The Alumni

Our community are world-changing entrepreneurs, we’ve raised more than $100M in start-up capital, won one of the first EarthShot prizes, protected more than 12,000 acres of wilderness, and so much more…

Wild Gift

Fellows Directory

Rakhi Agrawal

Wild Gift Class Year: 2020
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Geared Up Collective

Bryce Andrews

Wild Gift Class Year: 2016
Current Occupation: 
Writer and Conservationist

Joshua Arnold

Wild Gift Class Year: 2010
Current Occupation: 
Executive Director at Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.).

Ashley Bae

Wild Gift Class Year: 2020
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Verdant Seas

Alexander Bailey

Wild Gift Class Year: 2019
Current Occupation: 
Founder/Executive Director
Website: https://blackoutside.org
Blog/Social Media: https://instagram.com/blackoutside_inc
https://facebook.com/blackoutsideinc

Ten years ago I ascended from the frigid mountain waters of New Hampshire. I found myself surrounded by exhilarated campers who were thrilled to have completed their first cliff dive. As the adrenaline rush finally began to cease, I looked around and thought “none of these kids look like me.” That moment of reflection remained cemented in my mind as a camp counselor and later an educator. As I embarked on a career as a classroom educator, I quickly noticed how many students of color from low-income communities had little to no powerful experiences in the outdoors like my former campers. After spending seven years working in education, I decided to do something about it. I started by shadowing over ten outdoor organizations which solidified my belief that the outdoors can have transformative impacts on youth. With a wealth of knowledge and experience from dynamic leaders in the outdoor education community, I was driven to launch an organization that not only made the outdoor accessible to more communities of color, but also made programming relevant to their lives.

I was intentional with the name Black Outside; anchoring in the belief that we are not connecting students of color to the outdoors we are REconnecting. For centuries people of color have made powerful contributions to the outdoors while experiencing moments of pain and moments of liberation. Yet in spite of the trials and triumphs there is a stall a large gap in outdoor participation by communities of color, particularly those identifying as Black/African-American. By re-engaging youth in the outdoors and crafting culturally relevant programming we hope to inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and become the “wildest dream(s)” of our ancestors.

Sashti Balasundaram

Wild Gift Class Year: 2018
Current Occupation: 
Founder, WeRadiate
Website: http://weradiate.com
Blog/Social Media: https://twitter.com/weradiateny
https://instagram.com/weradiateny
https://facebook.com/WeRadiateNY
https://vinemo.com/253714538

At WeRadiate we believe:

Good soil makes healthy plants | Good soil makes strong communities | Good soil makes our city sustainable 

I discovered the magic of composting as an Indicorps Fellow in Pondicherry, India. The creation of food scraps into healthy, natural fertilizer for our gardens, parks and cities sparked an incredible interest. Over the past several years, working in the government, non-profit and educational sectors, I discovered the importance of healthy, high-quality compost standards.

After a successful fundraiser using the ioby platform, we are able to modernize compost technology for urban agricultural settings. This technology allows us to monitor important data so composters can conveniently track the health of their system anytime. We strive to assist municipalities and communities to harness technology and build stronger closed-loop ecosystems and economies. WeRadiate is on the forefront with data tracking to ensure regulatory compliance for compost quality assurance.

Join us as @WeRadiateNY together!

Nishchal Banskota

Wild Gift Class Year: 2021
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Nepal Tea, Inc. 

Nepal Tea is a social enterprise that distributes the freshest teas around the world directly from the producers by creating a tech-enabled transparent tea trade to connect primary producers to the consumers

Rachel Barge

Wild Gift Class Year: 2008
Current Occupation: 
Director of Marketing at Yerdle
Website: https://yerdle.com

Impacts of My Work: 
  •  I helped universities raise $16M in campus sustainability funds (during my Wild Gift project year). In total, those funds will grow to over $160M, because most of them had a 10-year lifetime.
  • The funds were based mainly on $5/student/semester "green fees". They are invested in on-campus sustainability projects, like rooftop solar, energy efficiency, water efficiency, green procurement policies, sustainability education & leadership, etc.
  • I directly trained over 2000 students from 250 universities, spoke at 30 conferences, etc - and distributed all of my materials for free so students could replicate in the future

I am a social entrepreneur who is passionate about young people using enterprise-based solutions to solve pressing environmental problems. As a UC Berkeley undergraduate student, I helped establish a $2M Green Fund that tripled the amount of capital available for campus sustainability. After graduating with a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a minor in Forestry, I was the recipient of the 2008 Wild Gift grant and founded Campus In Power, a national consultancy that spreads innovative financial mechanisms for campus sustainability. With Wild Gift's support, I was responsible for raising $16M in the first year of the initiative, personally training over 2,000 students from over 250 universities.

After developing a strong interest in private-sector models of environmental impact, I then became the Director of the Business Council on Climate Change (BC3), a network of over 100 of the San Francisco Bay Area's leading companies committed to sharing best practices on climate solutions.

I now serve as Executive Director of CleantechU, a new initiative that catalyzes cleantech entrepreneurship on college campuses through the unique avenue of human capital development. I am the recipient of the prestigious David Brower Youth Award, the nation's top prize for young environmental leaders, as well as the Morris K. Udall Fellowship and of course, the Wild Gift. I reside in San Francisco, CA.

Anderson Barkow

Wild Gift Class Year: 2019
Current Occupation: 
Co-Founder/VP Finance @ BoxPower Inc.
Website: http://boxpower.io
Blog/Social Media:
https:://facebook.com/BoxPowerSystems
https://twitter.com/boxpowersystems
https://instagram.com/boxpowersystems
https://linkedin.com/company/boxpower

"Our community center has been running off BoxPower for 6 months with absolutely zero issues. The staff made sure the installation went smoothly and walked us through the maintenance routine. I would definitely recommend BoxPower for any energy project. - Jerry Wayne, Director of Facilities - Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo Mariana "
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • 1,711 lives impacted
  • 8 million pounds of carbon dioxide offset
  • 91,000 kWhr generated

BoxPower provides easy to assemble solar mini grids in containers as a reliable, cost effective, and convenient alternative to diesel generators.

Lauren Baumann

Wild Gift Class Year: 2006
Current Occupation: 
Vice President at New Ecology
Website: http://newecology.org
 

For my Wild Gift project, Lighten the Load, I conducted energy and water use audits for three existing affordable housing projects in the Boston area. In all three instances, energy and water conservation features were implemented that resulted in cost and resource savings.

Lighten the Load has evolved into the Existing Buildings program, which is one of New Ecology's primary programs.  In January 2010, New Ecology hired a dedicated staff person to organize and carry out this work. We are currently working with a number of affordable housing owners to analyze and reduce their water, gas, and electric consumption.

In executing the Lighten the Load program, it was difficult and time consuming to access historical utility information for these buildings to understand their performance. Since then, New Ecology, Inc. has partnered with two other Boston-based entities to create WegoWise, a web based tool that allows multifamily building owners to easily access, benchmark, and track their building's water and energy usage and quantify performance improvements.  WegoWise was launched as an independent business entity in March 2010.

New Ecology was recently awarded funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a “fast-track” energy audit, financing, and retrofit implementation strategy for affordable housing in Massachusetts.  We are so excited to have the opportunity to develop this process further and save more energy, water, and money for affordable housing owners.

In 2011 I became a Certified Passive House Consultant, which means that I have been trained to work with developers who are interested in designing and constructing very low energy use, super insulated buildings to achieve a PHIUS+ passive house certification.  These buildings use ~90% less energy for heating and cooling than a typical building built to code.  While most passive house projects in the US are single-family homes, there is a growing interest in applying these principles to multi-family buildings, and I am excited to be a part of this movement.

Jessica Bell

Wild Gift Class Year: 2006
Current Occupation: 
Campaigner, Lecturer, and trainer

"The Wild Gift experience gave me the supportive boost I needed to branch out and explore my passion in helping sustainability groups advocate for change. It is the combination of the awesome mountainous trek with inspiring people followed by the months of mentoring that makes this project so worthwhile for young environmental leaders. Thank you Wild Gift for this opportunity. "
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Funding from Wild Gift provided me with the support I needed to co-found Tools for Change. A project of OPIRG Toronto, Earthroots, and Greenpeace Canada, Tools for Change organizes workshops to provide skills people need to champion social change.
  • Since 2010, Tools for Change has hosted 18 workshops a year.
  • Approximately 22 people attend each Tools for Change workshop.
  • When asked if participants would recommend a workshop to a friend, 98% of respondents have said “yes”.
  • Testimonials from participants are online at toolsforchange.net/testimonials/
 

Contact me if you'd like to collaborate on a project at [email protected]

Sarah Bellos

Wild Gift Class Year: 2010
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Southern Hues
Website: http://southernhues.com
http://ecodyeit.com
Blog/Social Media:
https://twitter.com/ecodyeit
https://interdependencefarm.com

"Through Wild Gift, I was able to take a step away from my previous business to ask myself: how can I create a life that better reflects my values, honors my strengths and makes the world a better place? Mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell said, ‘your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.’ Maneuvering through the back-country, I faced feelings from contemplative to exhilarating to downright challenging, but no matter what the outward feeling, the reality of surviving and thriving in the wild called to mind just how false my perceptions of security and success really were. My true nature, it seemed, was waiting in the wilderness -- my own sacred space -- to be freed from layers of fear and conformity we wear in the so-called real world. The vastness of the wilderness was tempered by the close- knit company of other young leaders and a dynamic cast of supportive mentors. Somewhere between solitude and the support of peers and mentors, I began to awaken to my essence, my core values and beliefs. It was here, in this sacred space, that I envisioned my life’s work matching my social goal of cultivating new farmers, with my environmental goal of protecting and restoring farmland through sustainable agriculture. The project that emerged from the wilderness, Southern Hues, is one of the most innovative and sustainably scalable projects in the domestic eco-fashion industry."

In early 2012 I launched my new business, Southern Hues. Our mission is to increase the sustainability and resilience of agricultural systems in the Southeastern US by helping women and beginning farmers diversify into natural dye crops.  Southern Hues supports the next generation of land stewards and caretakers of the soil by lowering the barriers to entry into the value-added alternative crop market. Through our beautiful product line, we engage a broad range of consumers in support of a sustainable agrarian economy and restoration of our earth.  From shawls to naturally dyed fabrics, we are making healthier products available to our customers while providing small farmers with a living wage.

No colors on earth surpass natural dyes in their beauty and life-affirming nature, so the were a clearly superior choice to synthetic fabrics and chemical dyes for our product line. For farmers, natural dye plants have great potential as an alternative industrial crop to improve crop diversity, wildlife and beneficial insect habitats, and to minimize fertilizer and pesticide use on farms.  The beauty and colors these plants produce can translate into increase revenue for the farmer, and therefore more money flowing back into rural economies.  We are all hungry for beautiful and useful products that connect us to a purpose and to planet. By supporting Southern Hues, our customers know they are supporting a supply chain that provides women and beginning farmers with a living wage for growing crops that make their farms more sustainable while improving the ecological resilience of our landscape.

 

Prior to launching Southern Hues with the support of Wild Gift, I was co-owner of Artisan Natural Dyeworks, an eco-dye facility located in Nashville, TN.  Artisan Natural Dyeworks specializes in the use of all-natural plant- and earth-based dyes to dye garments, piece goods and production yardage. It is one of the only U.S. based companies to provide natural dye services at a scale suitable for independent designers.  Artisan Natural Dyeworks is currently being run by my co-founder while I focus on building Southern Hues.  In addition to my work with Artisan Natural Dyeworks, I was a co-founder of Nashville Urban Harvest, a non-profit focused on promoting sustainable agriculture and increasing food security in Middle Tennessee. Through creation and stewardship of an urban community farm and a producer of the only farmers' market in downtown Nashville, we created dialogue and on the ground partnerships promoting economically and environmentally viable farming systems and market outlets.  After farming on rented land for the past four years, in 2011 I started my own farm in Whites Creek, TN, where I help a bee hive flourish, have chickens and a vermiculture system, and am waiting to see what the season brings.  I regularly blog about life on four acres at interdependencefarm.com

Before moving to Tennessee, I worked at the Investor Responsibility Research Center as a research analyst on the food and agriculture industries.  I also interned in the Sustainable Enterprise Program at the World Resources Institute, researching business and biotechnology. While an undergraduate in Natural Resources Policy and Management at Cornell University (BS, 2004), I managed the student run organic farm and led an elementary school tutoring program through an Americorps grant. I am a member of the inaugural Fellowship class for the Southeast region of the Environmental Leadership Program and currently a Senior Fellow. I am very excited to have been a part of the Wild Gift Class of 2011 and one of the 2012 Wild Gift grantees.

Erica Bertucci

Wild Gift Class Year: 2009
Current Occupation: 
Teacher
 

In 2008, there were 16 million refugees worldwide displaced by war, social injustice or environmental catastrophe.  Over 60,000 of these refugees, most originating from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia,  were settled in the U.S.   The U.S. State Department matches refugees with one of 10 nonprofit agencies, for example the International Rescue Committee, which resettles them in targeted communities like Burlington.

The 2012 mission of my Wild Gift Project – Girls Outdoors (GO) – is to use outdoor adventure and exploration as a vehicle to support and empower these refugee girls, ages 14-21, to become social and environmental leaders.  In the project’s first year, I will work with a group of 15 refugee girls, primarily of African origin, in creating a curriculum that incorporates outdoor skills, environmental education, leadership training, and interpersonal development.  In the second year, the girls will then take ownership and leadership in GO to empower them to take action in bettering their community.

