US ECOLIFE Team

BILL TOONE

BILL TOONE

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & FOUNDER - BTOONE@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Bill always dreamed of being an ornithologist and working for the Zoological Society of San Diego.  He started applying for jobs when he was 8 years old.  Hired to pick up trash when he was 16, Bill spent his time at work quietly observing birds and their behavior.  He left to study causes of reproductive failure in endangered birds.  In 1979, Bill graduated with a master’s degree from the University of California where his work focused on the reproductive behavior of the highly endangered California condor. He was hired by the Zoological Society of San Diego and was simultaneously appointed to the federally mandated California Condor Recovery Team

After rising through the ranks to the level of Curator of Birds, Bill became disillusioned by traditional efforts in conservation.  He was allowed to launch a new division in Applied Conservation and ultimately left the zoo as the Director of Applied Conservation Programs.  In each of these positions he traveled extensively and ultimately worked in over 30 countries including Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Paraguay, Cameroon and Madagascar.  He worked with animal species from the birds of paradise, iguanas, Chacoan peccaries, giant armadillos, elephants and gorillas.

Through all this work there seemed to be an association between impoverished resources and impoverished people.  Hoping to find a more successful path in conservation Bill co-founded ECOLIFE Conservation in 2003. In 2008, Bill resigned from the zoo to devote full-time effort to seeing ECOLIFE succeed. 

ANNE MIDDLETON

ANNE MIDDLETON

OPERATIONS DIRECTOR - AMIDDLETON@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Anne Middleton joined the ECOLIFE team as Director of Operations in August, 2017. She oversees staff and helps develop and implement ECOLIFE’s projects at home and abroad.

Originally from Montana, Anne moved to San Diego in 2014 from Cameroon, after having finished a contract with Taylor Guitars on legal and sustainable ebony wood procurement for guitar manufacturing. In Cameroon, she managed multiple projects including supply chain transparency, raw materials supply, and community, public and governmental relations at local and international levels. In San Diego she was also employed by Sustainability Matters, a local greenbuild firm, and the San Diego County Water Authority.

Prior to her tenure in Cameroon, she worked for a non-profit organization in Washington DC, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), whose focus is to investigate international wildlife crime and lobby for legislative solutions. EIA’s investigations in Madagascar led to the first criminal case for the amended U.S. Lacey Act, a ban on trade in illegal wood.

Anne has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Oberlin College and a master’s degree of Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara. Having non-profit, public, and private sector experience, Anne brings a unique set of skills to the team at ECOLIFE. In her free time she enjoys cooking, taking her dog to the beach, and playing guitar.

BARBARA FIORINA

BARBARA FIORINA

DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT BFIORINA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Barbara Fiorina earned her degree in Park and Recreation Administration from Illinois State University. She immediately was hired at an Illinois state park and built on that experience as she moved into positions through her career at the YWCA, Visiting Nurses, Epilepsy Society, American Red Cross, StayWell, and Meals on Wheels.

Barb and her family made their way from Illinois, to Ohio, and finally San Diego. “On my first visit to find a home here I was struck by the beautiful plants, the landscape, and above all, the warmth of this community. Years later, I still appreciate the beauty of California and feel happy and blessed that San Diego is our home. The majority of my career has been spent in the non-profit arena. Working for an organization with a philanthropic mission that changes lives is tremendously rewarding. It shapes your life and you know that you are making a contribution. The outdoors and the environment have always been important to me so it is an honor to work at ECOLIFE. We not only make a difference here in San Diego but throughout the world.”

When Barb is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, gardening, and taking care of her adorable puppy, Domino.

