At Conservation International we believe that investing in talent is fundamental to our mission and key to providing sustainable solutions. In that spirit, the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship program hosts conservation fellows — academics, scientists, public and private sector leaders, independent scholars and policy analysts — who work to create dynamic and unconventional approaches to address existing barriers to sustainability and contribute to a shift in how nature is valued. These fellowships provide unparalleled opportunities for intensive focus and achievement at the intersection of climate, conservation, business and technology.
The program engages recognized leaders — Distinguished and Senior Fellows — and emerging talent — Technical Fellows — to provide fresh thinking and extensive leadership to Conservation International’s work around the world. By strategically combining the skills and knowledge of both groups, the Lui-Walton Fellows are able to expand the breadth of their skills, gain valuable experience in their fields, and find innovative solutions together with Conservation International program staff and local partners.
The Lui-Walton fellowship is distinguished by four key areas of opportunity: travel, access to resources, professional development and direct participation in Conservation International programs.
The Honorable Robert Blake
As a Lui-Walton Distinguished Fellow, Robert Blake works to elevate and advance Conservation International’s efforts across Asia.
Robert also serves as a senior director for McLarty Associates and leads the firm’s Southeast Asia practice. He served for 31 years in the US State Department in a wide range of leadership positions. From 2013 to 2016, he served as US ambassador to Indonesia, where he focused on building stronger business and educational ties between the United States and Indonesia while also developing cooperation to help Indonesia reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama as assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia. He served until 2013 and was awarded the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award. From 2006 to 2009, he served as US ambassador concurrently to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Previously, he served as deputy chief of mission (DCM) from 2003 to 2006 in India, where he was named the worldwide DCM of the Year by the State Department.
Robert is currently chairman of the board of the US-Indonesia Society, a member of the boards of the Asia Foundation and the Bhutan Foundation, and a member of the Global Leadership Councils of the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council. He holds a BA from Harvard College and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Climate Action Platform, Senior Fellow
Dr. Daniel Abbasi, CEO of the Climate Action Platform, which is in incubation at Conservation International, has 25 years of cross-sectoral experience on climate change – in government, academia, investing, media and manufacturing. He is MD of GameChange Capital and former director of MissionPoint Capital Partners, both low-carbon private equity firms. He was CEO of Flowcastings GmbH, an innovative manufacturer improving the efficiency of jet engines and power turbines. He won an Emmy as executive producer of the TV series Years of Living Dangerously. Dan was a Federal appointee to U.S. EPA and the U.S. National Climate Assessment and Associate Dean at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, during which he directed the Yale Environmental Attitudes & Behaviors Project and Yale Environmental Poll and authored Americans & Climate Change. He brings direct marketing and consumer technology experience to CAP from roles as: EVP for ActBig/Etrana, a venture-backed software software startup that aggregated purchasing power; as strategy director at Time Inc./Time Warner; and head of multiple online education units at Kaplan/Washington Post Company. Dan was an Analyst at World Resources Institute and serves on the Board of the Institute for Transport & Development Policy. Dan earned an BA and MBA from Harvard and a MA and Ph.D. from Stanford.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim
As Conservation International’s Lui-Walton Senior Indigenous Fellow, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim advocates for greater inclusion of indigenous groups — and their knowledge — in the global climate movement.
A member of the Mbororo semi-nomadic community, she leads the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad. Lake Chad, a water source for 40 million people, has lost 90 percent of its surface area in just 40 years. As conflict has increased among groups competing for this essential resource, Ibrahim began the first major dialogue among the area’s numerous cultures and communities. Together, they are creating a 3D-map of the environmentally fragile region to inform conservation and resource management while promoting security.
Over the last decade, Hindou has worked with indigenous communities at the local and international levels to give a voice to those who are never heard — and to make governments and the private sector listen. She is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Ambassador and a member of the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues, and she served on the Key Advisory Committee to the Secretary General for the 2019 Climate Action Summit. In 2019, Hindou won the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award; was listed as one of 15 women leading the fight against climate change in Time Magazine; was featured in ELLE Magazine’s first-ever conservation issue; and delivered a powerful TEDWomen talk.