Sarah Bibbey

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Make Fashion Clean
 

Make Fashion Clean (MFC) is a non-profit organization working to change how jeans are consumed and disposed globally. We research fashion pollution, educate about denim dumping, and collaborate with artisans affected by disability at the MFI Foundation in Ghana to create upcycled fashion.

Spencer Brendel

Wild Gift Class Year: 2011
Current Occupation: 
Founder of PlayHard GiveBack
Website: http://playhardgiveback.com
Blog/Social Media:
https://facebook.com/playhardgiveback

"Developing Athletes Beyond Sport" 

As a kid growing up in Sun Valley, Idaho I never let an opportunity to participate in athletics pass me by. Living in a mountain town gave me the chance to specialize in winter sports. Ice Skating was my first passion and provided the foundation for my current role as a co-captain on the University of St Thomas NCAA mens hockey team in Minnesota. My gravitation to team sports was largely influenced by my enjoyment of the fellowship, teamwork, and camaraderie a team provides. The opportunity to lead and motivate a group focused on a single goal and develop my leadership skills further are the reasons I continue to play college hockey.

Through athletics, I have learned what it means to push myself mentally and physically to the next level. Striving for personal improvement and inspiring others to do the same continues to direct my life.

Hockey also provided the chance for me to develop a strong interest and concern for underdeveloped areas of the world. This world view was first simulated when I had the opportunity to travel in Viet Nam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Kenya. In addition, I had the opportunity to live and play hockey for one year in Tingsryd, Sweden.

My experiences visiting developing world countries have led me to make a difference. I now want to take the tools that I have learned through sports and positively influence the world. Athletes dedicate themselves mentally and physically, improving their team and their sport. Now I am working with athletes to not only PlayHard but also GiveBack, putting the same amount of dedication to helping implement change. Through micro-social enterprise my work with PlayHard GiveBack, will support and develop athletes beyond sports. Changing the world, for the better!

With the help of Wild Gift, PlayHard GiveBack will produce, develope and co-brand athlete related products, marketing them through PlayHard-GiveBack sponsored athletes while directing the profits to developing these athletes and their social causes. I am excited to be working with Wild Gift discovering the true values in life while transforming them into a Social Enterprise.

Brendan Buzzard

Wild Gift Class Year: 2010
Current Occupation: 
Writer and Conservationist

My primary interest is to understand, convey, and shape human belonging to the places we inhabit.  I think about place broadly.  It is ecological, certainly, but as a species moving through time it is also social and historical, rooted in the complexes of our being.  Place, as I am interested in it, is the very identity we inhabit, the convergence of our myths and memories, our skins and thoughts, the physical pulses of our body and those hidden in our minds, the feeling of the land beneath our feet. 

To this end, I use story-telling, exploration, and applied conservation to find common ground between different cultures and societies.  For my WildGift project, I am compiling a book based on my experience in Kenya and my effort to find ways for humans and other species to co-inhabit place. 

Hannah Calloway

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Rogue Environmental Leaders Program

My project aims to inspire, empower, and equip teenagers to become lifelong environmental changemakers. Based in the Rogue Valley of Oregon, Rogue Environmental Leaders Program will be an
environmental education and community action program designed for youth ages 14-19.

Nicole Chatterson

Wild Gift Class Year: 2019
Current Occupation: 
Co-Founder and Director of Zero Waste O’ahu
Website: http://zerowasteoahu.org
https://www.honolulumagazine.com/earth-day-2019-7-eco-warriors-weigh-in-on-how-to-live-a-sustainable-life/
Blog/Social Media:
https://instagram.com/zerowaste_oahu
https://facebook.com/zerowasteoahu

Impacts of My Work: 
  • Established a cross-sector Source Reduction Working Group for the City and County of Honolulu
  • Established a statewide Plastic Reduction Working Group (result of SB 1522)
  • Completed our first micro-grid composting pilot project in urban Honolulu
  • Advocated for and advised the creation of a source reduction plan in the Honolulu Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan
  • Reached over 1,200 members of the communtiy with an inclusive zero waste message
  • Held Oʻahu's first Zero Waste Summit
  • Trained 50 individuals as local zero waste ambassadors
  • Created allyships around zero waste with non-traditional partners (afforable housing complexes, the tourism sector)
  • Informed zero waste practices in the tourism sector through waste audits
  • 12 public talks/presentations about zero waste

Zero Waste Oʻahu is a community-based organization that cultivates an equitable, waste-free future in Hawaiʻi through community engagement, policy support, and zero waste demonstration projects. I am thrilled to serve as director of the organization, which I co-founded along with a collective of local change-makers (and awesome humans!).

I have worked on social and enviromental health for over a decade, in roles ranging from feild researcher, to environmental consultant, to program manager at a local NGO, to a sustainability coordinator at the University of Hawaiʻi. I got my start studying plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre (aka the Garbage Patch) and have been passionate about shrinking our collective waste footprint ever since. I love living on this incredible planet, I love being immersed in and connected with nature, and my kuleana (privelge and responsbility) is to build pathways for the changes needed to keep this precious planet healthy and well, while building resilient and just communities.

The Story of Zero Waste Oʻahu:

Prior to the launch of Zero Waste Oʻahu in spring 2018, our hui (or group) of local zero waste advocates would meet to share ideas, ispiration, and to collaborate on policy and outreach. While we all worked for organizations that focused on scocio-environemental issues related to zero waste (like plastic pollution and community resilience), none of us had mission or scope to focus on building the zero waste movement on Oʻahu. So, we worked with what we had and planted seeds of change where we could. We became tightly knit as friends, advocates, colleagues, and allied community organizations. We built expertise and made some progress in elevating zero waste conversations.

When the City and County of Honolulu began their 10-year Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWMP) update in early 2018 we realized this was a huge opportunity to change things for our community over the next decade. So, we formalized our coalition and became Zero Waste Oʻahu and put our expertise to work. Our first goal was to imbed waste reduction as a core approach in the County's updated ISWMP.

Honolulu cuurently manages waste by incinerating it (one of the US EPA's least preferable methods of dealing with trash). Unfortunately, the initial draft of the updated ISWMP maintained this status quo, planning for more trash and more incineration over the next decade. We got to work by providing input with ideas to build a different  future for Oʻahu: one with less trash and less incineration, because less of both of these means a better world for everyone. We achieved our goal: while still not a comprehensive zero waste plan, we were able to shift the updated ISWMP away from just an ornamental nod to waste reduction into a plan with a full source reduction chapter, measurable waste reduction goals, an action plan, and a cross-sector Source Reduction Working Group.

In summer 2018 Zero Waste Oʻahu acquired 3-years of seed funding and I was appointed director. In just our first year of operations Zero Waste Oʻahu has taken off! We organized the first-ever Zero Waste Summit, ramping up community awareness about the management plan and the possibilities of a zero waste future and grew our social media following and email outreach list to over 2,000 people. We launched our first urban composting demonstration project, presented to over a dozen community groups and neighborhood boards about waste reduction, and passed SB 1522 in the State Legislature—a bill which created a statewide working group to address plastic pollution!

We look forward to continuing to energize the movement and build a Zero Waste network across Hawaiʻi!

Tony Cisneros

Wild Gift Class Year: 2021
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Mesa Foods
Website: https://eatmesa.com
 

Mesa Foods creates healthy, sustainable food products for backcountry adventurers with the goal of using our supply chain and product sales to promote planetary health and conservation.

Diamonique Clark

Wild Gift Class Year: 2018
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Black by Nature
Website: http://blackbynature.org
Blog/Social Media:
https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-0207-black-hikers-20180206-story.html

Impacts of My Work: 

  • Awarded $10,000 planning grant for the pilot of Black by Nature in 2020.

Black by Nature was founded with the mission to increase the rate of Black college students graduating from ecology-focused degree programs. By dismantling barriers of success, our goal is to #diversifytheoutdoors with a new wave of Black environmental leaders and make conservation science and environmental education inclusive of Black people and Black culture.

 

Check us out at: www.blackbynature.org

Follow us on IG: @bxnscholars

To get in contact, email: [email protected]

Brittany Coleman

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation: 

Tough Cutie is an up-and-coming women's outdoor brand on a mission to support women from the ground up. By women for women, we create premium quality women's hiking socks but have a larger mission of helping women and people of color step into our authority both on and off the trail.

Ellie Costello

Wild Gift Class Year: 2021
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Black Bear Soups

Black Bear Soups, farm-to-table soups that support farmers in bridging the economic gaps for a resilient regional food system.

Lisa Curtis

Wild Gift Class Year: 2012
Current Occupation: 
Founder, Kuli Kuli
Website: https://kulikulifoods.com
https://lisamariecurtis.com
https://kulikulifoods.com
Blog/Social Media:
https://twitter.com/kulikulifoods
https://twitter.com/lisacurtis
https://facebook.com/kulikulifoods
https://facebook.com/lisamariecurtis
https://instagram.com/kulikulifoods

"Wild Gift helped me reconnect with the wilderness. I now regularly make time to get outside and unplug, a practice that has improved my focus and clarity, allowing me to greatly grow my social venture. "
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • 200,000 moringa trees planted in Ghana and Haiti
  • 700 smallholder women farmers supported with a sustainable livelihood
  • $300,000 of organic moringa powder purchased from women-led smallholder farming cooperatives
  • 800 stores nationwide carrying Kuli Kuli moringa products, including Whole Foods Market, Sprouts and Kroger

I got my first taste of moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Niger. As a vegetarian, I was eating mostly rice and millet — a diet that left me feeling sluggish. When I mentioned my fatigue to women at the community health center, they suggested I try moringa. I bought moringa leaves from a neighbor’s tree and mixed them with a popular peanut snack called kuli-kuli. I soon felt better and began to work with villagers to encourage them to use moringa. I founded Kuli Kuli to help women in West Africa use more moringa locally and earn a sustainable livelihood by selling a portion of each harvest to the US.

After returning to the US, I recruited three amazing co-founders Valerie Popelka, Jordan Moncharmont and Anne Tsuei to launch Kuli Kuli. We launched through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign which raised $53,000, making it the most popular food campaign Indiegogo had ever had at the time. In 2015, Kuli Kuli announced an initiative with Whole Foods Market, the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti Program, and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to plant hundreds of moringa trees in Haiti and sell a Moringa Green Energy Shot made with Haitian moringa. As part of this new initiative, we launched a second crowdfunding campaign that raised $100,000 from over 500 people. This ambitious new project will help reforest Haiti with drought-tolerant moringa trees while providing Haitian smallholder farmers access to the growing market for moringa leaf powder.

Ross Davison

Wild Gift Class Year: 2020
Current Occupation: 
Co-Founder and CEO, Comon Solutions
Website: https://comon.solutions
https://ross-davison.com
 

Impacts of My Work: 
  • 200 square miles of land analyzed and derived vegetation community composition produced
  • 569,000 square meters of invasive species quantified

In the last decade, big data and artificial intelligence have been adopted and incorporated into almost every industry and driven incredible growth. Computer generated trading in finance, more efficient production lines in manufacturing, targeted ads in advertising, and automated building plans in construction. These tools are empowering so many industries to make their systems more adaptive and their targeted actions more precise. As a group of ecologists and outdoor enthusiasts, this led us to an obvious question: “Can we adopt the same technology to optimize for ecosystem health rather than profit?” If you could apply the same methods in the natural environment to understand ecosystems the same way you can understand a supply chain, it would allow you to better identify pain points, make targeted interventions, assess progress, and influence both upstream and downstream effects. If capitalists can use these tools to increase the rate at which we consume, perhaps we can use them to increase the rate at which we monitor and protect nature.

Through Comon, I saw an opportunity to merge my technological and creative skills to empower land managers to improve their strategies and promote conservation. My goal is to enable local communities to protect the natural space that they love. We analyze drone imagery with computer vision to produce easily digestible reports that minimize the time, cost, and capacity needed to help land managers determine best practices for specific sites.

Tsechu Dolma

Wild Gift Class Year: 2016
Current Occupation: 
Founder, of Mountain Resiliency Project
Website: http://mountainresiliency.org
Blog/Social Media:
https://facebook.com/mountainresiliency
https://facebook.com/thetsechudolma
https://instagram.com/tsechudolma
https://instagram.com/mountainresiliency

My bold, entrepreneurial spirit has brought me back to the country I left behind, Nepal. Finding gaps in the existing infrastructures, I make deep ­investment in small­ scale, doable solutions to development challenges. Such as a greenhouse, which is not a revolutionary idea by itself, but combined with a school curriculum, business model and local investment, it becomes an incubator for social innovation, financial inclusion and capacity development. I am bold in optimizing the existing resources to serve the needs of a community through Mountain Resiliency Project. 

We do not build new infrastructure, we already have plenty of that; instead, I strengthen the existing ones with projects that facilitate social relations and sustainability. I realize my commitment to economic justice and poverty alleviation because I spent half my life as a stateless Tibetan refugee in Nepal, moving around refugee camps and Himalayan villages. After becoming a new American, receiving my education here, then going back, I realized that my community back home was stuck in a culture of waiting that international agencies had perpetuated and we had enhanced upon. Our community has been plagued with development barriers such as heavy youth outmigration, low student retention, poor water access and ethnic marginalization. But we were not working on solving our problems; instead, we waited for outsiders to bring in poorly designed/implemented, costly projects that would only last for a year or two. Inside the past decade, climate change and globalization has made living in the high­ Himalayas increasingly more difficult and we cannot afford to wait. I'm making a risky leap so that we can reverse this development trend, and instead take a grassroots approach to foster local ownership, inclusion and capacity. 

