2013 Participants

Sarah Wells

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sarah manages the Landscape Conservation Program at the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, an accredited land trust. The Landscape Conservation Program focuses on biodiversity conservation by designing multi-landowner landscape-scale land protection projects.  She is also responsible for managing all initial landowner communication, including conservation project intake and assessment using our Geographic Information System (GIS).

Before joining Mount Grace in 2012, Sarah was the MassLIFT-AmeriCorps Regional Conservationist for 2 years with the North Quabbin Regional Landscape Partnership, where she was responsible for organizing the multi-partner/multi-landowner Quabbin to Wachusett (Q2W) Forest Legacy Project.  Sarah is a wildlife biologist and conservationist with five years of experience working on ecological restoration and land protection projects, and holds a B.S. degree in Natural Resources Studies with a minor in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation from UMass-Amherst.  Sarah is a native of Orange, MA.

Matthias Nevins

Matthias HeadshotI decided to major in Conservation Biology at St. Lawrence University after completing a semester long immersive program of study at Adirondack State Park in upstate New York. This program took an interdisciplinary approach to the study of “place” that could be applied to any region or community. Through the lenses of ecology, economy, land use, and community, I began to understand the notion of place as something that is highly political, social, historical, and dynamic. My commitment to this field was solidified after studying abroad in Kenya, where I gained an international perspective that is so critical to the discipline. Conservation biology, for me, is the study and application of this complex understanding of place, and most importantly it provides a framework for addressing pressing environmental issues present in today’s world. Questions surrounding the equitable distribution of natural resources and property rights, sustainable land use, and the formation of community are reoccurring and deeply important to me.

Most recently, through serving as a MassLIFT AmeriCorps Land Steward with the Hilltown Land Trust, I have been able to address these questions while working to build local capacity for better stewardship and management of protected areas in my seven-town service area. Along with: (1) private landowners who have protected their land with permanent deed restrictions, (2) municipal committees who maintain public trail networks, and (3) local community members committed to the cause of conservation, I have worked closely with the Hilltown Land Trust on a variety of conservation projects. I feel so lucky to be a part of this evolving conservation movement and look forward to participating in the Acadian Program.

Chelsea Brewer

Chelsea Brewer Headshot

I am currently a rising senior at Lycoming College, majoring in Ecology with minors in Environmental Science and Sustainability. My internship with the Clean Water Institute began in the spring of 2012. Since then, this opportunity has led to involvement in a wide array of projects including the Unassessed Waters Initiative through the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, West Branch Susquehanna monitoring, the Hellbender Habitat and Health Assessment, and multiple stream restoration projects in Lycoming Creek.

Through these projects, I have become very familiar with aquatic macroinvertebrates, electrofishing, rock and log structures, hellbender habitats, water chemistry, and have become PADI certified. I am also currently involved with the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, and the North-Central Pennsylvania Conservancy as the co-author of this year’s “Pulse of the Heartland” Annual Report, which includes interviewing project directors from each associated institution. As the president of Lycoming College’s  environmental club LEAF — i.e., Lycoming Environmental Awareness Foundation — I have been involved in various outdoor excursions including white-water rafting, kayaking, and post-flood river clean-ups, as well as events in celebration of Earth week and general awareness activities. This fall I will begin my second year in the Sustainability Office at Lycoming College. There, we are in charge of increasing environmental, social, and financial responsibility within the campus community. A few examples of our initiatives include reusable to-go containers for the cafeteria, the Recyclemania competition each spring, increased recycling awareness, and completing an annual audit.  After graduation, I do not have a specific job in mind. I have become increasingly passionate towards trout populations, water quality, and sustainability. I am not exactly sure where all of my training will take me, but passionate decisions have gotten me this far, so I am excited for future endeavors!

Silvio J Crespin

Silvio Picture

I was born in El Salvador (1985). I am a biologist and the Universidad de El Salvador is my alma mater (2009). Since 2011, I have been affiliated with the Laboratory of Conservation Biology at the Universidad de Chile, and I am currently finishing a master’s degree and beginning a doctorate — both in ecology and evolutionary biology. My research interests lie in biodiversity and conservation science, and how to effectively communicate findings to policy. In general, I research how the effects of different human activities affect the state of biological interactions. At present, I am specifically assessing the conservation status of the terrestrial ecosystems of El Salvador, using distinct factors to predict ecosystem collapse, and finally determining how land use change has altered the provision of ecosystem service values and measuring its importance relative to national income. Parallel to my studies, together with other emerging Salvadoran ecologists, I am forming the El Salvador Tropical Research Institute, with the goal of allowing the biological sciences to flourish and with the hope of initiating the practice of conservation easements in my country.

Andrea Buglione

Andrea BuglioneMy career goals have always been, in some way, tied to sustainable development. I discovered land conservation while studying City & Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, which inspired me to get involved in the MassLIFT (Land Initiative for Tomorrow) AmeriCorps program upon graduation. New England is a great place to study conservation because it deals with the question of how we accommodate an exponentially growing population while ensuring that forests and farmland remain intact. Combined with initiatives like economic development planning, conservation has the potential to bring vitality to rural and suburban regions. For example, compact residential design links conservation goals with community development. I hope to continue working to promote interdisciplinary organizational partnerships, and creative thinking necessary for conservation innovation.

