Above photo courtesy of PPCN Graduate Claire Hood. 
Krista Heiner- Picture.jpg

PPCN (2013 MS/MPP)

Krista is currently working as  Program Associate at EcoAgriculture Partners (www.ecoagriculture.org), a small non-profit based in Washington, DC that promotes the integrated management of agricultural landscapes. She provides research, analysis, and coordination support primarily to EcoAgriculture's Policy program and the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature (www.landscapes.ecoagriculture.org) working groups on policy and finance. Much of her current work focuses on landscapes in East Africa. 

Recent Conservation Experience: Krista was on a Fulbright Fellowship during the 2011-2012 school years where she studied local natural resource management agreements in Mali and Senegal. She worked with Professor Moussa Djiré at the Groupe d’Etude et Recherche en Sociologie et Droit Appliqué (GERSDA) at the University of Bamako and Dr. Papa Faye at the Initiative Prospective Agricole Rurale (IPAR) in Dakar, Senegal. Krista conducted informal and semi-structured interviews in rural villages, met with representatives of the local and national governments, and collaborated with researchers in both Bamako and Dakar.

Also while in the CONS program Krista has had internships with the Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) at the USAID mission in Kinshasa, DRC (summer 2011) where she researched and drafted the performance management plan for the third phase of the CARPE program, and the Office of West African Affairs at the USAID office in Washington, DC (summer 2010) where among other activities she helped draft briefing materials for the African Union Summit.

Pre-CONS Experience: Krista graduated from Davidson College in 2006 with a major in biology. She studied abroad for a semester in Tanzania, and this is when she really became interested in the complex relationship between the protecting the environment and promoting development.

After college Krista became a Peace Corps volunteer, stationed in Senegal from 2006-2008. She worked with several villages around Djoudj National Park (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to help promote ecotourism. She also worked with local business owners to improve basic business management skills, eco-guides to improve their tour guide services, and women’s groups to develop new products to sell at their artisanal shop. In addition to her Peace Corps experience, Krista has also had several field biology positions including studying sage brush song birds in Grand Teton National Park and noxious weeds near Glacier National Park.

Krista's Take on the CONS Program: "The flexibility and interdisciplinary nature of the CONS program was a huge asset for me! I was able to take classes in anthropology, economics, public policy, ecology, and geography to really be able to understand an issue from diverse view points. The flexibility of the program allowed me to really tailor the classes I took to my particular interests even as they changed and evolved."

Margot Bass, CONS MS

Current Status: 

Knowledge from the CONS curriculum and previous workexperiences in Ecuador and Washington, DC melded for Margot, and in 2003, during her second year of graduate school, she founded the non-profit Finding Species. Finding Species' mission is to conserve biodiversity, preserve cultural heritages, and sustain human well-being by promoting a healthy environment for all. Finding Species has created a unique, "4-cornerstone" approach to reaching these large-scale goals. The organization creates standardized photographs of rare, endangered, new, and invasive species and their habitats; synthesizes scientific information; identifies new technologies to present biodiversity information; and brings together interdisciplinary partnerships. Using these tools, they build conservation, education, and science initiatives.

Several CONS problem-solving students have worked for Finding Species since its inception. In the fall of 2005, Mark Buntaine, Nima Raghunathan, and Benjamin Skolnik worked with Margot to produce the document Stakeholder Commitment, Technology, and Conservation Financing: Solutions to Minimize Impacts of Oil Development at Yasuni National Park, Ecuador. The report helped Finding Species successfully build the case for Ecuador to stop a new oil access road from being built into Yasuní by Petrobras. It also played a formative role in the ongoing Yasuni-ITT Initiative, a carbon-emissions-avoidance project led by the Government of Ecuador and the United Nations. The Initiative seeks to raise funds for Ecuador for forest conservation and sustainable development; in return, the major oil reserves that underlie Yasuni National Park would remain untapped. In the fall of 2008, another CONS problem-solving team joined Finding Species. Jackie Carroll, Alexis Hollinger, Mary Ellen Kustin, and Volha Roshchanka produced the report Principles and Strategies for Increasing Native Plant Use on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This report has helped Finding Species to establish priorities for US native plant project work and grant-writing.

The University of Maryland has been instrumental in shaping Finding Species' work in other ways. Finding Species photographers and botanists have been collaborating since 2007 with the University of Maryland's Department of Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), along with an inter-disciplinary team from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and Columbia University Department of Computer Science. Together, the institutions have developed the Leafsnap app, enabling iPhone and iPad users to rapidly identify plants (http://leafsnap.com/about/). Finding Species is employing its standardized methods to photo-document tree species, and these photographs are featured in the Leafsnap user interface. The team is now expanding the app to include trees of the entire Northeast. The app has been downloaded over 250,000 times, proving unexpectedly popular.

