People Power

Who we are tells what we are. Each of us aims to “pay our rent for living on the planet,” and somehow leave the planet better for our efforts. Whether building trails, growing grains, or writing books, we stick with our projects because we cannot imagine more valuable or important work.

Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of talented and passionate conservationists, from local construction workers to internationally recognized scientists. This experience has confirmed what we long suspected: the people dedicated conservation and environmental work are the finest colleagues we could find anywhere. One of our greatest pleasures is the group of people we get to work alongside.

Right now, our conservation and agroecology projects employ over two hundred people, with dozens more participating as volunteers or interns. Our teams in Argentina are all-Argentine; in Chile, all-Chilean. The majority of our team has been with us for years and years.

We are lucky to have quite a few families with numerous members, and even several generations, participating in these projects. Our main conservation projects run small schools so that families can live and work in these remote areas, educating their children in a thoughtful, ecologically oriented manner. When family and conservation can work, the results are powerful.

Over two decades of work, a few of our respected team members have passed away. We value their contributions, honor their memory, and miss them dearly. They are German Vicente Huenchuán (born October 10, 1984; died February 14, 2010), Rodrigo Martín Leconte Benitez (born February 9, 1979; died February 14, 2010), Fernando Esteban Siebald Codjambasis (born September 28, 1979; died June 9, 2010), Juan Pablo Carrasco (born January 7, 1949; died October 16, 2011), Luis Alberto Ansola (born October 27, 1946; died October 12, 2008), and Perfecto Fernández (born April 18, 1941; died June 7, 2004). Please join us in remembering them.

Although we cannot acknowledge by name all who play a role in our conservation and agroecology projects, we are thankful for their energy, dedication, and partnership.

Team Leaders

Below are brief biographies of some of our team leaders:

Tom Butler – Vice President for Conservation Advocacy

Tom is a longtime conservation activist and writer who has concentrated primarily on wilderness and biodiversity.His books include Wild Earth: Wild Ideas for a World Out of Balance, which features collected essays from the conservation journal he edited from 1997 to 2005, and Wildlands Philanthropy: The Great American Tradition, a celebration of the natural areas established over the past century through private initiative and funding. In addition, he is a founding board member and the current president of the Northeast Wilderness Trust, the only land trust in the northeastern United States focused exclusively on protecting forever-wild landscapes. He and his family live in the foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Ingrid Espinoza – Conservation Director, Tompkins Conservation Chile

Ingrid studied forestry at the University of Chile, Santiago, and joined the team in 2001 to help develop the Alerce 3000 project at Pumalín Park. Ingrid runs the land research, acquisition, and mapping programs for both Conservacion Patagonica and The Conservation Land Trust–Chile. Ingrid has relished the chance to participate in these conservation projects, as both have allowed her to “understand the diversity of her country, its landscapes and its people, and to contribute to the protection and appreciation of our natural heritage.” She currently lives in El Amarillo, south sector of Pumalín Park with his husband and daughter, where she devotes his free time to photography and contemplation of wildlife.

Laura Fernández – Controller, Argentina

Laura was born and raised in Buenos Aires where she later studied business administration. Beginning in 1993, she worked as an accountant for Pricewaterhouse Coopers and was in charge of the auditing of financial statements for both commercial companies and nonprofit organizations. As audit manager at PWC, she met Kris Tompkins and Debbie Ryker, and began consulting on accounting projects in both Chile and Argentina. Driven by her own passion for conservation, Laura joined the CP team in 2001; currently, she is in charge of the administrative, accounting, and taxes for all Tompkins profit and non-profit work in Argentina. She lives in Buenos Aires with her husband and their two children.

Sofía Heinonen – Director of The Conservation Land Trust-Argentina

Sofía is a member of the CLT board and has managed the Iberá conservation project since 2005. She received a degree in biological sciences from the Universidad C.A.E.C.E. in Buenos Aires and has since become a passionate conservationist who loves wild animals and wild places. Prior to CLT, she worked for the National Parks Administration for fifteen years, where she coordinated biodiversity surveys and management plans for several parks in Northern Argentina. She also worked for a variety of national NGOs committed to the defense of protected areas and endangered species. At CLT, Sofia has been responsible for numerous programs, including the overall coordination and strategic planning of the eight conservation programs developed for the creation of Iberá; establishing the management policy with provincial and municipal governments; ecological restoration projects through the reintroduction of extinct species; and boosting public relations with local NGOs. Sofía lives with her two children in Iberá Natural Reserve.

Esther Li – Controller

Born and raised in San Francisco, Esther is a certified public accountant with a Master’s degree in Taxation. She worked with Doug at Esprit for many years and has worked for the Foundation for Deep Ecology for over 15 years. In her spare time, she volunteers with various nonprofit organizations in the San Francisco Chinese community. Esther enjoys traveling around the world, sightseeing, and trying new food.