Iain Duncan

Wild Gift Class Year: 2007
Current Occupation: 
Ecuador Country Director at Free The Children

"Wild Gift opened my mind and heart to the necessity of wildness as part of the solution to the environmental problems our lifestyle choices are causing. Since the first days of my involvement with Wild Gift my connection to nature has grown to the point where wild nature serves as my prime inspiration for working to rejuvenate the natural world."

A crush that I had on a girl in my grade 12 physics class led me on a journey to fundraise to build a classroom in Nepal. We went on to Nepal to visit the village in which the classroom had been built. This experience fundamentally changed my life by opening my world beyond the smallness of my hometown. It broadened my perspective on the world to which I belong.

From that point forward I decided to dedicate my life to the pursuit of a more just and harmonious world. I took a year off after school. I went to university to study International Development. I lived and worked abroad implementing projects to alleviate poverty. All along, I was aware of nature's primacy in all human activities. I always found ways to weave environmental actions into my life by volunteering on organic farms, planting trees and managing an ecolodge.

As my awareness of the damage being done to the natural world increased I felt it necessary to help promote viable solutions to the problems our lifestyle choices create. That's when the inspiration for Convergence, a residential environmental education centre, hit me. And that's when Wild Gift entered my life.

Wild Gift funded the construction of Convergence in India. More than that, Wild Gift opened my mind and heart to the necessity of wildness as part of the solution to those same problems that Convergence was attempting to address. Since the first days of my involvement with Wild Gift my connection to nature has grown to the point where wild nature serves as my prime inspiration for working to rejuvenate the natural world.

Today I work in Ecuador assisting indigenous communities in their attainment of high-quality education for the children and strengthening their autonomy to decide their futures. At every corner I look for a way to involve environmental awarenes and rejuvenation. I thank Wild Gift for the ability to bring this perspective into all of my work.

Jon Duval

Wild Gift Class Year: 2014
Current Occupation: 
Founder, Local Vote & Executive Director, Ketchum Community Development Corporation
 

After graduating from college and moving away from the East Coast for the first time in 2001, I spent five years working and traveling around the world, from investment banking in London to teaching in Japan to coaching hockey and working as a bicycle messenger in New Zealand. In addition to a plethora of amazing life experiences, it also helped me understand that quality of life is too important to sacrifice and that I wanted to belong to a community that shared a passion and high value for the outdoors. I found this in Ketchum after moving there in 2006, sight unseen. In this small mountain town, I found residents from a variety of backgrounds, differing demographics that all found their way here in order to enjoy a place where you know the name of the six-year old on one side of you on the chairlift and the 70-year old on the other.

From 2007 to 2010 I covered city politics for the local newspaper, then making the switch to executive director of the Ketchum Community Development Corporation in order to move from a necessary impartiality to a position where I could make more of a direct impact on the issues that I had come to know so well. These have included the creation of affordable housing, new downtown infrastructure, and the founding of the Ketchum Innovation Center, a hub for entrepreneurship that includes a business incubator and a robust mentorship program leveraging the incredible intellectual talent in the area to help startups.

All of this time in City Hall allowed me to bear witness to the challenge elected officials face in engaging the public and encouraging participation. To be frank, it's a daunting job to convince people in this day and age to come spend three hours in council chambers, especially when jobs, family and the great outdoors are all calling for attention. With newsletters, email blasts, Facebook posts and even video streaming, it's clear that city leaders are continually looking for ways to build consensus and solicit feedback to help with the responsibility of representing their constituents. However, there has yet to be a purpose-built application designed to make this interaction quick, efficient and highly valuable as both a source of information and feedback. This is the gap LocalVote looks to fill.

LocalVote, a web and mobile application, will allow city leaders and communities to gauge public opinion through informal polling, as well as inform residents and stakeholders of important issues, and illustrate a community’s stance on the matters that affect them the most through statistics and graphics. To be started in Idaho, this application should be useful for any community looking to connect elected officials and their constituents in a more efficient and expeditious manner.

Sarah Eminhizer

Wild Gift Class Year: 2003
Current Occupation: 
UC Santa Cruz, Coastal Science and Policy Graduate Program Administrator and Advisor
Website: https://csp.ucsc.edu
https://bayareadisc.org/fanya-further
 

"While I have grown up with an appreciation for and a desire to protect and conserve nature, Wild Gift fostered a stronger understanding of the varied approaches to sustainability and conservation (just look at the types of projects Wild Gift alums are doing!). Wild Gift continues to make a strong impression on me and I am ever grateful for my time as an inaugural member of Wild Gift."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders
  • Building networks of solutions-focused conservation leaders
  • Strengthening and enhancing environmental NGOs, for-profits, and others organizational effectiveness
  • Helping communities benefit socially, culturally, and economically from conservation
  • Improving community based marine protected area management

I have more than 12 years of experience as a consultant, researcher, and manager focused on conserving coastal and ocean resources across numerous locations including American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Honduras, Indonesia, St. Lucia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. West Coast. I developed a strong love of nature and particularly the ocean and coastal environment while growing up on California’s Central Coast and spending time at the beach and in nearby watersheds. After my Wild Gift Alaska treks of 2002 and 2003, I completed a Masters Program in coastal environmental management at Duke University with an emphasis in coastal management and sustainable tourism. My masters built upon my B.S. in Aquatic Biology from U.C. Santa Barbara.

Following my masters, I worked as an Environmental Planner in American Samoa where I supported collaborative efforts to reduce human impacts to territorial reefs. Then I spent more than five years working as a consultant supporting clients in areas of organizational effectiveness; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; sustainable finance; and strategic planning. I also contributed to coral reef conservation work as an Associate Program Director for the Coral Reef Alliance. While there, I lead the Fiji and Indonesia programs and coordinated initiatives focused on coral reef adaptation. Most recently I joined UC Santa Cruz's Coastal Science and Policy Program as the Graduate Program Administrator and Advisor.

Alba Estrada López

Wild Gift Class Year: 2021
Current Occupation: 
Founder of La Naturaleza Está Aquí (NEA)
 

My project will provide environmental science and justice education to the children of day labors in the California Central Coast, with an additional focus and exploration of participants' identities.

Justin Falcone

Wild Gift Class Year: 2018

Laura Fieselman

Wild Gift Class Year: 2018
Current Occupation: 
Chief Operating Officer, Good Bowls
Website: https://transplantingtraditions.com
http://raleighcityfarm.org
http://eatgoodbowls.com
Blogs/Social Media:
https://linkedin.com/in/fieselman
https://instagram.com/farmtraditions
https://instagram.com/raleighcityfarm
 

Laura Fieselman is a social entrepreneur and educator. Fieselman co-founded Raleigh City Farm and served as the social enterprise’s founding president. She currently serves as COO at Good Bowls, a start-up frozen meal company with a social mission, and as board chair of Transplanting Traditions, a social venture serving refugee farmers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Fieselman holds a BA from McGill University in International Development Studies and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in American Studies. She has worked in higher education for over a decade, establishing college sustainability offices and managing UNC’s social innovation incubator. Fieselman also lectures in Public Policy and American Studies on issues of environmental sustainability, food studies, non-profit management, and social venturing.

In her free time, Fieselman enjoys hiking, gardening, and sharing good food with friends and family in Durham, North Carolina.

Alyssa Fleishman

Wild Gift Class Year: 2021
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Rising Tide
 

Rising Tide is a social enterprise that provides surf and nature based therapy and education to enhance access to the ocean, healing and the sport for marginalized populations.

Amy Freeman

Wild Gift Class Year: 2009
Current Occupation: Educational Explorer
Website:
http://www.WildernessClassroom.com
http://www.PaddletoDC.org
http://www.FreemansExplore.com
http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/05/video-inspiring-a-new-gen…
http://www.FreemansExplore.com
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.facebook.com/WildernessClassroom
http://twitter.com/#!/wildernessclass
http://instagram.com/wildernessclassroom
https://www.facebook.com/FreemansExplore
https://twitter.com/FreemanExplore
http://instagram.com/freemanexplore

Impacts of My Work: 
  • We conducted 38 school visits last year reaching approximately 12,700 students.
  • We estimate that approximately 2,200 teachers are registered and using the Wilderness Classroom with their students.
  • We have about 90,000 students participating online.
  • Website traffic continues to grow. We have seen an increase of both website visits and page views of between 30% and 35% over in the last year.
  • Total website visits from Chicago has more than doubled to 26,700 visits in the last year. Pages viewed per visit are up 52% to 4.5 pages per visit and the average time spent on the site from Chicago traffic is up 87% to over 5 minutes.

My husband, Dave, and I are 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year. I am the Director of Development of an educational nonprofit organization, the Wilderness Classroom. Each year the Wilderness Classroom conducts a series of online learning adventures, which allow students to interact with expedition members exploring remote locations around the world. The Wilderness Classroom has conducted a dozen previous online expeditions since its founding in 2001, gaining participation of over 2,200 teachers and 90,000 3rd to 8th grade students from around the world. Our mission is to educate third through eighth grade students about the plants, animals, and people of the wildest remaining places throughout the globe through an online curriculum, thereby empowering them to experience and protect wild waterways and wild lands.

Seth Friedman

Wild Gift Class Year: 2004
Current Occupation:Practicum Coordinator at University of British Columbia (UBC Farm)

"The Wild Gift was an invaluable component of my career trajectory, as I received it during a formative time in my life when I was debating different career paths. It helped me to move in the direction of my dreams and towards a career path in sustainable agriculture education. With the help of the Wild Gift, I made my documentary film, and then went on to show it at different colleges/universities/conferences. The film has served to inspire others along a path to developing projects similar to the PEAS Farm. Without the Wild Gift, I surely wouldn't be where I am today, pursuing a PhD in Horticulture at the University of Florida. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Wild Gift. "
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • The documentary film inspired students and faculty at different colleges and universities around the nation to initiate community/educational sustainable farming programs

The mission of my Wild Gift project – PEAS Consulting – located in Missoula, Montana is to help establish community farm operations based on a successful community food initiative in Missoula between the U of Montana’s Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society (PEAS) and local nonprofit groups.  I produced a broadcast quality film of the PEAS operation that conveys its values and benefits.  I was armed with my training, the film, and a long term goal to help establish campus and/or community farms throughout the nation. I was responsible for the conception of a campus farm planned for James Madison University.  In 2008, I was the farm manager at an educational/community farm associated with Montana State University.  For the past several years, I pursued a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Florida.  For my doctoral research, I researched the effects of using biochar to improve soil quality and vegetable yields in organic systems.  In addition, biochar offers benefits with respect to climate change mitigation, waste management, and the generation of renewable energy.  Currently, I'm the Practicum Coordinator at the University of British Columbia.  The Practicum program is an 8-month beginning farmer training program located at the UBC Farm (Centre for Sustainable Food Systems).    

Aimee Gaines

Wild Gift Class Year: 2004
Current Occupation: 
Agent for Sustainable Community Development
Website:
http://www.soley-leve.org/

http://www.future.org/
Blogs/Social Media:
http://aimee-soulseeking.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/aimeegaines

"The Wild Gift instilled in me a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature, particularly regarding the terms "wildness" vs "wilderness". This experience opened my mind to the infinite approaches to sustainability and sent me empowered and confident on my own path toward it. Both the mission of Wild Gift and the people behind it continue to make a strong impression on me and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to take part."

As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti (2001-2003), I returned to Haiti to reconnect and help out with the continuing earthquake relief efforts.  I have found my niche as a permaculture instructor and currently co-facilitating a movement to transform Cite Soleil, from one of the poorest & most dangerous slums in the western hemisphere to the cleanest, greenest place in urban Haiti.
 
I live in Cite Soleil, working closely with community leaders as both an advisor and project facilitator.  This movement, called Konbit Soley Leve (Rising Sun Collective), is strictly voluntary and the leaders pride themselves on working within the limits of their own resources.  What started as just an idea in one community now consists of more than twenty active communities and is spreading rapidly throughout Cite Soleil.  

I'm currently involved as a coordinator for an exciting project with Future Generations to map community successes in Haiti.  We have a team of 8 skilled mappers roving both the countryside and inner-city areas, holding Focus Groups and documenting strengths and successes initiated by Haitian nationals.  We will promote these successes via an online platform featuring an interactive map, as well as multimedia publications.  The goal is to change the image of Haiti, from both a local and international perspective, from an impoverished country in need to a resilient, capable nation worthy of global respect.  

I am currently being supported by Future Generations (www.future.org).  

Kelly Gallo

Wild Gift Class Year: 2006
Current Occupation: 
Environmental Education Specialist at Soldier Hollow Charter School

Website:
http://www.myshcs.org

"The Wild Gift inspired personal and professional growth and has positively influenced me and my students. Throughout the Wild Gift experience, I learned leadership skills that I have carried with me and built upon during subsequent life experiences. Wild Gift lifted me off the ground and gave me wings to start my flight towards my next leadership goal- an outdoor science school in the Uinta Mountains (the headwaters of the Provo River watershed) bringing watershed education to thousands of students each year."

As the environmental education specialist at Soldier Hollow Charter School in Utah, I called students to action in environmental stewardship and community service while implementing my Wild Gift project – Provo River Institute.  The Provo River watershed based program, which meets Utah State Core Curriculum Standards, currently serves 248 students in grades K-8.  My personal purpose is to create place-based watershed education to foster autonomous, life-long learning through environmental stewardship.  I hope to use the Provo River Institute model to spread educational reform to other locales. Wild Gift helped the Provo River Institute to partner with the UT Department of Natural Resources Jordanelle State Park to host the 1st annual Provo River Watershed Festival. The festival is now in it's fifth year and has attracted many other partners and collaborators. Soldier Hollow Charter School was recently awarded a National Blue Ribbon of Excellence by the US Department of Education. This is due in part to the place-based emphasis supported by the Wild Gift that has helped students to excel academically.

