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President and CEO

Sara J. Scherr, PhD

Dr. Scherr is an agricultural and natural resource economist specializing in land management policy in tropical developing countries. Founder of EcoAgriculture Partners, she now serves as its President and CEO. In 2011 she led the founding of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, for which EcoAgriculture Partners now serves as secretariat. She currently serves on the board of international agricultural biodiversity research organization Bioversity International, as well as on the advisory board of Food Tank, the Scientific Advisory Board for the ASSETS (Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems) research program, as a member of the UN Agri-food Task Force, and on the design team of the Solutions from the Land initiative. She is also a member of the scientific editorial boards of the journals Agroforestry Systems, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, and Land Use Policy. Before founding EcoAgriculture Partners, Dr. Scherr held positions as Director of Ecosystem Services at the non-profit Forest Trends; adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA; co-leader of the CGIAR Gender Program; senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C.; and principal researcher at the World Agroforestry Centre based in Nairobi, Kenya. She was previously a Fulbright Scholar (1976) and a Rockefeller Social Science Fellow (1985-87). Dr. Scherr received her BA in Economics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and her MSc and PhD in International Economics and Development at Cornell University in New York. Dr. Scherr is widely published in the scientific and policy literature, and has been a leading voice globally in promoting the restoration of degraded agricultural lands and new approaches for integrated landscape management.



Louise Buck, PhD, Director, Landscapes and Leaders Program

Dr. Buck is a Senior Extension Associate with the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University and the coordinator of the joint EcoAgriculture Partners-Cornell University Landscape Measures Initiative. In her work, she applies knowledge in social science, education and planning to issues and practices in sustainable agriculture, forest resource management and recreation resource management. In addition to coordinating the development of the Landscape Measures Resource Center, her current activities focus on social learning in agroforestry and protected area management systems in domestic and international settings. Louise holds a PhD from Cornell University, an MS from Colorado State University, and a BS from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Lola Ogunremi, PhD, Director, Finance & Administration

Dr. Ogunremi is the Director of Finance at EcoAgriculture Partners and is based in the Washington DC Office. She leads financial management for the organization, providing financial reports and audit management. She also develops and implements various financial processes of the organization including the overseas offices. She has held Accounting and Research positions at Howard University, City University of New York Research Foundation as well as the Small Business Administration Small Business Development Center (DCSBDC) in Washington DC. At the DCSBDC, she managed a diverse portfolio of clients ranging from Corporations, Sole Proprietorships, Partnerships and Non Profits, providing business and accounting consultation services.  Dr. Ogunremi holds a PhD in International Economics from Howard University; a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Brooklyn College, City University of New York; Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Baruch College, City University of New York;  and is a Certified Public Accountant, CPA.

Seth Shames, Director, Policy Program

Seth Shames is Director of the Policy program, where he leads analysis of policies and financial mechanisms to support integrated agricultural landscape management and directs EcoAgriculture's policy advocacy work. His areas of work have included payments for ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, climate-smart agriculture, the integration of agricultural issues into the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, environment and development policies in East Africa, eco-labeling of agricultural products and sustainable biofuels production. In addition to his work at EcoAgriculture Partners, Seth has studied agricultural land management systems in Ethiopia and Peru and organized Community Supported Agriculture groups in New York City. He holds a Masters of Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a BA from Columbia in Anthropology and Environmental Science.



Essayas Cherakssa, Staff Accountant

Essayas ensures that organizational financial functions are completed in an accurate and timely manner. He is also engaged in vendor and sub-grant financial management, and assists in financial and co-financing reports. Essayas has served as an accountant for DC-based non-profits since 2010, and is a Certified Public Accountant candidate. He holds a B.A. from Addis Ababa University, where he majored in Business Management and minored in accounting.

Ben Dappen, IT Associate and Webmaster

Ben is the senior designer and web-application programmer for Dappen Design Studios. He serves as webmaster for several environmental nonprofit organizations (including Forest Trends and the Katoomba Group), as well as several commercial sites. He speciallizes in PHP/MYSQL application programming and Content Management Systems. He both designed and manages the EcoAgriculture Partners web site. He graduated with a degree in History from Reed College in 2004.