Marisi Lopez – Bachelor in Public Relations, The Conservation Land Trust-Argentina

Marisi is from the province of Corrientes, Argentina, and is in charge of the Public Relations office in Corrientes. She is the link between CLT and different public actors such as the government, press, local communities and various institutions. She lives with her family in Capital, Corrientes from where she often travels to Esteros del Iberá. She is the program coordinator for Ruta Escénica del Iberá, in which she works with the neighboring communities of the Reserve to get out the message of conservation and development based on ecotourism. She is also in charge of organizing events, exhibitions, and campaigns as well as developing informational materials.

Carolyn McCarthy – Global Communications Coordinator

Carolyn joined Tompkins Conservation from a freelance career as a journalist based in the Southern Cone. She has contributed to over 50 guidebooks for Lonely Planet and her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies and online publications. As a Fulbright fellow, she documented cultural changes in Patagonia, a favorite place that she continues to work in and explore.

Francisco Morandé Ruiz-Tagle – Architect

Francisco was born and raised in Viña del Mar where he also studied architecture at the Universidad de Viña del Mar. He has worked with Doug and Kris since 1998, beginning with a design internship in Pumalín Park. He then went on to work developing the infrastructure of Pumalín and the planning for Estancia Valle Chacabuco’s transformation into the future Patagonia National Park. In 2001, Francisco participated in the selection of the Argentine team of architects who went on to work on the Iberá project. He cites his many years working alongside Doug as a “second education after college” and feels privileged to work in an “office” with thousands of acres while developing projects that are in harmony with the environment. Francisco lives in Puerto Varas with his wife, a former attorney for Fundación Pumalín, and their two children.

Carolina Morgado Escanilla – Executive Director, Tompkins Conservation Chile

Born in Santiago, Carolina worked as Douglas Tompkins’s personal assistant for 22 years. She has also been in charge of communications and coordination in Chile for Tompkins Conservation projects across all of their related foundations. As the influence and importance of these organizations have increased in Chile over the years, so have her responsibilities and the scope of her work; In 2016, Carolina assumed the position of Coordinator for Chile for Tompkins Conservation. In addition, she is the President and Chairman of both the Pumalín Foundation and the Yendegaia y Gerente Foundation, and is also the General Manager of Conservación Patagónica Chile. Carolina is part of the team that carried forward the land donations from Tompkins Conservation to Chile. This is the first donation in history from a private entity to a country, and once complete will protect more than 4.5 million hectares between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn. She currently works as Executive Director in the Tompkins Conservation Chile office in the beautiful city of Puerto Varas, the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.

Pascual Pérez – In Charge of Northeast Reserves, The Conservation Land Trust-Argentina

Pascual is a native of Mburucuyá, Province of Corrientes. He trained in the Park Guard School of San Pedro in the Province of Misiones. He worked for many conservation and research projects in the north of the country until in 2007, for the benefit and conservation of our natural and cultural heritage, this genuine gaucho correntino became part of our ideal team. He is now currently in charge of the management, care and coordination of the Northeast Reserves in Esteros del Iberá. Pascual works with a team of enthusiastic park guards and conservationists, and most importantly among the locals he stands out because of his vast experience in this land and his fluency in the guaraní language, making him a part of the local community. Recently, he added his personal support to that of the local community’s for the construction of the magnificent installations designed for our project to reintroduce the Yaguareté in Iberá, achieving as a result an enormous infrastructure. He lives in Mburucuyá, Province of Corrientes, and enjoys the local traditions with his horses, good mate and chamamé, the local dance par excellence of Corrientes.

Debbie Ryker – Finance Director

Debbie began her career in public accounting as a C.P.A. specializing in taxation. She was the chief financial officer of Esprit de Corp. (founded by Doug Tompkins) for six years. Debbie sits on the board of directors of The Conservation Land Trust, Conservacion Patagonica, and the Foundation for Deep Ecology, and is the finance director for all of the Tompkins family office private and philanthropic efforts. Debbie and her family live in Southern California and enjoy sailing, skiing, and are avid sports enthusiasts.

Cristian Saucedo – Wildlife Manager

Cristian was born in Santiago, but grew up primarily in Brazil until returning to Chile to study veterinary medicine at the University of Chile, Santiago. He has worked for Conservacion Patagonica since 2005, and has worked in the Patagonia region since 2000. As the conservation director, Cristian oversees the wildlife recovery and monitoring programs, heads all scientific research conducted in the park, participates in eco-education programs in Cochrane and beyond, and helps to manage the project’s public and institutional relations on both the local and regional level. Cristian loves discovering new spots in the park through his work, as well as watching the landscapes change across the seasons and as the restoration work continues to progress. He lives with his wife and their two sons in the Chacabuco Valley.