Marissa Goldstein

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Peace Through Peace of Mind

Peace Through Peace of Mind will provide girls and women who are survivors of domestic/sexual violence in New York City and the surrounding boroughs the chance to go on meditation and mindfulness nature outings as a way to build community and experience the healing power of greenery for the soul.

James Gray

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Seren Labs

We need to develop and scale zero-carbon concrete to make a dent against the 8% of annual carbon emissions that come from concrete production today. Seren Labs provides a map of concrete R&D networks to make it easier for organizations to find the best experts and create novel solutions faster.

Joshua Marcus Greenberg

Wild Gift Class Year: 2008
Current Occupation:folk musician/ music licensing research
Website:
http://www.thislandourland.org
http://www.joshuamarcus.com
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joshua-Marcus/24320…

Impacts of My Work: 
  • I have communicated Social and Environmental Justice struggles to thousands of listeners and raised several thousand dollars to support the work of the participants involved.

As a folk singer my mission for my Wild Gift project – This Land is Our Land – is to express people’s history and struggle through song-stories that inspire listeners to become aware of and be active in social and environmental justice.  In partnership with community action groups and individuals in the eastern United States, I have created ‘This Land’, an Environmental Justice Folk Recording.  On my website you can listen to all of the songs and interviews, as well as read the lyrics and background information.  I perform the material from the CD while offering reflections on the project and environmental justice issues.  If you are interested in having me give a performance or seminar near you, please let me know.  Consider purchasing a CD or donating to the project.  Purchases and contributions are given to the community action groups whose stories ‘This Land’ supports.

Arun Gupta

Wild Gift Class Year: 2016
Current Occupation: Entrepreneur

Website:
http://www.skyven.co
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.twitter.com/aruntothesun

Justin Hellier

Wild Gift Class Year: 2008
Current Occupation: 
Program Manager at EarthCorps
Website:
https://earthcorps.org

Planting Trees & Building Community

 Up and down the Puget Sound and throughout the Pacific Northwest, urban communities are joining together to steward natural areas in their neighborhoods. The ecological benefits provided by these urban forests are immense; the threat to them posed by invasive species is urgent; and the need for ecological restoration has never been greater. Many forested urban parks face a serious decline in biodiversity and ecosystem function within our life times without intensive, community-based stewardship to sustain them.

     Public agencies are recognizing and aiding this effort with technical assistance and support, and a network of non-profit organizations has grown to provide research, training, and funding for urban ecological restoration. But the future of the urban forest still lies in the hands of neighbors who care for their greenspaces.

     In 2008, with the generous support of Wild Gift, I initiated Tall Trees Youth Stewardship Project, a one-year pilot project to engage young people, neighborhood associations, and city agencies in stewardship of the urban forest of Olympia, Washington. I worked to provide the inspiration and technical capacity necessary for community and student groups, City staff, and non-profit organizations to kindle effective and collaborative ecological restoration efforts in South Sound urban forests.

Cody Hopkins

Wild Gift Class Year: 2007
Current Occupation: 
Owner of Falling Sky Farm

Website:
http://www.fallingskyfarm.com
http://conway.locallygrown.net/welcome
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Falling-Sky-Farm/352…
https://twitter.com/#!/FallingSkyFarm

"The Wild Gift provided us with the critical start-up capital and business mentoring needed to meet our initial goal of establishing a profitable, environmentally-friendly demonstration farm in the Ozarks, which promotes a local food system that reinvigorates the local economy."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • From 2008 to June 2012 Falling Sky Farm has generated $700,000 in revenue.
  • Currently Falling Sky Farm provides full- and part-time employment for 9 individuals in one of Arkansas most economically challenged rural communities.
  • Implemented online market place, Conway Locally Grown, that has catalyzed a network of 35 farmers and artisans and resulted in the marketing of over $500,000 worth of locally grown and made products to a 300 member co-op.
  • Initiated the Conway Locally Grown Community Fund, a micro-lending fund that has provided $5000 in micro-loans to the Conway Locally Grown network of farmers and artisans.
  • Initiated the Conway Locally Grown Food Pantry Fund that has donated $10,000 in locally grown food to a local food pantry.
  • In 2009 Falling Sky Farm was awarded the Glynwood Institute Wave Of The Future Award.
  • In 2012 Falling Sky Farm secured a $98,500 USDA Planning Grant to do a feasibility study on a cooperatively owned USDA inspected poultry processing facility.

I am a co-founder of Falling Sky Farm a diversified grass-based livestock farm located near Dennard, Arkansas.  Since 2008, FSF has operated as a pastured chicken, turkey, beef and hog producer and poultry processor. In 2012 Falling Sky Farm will produce approximately 10,000 broilers, 500 turkeys, 120 hogs, and 35 beef cattle.

With both orginizational and finacial support from The Wild Gift, we have met our intial goal of establishing a profitable, environmentally-friendly demonstration farm in the Ozarks, which promotes a local food system that works to reinvigorate the local economy.  

In addtiton to co-founding the farm, I have organized a network of 35 growers to serve the expanding demand for locally grown and made products in Central Arkansas. This network of producers is organized via an online marketplace, Conway Locally Grown.  Conway Locally Grown works to build a community of consumers and future growers to support the expansion of Falling Sky Farm and the grower network.  Conway Locally Grown, in partnership with many Central Arkansas community organizations, conducts regular festivals, farm days, on farm community meals, workshops, and participatory learning experiences for customers and potential growers for the network.

Moving forward, my professional mission is to provide technical, processing, business, marketing, and organizational support for the development of a profitable and environmentally friendly community of farms in central Arkansas. This community of farms is the backbone of a local-food system that works in harmony with nature and reinvigorates the local economy.

Chris Howell

Wild Gift Class Year: 2009
Current Occupation:
Owner of Vermont Farm Tours
Website:
http://www.VermontFarmTours.com
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/VermontFarmTours
https://twitter.com/EatFreshVT
https://plus.google.com/115778608583663215758

"In the Spring of 2009, I launched Vermont Farm Tours, an eco-culinary tour outfit. Wild Gift supported my first year in business with the physical space to develop my ideas (the Wilds of Idaho), financial backing, and a network of peers and mentors. I remain involved with Wild Gift, serving on the Wild Gift Alumni Council. But more importantly, I look forward to regularly connecting with the wild places and people that Wild Gift has enabled me to become a part."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Work with over 30 farms to show off their amazing products and stories
  • Introduce 1000+ guests annually to the people and places making real food in Vermont

Vermont Farm Tours is a tour company that connects guests with the stories, places, and farmers that define Vermont's unique culinary landscape.

Eat real food with the person who made it on the soil it comes from!

The mission of Vermont Farm Tours is to connect its guests with the stories, people and places that give Vermont its eco-gourmet reputation. Vermont Farm Tours offers guided half day, day trips or longer custom tours. The tours immerse guests in the connection between taste, place, and producer.

Whether you’re already visiting Vermont and want to add a unique day trip to your itinerary or looking for an unforgettable destination experience, I invite you to meet me and my community of farmers and food producers. Your participation enables Vermont Farm Tours to be a driver in the sustainable agriculture movement.

Vermont Farm Tours has become an active culinary tour outfit that annually introduces over 1000 guests to farmers, cheesemakers, food and drink-makers in Vermont.

I am also an avid mountain biker, alpine skier, nordic skier, backcountry skier, and frequent the Green Mountain Club's lodges and lean-tos. Let me take you to my favorite spots!

Andrew Hyde

Wild Gift Class Year: 2003
Current Occupation: Minimalism, Startup Enthusiast

Website:
http://andrewhy.de

After my 2002 and ’03 Wild Gift deep wilderness treks in Alaska, I accomplished a BS in 2 years.  I founded four small startup businesses and worked as the community director at TechStars in Boulder, Colorado for four years. TechStars is a seed stage investment fund that helps business startups with a focus on mentorship.

Pete Land

Wild Gift Class Year: 2003
Current Occupation: 
Co-Founder of Tamarack Media Cooperative
Website:
https://tamarackmedia.com

"Wild Gift has provided me with opportunities to be inspired and challenged by wilderness, along with funding and mentoring for the project that has become my career. Wild Gift has been – and continues to be – the most influential experience of my life."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Tamarack Media Cooperative has served over 200 clients, delivering their environmental messages to thousands of people around the world
  • Tamarack's work has been featured on the public television show 'Natural Heroes', on BBC Radio 4, and at the International Wildlife Film Festival and Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital

With Wild Gift's support, I co-founded Tamarack Media Cooperative, a company that produces websites, videos, and print materials for environmental causes.  

In addition to running my business, I have also served on the boards of Wild Gift, Vermont Land Trust, and Vermont Natural Resources Council.  My other interests include writing and performing music, playing games of all kinds, and being outside.  My wife Emily and I live in Burlington, Vermont with our two children and a big shaggy dog.

Hugo Lara

Wild Gift Class Year: 2010
Current Occupation: 
Chief of Chicha, SAMI Beverage Company

Website:
http://alittleperuvian.com/
Blogs/Social Media:
https://twitter.com/DRINKSAMI
https://www.facebook.com/ALittlePeruvian
https://twitter.com/alittleperuvian
http://instagram.com/alittleperuvian

"When you connect with the dirt, the water, the rocks, and the air in such a visceral way, like I did, you realize that there is a force out there in the wilderness that is essential to our existence as human animals, which is easy to forget in the manufactured world where everything is at our disposal. We must venerate these areas, not just protect them, because without them we lose a part of who we are – the wildness within us." 

Food and sustainability have been the main focus of the past few years of my life.  I’ve been obsessed with eating well since I was a child and luckily had a mother that was a great cook, and made everything fresh and passed down our food traditions.  Having had the privilege to visit other countries and to taste cuisines around the world I’ve seen directly how food impacts culture, society and our environment. As Wendell Berry says, “Eating is an agricultural act,” as well as act of resistance I would add, against the established models of industrial food system.  What we eat and how we eat matters.

The Wild Gift trek served as the launching point for creating my business in sustainable food. Wild Gift gave me the freedom and precious time in the wilderness away from the distractions of daily life, to allow my ideas to germinate.  That seed that was planted on my trek is finally starting to come to fruition years later.

My current day job is operations and communications for the Rainforest Alliance's certification division. I'm deeply involved with developing our new marketing strategy for recruiting and maintaining clients in forestry, farm, carbon and tourism certification and verification of products and raw materials from forests and farms to the market.

At the same time, I have been hard at work running my food business, A Little Peruvian LLC, at the Burlington Farmer's Market. A Little Peruvian sells Peruvian inspired street food using local ingredients.

Out of my experience of running my food stand, a new business is developing of Peruvian inspired beverages - SAMI Beverage Company, LLC. In the native Quechua language, SAMI is an offering of food made to the earth, a nourishing spirit that is transmitted through food, plants and people. People can exhibit SAMI through talent, grace, force of personality and good luck. 1% of SAMI's profits will go to projects that protect and promote Peru's rich indigenous and agricultural heritage focusing on protecting seed varieties.

SAMI is the next evolution of my dream to bring healthy, fun and traditional Peruvian food products to the rest of the world. The first beverage that SAMI is releasing is Chicha Americana, a modern spin on ancient Peruvian drink made from purple corn, apples, pineapple, and a variety of spices. Chicha Americana will be debuting in select Vermont stores during Fall 2013.

Brooke Laura

Wild Gift Class Year: 2011
Current Occupation:
Director of Saprinu
Website:
http://saprinu.org
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/saprinu

"Wild Gift encourages me to dream big. They provide a partnership that supports me in transforming my vision into a reality. I am grateful to be a part of such an incredible team, and excited for the journey ahead."

Saprinu is a grassroots organization of socially- and environmentally-conscious individuals from Nepal and around the world. We are inspired by learning and self-discovery and believe that both are essential to creating a better world. By developing intimate partnerships with individuals and communities, we work together to cultivate nurturing environments that allow people to fully embrace exploration, discovery and creativity. Saprinu believes that every person possesses unique talents; our goal is to provide a platform that enables everyone to discover them. The world becomes a better place when everyone is able to discover their individual talents and pursue them fully. 

Saprinu is transforming communities in rural Nepal: creating a place where children have access to a meaningful education; a learning experience where every child has the opportunity to learn and discover new and exciting things; and provide a platform where students are encouraged to explore their talents and passions. Our schools are a place where teachers are excited to come and teach. We invest in and appreciate them and in turn they invest in making their schools the best possible place for students to grow. By placing learning at the heart of the community, we come together to create safe and healthy environments where we flourish together.

We bring life and learning into classrooms, create jobs where there were none, embrace knowledge from older generations and share with the young, explore our hopes and dreams and work together to turn them into a reality. Saprinu is committed to working tirelessly to build lasting partnerships, which will create a better place in which all of us can live. 

Michael Long

Wild Gift Class Year: 2014
Current Occupation: Founder & Executive Director, SailFuture

Website:
http://sailfuture.org

Blog/Social Media: http://facebook.com/sailfuture

My name is Michael Long. I'm a cross between a beach bum and a farm boy. My parents divorced early on and my dad lived in Florida's cattle ranching area, while my mom remained closed to the beach in Sarasota. I'm grateful my parents' divorce showed me the diversity of Florida's wilderness, but a difficult set of family circumstances left me a rebellious, hurt, and angry teenager. After spending several years tangled up in Florida's juvenile justice system, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend New College of Florida - a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, FL. I studied public policy, but most of my learning took place outside of the classroom. I lived on a sailboat for three years, served in many student leadership positions, and found a way to align my passion for second chances with the desire for a demanding and exciting career. 

