Executive Director Center for Amazonia Scientific Innovation
Luis E. Fernandez is the Executive Director of the Wake Forest University’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA), a research initiative that examines the impacts of artisanal gold mining, mercury contamination, and deforestation on natural and human ecosystems in the Peruvian Amazon. Luis is also a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and a Fellow at Wake Forest University’s Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES). Trained as a tropical ecologist, Luis is an expert on the environmental impacts of artisanal scale mining on tropical landscapes, particularly on the effects of mercury contamination on wildlife and indigenous communities. Luis has led research efforts to study and address mining-related mercury contamination in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Madagascar. He has held professional positions at Stanford University, Carnegie Institution for Science, US Environmental Protection Agency, Argonne National Laboratory, and the University of Michigan. His research and policy work has been profiled in Nature, CNN, NPR, PBS Newshour, Washington Post, Mongabay, Le Monde, and the Associated Press. Luis serves on the governing and advisory boards of the Amazon Aid Foundation, Environmental Health Council, OroEco, and the UNEP PlanetGold programme. In 2009, the USEPA awarded Luis the agency’s highest award, the EPA’s Gold Medal for Outstanding Service, for his work on the dynamics of mercury in the Amazon Basin.a research ecologist at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, and is the director of the Carnegie Amazon Mercury Project (CAMEP), a multi-institution research initiative that examines the impacts of artisanal gold mining, mercury contamination and deforestation on natural and human ecosystems in the Peruvian Amazon. His research focuses on improving understanding of the global mercury cycle, particularly emissions from the artisanal gold mining sector, and its regional and global effects on forests, ecosystems and human populations.
Dr. Silman is a Professor of Biology. His work centers on understanding biodiversity distribution and the response of forests ecosystems to past and future climate and land use changes.
His current projects also address Andean and Amazonian carbon cycles and biodiversity controls for use in innovative, private- and public-sector, ecosystem services projects that change land use by generating revenue for conservation and creating economic and social value for local participants.
He has 20 years of experience in the Andes and Amazon and is coordinator and founding member of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group. Silman has authored 56 papers and received 16 grants totaling $2.2M.
Dr Miles Silman’s association with the Amazon Aid Foundation runs deep. Miles has been a constant supporter since its inception and has assisted the organization with his expertise and knowledge of the Amazon. Mile’s was a primary consultant for the documentary Amazon Gold and was critical for helping promote and create our Acre Care donation platform.
Miles is an Associate Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability at Wake Forest University. “My primary interests are community composition and dynamics of Andean and Amazonian tree communities in both space and time. The lab’s current research focuses on combining modern- and paleo-ecology to understand tree distributions and plant-climate relationships in the Andes and Amazon. The work is focused on the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes and the adjacent Amazonian plain, with a particular emphasis in distributions along environmental gradients, be they in space or time, and includes both empirical work and modeling.”
Thomas E. Lovejoy is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. Lovejoy, a tropical biologist and conservation biologist, has worked in the Amazon of Brazil since 1965. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in biology from Yale University.
From 1973 to 1987 he directed the conservation program at World Wildlife Fund-U.S., and from 1987 to 1998 he served as Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and in 1994 became Counselor to the Secretary for Biodiversity and Environmental Affairs. From 1999 to 2002, he served as chief biodiversity adviser to the President of the World Bank. In 2010 and 2011, he served as Chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sustainability for the Inter-American Development Bank. He is Senior Adviser to the President of the United Nations Foundation, chair of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and is past president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, past chairman of the United States Man and Biosphere Program, and past president of the Society for Conservation Biology.
Thomas Lovejoy developed the debt-for-nature swaps, in which environmental groups purchase shaky foreign debt on the secondary market at the market rate, which is considerably discounted, and then convert this debt at its face value into the local currency to purchase biologically sensitive tracts of land in the debtor nation for purposes of environmental protection. Critics of the ‘debt-for-nature’ schemes, such as National Center for Public Policy Research, which distributes a wide variety of materials consistently justifying corporate freedom and environmental deregulation, aver that plans deprive developing nations of the extractable raw resources that are currently essential to further economic development. Economic stagnation and local resentment of “Yankee imperialism” can result, they warn. In reality, no debt-for-nature swap occurs without the approval of the country in question.