Other stuff about me: Born and raised outside of Binghamton, NY. Attended Smith College in Northampton, MA (2005-2009), majored in Government and Environmental Science & Policy. Worked in various environmental non-profits and municipal planning departments. Attended the University of Pennsylvania for my Masters in City & Regional Planning (2010-2012). Currently living in beautiful Athol, MA.

Javier Fuentes


Javier has a background in Civil and Industrial Engineering from the Universidad Católica de Chile, where he graduated in 2006 with honors in the top 2% of his class. Prior to joining Patagonia Sur, he gain extensive experience in finance and investments working in the Investments Unit of Cuprum AFP, which  oversees $1.5 billion of equity investments assets. Previously, he was involved in the NGO “Un Techo para Chile” — i.e., “A Roof for Chile” —  developing financial models based on micro-finance for Chileans, adapting the methodology that Grameen Bank had developed earlier for Bangladesh.

Gabriela Paz Franco Payá 

Gabriela Franco_pic

In 2010, I graduated in Agricultural Engineering from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, with a specialization in plant sciences. Currently, I work as a Research Associate in the Department of Agrarian Economy, coordinating and generating proposals for water resource projects. In recent years, I have worked in the area of natural resources, specifically on water-related projects. Previously, I started my own company, where I gained valuable knowledge in the area of project management and coordination.

Brian Gordon

Brian_Gordon_PictureBorn in Baltimore, MD, and raised sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, I have always enjoyed the outdoors.  I’m curious about everything living, and prefer to spend my free time fishing, hunting, boating, hiking, and attempting to photograph wildlife.  Before moving away to college in Pennsylvania, I used to raise and sell pet birds and fish, which helped me develop a deep appreciation for life and its fragility.  This appreciation quickly merged with my activity on the Bay, and repeated observations of pollution and unhealthy fish.  As a result, I became interested in conservation at a young age, and my subsequent fishing and hunting experiences led me to greatly respect the science and effort that go into effective governmental policy and regulations.  With this background, it is no surprise that I became a Biology major focusing on Ecology at Lycoming College… or that I joined L.E.A.F. (Lycoming’s Environmental Awareness Foundation).  This winter, I worked to assess the health of a stream bordering agricultural land after best management practices were applied.  I’m stilling running tests and processing data, but the field and chemistry work were my first real experience with research related to my major, and I enjoyed the experience immensely.  This summer, I will be working with Eastern Hellbenders, capturing and tagging wild trout specimens to determine health and distribution of populations.

I love wildlife and am passionate about making sure it will remain for future generations to enjoy.  I am particularly interested in conservation, canids, avians, amphibians, forestry, and aquatic environments.  Human impacts on the environment around us and the world at large has been too destructive by far.  If there is any way that my career can alleviate some of the damage that we have accumulated over hundreds of years, I will consider my life a success.

Abidas Aliana Ash

Abidas PictureMy name is Abidas Aliana Ash. I am 20 years old and am the second to the last child of seven children. I am the first and my little sister is the second one to get an education. My older brothers and sister were only able to finish primary school, and had to look for a job because my parents did not have a job that provided enough income for them to send my brothers and sisters to higher education. I am from San Pedro Columbia, Toledo District, Belize. I attended Toledo Community College, and completed all four academic years. Upon completing high school, I applied to attend college. I was accepted at the University of Belize at the Belmopan Campus in August 2010. The program that I have selected to study is Natural Resource Management. During the first two years, I was awarded the CXC Scholarship for academic performance. After finishing my Associates, I wanted to continue my studies, but my parents did not have enough money to send me back to school. That same year my sister was beginning high school, so the little income they made was used for my little sister’s education. My parents own a farm, and the vegetables and fruit that my Dad harvests and my Mom takes to the Punta Gorda market is how my parents earn money. Also, my Dad has a small business of making cacao chocolate and coffee that my Mom also sells at the market. The little that they sell is sufficient to give my little sister and me pocket money.

I chose to attend the Acadian Program because of the natural resource issues my community faces in and around my village. Also, my parents have taught us about the value of conservation.  After I receive my studies, I plan to work in the Toledo District with organizations that focus on conservation. During my spare time while going to school, I volunteer with the Environmental Research Institute. Also, I have been given the opportunity to attend an 8-month wildlife research techniques and avian field survey methods course.

My goals are to: (1) use my knowledge in my community to help solve environmental problems and assist my fellow friends that might not have had the opportunity to obtain a higher education; (2) continue my Dad’s business and promote ecotourism with the farm that he has established; and (3) use my knowledge and what I have learned in school to work within the natural resource management field. I believe in sharing ideas, cooperation, and participating in different activities that promote positive outcomes within one’s community. This would be a great help to myself and my parents, because it would reduce the cost and time that I would need to spend to pay back the amount of money I have borrowed for school. I would also like to further my education. Lately, there have been many issues arising in the Toledo District of Belize, and I hope that someday I will be able to contribute back to my community, and help my family who have been there for me all this time.