My social venture is SailFuture, an organization dedicated to creating second chances for the high risk juvenile offenders. We built a small scale, high-impact “fellowship program” that has connected over 40 high risk juveniles in Florida with passionate mentors, academic support, and life skills training.

Our successes and shortcomings over the past two years have led to the development of SailFuture Odyssey, an alternative to incarceration for Florida's highest risk offenders. Over 40% of youth sentenced to residential placement in Florida return to prison within a single year with many more reoffending outside the 1-year reporting time. Youth are sentenced to residential placement becasue of the severity of their offense and/or their risk to reoffend. Judges are left with no option but to “securely confine” youth to residential facilities that consistently report unacceptable youth outcomes. Our model utilizes a large sailing vessel traveling the Caribbean sea to “securely confine” youth as an alternative to the costly and ineffective residential programs in place today. Our behavior modification model is built around three core components - education, counseling, and global service. Four professional staff will live on board with 12 students for 6-month expeditions. 

We plan to support our work through a private charter business that generates revenue for the organization while providing decompression time for staff. After every 6-month expedition, the vessel will be chartered for 16 weeks in the Caribbean. 

The end goal for SailFuture Odyssey is not to have 1,000 boats darting throughout the Caribbean serving every juvenile offender in Florida. Our goal is to truly transform the lives of the youth we serve, and inspire the public and state agencies to believe that every kid deserves a second chance.

Heather Lukacas

Wild Gift Class Year: 2003
Current Occupation: 
Project Director, Water Justice Non-Profit Organization
Website:
https://communitywatercenter.org
https://stanford.academia.edu/HeatherLukacs

Since 2003, Wild Gift has inspired my advocacy work, research, and guiding - encouraging me to re-evaluate my life's path and set ambitious goals to align “my greatest passion with the world's deepest needs.” Currently, I work for a non-profit organization and local communities to secure access to safe, affordable drinking water in the Salinas Valley of California. In 2014, I completed my PhD in Stanford University's Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources. My dissertation focused on grassroots community groups working to restore and protect rivers and streams in Appalachia. I have conducted research on topics ranging from the role of post-construction support in the sustainability of rural water supplies in Boliviapoint-of-use water treatment, community-based natural resource management, place re-making and watershed protection, and arsenic transport in sediments and water. From 2009-2012, I co-facilitated a regional clean water alliance for the New River as West Virginia Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. Prior, I worked as a lecturer in MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where I also received undergraduate and masters degrees.

My love for rivers and sharing this with others has spurred me to continue to paddle and guide whitewater rivers - with friends, commercial clients, and to volunteer on the river on the Wild Gift annual float. 

Jaxson Mack

Wild Gift Class Year: 2020
Current Occupation: 
Urban Forester, Casey Trees

Website:
https://jaxmack10.wixsite.com/website
Blogs/Social Media:
https://linkedin.com/in/jaxson-mack

"It has been clear from day one how truly passionate he is about the environment and he has shown great ability to rally others to support a cause." "He is an authentic leader with a wide variety of skills and just an all-around good person that I have been lucky enough to collaborate with, laugh with, and share big goals with at work." "He has demonstrated the ability to dream big as well as realistically lay out a plan to achieve a dream. With ingenuity and a constant motivation, he has pushed through hurdles to make our community better." Amanda Piering

The Crag Collective is a community science app for rock climbers to reduce environmental degradation of ecosystems at climbing crags by encouraging participation and action through data collection, education, and involvement.   

The sport of rock climbing is alluring but in the past was limited by proximity and geography. With the initiation of climbing gyms, the sport became increasingly popular. As a result more people than ever have been taking their skills outdoors to test their limits. With this has come rapid and devastating environmental degradation within unique ecosystems where climbing is popular. Many efforts to stave off this degradation have focused on reactionary programs, educating the public once the issue has already arisen. The Crag Collective puts forth a system for educating, involving, and changing climber's behaviors before they even approach the crag through the use of community science. 

The Crag Collective is unique in the way it utilizes community science. This platform often asks those in the public to gather data and return this data to scientists which provides information for larger conservation initiatives. While this is great, it leaves behind the many other benefits that participating in community science provides, which the Crag Collective looks to build upon. Participating in real life scientific work increases scientific literacy, better connects individuals to nature, and may possibly influence behavior. The app creates suggestions for climbers on how to change their own behavior before reaching the crag and educates them on the ecosystem needs of the area they are entering. In turn, they create real time change.  

Gina Magnello (Née Olszowski)

Wild Gift Class Year: 2006
Current Occupation:
Artist
Website:
http://hellogina.carbonmade.com

My Wild Gift project — Now Coming to a Town Near You — was to write and self-publish a book that took a critical look at urban sprawl and its effect on communities.  My mission was to inspire a change of heart among my readers and to encourage them to defend and preserve the unique character, quality of community, and purity of wildness in the places they called home.  I sold over 600 copies of my book, which is now on its second printing.   Since publication, I have been invited to speak at dozens of events ranging from green expos to college classrooms.  A portion of the book’s proceeds benefitted The Conservation Foundation, a local nonprofit devoted to protecting farmland and open space that would otherwise be lost to development.  

I earned my MFA in creative writing from Chatham University in 2012, having served as the university's Rachel Carson Fellow for two years.  My concentration was in Nature & Environmental Writing — a genre for which Chatham is nationally distinguished.  I currently work full-time as an artist.  In September 2013, I married my husband Kurtis, a certified master arborist who is earning his enivronmental engineering degree at Youngstown State University.  We live in Western Pennsylvania with two dogs, two bunnies, and a cat, and enjoy hiking, kayaking, and climbing trees.  

Amanda Marino

Wild Gift Class Year: 2008
Current Occupation:
Veterinarian Associate in Avian Medicine and Surgery

 

"Wild Gift gave me an amazing opportunity at a time when I was not sure where my path would lead me. It allowed me to learn a lot about myself and strengthened my commitment to my future career aspirations. I am grateful to Wild Gift for having such a profound impact on my life." 

I am a perpetual learner most interested in science, animals, and the environment. I attended undergraduate at Virginia Tech, where I obtained two Bachelor of Science degrees - one in Animal and Poultry Sciences and the other in Agriculture and Applied Economics. In 2013, I also completed my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at Oklahoma State University.  After vet school, I completed a one year small animal emergency, medicine, and surgery rotating internship at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists in Rhode Island and then another one year internship in avian and exotic medicine at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists in Houston, Texas. As part of these internship, I get to spend time treating client owned pets, local wildlife, and zoo animals. I recently completed a veterinary residency in avian medicine and surgery at the Veterinary Center for Birds and Exotics in Bedford Hills, New York and continue to work here as an associate veterinarian. In this position, I treat client owned animals ranging from birds to small mammals to reptiles. We also work with many of the local wildlife rehabilitators and animal rescues to treat injured or abandoned wildlife and pets.  

The mission of my Wild Gift project - Loons and People – was to develop wildlife conservation guidelines that will protect and enhance common loon habitat on Adirondack Lakes in New York State. I collaborated with Biodiversity Research Institute's Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation and New York’s Adirondack Park Agency to write “Loons and People: Guidelines for ‘Nesting’ Together on Adirondack Lakes”, which is available in formal treatise, brochure, and PDF Form. These guidelines serve as a valuable educational and management resource to help protect common loons and enhance their breeding habitat in northern New York and throughout their summer range. By increasing awareness and knowledge of common loon behavior and breeding habitat, the guidelines provide an informed basis for sustainable development and human stewardship of lakeshores, while strengthening the coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to the conservation of this symbol of the wilderness. There continues to be interest in these guidelines throughout the Adirondack Park, as well as in neighboring states such as Vermont and New Hampshire. My hope is that these guidelines continue to be utilized and distributed throughout all of the common loons' breeding range.

Maeve McDermott

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation:
Founder of Green Communities Across America

 

I am creating a nonprofit with two aims: 1) to reduce pollution at the community-level across North, Central, and South America and 2) to assist American countries with environmental governance development and capacity building, while creating an inter-American environmental bond.

Michael McMillan

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation:
Founder of Solstice Sown Designs
Website:
https://www.solsticesowndesigns.com/
Blog/Social Media:
https://www.instagram.com/solsticesowndesigns/

Solstice Sown Designs practices ecological landscape design working with clients who want to invest in the regeneration of their land. We start with an in-depth stakeholder survey, land survey, and soil test analysis to support clients' understanding of their place in the regional ecosystem.

Aaron Nesser

Wild Gift Class Year: 2019
Current Occupation: 
CEO & Co-Founder @ AlgiKnit
Website:
https://algiknit.com
Blog/Social Media:
https://instagram.com/algiknit

Impacts of My Work: 
  • Offsetting CO2 Emissions - Kelp farming absorbs and stores carbon dioxide
  • Creating safe manufacturing methods - Fiber production does not require or release toxic chemicals
  • Eliminating microfiber pollution - Washing and wearing releases no persistent microfibers or microplastic
  • Eliminating waste - AlgiKnit products are compostable and ocean degradable

AlgiKnit is a material solution company creating algae-derived yarns for textiles that are sustainable, cost competitive and fit into a circular economy.

Aaron grew up in Minneapolis with a love for the outdoors and a deep concern for the environment. With degrees in biology and industrial design, his work has spanned man industries including municipal composting, farming, and aerospace garment design. He co-founded AlgiKnit on the idea that solving plastic pollution requires new materials  that are designed to decompose. Aaron lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

George Njoroge

Wild Gift Class Year: 2008
Current Occupation: 
Environmental practitioner and researcher

Blog/Social Media:
https://georges-chips.weebly.com

"Wild Gift has provided me with mentor-ship, grants and most importantly, the motivation to carry on with sustainability engagements."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Promoting sustainable practices in various aspects of peoples livelihoods and local development processes
  • Creating awareness and changing behavior towards sustainable practices
  • Ensuring that lessons and new knowledge gained from my practical and research projects is utilized to inform a wider spectrum of stakeholders.

Born in a rural hamlet a few Kilometres from Nairobi, my family relocated to Korogocho slum in Nairobi to escape rural poverty. However, poverty in a slum manifested in our lives in worse-off ways than rural poverty.

My choice to study Natural Resource Management at university was driven by a desire to pursue something that would take me out of the urban commotion, hopefully to the tranquil of the wild, to work as a forester or a game warden. I retreated back to the slum after university with high hopes of making my ultimate exodus.

In a bid to get myself busy and locally relevant while waiting to secure my desired job, I slowly got initiated to participating in self-help efforts for addressing the many challenges inherent in the lives of slum dwellers. This led me into a journey of reflection on all these informal systems and cracks, and questioning the elements unfolding in harmony or in tension with each other.

And to gain a vantage point for my reflection and inquisitiveness, I gradually got immersed in practical projects and advocacy in slums.  Water and sanitation, youth affairs, education, local political participation, waste management, slum upgrading as well as peace building in local conflict situations are among the local initiatives I engrossed in.

With the environment management skills and new ways of community organising I acquired in small-scale initiatives in marginalized communities in Nairobi, I stretched out to the rural areas of Kenya. I have progressively devoted to working on diverse practical projects and advocacy on environmental and related socio-economic issues in both human and ecological systems (socioecological systems).

In addition to practical work and advocacy, I have also conducted surveys and scientific research on environment and development issues and linked knowledge with policy, practice and learning. In the course of my work I have traversed diverse terrains and engaged with people from all walks of life including ordinary folks, community leaders, policy makers etc. I also engage in pastime creative writing in an effort to amplify my scientific voice by conveying the sustainable development message in a creative language. Check my blog at:  https://georges-chips.weebly.com/

Emily Owen

Wild Gift Class Year: 2006
Current Occupation:

Conservation Manager at Pew Environment Group
Website:
http://globaloceanlegacy.org

"Wild Gift has had a lasting impact on my passion for conservation, affirming my belief that we must all be wildlands stewards. The organization provided me with the resources and guidance to help launch my career, positioning me as a respected conservation planner in civil society, academia, and the private sector."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Twenty small and medium-sized landowners organized in a grassroots conservation network.
  • US$ 30,000 raised in additional grant money for grassroots organizations.
  • Rapid biodiversity assessments conducted and conservation management plans created for 1,300 acres.
  • Conservation land-use plans created for 500,000 acres of alerce, olivillo, and araucaria forests.
  • Ten Mapuche indigenous communities empowered through local sustainable development and conservation planning.
  • High Conservation Value Forests methodology adapted for land-use planning and marine and coastal areas.

In 2006-2007, Wild Gift supported my project, “Conserving Nahuelbuta’s Biodiversity: Sustainable Management and the Creation of Private Protected Areas in Contulmo,” in Southern Chile. The project seeks to support small and medium landowners interested in creating private protected areas and empower their community-based, grassroots organization “Network for Conserving Contulmo’sNatural Heritage” (RECPAN-Contulmo). This project was a great success, helping to formalize the organization, build capacities, recruit new members, and gain financing from the Chilean government.

Following my Wild Gift fellowship, I joined World Wildlife Fund Chile as Head of Geographic Information Systems, responsible for performing multi-scale conservation planning in Southern Chile. My work focused on creating conservation land-use plans by working closely with indigenous communities; identifying and mapping of terrestrial and marine high conservation value areas; and strategic ecoregion planning.