Thomas Lovejoy has also supported the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market-based mechanisms to protect tropical forests. Lovejoy played a central role in the establishment of conservation biology, by initiating the idea and planning with B. A. Wilcox in June 1978 for The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology, that was held in La Jolla, in September 1978. The proceedings, introduced conservation biology to the scientific community. Lovejoy serves on many scientific and conservation boards and advisory groups, is the author of numerous articles and books. As often mis-associated, he is not the founder but served as an advisor in the early days of the public television series NATURE, which he’s no longer part of the creative team.
He has served in an official capacity in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations.
Lovejoy predicted in 1980 (see quote below), that 10–20 percent of all species on earth would have gone extinct by the year 2020. In 2001, Lovejoy was the recipient of the University of Southern California’s Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. Thomas Lovejoy has been granted the 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category (ex aequo with William F. Laurance). In 2004, a new wasp species that acts as a parasite on butterfly larvae was discovered on the Pacific slope of the Talamanca mountain range in Costa Rica by Ronald Zúñiga, a specialist in bees, wasps and ants at the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio). INBio named the species polycyrtus lovejoyi in honor of Thomas Lovejoy for his contributions in the world of biodiversity and support for INBio.
On October 31, 2012, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy was awarded the Blue Planet Prize for being “the first scientist to academically clarify how humans are causing habitat fragmentation and pushing biological diversity towards crisis.” He has served on the Board of Directors since 2009 for the Amazon Conservation Association, whose mission is to conserve the biological diversity of the Amazon. He is also on the Board of Directors for Population Action International.
Julian Freeman is the operations coordinator for Amazon Aid Foundation and has worked in the similar field for the last 3 years, most recently with the Charlottesville based company CoConstruct. In her downtime she loves hiking, mountain biking and playing with her two dogs.
Susan Wheeler is a responsible jewelry advocate, she works to bring together people across the global jewelry supply chain to participate equally within the jewelry industry. As founder of The Responsible Jewelry Transformative, she works on the mission of uniting and transforming the jewelry industry around responsible practices so that it may help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Susan works through education, initiatives and community. She brings to the Clean Gold Campaign a passion for collaboration and outreach. Susan is also a jewelry designer who uses her jewelry to highlight jewelry industry initiatives and positive narratives from miners and laborers whose work, community and environments are integral to her jewelry creation.
Charles Lyons is a journalist, filmmaker, and professor. He’s written more than a dozen articles for The New York Times, including about the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon and about suicides among the Guarani in the southwest of Brazil. He’s made short films on human rights and environmental issues for the United Nations – in Brazil, Japan, and India; and produced a series on climate change for and with PBS NewsHour. Prior to that, he wrote and produced for ABC News and was a staff writer for Variety. Lyons, who holds a doctorate in theater and film studies from Columbia University, is author of the book, The New Censors: Movies and the Culture Wars. He’s taught film classes at Yale, Columbia, UCLA, and Savannah School of Art & Design.
Charlie has worked extensively at the intersection of environmental and social issues in Latin America. In conjunction with his position at Amazon Aid, he is a Program Manager for the environmental health non-profit Pure Earth, where he leads a project in the Peruvian Amazon helping artisanal gold miners reduce mercury-use and restore degraded mining areas. Through this work, Charlie traveled to Madre de Dios, Peru in February 2019 to assist with reforestation and learn firsthand about the challenges and marvels of the Amazon Basin.
Charlie holds a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Columbia University. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, hiking and playing soccer. Born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, he is thrilled to be working at the local and global level to protect the diversity of the Amazon.
Ben is a writer and designer with more than ten years experience in the nonprofit sector. Ben holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. He previously served as Director of Communications for Madison House, the student volunteer center at the University of Virginia.
Communications Strategy Consultant, “River of Gold”
Kathleen is an experienced Communications Strategist working in the human rights sector across issues such as global health, international anti-genocide efforts, poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and education reform, among others.
