Defenders of Wildlife’s Science Advisors are esteemed scholars who extend the organization’s science capacity by providing advice and knowledge that support efforts to protect habitats and species. They amplify Defenders’ scientific voice in public outreach, communications and media as well as deepen connections to the science community and stakeholder groups who are devoted to wildlife and habitat conservation.
DR. GABRIELA CHAVARRIA, Vice President and Chief Curator, Science Division, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Dr. Chavarria’s research is focused on the role of native bee species in local ecosystems and the impact of urban honeybees on the conservation of native plants and bees. She is a certified wildlife forensic scientist with a focus on the illegal trafficking of tropical hardwoods. She has also done conservation policy work focusing on endangered species and landscape conservation, both nationally and internationally.
DR. LEAH GERBER, Professor, School of Life Sciences and Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Arizona State University
Dr. Gerber is a population ecologist and marine conservation biologist who integrates insights from natural and social sciences into tenable decision tools and policy. She has pioneered new approaches in protected area design, risk assessment, adaptive management and structured decision making.
DR. KATHAYOON KHALIL, Conservation Impact Manager, Oregon Zoo
Dr. Khalil’s work in zoo education focuses on implementing authentic approaches to evaluating visitor learning, including attitude and behavior changes that resulted from their visit. She has consulted on education and evaluation for zoos and aquariums across the world. Dr. Khalil serves on several zoo advisory councils and is an alumna of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders.
DR. RURIK LIST, Professor and Head of the Research Area on Conservation Biology, Departamento de Ciencias Ambientales, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Lerma
Dr. List is a conservation biologist focused on carnivores and imperiled species, human-wildlife conflict and identifying priorities for conservation. He has carried out ecological research in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands on species including kit fox, prairie dogs and pronghorn, and contributed to the reintroduction of wolf, bison and black-footed ferrets in Mexico.
DR. MAILE NEEL, Professor, University of Maryland
Dr. Neel's research draws on a variety of disciplines, including population genetics and landscape ecology, to quantify biodiversity and identify patterns across a range of localities and scales. She applies her expertise to provide practical guidance for conservation policy and management. Beyond finding solutions to specific conservation situations, she also tests underlying assumptions to identify where acquiring new scientific information is necessary for sound decision-making. Dr. Neel is committed to training students and other researchers to work at the interface between science, policy, and practice.
DR. BARRY NOON, Emeritus Professor, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University
Dr. Noon brings expertise in the effects of land management practices on wildlife populations, particularly in the conservation of imperiled vertebrate species in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. He has held science leadership positions in the U.S. Forest Service and National Biological Service, and continues to contribute significantly to promoting biodiversity conservation on U.S. Federal lands.
MR. JAMES RATTLING LEAF, SR., Principal, Wolakota Lab, LLC
Mr. Rattling Leaf is a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, developing programs that utilize the interface between Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and Western science. He applies his expertise in Earth observation technology to convey how TEK can be used with Western science to address the impacts of climate change. He also teaches Cultural Intelligence methods, supports Indigenous engagement strategies, and serves Indigenous nations' efforts through effective and respectful data application. He holds leadership roles with the University of Colorado-Boulder, North Central Climate Adaptation Center, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Group on Earth Observations Indigenous Alliance, and the Ecological Society of America.
DR. TERRY L. ROOT, Emeritus Professor, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
Dr. Root’s research addresses how plants and animals are changing with the changing climate. She served as a lead author and review editor of three assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), and in 2007 was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Vice President Al Gore and others on the IPCC for this work. Dr. Root is dedicated to making scientific information accessible to decision makers and the public and is an active spokesperson for solutions to climate change.
DR. MARK SCHWARTZ, Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis
Dr. Schwartz is a conservation biologist with research interests in climate change impacts on rare and endangered plant species, climate change adaptation through resource management and decision making under uncertainty for resource managers. He is a champion for assisting graduate students in the ecological sciences pursue careers in conservation outside academia and is the founder and Editor in Chief of the applied journal Conservation Science and Practice.
DR. THOMAS D. SISK, Emeritus Professor, Northern Arizona University
Dr. Sisk is an ecologist working on entwined science and policy challenges underlying conservation efforts during rapid environmental change. His research career has focused on edge effects, landscape assessment, livestock grazing and ecosystem restoration. He applies this expertise through collaborative efforts in landscape design, forest and grassland management, and the mitigation of human land use on wildlife and wild places. While his primary research is centered in the arid Southwest, Dr. Sisk has overseen conservation projects stretching from Central America and western Canada.
DR. DAVID WILCOVE, Professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Dr. Wilcove’s research examines the impacts of farming, logging, hunting and other human activities on biodiversity, especially birds. He brings expertise in integrating ecology, evolutionary biology and the social sciences to identify opportunities for improving the effectiveness of existing policy mechanisms for wildlife conservation.
DR. RAE WYNN-GRANT, Research Fellow, Last Wild Places Initiative, National Geographic Society
Dr. Wynn-Grant is a large carnivore ecologist with expertise in the ecological and social drivers of human-carnivore conflict and the connectivity of suitable carnivore habitat. She served on the Board of Governors for the Society of Conservation Biology, where she provided tools and strategies for advancing equitable opportunity and representation in conservation biology. She also serves as a spokesperson for engaging broader audiences in science and conservation.