Conservation Background:

After graduating from Princeton University, Margot's fascination with biodiversity drew her to the tropics. She initially collected plants for the botanical inventory of a new private conservation reserve, Bilsa, in the Mache-Chindul mountains of coastal Ecuador. The living plants were spectacular but under formidable land-use pressures from logging and encroaching agriculture. The future of the forests and species were uncertain. Margot wanted to document the plants' natural colors and forms to ensure that, if they were not saved, they would at least be permanently archived for humanity. She began making color drawings to accompany the dried specimens, but the process at the end of long collecting days was too slow and imprecise.

Margot subsequently began a research project studying and bottling tropical dung beetles. The project took her to Yasuní National Park in the Western Amazon, where she had the luck to meet Dr. Robin Foster, one of the foremost neotropical botanists. Six months later, he wrote to ask if she would like to be one of the taxonomic field coordinators for a new Smithsonian Forest Dynamics long-term research plot in Yasuní. She quickly accepted and traveled to Yasuní with 60 rolls of film. Two years and some 20,000 identified tree stems later, she decided to pursue graduate school to gain the necessary skills, credibility, and institutional backing to protect what she had been researching.

Margot's Take on the CONS Program:

"The CONS problem-solving course skills and my CONS scholarly paper under Dr. Dietz's supervision provided me with the template for what I consider to be one of my major accomplishments: organizing and working with a l3-member team to write a paper synthesizing the biological and conservation value of eastern Ecuador and northeastern Peru. It was not easy; the authors had to communicate remotely throughout the process, sometimes in two languages, and we had significant differences in writing styles and in priorities for the paper's emphases. What I had learned in CONS helped me sustain the group's dialogue and overcome differences, reaching publication in January, 2010, in PLoS ONE. Our findings suggest that the forests of east Ecuador and northeast Peru are the most biodiverse areas in the Western Hemisphere.

Although I graduated five years ago, I still feel part of the CONS graduate program community. Most of my classmates from CONS have found positions that enable them to carry on their conservation work nearby, with the federal government, environmentally-focused foundations, and large non-profit organizations. I often turn to them to help resolve thorny work dilemmas or conservation science questions. Our studies at the University of Maryland have left us prepared to work together effectively, addressing issues that are among the most pressing of our time."

Carmen Revenga, CONS MS

Current Status:

Carmen currently leads the The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Sustainable Fisheries strategy as part of the Global Marine Team. Her position involves coordinating fisheries projects, fundraising, serving as the spokesperson on the role of the Conservancy in fisheries, building a cohesive strategy that aligns regional field work with global policy, and keeping up to date on the science and policy regarding best approaches to sustainable fisheries management. The Nature Conservancy's projects cover fisheries in both the East and West coasts of the U.S., as well as projects in Indonesia, Micronesia, and the Humboldt Current in South America

Carmen's position allows her and her colleagues working on fisheries and marine conservation to test new approaches to fisheries management that not only benefit habitat and species but also local fishing communities. The Nature Conservancy partners closely with local fishers to improve overall understanding of the interconnections between species and ecosystems so that licensing, regulations, monitoring regimes, and fishing gear can be refined to minimize the damage to ecosystems. The Conservancy's work also aims to help give local communities more say and control over their marine resources, through economic policies and instruments that give local fisheries incentives to reduce fleet sizes and the use of damaging gear, and that seek to reward overall responsible fishing practices.


Prior to acquiring her position at the Conservancy, Carmen worked for the World Resources Institute, leading several global assessments on the condition of freshwater ecosystems and marine fisheries, including work under the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. In 2004, she was approached by The Nature Conservancy to join a new team they were putting together to assess the world's freshwater, marine and terrestrial habitats in order to inform their organizational conservation priorities. The Conservancy's Habitat Assessment Team, as it was called then, was composed of a small team of six that conducted a global assessment of freshwater, marine and terrestrial habitats and species. The results of that work came to fruition last year in the form of a book entitled The Atlas of Global Conservation, published by U.C. Press. After completion of the project, Carmen was offered a position within the Global Marine Team at the The Nature Conservancy to work full time on fisheries.

Recent Conservation Work and Contributions to the Field:

Carmen's most relevant contributions to the conservation field revolve around the development of databases and indicators for policy makers, specifically indicators that reflect the condition of freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Some of these include:

Carmen has also worked with the Chilean NGO (CODEFF) to change the plans for a coastal highway that was planned to run through the middle of one of the remaining native temperate rainforest tracts in Southern Chile.  Carmen's work on freshwater species also helped to get the IUCN and the Red List to classify freshwater-dependent species as such in their databases and analysis. Bringing attention to the plight of freshwater ecosystems and their dependent species in the conservation and policy arenas has been a passion and commitment of Carmen's that continues to be reflected through her ongoing achievements in conservation and sustainable development.