Joan Downie, Administrative Associate

Joan Downie works closely with Lola Ogunremi to support administration, human resources and finance. She has 15 years of experience working in various capacities with trade associations and the non-profit sector and brings with her a wide range of skills in administration. Joan has served as a government relations, human resources, and finance administrator for such diverse organizations as NIH, Association of Financial Professionals and Forum for Youth Investment.

Lucila Fernandez, Communications Associate

Lucila is an aspiring conservationist hailing from the Washington, DC area, with a particular passion for connecting people with nature. In 2010 Lucila volunteered in Guatemala to teach children about wildlife endemic to Central America. This experience compelled her to work with the Smithsonian, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to engage the public with conservation issues and wildlife in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Having grown up between the U.S. and a farm in Argentina, she's excited to align her passion for wildlife conservation with agricultural land management issues in her work as our communications associate.

Lee Gross, Senior Manager, Agricultural Markets and Biodiversity Specialist

Lee Gross is the senior manager for Markets and Biodiversity at EcoAgriculture Partners. His current efforts are focused on a partnership with the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in support of the Sustainable Land and Water Program, a five-year program that seeks to address critical natural resources challenges in select agricultural regions globally through strengthened public-private cooperation in integrated landscape initiatives/platforms. From 2011-2014, he led EcoAgriculture Partners engagement as the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit for the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Program (BACP). Funded by the International Finance Corporation and the Global Environment Facility, the BACP focused on biodiversity preservation through market transformation within agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy and cocoa, working closely in support of multi-stakeholder roundtable initiatives in these sectors. Prior to joining EcoAgriculture Partners Lee conducted participatory action research on conservation and livelihoods in coffee agroforestry landscapes of the Dominican Republic, analyzed supply-chain traceability for companies such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and coordinated a major gifts fundraising team at The Nature Conservancy. He holds a M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont and a B.S.E.S. in Environmental Economics and Management from the University of Georgia.

Abigail Hart, Project Manager, Landscape Management Initiatives

Abby Hart is an Extension Support Specialist with Ecoagriculture Working Group in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University. Her work with the Research Program includes researching on the ground examples of initiatives engaged in integrated landscape management to better understand the contexts in which integrated landscape management is happening as well as the institutional arrangements and governance systems that support multi-stakeholder management. Through her work with the Landscapes and Leaders Program, she supports the development of tools, curricula and programs for training landscape leaders to participate in multi-stakeholder management processes. Abby is also a M.Sc. student at Cornell University studying the role of conflict in multi-stakeholder management and its impact on the social-ecological resilience of landscapes. Prior to joining the Ecoagriculture Working Group in 2009, Abby worked as a sustainable agriculture and food security project assistant with Mennonite Central Committee and the Centro Intereclesial de Estudios Teologicos y Sociales in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, as well as the USDA’s agricultural research service. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Wheaton College, with an emphasis on biology and sustainable development.

Krista Heiner, Project Manager, Research and Policy

Krista Heiner provides research, analysis, and coordination support to EcoAgriculture's Policy program and Landscapes for People, Food and Nature working groups on policy and finance. Krista previously worked with the US Forest Service and USAID on environment and development programs in Central and West Africa. She also conducted research on collaborative natural resource management agreements as a Fulbright research fellow in West Africa, and worked to build the capacity of ecotourism initiatives at Djoudj National Park in Senegal with the US Peace Corps. Krista holds an M.P.P in International Development and Environmental Policy and an M.S. in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland, as well as a B.S. in Biology from Davidson College.

Heather O'Neil, Development Projects Manager, Office of the President

Heather O’Neil coordinates fundraising activities and donor relations, supports grant writing, and contributes to program activities in Africa. Prior to joining EcoAgriculture Partners, Heather oversaw grant implementation and donor communication at Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation in New York City. She has also worked with Catholic Relief Services in Sierra Leone on the implementation of a cholera prevention project, with USAID in Ethiopia on monitoring Feed the Future sponsored agriculture and livelihoods projects, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in South Africa managing a food security project targeting those infected with HIV and TB.  Heather holds a B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of Michigan and a M.A. in International Political Economy and Development from Fordham University.

