2019 Train the Trainer Profiles

The 2019 Scholar Program was pre-empted in order to hold the first ever Global Summit Meeting of all Train the Trainers (TTT), some of whom have been teaching SCGIS classes and organizing national SCGIS conferences for a decade.  The summit will help determine the future course of this flagship program and permit the trainers to update their ArcGIS skills. 

Read below to learn more about the participants attending this year's program!


Dr. Karen Beardsley, University of California Davis, United States (Program Lead) 

Karen works as the Director of Global Professional Programs, Global Affairs at the University of California Davis. Karen has been associated with the SCGIS Global Scholars Program ever since it began around campfire meetings at the James Reserve in the early 1990's. Karen explains, “GIS is not really all about the technology. It’s about connecting people.”   


Leslie Backus, United States/Globally Located (TTT Master Trainer)

Leslie is a founding member of the SCGIS Board of Directors and has been instrumental in the evolution of the Global Scholars Program over many years. She has traveled extensively teaching GIS throughout the world. Her expertise is in geoinformatics and wildlife biology. Leslie recently taught as a professor at the Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan.    


John Schaeffer, Juniper GIS, United States (TTT Founder)

John is a GIS Analyst, ArcGIS Instructor, and the founder of Juniper GIS. He has been helping people succeed with GIS since 1992. John recalls, “I have been working with GIS and ESRI software since 1993, specializing in training and GIS services for smaller agencies that prefer a more personal approach. I also volunteer training and assistance to conservation groups, especially SCGIS (Society for Conservation GIS) and am interested in more work with groups, anywhere in the world. I have developed extensive course work for using ArcGIS for conservation, natural resource, and environmental issues.” He explains, “I have also been the lead instructor for the SCGIS Scholars program since 2009 and have been working with scholars in Uganda, Russia, South Africa, and Mexico to train them as instructors and to provide classes for conservation groups in those areas.”


Dr. Mervyn Lotter, MTPA Research Station, South Africa (TTT Master Trainer)

Mervyn is a Certified Master Trainer with the SCGIS Train the Trainer program and is co-leading the first ever SCGIS TTT Summit Meeting in 2019. Mervyn is a Biodiversity Planner at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency in South Africa. According to Mervyn, “our organization has the biodiversity mandate for the province. I developed our systematic conservation plan (together with a temporary coordinator) that has been amazingly instrumental in supporting conservation actions throughout the province.”  

About the history of his work, Mervyn says, “I started as a botanist using GIS to develop species distribution models to overlay models to identify priority areas for threatened plant species, this progressed to basic database management, and the development of our first aquatic and terrestrial conservation plans using a systematic conservation planning approach and Marxan (completed in 2007). I then used output to develop a land-use planning GIS using ArcExplorer 2 and spatial priority layers. This was followed by the development of our provinces first protected area expansion strategy where I determined the spatial priorities for our 20 year strategy. I am currently working on revising our systematic conservation plan by using an updated landcover, new species distribution data, planning units, freshwater priorities, threat layers, etc.”


Dr. Carlos “Carlitos” DeAngelo, Subtropical Biology Institute, Argentina (TTT Master Trainer)

Carlitos is a Certified Master Trainer with the SCGIS Train the Trainer program and is co-leading the first ever SCGIS TTT Summit Meeting in 2019. Carlitos explains, “I have a broad background in training people for different purposes. During my PhD I worked in training park rangers, farmers, students and members of governmental agencies for collecting information about large carnivores along the northeast of Argentina, southern Brazil and eastern Paraguay. Since 2003 I organized many small field training workshops and three tri-national workshops with more than 60 participants each. In the last few years I have participated more actively in formal graduate and postgraduate courses, mainly in relation to conservation biology, landscape ecology and GIS.”

From an essay he wrote in 2012 about becoming a TTT Trainer, Carlitos reflects, “my experience this year at the SCGIS training was outstanding, not only during the first two weeks in Davis, but also at both conferences where I discovered a completely new world for me, full of people that are thinking and working with the same kind of challenges, using GIS in conservation projects. For this reason, I think that being a “Trainer – Trainee” will give me the opportunity of working on the SCGIS program from a different perspective.”


M Abdullah "Diyan" Abu Diyan, Bangladesh/Australia 

Diyan is currently an Asset Analyst at SA Power Networks in Australia and a Freelance GIS and Remote Sensing Analyst. About the use of GIS in Bangladesh, Diyan says, “GIS among industry and commercial sector in Bangladesh is on the rise; however, not much of that growth is facilitated by academia. Use of GIS in conservation in this country is also very little. The TTT program therefore is a great opportunity for me to start something new in my country. I can learn from the training, and most importantly, use the teaching materials as ideal resource to start training the people involved in nature conservation. Such initiative will help to expand the capacity of conservation scientists and help with spreading the use of GIS in this community.”