She works with for profit and nonprofit organizations to design and execute human rights and social impact campaigns aimed at alleviating human suffering and uplifting the dignity of every human being. She develops social media strategies, sets goals and builds campaign content plans in service of building awareness about issues, mobilizing people toward advocacy, and arming them to take action in support of these goals. She has worked on several film impact campaigns including The Promise, Bending the Arc, The Heart of Nuba, Birthright: A War Story, Cries from Syria, and Intent to Destroy.
She has a Master’s Degree in Communication Management from University of Southern California and Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and World Politics from Vanderbilt University.
Jessie Nagel is a communications specialist who brings decades of experience along with a passion for the environment, sustainability, and the arts, to her work as Chief Strategist with Amazon Aid Foundation. Nagel is the co-founder of communications agency Hype,
which offers public relations, marketing, and social media services to creative content providers in entertainment as well as select non-profit and independent business clients.
As the Chair of the Care Committee for the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), Nagel helped create the organization’s Sustainable Production Guidelines. She also helped develop and launch Green The Bid, an initiative aimed at shifting the
production industry to zero-waste, carbon neutral, sustainable and regenerative practices, and is a founding member of the professional organization Women In Animation. Nagel holds a B.A. in Film with a minor in Fine Arts and Anthropology from San Francisco
Christina T Miller is a sustainable jewelry specialist who encourages leadership in positive social change and environmental protection. First trained as an artist, she brings creative problem solving to her work on gold supply chains, jewelry, and community organizing for Amazon Aid Foundation. Miller is the founder and lead consultant of Christina T. Miller Sustainable Jewelry Consulting and provides strategy, guidance, and impact measurement services to clients including jewelry brands and not-for-profits.
As co-founder and former director of Ethical Metalsmiths, Miller worked to create a community of individuals committed to responsible materials sourcing by raising awareness of problems needing attention and working to address them. In 2018 she co-launched Better Without Mercury / Mejor Sin Mercurio, a mercury cleanup and site restoration project at the Gualconda gold mine in Colombia with the mine manager, Rolberto Alvarez. Miller holds a MFA in jewelry and metalsmithing from East Carolina University.
Bonnie Abaunza has dedicated her life to humanitarian work, human rights and social justice advocacy. Through the Abaunza Group she works closely with filmmakers, artists, production companies, distributors and non-governmental organizations to develop and execute social impact campaigns for films and documentaries. Bonnie’s work has addressed myriad human rights and civil rights issues as she has brought hard-hitting campaigns and major celebrity engagement to issues as diverse as child slavery, campus sexual assault, human trafficking, genocide, environmental justice, girls education, food safety and animal rights.
Her campaigns have moved the needle on critical issues including genocide awareness with the Hotel Rwanda campaign, conflict diamonds with Blood Diamond, abuses by the food industry with Food, Inc., campus sexual assault with The Hunting Ground, online sex trafficking with I Am Jane Doe, animal rescue with Harry and Snowman, the plight of refugees with Cries From Syria and girls’ education with The Breadwinner. Bonnie designed and executed the social impact campaigns for the feature film The Promise by Oscar winner Terry George, and the documentary Intent to Destroy, both about the Armenian genocide. Presently, she is running the impact campaigns for The Heart of Nuba, Birthright: A War Story, River of Gold about illicit and unregulated gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon, and the upcoming documentary Cracked Up. She is a consultant to National Women’s Law Center. She has worked on over 30 campaigns, with 14 of the films being nominated for numerous awards, including Oscar and Emmy Awards.
Bonnie spearheaded the campaign on Diane Warren and Lady Gaga’s song Til it Happens to You from The Hunting Ground’s soundtrack. The song was nominated for an Oscar and won an Emmy. Lady Gaga performed the song at the 2016 Oscars. The music video has been viewed over 42 million times and has been embraced as the anthem for the movement to end sexual assault on college campuses.
As a consultant for the United Nations agency, the International Labour Organization, she assisted with outreach to the entertainment community. She launched the ILO’s artist engagement program, Artworks (http://www.iloartworks.org) and spearheaded their End Slavery Now , 50 for Freedom, and Red Card to Child Labour campaigns.
