Our Team

© Mere Takoko

Mere Takoko (Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui, Rongowhakaata) — Vice President, Conservation International Aotearoa (NZ)

Mere specialises in climate change and Indigenous tribal development and is the founder of Hinemoana Halo Ocean Initiative. She is currently leading Conservation International’s focus on partnering with Iwi Māori to deliver transformative, Indigenous-led, ocean solutions to create impactful actions for people and nature in Aotearoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Tahiti.

A descendant of the Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui and Rongowhakaata tribal Nations, Mere has many years’ experience working with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on circular economy and environmental initiatives, including clean tech innovations as a former Chief Executive of Divergent Investments. Most recently, Mere served as Pou Whakatere of the New Zealand Climate Change Commission and as a Senior Advisor to the New Zealand Cabinet, the Minister for Māori Development and the Māori Affairs Select Committee.

She is currently a Moana PhD Fellow enrolled at the University of Victoria, Wellington, and is researching the potential of establishing a blue carbon plan to promote climate resilience and sustainable economic development for her tribal area.


© Conservation International

Mark Erdmann, Ph.D. — Vice President, Marine, Asia-Pacific Field Division

Mark work largely focuses on the management of marine protected areas, as well as research on reef fish and mantis shrimp biodiversity, satellite tracking of endangered sharks and rays, and genetic connectivity in MPA networks.

Mark provides strategic guidance and technical and fundraising support to focal marine programs in Conservation International’s Asia Pacific Field Division, including especially the Bird’s Head Seascape and Pacific Oceanscape initiatives, as well as marine programs in China, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Samoa and the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). He is also the Director of CI New Zealand.

Mark is a coral reef ecologist (Ph.D. University of California Berkeley), where he maintains a research associate position. Mark also supervises several Master’s and PhD students at the University of Auckland, and is active on the boards of a number of NGOs working in the Coral Triangle, including Thrive Conservation and Manta Trust. Mark and his wife Arnaz and three children (Mica, Brahm and Cruz) live in Auckland, where he maintains a deep personal commitment to do whatever is necessary to ensure his children will be able to enjoy the same high-quality underwater experiences that continue to provide the inspiration for his dedication to the marine environment.


© Emmeline Johansen

Emmeline Johansen — Communications Director, Asia-Pacific Field Division

Emmeline has worked in marketing and communications for two decades, dedicating over a decade to Conservation International’s global mission to protect nature for people. Initially working in Phnom Penh with the Cambodia country office, Emmeline expanded her focus to the Asia-Pacific region, leading efforts that garner global attention for the stories that need to be told.

Through storytelling, Emmeline uplifts Indigenous voices and connects people to vital science and on-the-ground partnerships focused on protecting some of the most important and biodiverse places left in Asia-Pacific.

Born and bred in Wellington, New Zealand, Emmeline is based in Waitārere Beach with her two daughters and husband.


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Schannel Van Dijken — Marine Director

Guided by curiosity and heritage, Schannel is a National Geographic Explorer, and a marine biologist working with Conservation International’s (CI) Asia-Pacific Program as Marine, Government and Partnerships Director. He has worked in 15+ countries across diverse environmental initiatives from Antarctica to Europe, Asia and Oceania. He has demonstrated leadership, sustainability, and environmental management experience honed in working at the intersection of traditional knowledge, science, education, tech, and environmental policy.

Trusted technical practitioner, Schannel is a passionate Pacific advocate, Polynesian voyager (double-hulled traditional voyaging canoe), divemaster and waterman. He has spent significant time on the open ocean exploring nature across many Islands between Aotearoa New Zealand, to Hawaii to Mexico, Cocos & Galapagos Islands.


© Conservation International

Linda Bercusson — Senior Manager, Center for Oceans and CI Aotearoa

Based in New Zealand, Linda has worked with Conservation International since 2011 on projects as geographically divergent as the Pacific Oceanscape and Learning Exchanges with Iceland. As part of the Center for Oceans Sustainable Tuna team, she’s working on the utilisation of sustainable fishery resources to benefit tuna dependent economies and local communities in the Pacific Island region. She’s also supporting the development of CI Aotearoa’s blue carbon partnerships and ocean protection initiatives. Before joining CI, Linda spent many years working for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation leading engagement programmes for Auckland's Chinese and Pacific communities, the country's two fastest growing populations. As a freelance journalist she's covered environmental stories for national and international media and has written several books on New Zealand natural history.


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Annisha Vasutavan — Senior Regional Development Manager, Pacific Ocean and Islands Program

Based in Christchurch, Annisha is leading new business development and strategic growth for country programmes in New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, Timor-Leste and Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as regional fisheries and oceans work in the Pacific. Annisha has 15 years of experience working in the international development sector and government sector in Aotearoa New Zealand, and is a seasoned social development practitioner, program manager and business development specialist. Prior to joining Conservation International, Annisha was based in West Africa for 8 years where she provided management oversight for large public-funded cross-sectoral programmes in youth livelihoods, water sanitation and hygiene, education, and disaster risk reduction.


© Conservation International

Luca Mori — Senior Programme Coordinator, Pacific Ocean and Islands Program

Luca is Italian but lives in Aotearoa (Auckland) since 2014 where he completed a Master in Marine Science at the University of Auckland. During that time, he started an internship program at Conservation International which then led to a permanent position in the Pacific Islands Team in 2016. Luca is currently Senior Coordinator for the Pacific Islands and Aotearoa managing several marine projects, developing conservation strategies for CI national programs and Island States, and providing technical expertise in project design/management and reports. During the time in CI, he has been instrumental in co-developing with partners important national and seascape strategies in the Pacific Region such as the Samoa Ocean Strategy and the Lau Seascape Strategy which are currently being implemented. Please contact Luca if you need support in developing conservation strategies, and in marine or MPAs project design and implementation.


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Catherina (Cathy) Bolinga — Grants and Contracts Senior Coordinator, Pacific Ocean and Islands Program

Cathy is from Papua New Guinea (PNG). She is a development practitioner with over fifteen years of development experiences in the areas of project management and administration with specific experiences in grant management, planning, implementation and evaluating a range of social, environmental and economic development initiatives across the Pacific including PNG and New Zealand. She has worked with various government programmes including USAID, Australia & New Zealand aid programmes and NGOs including Caritas and Pacific Cooperation Foundation. Prior to joining CI, Cathy worked as a senior community grants advisor for Auckland local government.

Cathy works as the senior grants and contracts coordinator for CI Aotearoa and Pacific Islands programmes (with no CI in-country office). Cathy has and continues to support CI grants/contacts work in Cook Islands, PNG, Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Cathy is also interested in Indigenous perspectives to development and philanthropic giving in Melanesia. She is researching this interest through a doctoral programme at University of Auckland.


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Leonardo Jr. Panganiban — New Zealand Operations / Pacific Accounting, Senior Coordinator

Leo is a key member of our operations team. He is goal driven and proactive in achieving it. Setting goals is vital focus, so Leo has something to look forward to and act out. Leo thrives and set the right perspective in all aspect of any challenges and finding what learnings I can get. Leo takes care to be quiet and few in words – rather using his voice to raise up with is significant or what is desirable. Leo deeply believes that words can either uplift or break relationships.

Leo lives in Auckland and enjoys his spare time with his wife and three wonderful kids.


As Conservation International grows in Aotearoa, we welcome inquiries from corporates and individuals on ways to support our work. Contact us today.