Click here to view additional publications by Carmen.

Carmen's take on the CONS program:

"One of the strong aspects of the CONS program is its multidisciplinary approach. Working in conservation quickly makes one realize that a single discipline, such as biology, is not enough to solve some of the environmental problems we face today. Understanding strong drivers of change like economics and politics, is essential in developing successful conservation projects. The CONS program allowed me to combine economics, biology and policy - all disciplines that are needed in the real world. At the same time the emphasis of the CONS program on problem solving, allowed me to balance multiple objectives and interact with people with different perspectives and positions - looking always to find ways to negotiate and arrive at a successful compromise."

Megan MacDowell, CONS (2005 MS) 

Current Status: Megan MacDowell is currently serving as the DC Office Director for the Amazon Conservation Association (ACA). The ACA works to conserve Amazonian rainforests, protect biodiversity, and support local livelihoods through the application of scientific research and the development of innovative conservation tools.

Recent Conservation Experience: Megan has worked for several major conservation organizations including the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International. She has also led ecology and sustainable development study programs in Brazil and Costa Rica for Antioch Education Abroad and International Student Volunteers. Before ACA, Megan worked with Conservation International's Education and Social Marketing program, where she supported field staff in designing and carrying out environmental education programs focused on behavior change.

Megan's take on the CONS program: "I absolutely loved the CONS program. It provided us with the breadth of learning necessary to take a holistic approach to solving real-world conservation problems. Also, despite the fairly small size of the program, it is extremely well connected with the major conservation organizations in DC and around the world, giving students access to excellent internships and jobs after graduation."

Ryan Richards, CONS/Environmental Policy (2010 MS/MPP)

Current Status: Ryan Richards is a recent graduate of the dual degree MS/MPP program.  As a CONS student Ryan worked with Defenders of Wildlife, the US Fish &Wildlife Service, and the World Wildlife Fund on land management issues in theUS and abroad.

Recent Conservation Experience: Ryan spent the summer of 2009 working for theCheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, Namibia. He helped organize an international training course on integrated predator and livestock management attended by wildlife professionals and agriculture extension agents from eight countries. He also conducted population studies on cheetahs, leopards and black rhinos living on private land (as seen here). He is using his experience to develop his scholarly paper, which will investigate the potential for biomass electricity production to encourage better rangeland management practices in this southern African nation.

Pre-CONS Background:  Ryan's professional background is in ecological restoration and land management policy. He is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with a B.S. in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology and a minor in Music. Prior to his graduate studies, Ryan worked on oak woodland restoration projectsin California's Central Valley.

Ryan's take on the CONS program:  "The CONS program has provided an excellent opportunity for me to develop my professional and research skills while providing me the opportunity to gain valuable experience working with organizations that I have always admired. It's been a great way to focus my interests and prepare for the next step of my working life."

Dana Coelho, CONS/Environmental Policy (2007 MS/MPP)

Current Status:  Dana Coelho has been working for the US Forest Service since July 2007. She got her start as a Presidential Management Fellow, and is currently serving as Program Manager for the Urban and Community Forestry in the Rocky Mountain Region, based in Golden, CO. In this role, she engages with state forestry agencies, non-profit organizations, and other partners to promote sustainable tree planting and maintenance in cities and towns. 

Recent Conservation Experience:  Before moving west Dana worked in Washington, DC with the USFS Urban & Community Forestry Program. While there she helped to create a national Community of Practice around the strategic conservation planning concept of Green Infrastructure. This network of practitioners is made up of federal, state, regional, and local government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private firms committed to conservation at multiple scales - from inner-city rain gardens to regional systems of protected areas.

Pre-CONS Background:  Dana's professional background is in urban and environmental planning. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Architecture with a Bachelors of Urban and Environmental Planning, minors in architecture and environmental science. She has worked for planning departments in the City of Charlottesville, VA, as well as Howard County and Worcester County, MD.

Dana's take on the CONS program:  "The most valuable part of my CONS experience was the exposure to new ideas, both through the international composition of the program and its link to Ecological Economics. The latter shaped much of the research I pursued during graduate school and has followed me into my professional life- creating a foundation for my approach to conservation, and now specifically sustainable forest management. My engagement with international students and professionals made for an amazingly fun graduate school experience, has created opportunities to travel both for work and pleasure, and keeps me grounded as one mind among many seeking positive change."