After nearly four years at WWF, I left the beautiful coastal town of Valdivia and moved to Chile's capital city, Santiago. Shortly after leaving WWF, I had the opportunity to support Pacific Biodiversity Institute's wildland's mapping project by working on their field team in northwest Argentina. Following this fieldwork, I accepted the position of Conservation Director at a private land investment firm, where I sought innovative business solutions to promote private conservation initiatives in Southern Chile.

Recently, I have moved from a terrestrial to marine focus, joining the team at Pew Environment Group's Global Ocean Legacy initiative as Chile's Conservation Manager. Our project aims to support the creation of a large, world-class marine protected area in Easter Island, working in conjunction with the local Rapa Nui community.

I live in Santiago with my fiancé, where we take every opportunity to leave the big city and go hiking, cycling, and traveling.

Margiana Petersen-Rockney

Wild Gift Class Year: 2011
Current Occupation:

Harvard Food Literacy Project Coordinator
Website:
http://youngfarmernetwork.org
http://www.dining.harvard.edu/flp/index.html
http://youngfarmernetwork.org
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/youngfarmernetwork
https://www.facebook.com/foodliteracyproject

"I am so excited to be part of the amazing Wild Gift community and look forward to the months, and years, ahead. Wild Gift is so supportive and truly believes in the people and projects they support."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Young Farmer Network (YFN) has over 300 members.
  • As an affiliate of the National Young Farmers' Coalition YFN has a national policy voice.
  • YFN organizes over 20 farmer-to-farmer events each year.
  • YFN offers workshops and 4-6 week long short courses for farmers in southern New England.

Current…

During my Wild Gift Fellowship year I scaled back my farming operation (see below) so that I could spend more time and energy doing the food systems organizing work that I feel is so important. While establishing the Young Farmer Network (YFN) and creating the organizational structure and solid team to keep that good work going and growing, I was staff at the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. At New Entry I worked primarily with immigrant and refugee farmers to establish new farms in the greater Boston area. In April, 2014, I transitioned to Harvard University. As the Coordinator of the Food Literacy Project I manage a team of 25 student fellows who learn about food systems issues and plan events to educate their peers and the wider community about how food and agriculture connect to contemporary issues - from immigration to climate change. I also teach the garden internship program and manage the farmers' market. Additionally, I work with University partners such as the Office of Sustainability and the Food Law and Policy Clinic on large-scale events and campaigns to educate and engage our community in improving the food system. 

In addition to my work at Harvard, I am still in an advisory and visioning role at YFN, am on the board of the Beginning Farmer Network of Mass and am farming about an acre of land- mostly in garlic and popcorn strains that I have been breeding for a local seed company. Las year I also worked part time for New Entry (teaching an Urban Agriculture and Entrepreneurship class to resource-limited people of color in Roxbury, MA), and chaired of the Wild Gift Selection Committee (and was on the Alumni Council). 

My particular areas of interest are in food systems and climate change, and social justice, especially for women, in our food system. 
  

My background and Wild Gift project…

I grew up on a small-scale sustainable dairy goat farm in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where experiential learning helped drive and complement my formal homeschool education. Growing up on a farm and interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds taught me to be a respectful team member, a driven leader, a creative thinker, and a resourceful problem-solver. In my undergraduate education at Brown University I studied Geology and Biology with a focus on nutrient cycling and soil science. Driven by a passion to be engaged with my greater community and pursue a lifestyle of constant physical and mental challenge, I began my own sustainable farm while still a full time student.

For four years I managed my five-acre, 60 family Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm with a strong focus on sustainability, education, and community building. Farms are wonderful places for people to interact with nature and each other in the most tangible ways possible. In addition to providing educational tours, field trips, and workshops on the farm, I created a three-month long internship program for young women to learn about diverse sustainable, small-scale, integrated plant and animal agriculture, as well as farm business management. 

As a new farmer I saw that there were many of us struggling with the same issues as we developed our enterprises, but there wasn't an education or support system - everyone was reinventing the wheel and wasting valueable emotional, financial, and time resources. 

With the support and guidance from Wild Gift I created the nonprofit Young Farmer Network (YFN) to help farmers develop socially, ecologically, and econically sustainable farm business and happy lives. Our work at YFN focuses on cultivating personal and professional realationships and strong networks between new farmers of all ages and backgrounds in southern New England. As a network we respond to the needs of our 300+ members and are expanding our educational programming. We have three primary program areas:

  • Young Farmer Night is a series of regular and rotating free social and educational events open to farmers and farm allies of all ages and experience levels, meant to foster community, build relationships and catalyze collaboration in Southeastern New England. 
  • Pasture To Plate helps facilitate the connections between new farmers and the public. Pasture To Plate helps beginning farmers offer on-farm workshops and events that engage the public on their farms.
  • Short courses provide farmers with in-depth information and hands-on experience on farming topics such as: soil science, business planning, and small engine repair.

The Young Farmer Network is organized by a team of three farmers (Sarah Turkus, Tess Brown-Lavoie, and Margiana Petersen-Rockney). Today I have more of a strategic planning/visioning role while Sarah and Tess operate the day-to-day of the network.
  

Some articles featuring Margiana's work:

BreakThru Radio, September 2014. Farm-To-Table. ThriveWire, September 2014. Farming May Seem Old-Fashioned, but These Young Farmers Are Trying to Change This Perception.  Providence Journal/AP, August 2014. New Go-To Career for New England’s Young. Lancaster Farming, June 2014. RI Breeds New Generation of Farmers, Food Activists. Boston Globe, July 23rd, 2013. Young Farmers Networks At Potlucks  Rhode Island Monthly, September 2013. On The Farm With Pasture To Plate  Edible South Shore Magazine, Fall 2013. Unite! Young Farmers Unite Zagat 30 Under 30, 2013. YFN Organizer Margiana Petersen-Rockney named 2013 30 Under 30 Boston  Homegrown.com, February 5th, 2013. Community Building 101 Country Folks, 2012. Pasture To Plate: Certified Mobile Kitchen Boston Globe, September 18th, 2012. Aspiring Farmers Plow Ahead The Examiner, August 14th, 2012. Sustainable Practices at Rosasharn Farm Fall River Herald News, 2012. Second Generation Farmer Cultivates Crops, Community

Tinia Pina

Wild Gift Class Year: 2014
Current Occupation: 
Founder & CEO, Re-Nuble
Website:
http://www.re-nuble.com
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.twitter.com/viarenuble
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tiniapina

I was privileged to grow up in a family in Woodbridge, Virginia, where healthy food was always available.  As an adult living in New York City, I realized that working families often had little choice but to feed their kids high-calorie, low-nutrition fast food or the overpriced processed foods that are often the only options in food deserts, leading to our current health epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Why is healthy, fresh food so difficult to get in urban areas? It is often cheaper and more profitable for farmers to produce chemically grown food that has to be shipped sometimes thousands of miles than for local farms to supply organic food to surrounding urban areas.

As I began to understand the issues, I realized that if we could just scale up farm production surrounding urban centers, we could deliver fresh, organic produce at far lower rates, in turn reducing carbon emissions created by unnecessary “food miles.” This led me to study hydroponic farming, and eventually to starting Re-Nuble.

I founded Re-Nuble to support development of a closed-loop agriculture system that transforms the way we grow and distribute food. My vision is a nation built on healthy farms, healthy communities and healthy families.

Leo Pollock

Wild Gift Class Year: 2014
Current Occupation: 

Co-founder, The Compost Plant; Network Coordinator, Rhode Island Food Policy Council
Website:
http://www.compostplant.com/
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/compostplant
https://twitter.com/compostplant

Having been born and raised in the urban metropolis of Los Angeles, CA, the path to finding my passion in the messy nexus between organic waste and healthy soil hasn’t exactly been linear. I first fell in love with soil and agriculture during the years I was involved with the student-run organic farm as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College.  But it wasn’t until I spent a year teaching on the island atoll of Enewetak in the Marshall Islands after graduating from Dartmouth that I began to fully understand the power of soil.  My year in Enewetak introduced me to the enormous potential for creating social change through sustainable food systems, and how local food is a critical connection point between community health and environmental health.

Enewetak was one of the islands used by the United States for nuclear testing in the 1950’s, and the islands were scraped of all topsoil before being resettled in 1980. While the US Department of Energy initially claimed that it would be impossible to start an agriculture program on Enewetak and insisted that USDA canned food serve as a complete substitute for local food, the community came together after the resettlement and, with the assistance of a Pacific Island agricultural specialist, started a composting program to build the soil base of the island.  By the time I arrived as an elementary school teacher, the island’s agricultural program was producing local coconut, breadfruit, papaya, guava, lime, lemon, and banana.

After my year in the Marshall Islands, I completed a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, focusing on the need for, and challenges inherent in, partnerships between businesses and non-profits.  After completing my Master’s degree, I was ready to engage in community-based, on-the-ground work that brought me back in touch with soil and food. I moved to Providence, Rhode Island to work for the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT), an urban agriculture organization that has been at the forefront of converting vacant lots in low-income Providence neighborhoods into urban agriculture oases (and preserving that land in permanent trust) for over 30 years. In Providence, I experienced a sense of déjà vu: urban soils devastated by the City’s industrial past.  But just as I had seen in the Marshall Islands, SCLT was building healthy soil and transforming the urban landscape with compost. Again, the message to me was clear: healthy soils grow healthy plants, healthy plants feed healthy people.

Rhode Island is one of the most densely populated states in the country, and the largest growth in food production is, and will continue to be, in the State’s urban and suburban communities.  SCLT taught me that applying compost is the only responsible way to remediate soils, improve their production capacity, and sustain intensive agricultural production indefinitely.  Rhode Island also has a serious waste problem: in 20-25 years, the State's only landfill will reach full capacity, and nearly one-third of what Rhode Islanders currently throw away is compostable. Recognizing that composting infrastructure in Rhode Island is critically underdeveloped, my business partner and I incorporated The Compost Plant in October of 2013. This April, we began pilot collections of food scraps, and in our first six months of operation, have diverted over 65,000 gallons (nearly 200 tons) of organic material from Rhode Island’s waste stream.

With The Compost Plant, I want to demonstrate that a business can be truly sustainable: creating opportunities for community and economic empowerment, providing goods and services that financially sustain operations, and having beneficial impacts on the local ecosystem.  I see the opportunity to grow a business that provides jobs in a State with the second highest unemployment rate in the country, and helps build the foundation of a stronger food system in Rhode Island by turning a current “waste” into a resource. The Compost Plant is positioned to be the first full-service commercial compost operation in Rhode Island: producing high-quality compost, and providing organic waste hauling pickup for local restaurants, food-processors, and food businesses. Using forced air technology, The Compost Plant will showcase how composting can happen in and near urban areas by keeping a small physical footprint and modeling exceptional odor management. In the decades ahead, our reliance on fossil fuels for fertilizer to support food production will reach a breaking point.  Producing compost not only ensures the health and vitality of our soils, it ensures the health and viability of our communities.

Aneri Pradhan

Wild Gift Class Year: 2018
Current Occupation:

Founder and Executive Director, ENVenture
Website:
https://www.enventureenterprises.org/
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.aneripradhan.com

Impacts of My Work: 
  • 50,000 people receiving clean energy access in rural Uganda
  • Invested in 70 cooperatives in Uganda

Aneri is the Founder and Executive Director of ENVenture, an award-winning incubator that finances and trains rural cooperatives in Uganda to start clean energy enterprises in the last mile, reaching the poorest and most vulnerable off-grid populations. She is also the Founder and CEO of ENVision mobile, a mobile bookkeeping application for microentrepreneurs. She has over 10 years of experience working in 15 countries in Africa and Asia on last mile technology adoption, focusing on clean energy entrepreneurship and fintech. She formerly worked at Facebook on their Sustainability and Connectivity Lab, prototyping new social impact technologies. Previously, she served as an Energy Access Officer at the United Nations Foundation, spearheading grassroots entrepreneur mobilization for the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. She is a Renewable Energy World’s Top 40 under 40 in solar, winner of the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Prize, an American Express Emerging Innovator, Wild Gift Fellow, member of Forbes Nonprofit Council, SOCAP Social Entrepreneur Scholarship recipient, and Global Social Benefit Incubator participant. She has a Masters in Environment & Development from the London School of Economics and a Bachelors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Viraj Puri

Wild Gift Class Year: 2004
Current Occupation:

Co-Founder and CEO at Gotham Greens
Website:
http://gothamgreens.com
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.facebook.com/GothamGreens
https://twitter.com/#!/gothamgreens

"Wild Gift was instrumental in providing me with the resources to pursue an entrepreneurial project in my early career. That experience has proved invaluable since then, particularly at my current entrepreneurial venture. Wild Gift trips have allowed me to travel in stunning wilderness with inspiring people. These expeditions never fail to re-affirm the immense value of wildness and the stewardship of wildlands."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • From 2005-2009, Shesyon Solar Earthworks (SSE) completed 6 green buildings, over 70,000 sq. ft. including schools, medical clinic, and vocational training center.
  • SSE generated over $550,000 in revenue and created over 150 construction jobs.
  • Employed 25 skilled and unskilled Ladakhi's and implemented an 18-month Solar Builder Course that targeted school dropouts, half of them women. Several of the graduates of this course are now employed at SSE.

I co-founded and now serve as CEO of Gotham Greens, a New York City-based company working to advance sustainable urban agriculture.  Gotham Greens built and now operates New York City’s first commercial scale, urban greenhouse facility. Gotham Greens state of the art, renewable-energy powered greenhouses, provides NYC restaurants and retailers with premium quality produce year round.