CONNOR LEONE

CONNOR LEONE

AQUAPONICS EDUCATION COORDINATOR - CLEONE@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Connor obtained his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science at California State University San Marcos. At ECOLIFE, Connor is responsible for maintaining and building our ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kits while also providing a variety of assistance to teachers involved in ECOLIFE’s education program. He is passionate about bringing awareness to environmental challenges through education and hopes to inspire more synergetic relationships between humanity and the natural world.
MARTIN NIWINSKI

MARTIN NIWINSKI

AQUAPONICS TECHNICIAN MNIWINSKI@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Martin is a San Diego native who earned his BA in Sustainability from San Diego State University. Soon after, he built his first aquaponics system and discovered his passion for growing. Throughout his career he has helped design, build, maintain, and consult on a variety of systems from backyard to commercial. Martin strives to be on the cutting edge of aquaponic innovation and is dedicated to teaching others how to grow nutrient dense food in a sustainable manner.

His other interests include horticulture, sustainable design, and food production technology. In his free time, Martin enjoys traveling, cooking, playing music, and working on his food forest where he grows over 50 kinds of rare fruit.

CHRIS GOERING

CHRIS GOERING

COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR - CGOERING@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Originally from Orange County, Chris moved to San Diego where he earned a BA in Sustainability at San Diego State University. Throughout his collegiate experience, he was deeply involved with the Enviro-Business Society (e3) where he developed a passion for sustainable urban agriculture and environmental education. As an intern Chris assisted with educational programming and aquaponic maintenance, where he sparked interest in STEM and sustainability for thousands of students.

As Community Outreach Coordinator, he represents ECOLIFE within the community to foster mutually beneficial relationships, broaden collaborative partnerships, and coordinate volunteers.

Chris’s passion for ECOLIFE stems from understanding the importance and potential of human interaction within environmental relations. He believes that the most effective environmental actions are a result of influencing the human-environment dynamic relationship.

When he’s not working on school or ECOLIFE you can find him at a farmer’s market, in waves, or on a mountain. Chris holds his family, the earth, and mindfulness as his core values and wishes to share that with his community.

LINN SPLANE

LINN SPLANE

MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR - LSPLANE@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Linn is a Southern California native and a grad student studying Conservation Biology. She earned her bachelor’s in Anthropology at UCLA, where she alternated between taking classes on campus and working on archaeological digs. Linn is studying under Miami University and the researchers at San Diego Zoo Global, and is concentrating her work on resilience in social-ecological systems.  She has long harbored a passion for making the sciences accessible to the general public, and has several years’ experience creating videos for science and innovation. Her overall aim in outreach is to appeal to audiences resistant to scientific thinking and to promote a shift in society’s perception of humanity’s relationship with the environment.  Linn‘s other interests include dancing, Golden Age films, archery, piano, and travel.

MATTHEW VAN SCHALKWYK

MATTHEW VAN SCHALKWYK

RESEARCH CONSULTANT - MSCHALKWYK@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Matthew grew up in Madagascar, where he attended a small international school before moving to California in 2014 to study biological anthropology at UCSD. During his undergraduate studies, he minored in Earth Sciences and performed original research on Early Bronze Age stone tools from the Levant. Matthew is applying to PhD programs in paleoanthropology and hopes to return to Madagascar to study early human settlements on the island. At ECOLIFE, Matthew researches and creates in-depth profiles about the cultures we work with. Matthew’s hobbies include taking care of his pug Charlemagne, going to the beach, playing spikeball with his friends, drawing, reading, and watching shows and movies.

Mexico ECOLIFE Team

ALEJANDRO TAVERA

ALEJANDRO TAVERA

MEXICO PROGRAM MANAGER - ATAVERA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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 Alejandro is from Morelia, Michoacán, México, graduated in 2009 from the bachelor in Industrial Design, at UANL. Alejandro has worked in different parts and areas, but his specialty is the management of ecotechnological projects and programs, as well as ecodesign, where he has been able to explore and generate products such as improved wood cook stoves and efficient kilns for pottery and artisana brick production. Alejandro seeks to improve himself day after day, he is motivated to improve the situation in his country and be a changemaker.

Alejandro considers his work as a great opportunity to create job opportunities for others and support people, environment and public health, working on their mindset, and is an avid enthusiast of organization and planning.