About his teaching experiences, he explains, “I have taught Introduction to Environmental Science at North South University, Bangladesh as a lecturer during fall 2013. I am affiliated with the university as a part-time faculty member. I plan to carry on teaching there, when my schedule permits.” He continues, “I would like to facilitate the expansion of conservation GIS community in my country, and in future would like to get involved in international collaboration in this region. I hope to make Bangladesh a regional hub for conservation GIS activity, and hold international training workshops in Dhaka.”


Aaria Ripeka Dobson-Waitere, Taranaki Whaanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika/Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, New Zealand

Aaria works at Taranaki Whaanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika / Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust in New Zealand. About her experiences, she says, “My degree gives me the confidence to walk in two worlds; the modern scientific world and Te Ao Maaori. I can be a voice for the Maaori community in political decision making, while also bringing my science knowledge to iwi (tribe) decision making. I see the SCGIS training as a great opportunity to build upon the GIS skills I have already begun to develop over the years, while also providing an opportunity to network with other indigenous communities from all over the world. I am passionate about contributing to kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of the environment as the basis for our collective wellbeing and have seen examples of how GIS data can provide support for achieving this.”

Regarding the challenges of her work, Aaria explains, “The challenge that I identify is to maintain and not compromise the essential factor of sustainable practices in consideration of the goals of productivity and profitability. My suggestion is that a commitment to a holistic overview is critical in recognising the interconnections of land, water, forest and people, therefore ensuring that all decision making considers how this delicate balance is protected.”


Deborah Jewitt, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), South Africa

Deborah works as a conservation scientist for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, and carries out research in Botany, Ecology, Conservation Planning, Climate Change, Land Cover Change, Connectivity, Gradients and Biodiversity. She is also active in the SCGIS South Africa Chapter. About her work, Deborah says, “my work involves the collection, synthesis and reporting of information pertaining to landscapes and ecosystems in the province, in particular their individual trend, prioritization for surveillance, monitoring and conservation action, the major threats to them, and to develop plans for and contribute to their long term conservation. I use GIS as one of the tools to achieve this mandate.”

Deborah explains that “living in South Africa means that we basically live on the other side of the world, miles away from most developed countries! Our country is wonderful from a biodiversity perspective as we have such a vast array of diversity, and indeed our province of KZN is situated within the internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot known as the “Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany” hotspot. South Africa is a mix of first world and third world conditions which gives rise to some interesting situations. Our isolation, both geographically and socio-historically, and the lack of resources we have to conserve this awesome biodiversity means that South Africa’s researchers are in the position of having to do and be masters of several skills, instead of necessarily being master of a specific skill.”


Anna Komarova, Greenpeace, Russia

Anna works with GIS and Conservation at Greenpeace Russia. Her conservation activism began in her student days in 2003 at Moscow State University where she was head of the Science Department of the University’s Student Nature Protection Team. In 2006 she joined Greenpeace Russia as a Protected Areas Assistant, working alongside Dr. Ilona Zhuraleva who was part of a new GIS team at Greenpeace Russia. Together they have gone on to help make the SCGIS Russia Chapter one of the most successful in the world, organizing many national conferences and conservation GIS training activities.

About her work, Anna says, “It’s often only Greenpeace Russia (alone or in collaborating with other NGOs) who gives reliable information about natural disaster and lawlessness of officials, and GIS is a very important tool. As far as Russia’s case is concerned, the official source of such information in Russia are not convenient (not reliable, not easy to find, not timely etc).”


Andina Anastasia Krey, USAID (United States Agency for International Development), Indonesia

Andina works for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Lestari in Indonesia. She explains, “Our organization exists to improve the management of forests in Indonesia that is highly related with the global warming/climate change issues. […] As it is widely known, Indonesia plays a critical role related to global warming, due to a huge amount of emission caused by deforestation in this country. In Indonesia, Papua is a Province with the most abundant natural resources including forest. Mangrove forest in Mimika, Papua, where I work, is among one of the largest blocks of mangrove forests in the world, with an outstanding biodiversity in it. I have been interested in remote sensing of mangrove forest since I was in undergraduate study. I am consistent in increasing my skill on this through my academic study (master degree) and through my working experience. Why is mangrove forest is important related to climate change? Because in the tropics, the capability of this forest to absorb carbon is greater than coral reef and tropical rain forest. It is also highly essential to maintain fish stock.”


Nicolás “Nico” Alejandro Lois, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Nico works in Conservation and GIS at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Regarding his interest in conservation, Nico says, “I have always been attracted by nature and its complexity. As soon as I finished my secondary education, my huge curiosity dragged me to the Buenos Aires Zoo’s gate at the age of 18. Since then, I have been a volunteer there, dedicating myself to the conservation of the Crowned Solitary Eagle, one of the most unknown and endangered species in the Neotropical Region.”

About his background in GIS, Nico explains, “I started working with GIS in 2009 thanks to the abundant data provided by the satellite transmitter with which we tagged an adult Crowned Solitary Eagle that October. Since then, I began my formal training in two correlative university courses. Then, I started developing a GIS for the processing of the satellite data which I am still improving today. I have successfully designed many maps with the results from the analysis of the satellite data for fellow researchers or conservationists that work for the conservation of the Crowned Solitary Eagle.”