I have developed and managed start-up enterprises in New York City, Ladakh, India and Malawi, Africa focusing on green building, renewable energy, and environmental design. Prior to founding Gotham Greens, I worked at New York Sun Works, an environmental engineering firm.

My Wild Gift supported social enterprise project was called Shesyon Solar Earthworks(SSE). SSE inspired sustainable development in Ladakh, India, a remote, high-altitiude region in the Himalayas.  I pursued a self-designed project aimed at reconciling Ladakh’s rich solar power potential with its rapidly growing energy and infrastructure demands. With the assistance and guidance of a local NGO, I helped launch a green building and renewable energy company. The experience provided me with a unique lesson in the use of innovative technological solutions to address development challenges and sowed the seeds for a career in clean technology.  With the Wild Gift's support it proved to be a hands-on education in small business and successful social entrepreneurship.  

While I am a passionate New Yorker, I am equally at home in the mountains and in wild, remote corners of the world. I am a LEED® Accredited Professional and received a B.A. from Colgate University. My written work has appeared in several books and publications including, “100% Renewable — Energy Autonomy in Action” and the UN Academic Journal. I have received fellowships from the TED conference and the Wild Gift, where I have served on the board of directors, as an assistant wilderness guide and project mentor. 

James Richards

Wild Gift Class Year: 2012
Current Occupation: 

Founder, Sunbank Solar & Solar Dividend
Website:
http://www.thesunbank.com
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/theSunbank
https://twitter.com/theSunbank
http://www.linkedin.com/in/jameswrichards
http://www.youtube.com/user/SunbankSolar

Over the past several years I have been fully consumed by solar water heating.  My business, Sunbank Solar, was born out of this interest and my Wild Gift project, Solar Dividend, springs from the desire to see this technology become more commonly utilized.  

Solar water heating has been around for a long time.  It is simple technology that does not create electricity–but instead offsets the use of electricity by directly heating water.  It is much older and in many ways more developed technology than its solar panel cousin, yet the solar thermal industry is a disparate one that lacks a simple and cohesive message.  The Sunbank, as it's known, is 6 times more efficient than the modern solar panel.  Which is to say that it would take 6 times the amount of collector area for solar panels to create the same amount of energy.  It also costs much less.  This combination of factors makes solar thermal energy very attractive.

Solar Dividend uses these financial factors to its favor.  By employing a financing model that has become popular among solar panel installers, Solar Dividend removes the traditional barriers (technological uncertainty and high up front cost) to adoption of commercial solar thermal energy systems.  This, coupled with the current incentive structure, means projects that are financially very attractive for investors and the host site, alike.  Large consumers of hot water, from hotels to hospitals, dairy farms to breweries, stand to save a lot.  The potential environmental and economic impact is big.  

My story?

Born and raised in West Virginia, I grew up surrounded by verdant hills and people working hard to extract coal from them.  I tended to appreciate the hills more for their trails to ride and slopes to ski than the metric tonnage of coal that they contained.

Fast forward to junior year at Vanderbilt: I get my first passport and study abroad in New Zealand.  A seed was planted.  When senior year came and my fellow Economics majors were lining up jobs on Wall Street, I wanted exactly the opposite.  So when a friend suggested that we try teaching English in Venezuela, I was up for it.  A job in Caracas was the front door to a continent that I would spend 9 months traveling around via bus, boat, fruit truck, motorcycle, etc.  It may be a bit of an understatement to say that I learned a lot on this trip.  Over the next few years I would repeat the pattern of coming home to work on something that I thought would interest me, only to eventually feel stymied and yearn to be back on the road where I was in charge of my own schedule.  

The last big trip south came with a mission to work in Nicaragua with a group called blueEnergy and to learn more about alternative energies.  I had kept a list of business ideas for years, and it was there, working amongst volunteers from all over the world, that I came up with the idea for Sunbank Solar.  

Sunbank brought me back to the hills of West Virginia.  Although ideologically it may be one of the tougher places for renewable energy, West Virginia is where my network is and would provide a rigorous testing ground for the “proof of concept.”  Sunbank is taking root in West Virginia and our systems are starting to be incorporated into the construction plans for new schools and other prominent commercial projects; however, change comes slowly to West Virginia and progress is often met with a suspicious glare.  

Solar Dividend was born out of the desire to hasten the adoption of this incredible technology and that is where my relationship with Wild Gift begins. 

Jenna Ringelheim

Wild Gift Class Year: 2003
Current Occupation: 

Deputy Director, Environmental Leadership Program
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/jennaringelheim

As the Deputy Director of the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP), Jenna manages various components of ELP's programs on a national scale, including the recruitment and selection of Fellows, curriculum development, retreat center logistics, the expansion of ELP's community of leadership practitioners, and the development of lifelong learning opportunities for ELP's Senior Fellow community.  Jenna has worked for a variety of environmental non-profits in leadership positions, including The Northwest Earth Institute, Wild Gift, The Trust for Public Land, and the Nature Conservancy. Jenna has a BA in Environmental Studies and Anthropology from Skidmore College, and a Masters in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University, and an MBA in Sustainable Systems from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute.  In her spare time, Jenna enjoys recreating with her two Portuguese water dogs, Atlas and Millie. Jenna contributes to a variety of magazines and published her first book in 2008, entitled “Best Hikes with Dogs, Boston and Beyond.” 

Alli Rogers

Wild Gift Class Year: 2007
Current Occupation:

Director of Policy, Rhode Island Department of Administration
Website:
http://www.togethergreen.org/fellows/FellowDetails.aspx?fellowID=176
Blogs/Social Media:
http://twitter.com/Alli_Rogers

"I am extremely grateful for Wild Gift's support. The Wild Gift deep wilderness trek and river trip both had a profound impact on me, solidifying my core belief that we must stay connected with and work together to protect with the wild. Wild Gift is an exceptional organization that does incredible work supporting visionary better-world entrepreneurs across our planet."

Allison Rogers currently serves as the Director of Policy for the Rhode Island Department of Administration (www.admin.ri.gov).  Alli previously served as the Executive Director for Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Green the Capitol Office at the U.S. House of Representatives, where she worked from 2007 to 2011.  During her previous work as a sustainability consultant, Alli worked for a number of organizations, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  Alli worked for Harvard University’s Office for Sustainability (previously known as the Harvard Green Campus Initiative) from 2002 to 2006.  As a University Management Fellow, Alli coordinated the energy efficiency and sustainability programs for Harvard College, Law School, Business School, and Real Estate Services. 

Dedicated to raising awareness about climate solutions, Alli participated in the Miss America Competition in January 2007 as Miss Rhode Island 2006.  She was the first contestant to compete with a climate change focus and she received the Quality of Life Award at Miss America for her “Go Green: Global Warming Awareness” platform efforts.  Alli was selected to be in the first group of 50 people trained by Vice President Al Gore through the Climate Reality Project. She was recognized for her environmental leadership as a recipient of the Environmentalist of the Year Award from Earth Day RI and the the Strong Women and the Environment Award from RI Clean Water Action, Environment RI, and Ocean State Action.

Alli currently serves as a Truman National Security Fellow, and, in the past, she has served as a Toyota TogetherGreen Fellow with Audubon, a National Wildlife Federation Campus Ecology Fellow, a Women’s Leadership Fellow with the American Democracy Institute / Impact Center, and a “2042 Today” Fellow with the Center for Diversity and the Environment and Center for Whole Communities. 

Alli is a LEED AP and she received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.  Alli has served on the Wild Gift Alumni Council since 2012.

Kirk Rose

Wild Gift Class Year: 2009
Current Occupation:

Community Development Manager at Anchorage Community Land Trust
Website:
http://www.anchoragelandtrust.org

Impacts of My Work: 
  • Neighborhood Revitalization - more people are satisfied about the place where they live and the opportunities to be a healthy, successful person there
  • Private Sector Investment - stimulating business and a thriving private sector is the key to our revitalization efforts, new businesses are locating in our community and making a good buck doing it.
  • Long-Term Affordable Housing makes families more stable and secure; this in turn improves children's test scores and lowers crime rates
  • Community Voice and Direction - our community not only participates in but leads the conversation about the future of Mountain View

After participating in the 2009 deep wilderness trek, I moved from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest to accept a position with Environment America, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization.  I then became an organic farmer for a short stint in Olympia, WA.  I am currently working with the Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT) in Anchorage, Alaska.

ACLT aims to facilitate and catalyze community-directed economic revitalization in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage, AK.  Our primary goal is to bring more private sector investment into the community in order to provide jobs, diversify income levels, improve property maintenance and give residents and area businesses the opportunities and tools needed to capitalize on the community’s diverse energy. As the only non-profit organization working specifically on behalf of our community, ACLT works with partners to improve quality of life through a strong alliance of resources and programs grounded in a robust private sector.

I was recently elected to the Mountain View Community Council to continue to advocate on behalf of Anchorage's most ethnically diverse neighborhood.

Brian Salazar

Wild Gift Class Year: 2007
Current Occupation: 

President of Entegra Development & Investment LLC
Website:
http://www.entegra-re.com
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.twitter.com/entegragreen
https://www.facebook.com/entegragreen

Impacts of My Work: 
  • Have assisted in the design and certification of four LEED commercial projects, improving work environments for over 3,000 people.
  • Though our consulting, Entegra has impacted over 1.1M square feet of commercial real estate in New England through energy efficiency programs and LEED Certification.
  • These 23 consulting projects represent roughly $50M to $60M in total construction volume and/or real estate value.
  • Entegra has successfully achieved LEED Gold and Silver rated projects for our corporate clients across three LEED categories, CI, CI-Retail, and EBOM (with CS, NC and Homes examples coming soon.)
  • On the investment side, with my partners, I have surpassed the 5 year plan by owning and controlling over $25M of real estate through the Jan 2012 acquisition of 1.15M square feet of space in Walpole, Taunton, and North Dighton, Massachusetts. The spac

The mission for my Wild Gift Project – Entegra Development & Investment LLC –  is to lead the field of environmentally sustainable development in the market sector of small-to-medium scale residential and mixed-use construction by 2015.  Armed with a MBA from Babson College and BA from Dartmouth College, I created a profitable real estate firm dedicated to community development, sustainable design, and environmental stewardship.  By employing green design practices, I hope to reshape the way real estate development is conducted.  Entegra is currently engaged with local and global real estate companies and corporations as a third-party design consultant, assisting these groups in achieving green building certifications for their ongoing construction projects.  These projects are registered with the USGBC’s LEED Certification program and range widely in scope, scale, and sustainable impacts.  Of note, Entegra has worked with global corporations such as Verizon, Covidien, TD Bank, Bank of America, and Liberty Mutual on both Commercial Interiors and Existing Buildings certification programs.  Entegra is often contracted by members of the design and construction teams to assist in navigating the LEED application process.  

In a typical LEED office environment, Entegra seeks to:

1) Offset electricity usage by 100% through the procurement of Green Power SRECs;

2) Reduce water consumption by 30-35% by utilizing low-volume fixtures;

3) Reduce lighting power needs by 15-25% through hi-efficiency fixtures and improved natural lighting; and

4) Reduce HVAC requirements by 10% or more by implementing more modern technologies and improved duct designs. 

As developers, Entegra, along with Massachusetts-based partners The Manzo Company and Tambone Investments, has recently completed the acquisition of a 1.15 million square foot portfolio of properties in Massachusetts.  The portfolio consists of four properties, each with unique physical characteristics and tenancy. Of particular interest to Entegra is the Station Mills Complex in Walpole, MA.  This 300,000 square foot mill complex, consisting of eight separate two- and three-story masonry buildings, will be the basis for Entegra's vision of green, community-based, redevelopment projects.  The complex is directly adjacent to the MBTA Commuter Rail into Boston, and tucked in the center of Walpole's growing downtown “Main Street.”  The long-term goal for this complex is to maintain existing office uses, expand parking capacity to benefit the MBTA's ridership, and construct new low-energy buildings that weave into the fabric of downtown and infuse new densities and new residential uses; contributing toward a “live-work-play” environment.  

In addition to Walpole, Entegra is pursuing many other commercial-scale redevelopment projects in New England, all with a focus on energy reductions, town center “in fill” redevelopment, public transit locations, and sustainable construction. 

I am continually looking to form new partnerships, to source new projects, and to place capital.  I am building a pipeline of 4 potential transit-oriented developments in Massachusetts which all need funding.  If all 4 projects come to fruition, I would need roughly $20M to $25M in equity investment ($5M-$6M each).  These projects would touch thousands of other lives and be models of energy efficient and environmentally sensitive construction.  I am targeting pretax IRRs in the 17-19% range with a 5-7 year hold.    

Monica Samec

Wild Gift Class Year: 2007
Current Occupation: 

Managing Director at Small World Carbon
Website:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/monicasamec
http://smallworldcarbon.org

"Wild Gift nurtures the seed of a good idea in ways that grow the individual, the organization, and their networks. It encourages connection to a sense of wildness and wonder that helps start-up founders to not only put their roots down in a good spot but also to thrive in a way that supports the ecosystem as a whole."
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • A summary of my 2008-2009 Wild Gift project: can be found here: http://www.mfaminyen.org/dlds/mcs_downloads_10.pdf

I was part of the Wild Gift class of 2007-2008 and subsquently launched Small World Carbon with the mission to improve clean energy infrastructure systems. My professional areas include specialization in project finance, carbon market analysis, project risk assessment, rural electrification, energy policy and clean energy technology implementation. I have about a decade's worth of experience in small-scale renewable energy project financing and development such as cellulosic ethanol, off-grid solar PV and hot water, small and micro hydro, and grid-connected wind.  I act as a volunteer mentor with Wild Gift, VC4Africa and Mentor Capital Network.

