern Rockies.
Jerry Jenkins
Project Coordinator for Forest Management and Conservation Easements
Jerry Jenkins is an ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society Adirondack Program. He is the author of Climate Change in the Adirondacks: The Path to Sustainability, a newly-released book on the local implications of climate change, published through Cornell University Press. Jenkins brings decades of research experience in the field and the library to his current projects. In addition to focusing on energy and climate, his work has included botanical and ecological inventories, research on sugar maple regeneration and acid rain, and a focus on the ecological value of conservation easements. Jenkins is the lead author of several comprehensive books on the Adirondack region, including The Adirondack Atlas: A Geographic Portrait of the Adirondack Park, coauthored by Andy Keal, and published as a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society in 2004. The Atlas is cited as one of the most comprehensive volumes of information available on the Adirondack region. Jenkins is also the lead author of Acid Rain in the Adirondacks: An Environmental History, published in 2007. He recently was honored by the Ecological Society of America with the William S. Cooper award for his role in a botanic survey of Harvard Forest published in collaboration with Forest staff.
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