Chris Planicka, Project Manager, Landscape leadership

Chris Planicka leads projects within EcoAgriculture Partners' Landscapes & Leaders Program and supports the Landscape Strengthening Working Group for the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature (LPFN) Initiative. Prior to joining EcoAgriculture Partners, Chris researched business opportunities in seed production for farmers in Timor-Leste and developed a business plan for a mobile soil-testing kit to be deployed in sub-Saharan Africa. Chris also spent two years as a US Peace Corps Environment/Agroforestry volunteer in Madagascar, where he worked with farmers to improve their agricultural yields while conserving the surrounding rainforest environment. He then extended his Peace Corps service as a business adviser, helping a farmer cooperative successfully export the first-ever certified organic rice shipment from Madagascar. Chris holds a BA in History from the University of Notre Dame and an MPA in Development Practice from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Melissa Thaxton, Partnership Coordinator, Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative

As the Partnership Coordinator for the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, Melissa facilitates communication and coordination of activities among the more than 60 partner organizations around the world who are working together to promote and strengthen integrated landscape management approaches to sustainable development. Melissa has previously managed partnerships in population, health and environment (PHE). She has more than eight years of experience in international development, ranging from community-based development to gender consulting and policy advocacy.

Louis Wertz, Communications Manager

Louis Wertz leads communications and outreach for EcoAgriculture Partners. From humble beginnings as an intern, Lou quickly took on increasing management responsibilities and now oversees the organization's websites, social media, email communications, media outreach, and publication production. He also co-leads the communications working group of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative and coordinates the Initiative's web presence, media outreach and publication production. Louis holds a Bachelors of Science in Journalism degree from Northwestern University and a Master's of Science in World Heritage Studies from the Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus, Germany, where he focused on integrated landscape management approaches for managing world heritage sites. Before starting at EcoAgriculture Partners, he completed a full season of work on an organic vegetable farm and apple orchard in majestic Mendocino County, California.



Christine Negra, PhD, Senior Research Fellow

Dr. Negra is an experienced scientist with a strong and dynamic track record of of linking science with policy in the areas of climate change, food security, land use and ecosystem services. Before joining EcoAgriculture Partners, in 2011-12, she led the Secretariat of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, convened by CGIAR-CCAFS, which developed and disseminated science-based policy recommendations for "Achieving Food Security in the Context of Climate Change." As Program Director at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington, DC from 2005-2011, Dr. Negra collaborated with individuals in government, academia, industry, and NGOs to bring technical analyses and consensus-based solutions into policy dialogues. She developed indicators of carbon storage and environmental contamination for "The State of the Nation’s Ecosystems 2008," directed the Ecological Effects of Air Quality project for the US Environmental Protection Agency, and served as Science Director for the Terrestrial Carbon Group project. She began her career as a soil scientist and early on worked on sustainable agriculture and community leadership with farmers and local and state officials at the US Department of Agriculture Extension System.

John Recha, PhD, Fellow

Dr. Recha is a land management and climate change scientist, specializing in East Africa. In 2004, he founded the Environmental Resources Management Center for Sustainable Development (ERMCSD) and now serves on its board. Since 2012, he has been involved in the collaboration of the ERMCSD with EcoAgriculture Partners. He currently serves as a researcher in the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Kenya. While studying for his PhD at Cornell University, Recha served as a research fellow at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) from 2007-2011. Prior to that, he worked as a research technician with the World Agroforestry Centre, coordinating soil fertility management research in western Kenya. He has worked with environmental non-governmental organizations, promoting climate smart agriculture for improving rural livelihoods, and has written articles on sustainable land management and hydrology in the tropics. He has a Masters in Soil Science and Land Management (Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania), and Bachelors in Agriculture (University of Nairobi, Kenya).

Louise (Wieteke) Willemen, PhD, Research Fellow

Dr. Willemen is a landscape modeler based at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands. In her work she focuses on the dynamics between landscape properties, ecosystem service supply, human well-being, and land management decision-making. She recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University, where she worked with the Cornell Ecoagriculture Working Group. Previously, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission evaluating the impact of land use change on ecosystem service benefits in Africa, and worked for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a GIS ‘junior professional officer' on agro-biodiversity issues in Latin-America at Bioversity International (formerly IPGRI) in Colombia. Louise obtained her PhD from Wageningen University, the Netherlands, for her work on mapping and modeling multifunctional landscape and has a BSc/MSc from the same university in Tropical Land Use, with a specialization in plant production systems and GIS.



Marissa Sherman, Communications Intern
Marissa is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park studying Agricultural and Resource Economics with minors in Sustainability Studies and Global Poverty. She has experience working on campaigns with Green America and Brickyard Educational Farm. 
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