Alejandro’s interests are traveling, cooking and gastronomy, playing sports such as soccer, basketball or rugby, reading, designing and building furniture.

MARÍA DE LA LUZ VALENCIA SÁNCHEZ

MARÍA DE LA LUZ VALENCIA SÁNCHEZ

PROMOTION COORDINATOR - LVALENCIA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Luz is from Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, México; and graduated in Engineering in Community Development from the Higher Technological Institute of Coalcomán. Currently it is developed within ECOLIFE in the position of  Promotion Coordinator. Her job is to coordinate the promoters of the stoves and supervise that the possible beneficiaries comply with the necessary requirements for the installation.

Working at ECOLIFE means a space where she can learn, grow, but above all leave a legacy as a changemaker. She loves taking care of the environment, the health of the people, generating work for the communities where she works and having the opportunity to travel, to know places and to know new people.

Luz is interested in improving herself in all aspects of her life, offering the best of her every day, both in the work and personal aspects. She likes to listen to music, visit new places and learn its gastronomy, go to the movies, ride her bicycle, and sometimes to play board games and volleyball.

ADRIÁN CATANA GARCÍA

ADRIÁN CATANA GARCÍA

HEAD OF SUPPLIES AND CONSTRUCTION - ACATANA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Adrián is originally from Zitácuaro, Michoacán, México; and graduated in Bachelor of Sustainable Development from the Intercultural University of the State of Mexico. His next academic goal is to pursue a master’s degree in Sustainability. He is currently working within ECOLIFE as Head of the Supplies and Construction Department.

His job is to coordinate all the elements and processes that are carried out for the construction of Patsari stovesd in the communities of the beneficiaries. He always had the interest in collaborating with the care of the environment and the health of the people, the projects that are carried out within ECOLIFE go hand in hand with these two actions. He is interested in perfecting the work done by ECOLIFE in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve; and in generating sources of employment in rural localities and native peoples.

Adrián likes to travel, go to the movies, rodeos, and dances. He also has many hobbies, including listening to music, watching soccer games, reading, playing the guitar and playing with his pets.

EDUARDO RAMÍREZ MENDOZA

EDUARDO RAMÍREZ MENDOZA

CONSTRUCTION COORDINATOR

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Eduardo is from Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico; and graduated in the Degree in Environmental Sciences with an area of ​​deepening in Ecotechnology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. His next academic goal is to pursue a master’s degree in energy efficiency in construction, industry and transport. Currently it is developed within ECOLIFE in the coordination of the Department of Supplies and Construction.

His inclination to collaborate in ECOLIFE arises from his academic training and interest in solving environmental problems. It seems very important and exciting to him how the good application and use of a technology, however simple it is, can be the point of union that allows avoiding or attacking a set of economic, social and environmental problems, improving the quality of life of the people and the conservation of natural resources. This organization allows him to explore this type of strategy more thoroughly.

Eduardo has always led a life full of sports, but for a few years, he has dedicated himself completely to practicing Triathlon. He likes to travel, be outdoors, go out with his friends, and go to the gym.

BRENDA LOURDES PINEDA MENDOZA

BRENDA LOURDES PINEDA MENDOZA

PROMOTION AND MONITORING OFFICER - BPINEDA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Brenda is originally from Tacámbaro, Michoacán, México; and graduated in the Degree in Environmental Sciences with an area of ​​deepening in Ecotechnology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

She made her professional internships at ECOLIFE and since then he has been part of the organization. Currently, she develops the post of Promotion and Monitoring Officer, her job is to promote the use and acquisition of Patsari stoves, as well as to obtain the geolocation of each one of them to later carry out studies of adoption and impact of their use in the communities. She likes ECOLIFE because it is a way to support Mexicans, protect the environment, and help empower women. She is interested in promoting awareness regarding the care of the environment through ecotechnologies and other friendly alternatives to nature.

Among her tastes are practicing several sports, mainly soccer and rugby. She enjoys spending time with her family since it is very important to her.