Fernando Sosa – Superintendent of the South Reserves and Pilot, The Conservation Land Trust-Argentina

Fernando was born in the city of Buenos Aires, later moving to Posadas, Province of Misiones. In 2002, he obtained his commercial pilot’s license and shortly after also earned his flight instructor certificate and began work as a pilot for the government in the Province of Misiones. Later, he moved to Esteros del Iberá to provide his services to the ranches and lodges in the area. In 2010 he joined the CLT team as a pilot and has since added the role of Superintendent of the South Reserve. His contribution to the beauty and details of our two ranches—Rincón del Socorro and San Alonso—is appreciated by our whole team, as are his abilities to fly our planes with great skill, which is invaluable for surveying the wild fauna of the reserve. He lives on our Ranch, in the heart of Esteros del Iberá.

Luis Toro Castillo – Controller, Chile

Luis holds an MBA and is a certified public accountant and auditor who has spent the past twenty-six years working such varied jobs as teaching auditing classes in Temuco, working at an animal fair, and for Ernst & Young. He enjoys spending time outside, teaching classes, and staying active through soccer and running. His seriousness as an administrator combined with his jovial nature makes the accounting department a great place to work.

Team Photos

Below, you'll find an eclectic selection of photographs from different occasions (mainly BARBECUES!) that give a feeling for how our team works and comes together. Click on the photo's edges to browse the gallery.

