Defenders of Wildlife’s Board of Directors is made up of professionals from all walks of life—academic, scientific, legal, financial and business—who share a common love for our nation's wildlife and natural heritage. Their combined experience and dedication play an extremely important role in charting the future of Defenders and the wildlife conservation movement.


WHITFIELD BAILEY is an executive at Volunteer Lumber Sales, Inc., a company that distributes fire-retardant shingles, crating lumber, cedar shakes and other wood products. He and his wife are passionate about protecting wildlife for their children and future generations to enjoy and believe in the intrinsic value of protecting species for species’ sake.

DONALD BARRY has spent more than 40 years working on wildlife and public lands conservation issues as a senior government official and a leader in the conservation community. He served as a career staff attorney and chief counsel for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and as the assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, overseeing the policies and programs of the National Park Service and FWS. He then worked at nonprofit organizations, holding executive leadership positions at the World Wildlife Fund, The Wilderness Society, Environmental Defense Fund and Defenders of Wildlife, where he was senior vice president for conservation programs until his retirement in 2016. 

KIM O’KEEFE BECK is a scientist and philanthropist, combining a background in wildlife science with a range of not-for-profit experience. She conducted field research on the influence of climate on mammalian populations in Yellowstone National Park and on speciation of birds in Africa and has shared her love of the natural world with students of every age from elementary school through graduate school. Beck holds a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from Stanford, an M.A. in biology from San Francisco State University, and a B.A. in biology from the University of California Santa Barbara.

CASSIE CARROLL is passionate about wildlife issues, especially wolf recovery. Carroll is a vice president of the Mary and Kathleen Harriman Foundation. She is a past director of the Boston University School of Social Work and the Bay Land Trust. She is a graduate of Emory University and Boston University School of Social Work and is a licensed clinical social worker.

MARK CAYLOR (Treasurer) is president of the Enterprise Shared Services division of Northrup Grumman, a major aerospace corporation. Caylor has long had a passion for nature and ecology, with particular interest in conserving open space and preserving habitat in the United States. Mark has an M.B.A. from University of California Los Angeles and engineering degrees from California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

GABRIELA CHAVARRIA is vice president and chief curator of the Science Division at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Prior to the museum, she was senior science advisor to the Director, and forensic science branch chief at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon. She spent many years bringing science and advocacy expertise to positions at Defenders of Wildlife, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wildlife Federation, and Natural Resource Defense Council. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the National University of Mexico and her master’s and doctorate in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University.

JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK is President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. Prior to Defenders, she spent almost 20 years in the federal government, mostly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for which she served as chief of the division of endangered species, southwest deputy assistant regional director, senior staff biologist and eventually director of the agency from 1997 to 2001. Clark holds an M.S. in wildlife ecology from the University of Maryland and a B.S. in wildlife biology from Towson University.

JOHN DAYTON (Chair) originally hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota. A graduate of the University of Minnesota and Texas Tech School of Law, he practiced real estate law for almost ten years at Thompson & Knight in Dallas before venturing into the field of hospitality, opening and operating several five-star restaurants in both Dallas and Minneapolis. He has long served on a variety of nonprofit boards, including The Taft School (Watertown, CT), the Dallas Opera, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Minnesota Orchestra and Bravo Vail.

CAROLINE D. GABEL (Secretary) is a past chair of Defenders’ board of directors. She is President and CEO of The Shared Earth Foundation, which supports endangered species, habitat protection and biodiversity. She spent 30 years on the staffs of members of Congress from Minnesota and on the Transportation Committee of the House of Representatives. Gabel, a licensed pilot and avid traveler, completed her undergraduate studies at Wellesley College and received an M.A. in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania.

KEITH M. HARPER is an attorney known for his work on behalf of Native Americans. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, he was a litigator for the Native American Rights Fund for nine years prior to joining the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton in 2006. In 2014, he became the first Native American named to a U.S. ambassadorship, serving as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva until 2017. Harper received a B.A. in sociology and psychology from University of California Berkeley and J.D. from New York University. 

JAMES M. HECKER is the director of the Environmental Enforcement Project at Public Justice. He earned an undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Illinois and his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. He worked at Terris & Sunderland, a Washington, D.C. public interest environmental law firm, as an attorney handling environmental citizen suits on behalf of national environmental groups, citizen groups and other clients. In 2009, he received the Sierra Club’s William O. Douglas Award, which recognizes outstanding use of the legal process to achieve national environmental goals.

JUDITH POSNIKOFF is a managing director and founder of Martlet Asset Management, LLC, an investment firm focused on liquid alternative strategies in the hedge fund space. She is a graduate of the University of California Riverside with a Ph.D. in financial economics. A native Californian, she first became aware of Defenders as a child through its efforts to stop mountain lion hunting in California.

SHERYL SACHS (Vice Chair, Audit Committee Chair) is vice president of The Grey Street Foundation and president of Blackfriars Aviation. She also serves on the executive board of AJC Westchester/Fairfield Region. A Chicago native, Sachs is a certified public accountant with a B.S. in chemistry and an M.S. in accountancy, both from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She and her husband were early investors in Defenders’ Center for Conservation Innovation and continue to generously support it.