AHTZIRI ARREOLA MARTÍNEZ

AHTZIRI ARREOLA MARTÍNEZ

EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS COORDINATOR AMARTINEZ@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Ahtziri is a grad student of environmental science from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) Campus, Morelia. Currently, she works in the Education Department of ECOLIFE. She’s also working on her bachelor’s thesis, “Analysis of the abundance variations of atmospheric pollen on the island of Tenerife, Spain between 2007 and 2015; Implications for human health.” She would like to do a master’s degree in applied ecological science, learn about the dissemination of science to communities and stakeholders, and learn about the collaboration between people from different areas of expertise. She enjoys sports–especially swimming–photography, movies, museums, travel, sharing good moments with friends, dancing, meeting new people, and studying different cultures.
BARBARA ESCOBEDO

BARBARA ESCOBEDO

EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS COORDINATOR BESCOBEDO@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Bárbara was born in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. She is an environmental biologist with a degree from UAM-Lerma, in the State of Mexico, with an emphasis on conservation and biodiversity. During her career, she has come to appreciate and understand that many of the efforts to minimize habitat loss and to save native species get lost in translation due to lack of knowledge or education, and/or the lack of empathy in the societies that coexist within these fragile ecosystems. This is one of the main reasons she loves working with ECOLIFE, because through their educational programs, she can teach what she knows about the services that nature can provide, and she gets kids excited and enthused to protect their environment so they, too, can responsibly enjoy the resources. She would like to finish a master’s degree related to the effect of human activity on the behavior of wild mammals. In her free time, she loves to visit with friends and family, play with her dogs, read novels, swim and practice rugby.
FRANCISCO CATANA

FRANCISCO CATANA

FIELD OPERATIONS FCATANA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Francisco Javier Catana Garcia, “Paco,” is 28 years old and was born in Heroica Zitacuaro, Michoacán. He currently also works in the sustainable development sector with Agriculture and Natural Resources Management through the Universidad Intercultural Indígena del Estado de Michoacán (UIIM). He is an environmentalist and tries to be sensitive with nature while striving to positively impact ecosystems. He has a great interest in anything related to social well-being, especially when it relates to anything near his hometown, of which he is very proud. He is always conscious of the needs in these closed communities. Francisco has a special affliction for automatic vehicles.
ANA PAOLA RAMIREZ

ANA PAOLA RAMIREZ

MEDIA DEPLOYER - PRAMIREZ@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Paola is native of Morelia Michoacán, Mexico and graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from the University Vasco de Quiroga. At ECOLIFE, Paola is responsible for social media, graphic design, and content for games and educational materials. To Paola, working at ECOLIFE means doing something good for Mexico that she loves. Paola enjoys spending her free time with her dogs, reading, art, being in the nature, learning, and being with her family. She also enjoys rugby and cycling in the city.

Paola es nacida en Morelia Michoacan, Mexico y es graduada de la Universidad Vasco de Quiroga, donde estudio diseno grafico. En ECOLIFE, Paola es responsable por crear y manejar las redes sociales y tambien crear los materiales que se requieren para las actividades con el equipo de educacion. Trabajar en ECOLIFE se infica algo muy especial porque le da la oportunidad de crear algo bueno para el Mexico que ella ama. Le encanta estar con su familia y sus perros, estar en la naturaleza, leer, y practicar arte. Disfruta su tiempo cuando juega rugby, o cuando maneja su bicicleta por la ciudad de Mexico.

Uganda ECOLIFE Team

SIMON KWIKIRIZA

SIMON KWIKIRIZA

UGANDA PROGRAM COORDINATOR - SKWIKIRIZA@ECOLIFECONSERVATION.ORG

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Simon grew up in the Kigezi hills of Uganda with his thirteen siblings. After losing his father at a young age, Simon had to leave school to work but always carried a passion for the field of geography. His interest in geography led him to work in conservation along the edge of the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, protecting the forest’s gorilla population from human diseases through public health services and wildlife health monitoring. Simon began working for ECOLIFE in 2013 and is optimistic about the future of his community.
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