Science-Based Targets Fellow
Marielena uses her sustainability management training to engage the corporate sector in adopting sustainable practices across supply chains and operations, communicating the value that ecosystems have to businesses’ bottom lines. As a Fellow, she works with a cohort of scientists and organizations in developing new science-based targets that companies and cities can use to reduce land impacts from their products and business activities. She focuses on strategizing corporate engagement and accountability to facilitate the future adaptation of the targets. Marielena grew up in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and will be based in Arlington, Virginia.
Nikola “Niko” Alexandre
A trained ecological forester, Niko’s focus is on ecosystem restoration strategies and the creation of systems that grow strong bonds between people and places. As a fellow, Niko is leading the creation of Conservation International’s Restoration Community of Practice — gathering and synthesizing learnings from across our restoration projects — and developing institutional frameworks for catalyzing restoration work across the organization. Niko has been involved in restoration projects in the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region, and has expertise in conservation finance, institutional strategy, business development and community engagement. When he is not the field, Niko is working from Conservation International’s Arlington office.
Asia-Pacific Field Division Sustainable Land/Seascape Fellow
Based in Manila, Philippines, Simon is focused on providing technical and proposal development support to the evolving portfolio of Sustainable Land and Seascapes for the Asia-Pacific Field Division. He is also tasked with exploring strategic opportunities to deepen collaboration between Conservation International and the Asian Development Bank as well as helping field teams improve project management and implementation through the development of a donor-specific toolkit. Simon has more than 20 years of experience in Indonesia spanning natural resource management (conservation, forestry) and large-scale training and capacity building for smallholder producers (cocoa, rubber, Arabica coffee, seaweed) as well as developing private-public partnerships. He has worked on a number of bilateral- and multilateral-funded projects in different roles. Most recently he was chief of party to the Sustainable Landscape Partnership and terrestrial advisor to Conservation International-Indonesia.
Sustainable Landscapes & Seascapes Economics Fellow
Aaron assesses the systemic economic conditions that drive major investment decisions toward unsustainability across key Conservation International geographies known as sustainable landscapes and seascapes (SLS). Aaron’s analyses help inform decision-makers in SLS sites of opportunities for impact investment, carbon offsets, government policy, philanthropy and other incentives needed to transition the sites to sustainability.
Aaron has worked for 20 years leading conservation projects and research in developing countries. Areas of focus include green economies, the benefits and costs of protected areas, ecosystem service valuation, infrastructure development and conservation incentive agreements. He holds a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in economics from Princeton University.
Natural Capital Fellow
Helen joins Conservation International as the Natural Capital Fellow after taking a leave of absence from the luxury goods company Kering, where she has been advising and supporting the Luxury and Sport & Lifestyle brands with a focus on innovative sustainability solutions. As a Fellow and Senior Advisor on Resilient Supply Chains, Helen will work primarily with Conservation International’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business. She will be focusing on bringing “science to business,” specifically around the areas of natural capital accounting, measuring and mitigating business impacts on biodiversity, and supporting new company engagement with Conservation International. She will also provide expert input on other programs linked to supply chains, sourcing and financing. She will be based in France.
Natural Climate Solutions Fellow
Bronson joins Conservation International as the Natural Climate Solutions Fellow, leading the organization’s Natural Climate Solutions team. He previously led the Carbon Science team at The Nature Conservancy, where he led the landmark study in 2017 that introduced the term “Natural Climate Solutions” and identified that they provide over 30 percent of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperature increases under 20C. Bronson and his team will conduct transformative research on natural climate solutions, including their monitoring and evaluation against targets, their global climate mitigation potential and the development of large-scale implementation strategies.
Juan Carlos Ledezma
Spatial Planning and Target Setting Fellow
Juan Carlos has been working for Conservation International for more than 14 years, supporting the Bolivia office’s Land Use Planning, GIS and Project Management. He is a biologist with a specialized focus in natural resource management and earth observation. As the Spatial Planning and Target Setting Fellow, he will work on supporting target setting for the 10+ countries in the Americas Field Division as well as contributing to Conservation International’s mapping work and the conceptual definition of Climate Irreplaceable Ecosystems. Juan Carlos is based in Bolivia.