Drew Sanderford

Wild Gift Class Year: 2004
Current Occupation:

Assitant Professor of Real Estate and Planning

"Without the discussion sessions that occurred in the Wild Gift classroom, I might have missed a number of important components of literature and scholarship that help to provide a foundation for my research and consulting." 

Drew Sanderford is an Assistant Professor in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture.  His research and teaching focuses on responsible property investment and development, innovation, and both housing and commercial real estate.

Previously, Drew was post-doctoral research fellow at the Virginia Center for Housing Research, a research center within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech. 

Dr. Sanderford is also a junior member at Evergreen Advisors, LLC, a real estate development and investment firm in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Jack Schleifer

Wild Gift Class Year: 2020
Current Occupation:

Founder of AllAccess

AllAccess will connect members of low-income minority communities to the outdoors, and implement a system through which outdoor equipment can be accessed at low cost.

Marty Schnure

Wild Gift Class Year: 2012
Current Occupation: 

Founder of Maps for Good & Cartographic Designer at The Wilderness Society
Website:
http://mapsforgood.org
http://martyschnure.com
Blogs/Social Media:
http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/author/msc…
https://www.facebook.com/mapsforgood

Impacts of My Work: 
  • conservation, public lands, science communication

Marty Schnure is a visual storyteller and conservationist. She founded Maps for Good with Ross Donihue in 2012 with the mission of creating maps and media to promote conservation initiatives and connect people with wild places. Her work with Maps for Good has taken her to wildlands around the world, some highlights being mapping the future Patagonia National Park in southern Chile, creating science communication stories on the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, mapping a Bellbird corridor in Costa Rica, and developing interactive maps of the then-proposed Bears Ears National Monument. She currently works for The Wilderness Society, where she leads cartographic design and map-based storytelling for public lands conservation and advocacy nationwide.

Though now incurably in love with the west, Marty’s roots lie in New England, where she grew up on the coast of Massachusetts and earned a B.A. in Geography from Middlebury College in Vermont. Before founding Maps for Good, Marty got her start in cartography at National Geographic Maps and National Geographic Magazine. She stays involved with the Society as a National Geographic Explorer with the Expeditions Council, which has funded multiple Maps for Good projects. She lives in Seattle. 

Marty was a Wild Gift fellow in 2013 and a co-leader on the 2018 trek. She is thrilled to be part of the Wild Gift family.

Micah Sewell

Wild Gift Class Year: 2011
Current Occupation: 

Program Director, Putney Student Travel

I'm an entrepreneur drawn to cultural fermentation - communities growing together and creating solutions to the issues facing them. 

Jay Simpson

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation: 
Founder of Wayfinding Ecologies
Website:
https://jaysimpson.us/

Wayfinding Ecologies partners with public cultural institutions to use art, stewardship activities, and direct nature experiences to re-entangle communities with historic and future ecologies.

David Sone

Wild Gift Class Year: 2009
Current Occupation:

Environmental Justice Advocate
Website:
http://freegrassy.net
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grassy-Narrows-First…

Impacts of My Work: 
  • Helped stop clear-cut logging on the 2,500 square mile territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nations from June 2008 to the present.
  • March 2012: Helped withdraw 9,000 square miles of KI Homeland from mineral exploration and mining activity to protect KI culture, water, forests, and wildlife. This is a roadless wilderness 2.5 times the size of Yellowstone National Park.
  • March 2012: Helped Stop Gods Lake Resources from drilling for gold on the ancestral burial grounds of the KI First Nation.
  • March 2012: Helped stop Ontario from expanding mining activity at Wolf Lake, the world's largest old growth red pine forest.

The mission of my Wild Gift Project – Earth Justice Initiative (EJI) - is to use grassroots organizing and coalition building to support indigenous First Nations of Canada who are protecting their traditional territories in North America’s largest wild forest ecosystem.  Globally, only 20% of the world’s original forests remain intact.  The largest wild forest in North America is the boreal forest – the world’s greatest reservoir of fresh water, and the biggest storehouse of carbon beyond the ocean.  Canada’s vast boreal forests are being rapidly exploited for extraction of timber, energy and mineral resources.  EJI believes the most strategic and responsible way to advance human rights and protect the boreal forest is to partner with First Nation communities who are working to protect their traditional territories.  EJI works with a coalition of 50 organizations toward its goals including recognition for the right of First Nations to say ‘no’ to industrial extraction - as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - and protection for Ontario’s Boreal Forest.

Sam Teicher

Wild Gift Class Year: 2016
Current Occupation:

Co-Founder, Coral Vita
Website:
http://www.coralvita.co
Blogs/Social Media:
http://www.facebook.com/CoralVitaReefs
http://twitter.com/CoralVitaReefs
http://www.coralvita.co/news

Coral Vita works to restore our world's dying reefs. Coral reefs generate $30B annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection while supporting over 500M people and 25% of marine life. But we've already lost over 30% of reefs globally, and more than 75% are projected to be dead by 2050. Using methods developed by the Mote Marine Lab and Gates Coral lab, we grow corals up to 50x natural rates while enhancing their resiliency to climate change, improving the impact and cost-effectiveness of reef restoration. By supplying restoration projects at scale with more diverse, rapidly grown, and hardier corals, we can preserve reef health and the valuable benefits they provide for future generations.

Zulma Terrones

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation:
Founder of Life Stages
Website:
https://www.lifestages.us
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.instagram.com/lifestages.us/

Life Stages is an outdoor holistic health service that combines the power of nature and science to help individuals self-actualize at any stage in life. We equip you with foundational skills to overcome life stressors and help you achieve physical, mental, emotional, and psychosocial well-being.

Ki'Amber Thompson

Wild Gift Class Year: 2019
Current Occupation: 

Founder of Charles Roundtree Bloom Project

Charles Roundtree Bloom Project provides healing-centered outdoor experiences for low income youth of color of incarcerated parents.

Today millions of children suffer the consequences and trauma of a parent’s incarceration. More than 5 million children in the U.S. have had a parent in prison at some point in their lives, including 477,000 in Texas. The impact is greater on youth of color. In 2008, 1 in 9 Black children had a parent imprisoned, compared to 1 in 28 Latinx and 1 in 57 White children. Youth in poverty are 3 times more likely to have had a parent imprisoned than youth from incomes at least twice the poverty level. 1 in 5 children of incarcerated parents had clinically significant internalizing problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, withdrawal); 1 in 3 had externalizing problems (e.g., behavioral issues, aggression, attention). Because of the stigma of incarceration, youth with incarcerated parents lack support (unlike youth of divorced, deceased, or military parents). Research has shown that one of the key factors in easing the negative impacts and helping youth of incarcerated parents thrive is support.  Studies have shown that proximity to greenspace is associated with lower levels of stress and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety, while interacting with nature can improve cognition for children with attention deficit. But low-income youth of color tend to have less access to greenspace.

Youth of incarcerated parents need support and healing, and CR Bloom Project will create a space of communal healing through engaging with nature. Different from other youth-serving organizations like YMCA or the Boys & Girls Club, CR Bloom Project addresses the impacts of mass incarceration on youth through engaging with nature. CR Bloom Project helps low income youth of color of incarcerated parents develop healing practices by (re)connecting with nature through experiences like meditative walks outside, hikes at local parks, forest therapy, community gardening, healing circles, and art. Initiatives to broaden access to the outdoors are increasing, but none focus on youth of incarcerated parents and very few if any use a healing justice approach to engaging with nature. CR Bloom Project curriculum provides a dynamic place- and community-based environmental education that is relevant to the experiences of the youth participants. 

Raj Vable

Wild Gift Class Year: 2012
Current Occupation: 

Co-Founder, Young Mountain Tea
Website:
http://youngmountaintea.com
Blogs/Social Media:
http://facebook.com/YoungMountainTea

We at Young Mountain Tea are working to build a new Indian tea region in partnership with remote Himalayan communities.. Our company started when I was working with small farmers on the border between India and Nepal. We struck a deal – if local farmers grew tea, I would start a company in the US to sell it. Soon after I headed back to Oregon and setup Young Mountain Tea, which we named in tribute to the young, rising Himalayas. You can learn more about our teas and our work to create dignified rural livelihoods at youngmountaintea.com.

Alexander Wankel

Wild Gift Class Year: 2016
Current Occupation: 

Founder of Pachakuti Foods
Website:
http://www.pachakutifoods.com/
Blogs/Social Media:
https://www.facebook.com/pachakutifoods/
https://twitter.com/PachakutiFoods

Having grown up in the US with Peruvian roots inspired me to spend the last 4 years working with micro-entrepreneurs in the Andes to build their capacity as businesses and connect them with markets for their products. The mountain landscape here, which spans from deserts to jungles and reaches over 4 miles above sea level, can teach anyone an awareness of humanity’s complex and beautiful relationship with the environment. It’s no coincidence that quinoa, one of the most adaptable and nutritionally valuable plants in the world, originated here and that farmers developed thousands of local varieties to thrive in the diverse micro-climates of the intense mountain landscape. Quinoa’s immense genetic resources in Southern Peru can create endless opportunities for present and future generations to live healthier lives and adapt to the challenges of climate change. Unfortunately, a global food system that demands uniformity is causing local quinoa varieties to go extinct because they have no market value.

I’m launching Pachakuti Foods to protect quinoa diversity and support the farmers who cultivate it. My startup social enterprise is working to produce the first biodiversity-friendly quinoa milk made with multiple local quinoa varieties that have been carefully selected for their delicious milky flavor. By making value-added products using native quinoa, our goal is to create a new model of quinoa globalization that values diversity instead of destroying it. Smallholder farmers in southern Peru have protected quinoa diversity for thousands of years and produce some of the best quality organic quinoa using ancient knowledge. However, most of them are at the mercy of large wholesalers, who in 2015 pushed quinoa prices to critically low levels as the quinoa supply increased. We will support these farmers by sourcing quinoa directly from them and providing a fair price. By working with organized farmer groups that continue the ancient traditions of communal land management, our quinoa milk will be healthier for both people and planet.   

Agrobiodiversity isn’t just important for promoting global food security, it also creates a profusion of rich flavors and the potential for innovative new products using the unique qualities of rare local crops. Our quinoa milk will stand out for its excellent quality while also telling the story of the beautiful communities where this quinoa comes from. Pachakuti Foods hopes to create other products that tap into the incredible value of diversity and we hope that other enterprises will adapt this model to protect agrobiodiversity in many parts of the world. 

Jan Wellik

Wild Gift Class Year: 2004
Current Occupation:

Associate Lecturer at UW-La Crosse
Website:
http://ecoexpressions.org

"Wild Gift provided an incredible catalyst in my life - to create an education program that I had been dreaming about for years! The grant money from Wild Gift allowed me the opportunity to make that dream a reality. Since creating Eco Expressions, a nature writing program for youth in 2004, a series of new doors opened. The dream continues to grow and evolve. Today, 8 years later, I am still leading nature writing workshops with at-risk youth, and am completing a doctoral dissertation to evaluate the effects of nature writing on young people's lives. I owe Wild Gift for this incredible spark in my life... "
 
Impacts of My Work: 
  • Eco Expressions served an average of 150 youth per year in San Diego, from 2004-2008; and served 3 schools in Blaine County, Idaho in 2006-2007.
  • The writing activities I created were developed into a curriculum book - Nature Writing Field Guide for Teachers, published in 2007.
  • Hundreds of K-12 teachers, environmental educators, and therapists from Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and California have incorporated the Eco Expressions curriculum into their programs.
  • Since its 2004 founding in San Diego, California, Eco Expressions has directly impacted nearly 500 youth, and indirectly impacted thousands through the training of educators.

The mission of my Wild Gift Project, a literary arts program called Eco Expressions, is to provide outdoor exploration and nature writing for youth in the United States. Eco Expressions cultivates self-discovery and outdoor appreciation to illustrate the healing powers of writing and nature.

Since its 2004 founding in San Diego, California, Eco Expressions has directly impacted nearly 500 youth, and indirectly impacted thousands through the training of educators. Eco Expressions served an average of 150 youth per year in San Diego, from 2004-2008; and served 3 schools in Blaine County, Idaho in 2006-2007.

I continue to train educators around the U.S. to implement nature writing activities with their K-12 Science and English classrooms. The writing activities I created were developed into a curriculum book - Nature Writing Field Guide for Teachers, published in 2007.

Hundreds of K-12 teachers, environmental educators, and therapists from Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and California have incorporated the Eco Expressions curriculum into their programs. I am a presenter at national education conferences each year, including the North American Association for Environmental Education, National Science Teacher Association, Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education and National Poetry Therapy Association.

Currently, I am teaching Environmental Studies and Environmental Writing at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and English courses focused on Environmental Literature at Viterbo University. I am a doctoral student at Hamline University, and as part of my EdD dissertation will study environmental education evaluation.

My goal is to establish an environmental writing institute and retreat center that offers nature writing, environmental journalism and writing residences.

Kelly Wyche

Wild Gift Class Year: 2022
Current Occupation:
Founder of Collective Power
Website:
https://www.ourcollectivepower.com/

We help communities organize and develop infrastructure they need to support themselves (energy, water, housing, roads, waste mgmt, etc) We offer innovative technology solutions that make communities more resilient and sustainable, and connect them to tradespeople who can help build what they need.

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