Speaker Bios


John Terborgh, Duke University, Research Professor Emeritus and Director, Center for Tropical Conservation:
John Terborgh is a world-renowned tropical ecologist, with a career spanning all aspects of the ecology and conservation of tropical forests. An authority on avian and mammalian ecology in the neotropics, Dr. Terborgh has published numerous articles and books on conservation themes. As the operational director of Peru’s Cocha Cashu Biological Station for over 35 years, Dr. Terborgh has conducted and overseen research to an extent unmatched in his field. He has been lauded as one of the greatest naturalists of our time, and boasts recognitions beyond mention. Dr. Terborgh currently directs the Center for Tropical Conservation at Duke University, as well as the non-profit ParksWatch, focused on strengthening parks to safeguard biodiversity.

Roopa Krithivasan, Program Associate WWF-US, Conservation Science Program:
Roopa Krithivasan specializes in conservation and land rights in South Asia. Currently she works at WWF with the Conservation Science Program’s social science group, primarily examining the patterns, trends, causes, and implications of protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD). Prior to this role, she researched community rights and access to natural resources around protected areas in India as part of her Master’s degree research at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University.

Noah Matson, Vice President for Climate Change and Natural Resources Adaptation, Defenders of Wildlife:
Noah directs Defenders’ efforts to create and implement policies and strategies to safeguard wildlife habitat from the impacts of global warming and to improve the management of federal public lands. Working with a team of scientists, policy experts, attorneys, and communication specialists, Noah is developing climate change adaptation strategies for land and wildlife managers, and is working to influence climate change adaptation policies in federal agencies. Noah was instrumental in the creation of the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center within the U.S. Geological Survey and in the development of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. Noah holds a B.S. in biology-geology from the University of Rochester and a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His masters research focused on the status of biodiversity and its management on the National Elk Refuge, Wyoming.

Mitch Irwin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University:
Mitch Irwin is a biological anthropologist specializing in primate ecology and behavior. His research focuses on the ecological adaptations of Madagascar’s lemurs, and how habitat disturbance affects the ecology, behavior, and health of individuals and populations. He has studied feeding ecology, nutrition, body mass and condition, and parasitology, and is also interested  in how Madagascar’s abiotic and biotic environment has influenced the evolution of key lemur traits such as low activity levels, cathemerality, and female dominance. Professor Irwin has an ongoing field project in Tsinjoarivo, eastern Madagascar, and in addition to his research co-founded a Malagasy NGO, “SADABE.” SADABE is the primary NGO engaged at Tsinjoarivo and has three main goals. First, SADABE promotes conservation by stimulating grassroots initiatives such as local conservation organizations and treeplanting, and working with the national Environmental Ministry to promote a new protected area. Second, SADABE promotes local development by building technical knowledge and infrastructure in areas such as pisciculture, apiculture , and supporting a local guides  association. Third, SADABE promotes research by facilitating the projects of affiliated researchers, including a Study Abroad program for American and Malagasy undergraduates initiated in 2012.

Alex Pfaff, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Economics, and Environment, Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy:
Alex Pfaff is an Associate Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Environment at Duke and an environmental-and-natural-resources economist focused upon how economic development and the environment & natural resources affect each other. His research examines: impacts on deforestation of roads, protected areas and ecopayments (Brazilian Amazon, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico); influences on harmful exposures (stoves in China & Pakistan, groundwater arsenic in Bangladesh); responses to climate and water shocks in production or in water bargaining (NE Brazil, Colombia); and how U.S. regulators might shift the incentives for firms to self-audit and provide information. This applied research aims to raise the chance that interventions have their intended impacts upon the environment and natural resources, while helping people and groups they are designed to help.

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