Global Sustainable Landscapes & Seascapes Fellow
Yves Pinsonneault’s fellowship is focused on leading a multitude of initiatives for the successful implementation of Conservation International’s focus on sustainable landscapes and seascapes. In this portfolio, Conservation International has selected 16 sites — six in the Americas, four in Africa and six in the Asia-Pacific — at different stages of implementation. With more than 15 years of experience at Conservation International, Yves will ensure strong coordination, alignment and advancement of this initiative via the development of a community of practice and by providing assessment of and support to the progress of all sites. Yves is based in Arlington, Virginia.
Cándido Pastor Saavedra
Amazonia Indigenous Fellow
Cándido has more than 20 years of experience designing and implementing training programs and tools, creating small-scale, nature-based enterprises, developing networks with indigenous peoples and organizations across Amazonia, and fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships at local, national and international levels. His focus is to incorporate indigenous territories and their representations as a key piece in conserving Amazonia and promoting climate stability.
China Marine Fellow
Yichuan leads Conservation International’s work in China related to marine conservation, natural climate solutions and protected areas management. His focus is on helping to steer the strategic direction of Conservation International’s work and amplifying its impact in the country. He has over 10 years of experience working in conservation and has worked at IUCN and UNEP-WCMC on the Red List, natural World Heritage sites, and protected areas science and data. A trained geographer, Yichuan holds a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang University, China.
Africa Conservation Finance Fellow
Bjorn will be guiding Conservation International’s conservation finance activities in Africa. Conservation finance tools include trust and endowment funds, impact investing and conservation agreements. Bjorn will work to leverage financial and capital markets within African landscapes to achieve at-scale environmental impact though structure and innovation. Prior to joining Conservational International, Bjorn worked in investment management, wealth management, banking and private banking across the globe (including the U.K., Caribbean, Singapore, New York and Africa).
Global Sustainability Fellow
Margot’s research is dedicated to zero-deforestation commodity supply chains that protect nature and provide critical ecosystem services to communities. Through a partnership with TRASE (Transparent supply chains for sustainable economies) in the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy, Margot recently mapped the Colombian coffee supply chain. In her work, Margot strives to understand where important nature is located and how it supports commodity production. Based in Seattle, Margot is part of the Moore Center for Science’s Global Solutions team, and her background is in spatial ecology, mammalogy and tropical landscapes.
Climate Positive Approaches Fellow
As the Climate Positive Approaches Fellow, Andrew is working to develop strategic frameworks to transform food, agriculture and land use systems into net carbon sinks. Before joining Conservation International, Andrew worked at the World Resources Institute, where he co-authored several reports about restoration economics and finance, tackling themes such as emerging business models in the restoration economy and key barriers — and solutions — to developing restoration finance. Andrew is exploring regenerative food and land use systems that could be introduced across multiple jurisdictions, delivering positive environmental, social and economic returns. He received his master’s degree from Yale University and completed his undergraduate work at McGill University.
“The environmental issues the world faces require a special class of leaders:
Innovative thinkers who can apply their unique aptitudes, experiences and passions to help change the world and carve a new path to sustainability. I am pleased to establish the Lui-Walton Innovators Fellowship Program at Conservation International, alongside Melani and Rob Walton, to embolden Conservation International’s efforts to provide the sustainability solutions our global community seeks.”
— Yvonne Lui
“With the world population projected to reach 9 billion in the next forty years, doubling our demand for food, water and energy, we must nurture ingenuity, initiative and talent to ensure these vital natural resources and the services they provide are protected. Melani and I are delighted to join Yvonne in welcoming the first class of Lui-Walton Innovator Fellows to Conservation International. This group’s skills and ideas will have a lasting impact on our ability to solve the conservation challenges of today and tomorrow.”
— Rob Walton