Our team, from various farms and ranches, unites at Estancia Alto Feliciano, a beautiful estancia in the north of Entre Ríos Province that we worked to restore to productivity and ecological health from 2007-2012. Beautiful park infrastructure requires good designers and architects. Here are some of our main team of architects, designers, decorators, landscapers, and cabinet makers. Everyone loves to celebrate the New Year; here in Chile is no different. Personnel from accounting, administration, acquisitions, shop, and hangar enjoy a New Year's party. When distinguished guests visit, group photos are in order. Here, our biologists, wildlife team and advisors gather with one of our greatest conservation heroes, George Schaller. The unsung heroes of our jaguar corral builders out in San Alonso, in the middle of the Iberá wetland/savannahs. While this is not the kind of gaucho work that many of them are used to, the team has rolled up their sleeves with great aplomb, for they too want to see the jaguar back. Here is the team that has worked magic to restore a beaten-up farm in the Vodudahue valley next to the Pumalín Park, in southern Chile. In doing so, all have seen and learned the ecological and aesthetic cost of bad management as they put the pieces back together to transform the farm into a place of beauty and productivity once again. People energy is critical if you want to get anything done! This energy is evident within the team at the future Patagonia National Park, which works on wildlife recovery, infrastructure creation, and administration—all the elements needed to create a place where the next generation learns to appreciate the natural world. From parents to kids, old to young, you see the good spirit and energy of the core of people working and living at the headquarters at Rincón del Socorro, the administrative center of the Esteros del Iberá project. At the end of the summer season, when most of the campers and tourists have left, it is then time for a little celebration and a good 'asado' (barbecue) at Pumalín Park. Park personnel, construction crews, and even a wandering minstrel from the Canary Islands made the 2014 season's end a hit. We are big believers that 'people power' puts women at the core of that concept. Women make up a goodly percentage of our teams in both Argentina and Chile, and women hold top jobs in the management. Here we have a land specialist, veterinarian, world class conservationist and architect to feature just a few. Without our small group of airplanes operating efficiently and safely, our projects would never be as far along as they are. The isolated areas and complicated geography make light aircraft cheaper than conventional transport and speeds up our work, enabling our managers to cover more ground and receive support faster than normal. The fellows who keep the aircraft maintained and running safely are among the most important folks working on our projects. Our crew at a large farm in Argentina watch a DVD about other aspects of our projects, learning more about the multifaceted organization they belong to. The Corrientes wildlife and species reintroduction crew from the Iberá project in northeastern Argentina working on reintroducing extirpated species like Pampas Deer, Giant Anteaters, Peccari, Tapir, and Jaguar. Making Corrientes be Corrientes again with restored wildlife. Group photo of the jaguar reintroduction team in Corrientes, Argentina. Wildlife biologists, veterinarians, park wardens, visiting experts from Brazil lend a hand in this unique attempt to reintroduce the jaguar. We are lucky to have so many jaguar specialists so enthusiastic to help us. From time to time, we like to have an exchange between our Chilean and Argentine colleagues, to trade experiences and to tell of plans and projects in each respective country. Here we have the Argentine team visiting in Valle Chacabuco, site of the future Patagonia National Park. Teamwork sometimes takes the form of outings and breaks from the routine. Here we have a hike out on one of the trails in the future Patagonia National Park/Chile with managers and some of the leadership from both the Argentine, Chilean and European conservation teams. A season's end party to mark another good summer with many volunteers from around the world working on fence removal, exotic plant control, restoration, landscaping, wildlife recovery and many other activities pertinent to the future Patagonia National Park. Employees and families get together in Pumalín for a summer barbecue and, of course, group photo to remember the event. Some of the master cabinet makers who have built so many of the interiors, from estancias to park infrastructure. Headquartered in Buenos Aires, they work from Palena to Patagonia in Chile, plus up into Corrientes and Entre Ríos provinces in Argentina. Master painters who do exceptional work on the interiors and exteriors of the public access infrastructure and park personnel housing at the future Patagonia National Park. Visit of the Chilean management team to the Esteros del Iberá to learn what their Argentine colleagues are doing with the big conservation project going on in the province of Corrientes. The photo was take in the Estancia San Alonso in the middle of the great wetland and savannahs of Iberá. The eco-tourist lodge, Rincón del Socorro in the Iberá project boasts good healthy food, mostly grown in the organic gardens of the headquarters near the town of Carlos Pellegrini. Here are the kitchen staff and waitresses. Celebration of the christening of a new bridge built as an in-house project over the Trolihuán River that joined the native tree nursery with the main farm, saving lots of trouble waiting for the river to go down so it could be crossed by tractor. A bottle of cheap champagne blessed the bridge. The team of gauchos and their boss at the El Tránsito Estancia in Corrientes. The Correntino gaucho is a special personality with deep seeded traditions and a rigorous work ethic. They stand tall with any cowboys from anywhere in the world. The erosion restoration team takes a photo break while working on the correction of past management mistakes by previous owners who allowed huge and deep erosion ditches to eat into the soft and fertile soil there. Now used fence posts all slow water flow until a thick vegetation cover can grow thus acting as an erosion brake. As with all distinguished and well-regarded guests, a group photo is a souvenir for everyone. Here, we are more than honored with a visit from Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and his wife Luisa Durán, at Pumalín Park. All the families from the Reñihué farm and some other guests from other farms were there to celebrate this visit, meet the president and his wife, and share an asado. The key players on the Iberá team celebrate the visit of Forrest Berkley to Rincón del Socorro in Corrientes, Argentina. Group photo at the Esteros del Iberá project in Corrientes, Argentina. Wildlife and conservation managers celebrate the visit of Paula Herrera and Cristian Saucedo's visit from the Chilean Patagonia Park project. School is out in Valle Chacabuco and prizes awarded for various student accomplishments in the past year. Although the school is small with mixed grades, our students get lots of personal attention. They tend to excel relative to their peers in city schools—small classes are a proven advantage. Celebration of the biggest holiday of the year in Chile, the national independence day of the 18th of September. A big meal and barbecue with dancing and singing ensued. Kids, parents, and employees all celebrate the big Chilean national holiday of the 18th of September at the Reñihué Farm on the edge of Pumalín Park in the Palena Province of southern Chile. Vets and wildlife managers coming back with a captured and anesthetized Giant Anteater, darted with a tranquilizer which puts them to sleep for an hour-long examination for any health problems, in order to analyze if the animal is healthy and ready for reintroduction into the wild. Young future fencers out doing footwork exercises with their teacher as part of the sports program in our small single-room school at Rincón del Socorro in Corrientes, Argentina. Farm managers meet with architects to discuss designs for farm infrastructure from housing to irrigation houses, to barns and sheds at the Laguna Blanca farm in Entre Ríos, Argentina. Crew at Rincón del Socorro in a group photo composed of employees of the eco-tourist lodge and the wildlife and park administrators. With lots of public access infrastructure for the parklands, from information and park warden buildings, to hosterias, to private housing, roadside landscaping and campgrounds, the landscape crew is essential and of utmost importance to make for good atmosphere around the buildings and roads. Here is one of the small 'cuadrillas' that make up the larger landscaping department of the conservation team in Argentina. Group photo from the forestry and agriculture farm, La Señora del Milagro in the Buenos Aires Province of Argentina after a full company meeting out on the farm itself mixing managers, contractors, consultants, office personnel, beekeepers, cowhands, architects and some employees kids as well. Another Chile/Argentina/California get together for an exchange of experiences and getting to know others doing similar work on our collective projects. Wildlife managers, administrators, accounting departments, public relations, and general leadership. Full team at Laguna Blanca from orchards, to grains, to infrastructure, maintenance and administration pose for a group photo for a souvenir of a good day with good spirit.

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