I am hard working, enthusiastic in what I do, and always ready to learn new skills that will help me in the future. The Acadian Program offers me the opportunity to learn new concepts and apply them to my community. Since my community is a developing community, I am eager to see how I can help in educating my fellow classmates and friends, and get people to better understand the natural environment.

Cory Trego


Early childhood trips to some of the nation’s most scenic and wild places fostered within me a deep respect for the natural world. Beautifully crafted natural wonders sculpted over millennia by complex environmental interactions never cease to leave me standing in awe. The peace and serenity found within the sprawling forests or upon the crests of lofty mountain peaks is absent from our fast-paced daily lives.  In high school, I developed an even deeper appreciation for the conservation of our natural treasures when I traveled to Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota and Canada to hike and canoe with my local Boy Scout troop.  My respect for natural ecological processes and my drive for preserving areas of wilderness for public enjoyment led me to pursue a degree in biology at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania, where I am a rising senior.  In addition to working with the Biology Department, I am also a Resident Advisor, the Treasurer of our fly fishing club, Flyco, and am a columnist for our school’s newspaper, the Lycourier. I enjoy spending my free time hiking the many trails that traverse the vast forests that lie just north of Williamsport.

I am currently working at the Clean Water Institute for my second consecutive summer under the direction of Dr. Mel Zimmerman . Through my work at CWI, I am able to spend time monitoring brook trout populations in some of the most pristine streams in the Pennsylvania Wilds.  We also work to monitor the success of best management practices (BMPs) on rural Lycoming farms, and track water conditions on the Susquehanna River. This past semester I also had the opportunity to intern in the Clean Water Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, where I assisted biologists with their inspections of industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Shamae Balona


My name is Shamae Balona and I am 21 years old. I was born on a cool night on August 22nd, 1991, in San Ignacio, Cayo, but grew up in Toledo, Belize. I currently live with my Mom, Dad and Sister. I started school when I was five years old. I attended Big Falls Primary School and graduated in 2004. Then I continued my studies at Toledo Community College, and successfully graduated in 2008. That same year, I decided to continue with my studies and attended the University of Belize and pursued my Associate’s Degree in Natural Resource Management (NRM).  I successfully completed my Associate’s Degree in 2010, and started to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in NRM that same year. Presently, I am looking forward to graduating on June 15th, and the next step will be to look for a job and pursue my Master’s Degree.

My favorite sports are soccer, volleyball, and basketball. When I don’t have anything to do, I love to surf the net, read the local newspapers, enjoy nature, and spend quality time with friends and family since life to me means friends and family with whom you share mutual trust. Also during my free time, I look forward to volunteering at the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), doing both terrestrial and marine activities. It’s always a great pleasure working with the TIDE staff and community members. I hope you have enjoyed reading my life story as much as I have enjoyed writing it for you!

Silja Morgana Ramírez Yela

Silja PictureI was born on the 18 of April in the year 1983 in Guatemala City, daughter of Edgar Augusto Ramirez Estrada and Silvia Janeth Yela Bocaletti. I began my studies in 1986, graduating with a Bachelor in Sciences and Letters (Diversified) in 2000 from the School American Training center CEA.  I began my university studies in 2001 at the University of the Valley of Guatemala, graduating in 2008 as a Biologist with a Bachaelleratus in Biology. My thesis was entitled “Presence of Diversity and Abundance of Fish in the Area of Multiple Use River Sarstoon and three of its affluents.”

I initiated my professional work in 2005, working with the University of San Carlos of Guatemala in a project titled “Fish of the Guatemalan Protected Areas (coastal areas and wetlands of the Pacific slope). In 2006, I joined a project called “The Lake Petén Itzá Scientific Drilling Project,” of which the results were presented in Germany. In 2006 I also participated in an internship for two months with the University of Salamanca in Nicaragua, focusing on the theme of conservation, ecology and statistics as applied to the fields of biology, agronomy, and forestry.

In 2006 I began working for the Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation– FUNDAECO — as a Technical Assistant at the Marine Coastal Chapter developing protocols for monitoring, reviewing documents, and training students and communities.  I received my Masters degree in Environmental Studies focused on community development at the University of the Valley of Guatemala, graduating in 2011 with the approval of the thesis entitled “Management Plan of the Regional Park Chiclera Mountain.”

In 2009 I worked with FUNDAECO as a marine and biological research coordinator, developing proposals (most being approved by donors), reviewing operating plans, coordinating work teams, developing master plans, and training and coordinating the Coastal Marine Chapter. In 2010, I completed a diploma in risk management, with a project on solid waste in the region of Amatitlán. In 2011, I traveled to South Korea to participate in a course o oceanography and hydrography, thus receiving a certificate of completion.


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