From 2009-2014, Bonnie led the Special Projects & Philanthropy division for Academy Award winning composer, Hans Zimmer. Her initiatives included raising humanitarian aid for Haiti, Pakistan and Japan for International Medical Corps, and working with Madeleine Albright and the National Democratic Institute to advocate for the disenfranchised Romani people in Europe. She launched a successful online advocacy effort with Elizabeth Warren for passage of the Dodd-Frank Bill and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Prior to joining Hans Zimmer’s company in 2009, Bonnie served as Vice President, Social Action and Advocacy at Participant Media, where she developed social action campaigns to promote the documentaries and feature films produced by Participant Media. From 2001 to 2007 she served as Director of the Artists for Amnesty program for Amnesty International from 2001 to 2007, raising Amnesty’s profile in the entertainment industry and the visibility of human rights campaigns with the public. She co-produced four film festivals, four Academy Awards viewing parties to benefit Amnesty, produced quarterly entertainment industry salons and more than 50 feature and documentary screening events, fundraisers and art exhibits. She worked on numerous high profile campaigns including human trafficking and slavery, ending rape as a tool of war, rehabilitation of child soldiers, justice for the murdered women of Juarez, ending small arms trafficking, protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and other global issues.
Artists for Amnesty ambassadors and supporters included: Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Nicolas Cage, Halle Berry, Mira Sorvino, Patrick Stewart, Benicio del Toro, Don Cheadle, Leonardo diCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou, Ryan Gosling, Oliver Stone, Hans Zimmer, Paul Greengrass, America Ferrera, Charlize Theron, Tom Morello, Gregory Nava, Patricia Arquette, Yoko Ono, Geoffrey Rush, Phillip Noyce, Martin Sheen, Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson and others.
Her Artists for Amnesty events were covered by the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, London Telegraph, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, TIME, People Magazine, US weekly, Variety, Billboard, Hollywood Reporter and international publications and news networks.
Bonnie has received commendations for her human rights work from the United States Congress and from the City of Los Angeles. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization, Unlikely Heroes, Women in Leadership Award from the City of West Hollywood, Global Champion Award from the International Medical Corps., KCET’s Local Hero/Hispanic Heritage Award, and was named Goodwill Ambassador to the Government of East Timor (appointed by President and Nobel Peace Laureate, Jose Ramos-Horta). She is a Senior Non-Resident Fellow for Enough Project, Board member of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Chairman of the Advisory Board of thecommunity.com’s Human Rights Campaign, Board member, Not On Our Watch and Board member of the Mgrublian Human Rights Center.
Sarah duPont is an award-winning humanitarian, educator and filmmaker and is a vocal advocate of ecological preservation. As the President and Founder of the Amazon Aid Foundation, Sarah works with Neotropical scientists to study Amazonian biodiversity with an eye toward educating the public and introducing cutting-edge conservation practices and on the ground solutions to the region. Sarah is a producer and co-director of the award winning film River of Gold and the short documentary Mercury Uprising, both films about illicit and unregulated gold mining in the Amazon Rainforest. Her other film projects include producing the award-winning Kids Against Malaria music video P.S.A., a transmedia program to promote treatment and prevention for malaria in Africa and the Anthem for the Amazon music video, a video with the voices of 500 children from around the world singing to protect the Amazon.
Sarah has been engaged in educational innovation for 25 years, creating projects both locally and globally. She works to build cross disciplinary curriculum that support core subjects, including middle and high school STEAM curriculum built around the documentary River of Gold. In the fall of 2010, Sarah, along with Gigi Hancock, wife of legendary jazz great, Herbie Hancock, co–founded CIAMO, an arts and music school based in Benin, Africa. Sarah has had both past and present board experience, serving on the following boards: University of Virginia Children’s Medical Center, the University of Virginia Council for the Arts, the Amazon Conservation Association, the Upton Foundation, Rachel’s Network, the Wake Forest University’s Board of Visitors, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and the D.C. Environmental Film Festival. She has been the recipient of the Charlottesville Village Award, the Dorothy Corwin Spirit of Life Award, the Global Syndicate Humanitarian Award, Worldwide Children’s Foundation of New York’s Humanitarian Award, the Hawaii International Film Festival’s Humanitarian Award, and the Pongo Award.