Claudel Tshibangu Lukusa, Frankfurt Zoological Society, DR Congo

Claudel is the Communications Officer and GIS Analyst for the Frankfurt Zoological Society in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. About his organization and his work, Claudel explains, “Frankfurt Zoological Society is a German based conservation Organisation. The project is focused on the rehabilitation project of Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks, financed by the European Union. We are working to re-organize park management, the surveillance system and introduce new monitoring methods by using new technologies such as GIS and GPS tools. […] Even though I have a background in journalism and communications, I have been learning GIS and now support all the GIS work in the organization within the region. I see GIS as a critical tool that will help us improve management capacity.”

Claudel says, “The most challenging thing about conservation/GIS where I work is the lack of data and the versions of GIS software. It’s difficult to work with old versions especially when I get shape files made from the latest versions. I’m working in the most dangerous place where Congolese army is fighting regularly for years now against different rebel groups. […] Overall, working in Congo is one of the most challenging places in the world to do conservation, but this also means that we really need training and new tools like remote sensing to help our work.” 



Ali “Doost” Nawaz, Wildlife Conservation Society, Pakistan

Doost has been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society since 2008, where he assists in strategic planning and mapping of conservation programs and wildlife surveys. About his background with GIS, Doost says, “My introduction with GIS started through a short training in ArcGIS in 2004. This training provided me a basic understanding of GIS, later a colleague and GIS expert at Snow Leopard Foundation (SLF) provided me on job training while I was assisting him in SLF conservation work.” 

About his future plans, Doost continues, “On completion of SCGIS training, and with [the] support of WCS, I will hold a training of local staff of WCS, Wildlife & Parks and other departments and representatives of WCS valley resource organizations to share the knowledge gained through SCGIS training and build their capacities for revisions and updating GIS maps for both integrated conservation and development plans and to manage the most biodiversity hotspot areas of Pakistan.”


Diana Paredes, Wildlife Conservation Society, Ecuador

Diana is a GIS Specialist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Ecuador. About the work of her organization, she explains that “the mission of WCS is to save wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. In addition, WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth.”

Regarding her interest in GIS, Diana says, “Conservation of landscapes started being my passion since I was very young. The importance of nature for humans, and all the environmental problems that exist always troubled me, so I decided to learn more and get more involved. I figured out that the geographic engineering was the right fit for me and my personal interests. My main goal in conservation is to visualize the reality of the ground on a map, for effective wildlife conservation, improving environmental services and achieving harmony between nature and humans. Another personal goal that has guided me from my beginnings in conservation is to help indigenous people in conservation and management of their territories.”


Caterina “Cata” Dimitriadis Pampin, Por La Pesca Artesanal (POPA), Uruguay

Caterina works at Por La Pesca Artesanal (POPA) in Uruguay. About her organization, Caterina explains, “The POPA Group, formed in 2011, brings together people with very different experiences and realities, but with a common interest: the artisanal fisheries. POPA is a not-for profit organization focused on participatory approaches to improve artisanal fisheries regarding catch, incomes, governance, livelihoods and impact, being the participation of its members entirely voluntary.”

About her work, Caterina says, “I'm not sure my work is unique but I know that working with fishermen is very difficult because it requires a long time to gain their trust and establish a horizontal relationship. For 10 years I [have worked] with artisanal fishermen covering various aspects of the fishery. It's really a great challenge to work with people who have deep traditional knowledge of the fishery and its environment but lack training and have access to methodological tools to answer your questions. It is essential that researchers and fishermen work together for good quality data that allow for adequate and accurate analysis.”


Johanna Prüssmann, World Wildlife Fund, Colombia

Johanna is an Ecosystem Services and Climate Analyst at the World Wildlife Fund in Colombia. She majored in Biology at the Universidad de Antioquia and graduated from EAFIT University with an MSc degree in Earth Sciences. She also worked for 10 years as a lecturer in Marine Sciences and GIS at several universities in Colombia, and also worked as a geographic consultant for over 5 years. About her work, Johanna says, “I do not stick to just making maps, but I try translate and complement them with useful information for decision makers and stakeholders through charts and infographics. My diverse background also allows me to be able to integrate a lot of information from different disciplines. I am very systematic and creative in my work, too. I like to think about data visualization as both science and art, which allows me to exercise both sides of my brain.”

About her interest in SCGIS and the Train the Trainer program, she says, “These are exciting days indeed, where technology is now able to leap in a matter of days, and thus you have got to stay on top of your game. I think the whole program, including the training module and the attendance to both conferences, is a once in a lifetime opportunity to gather new knowledge, to learn about new techniques, procedures, data source, and so on, not to mention the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who share many of my own interests. These kind of experiences are mind-openers, which allow me to be more efficient and creative, to be also able to think outside the box, so than I can face challenges and solve problems with more ease, and deliver higher-quality products.”


Federico Riet Sapriza, Cetáceos Uruguay & University of the Andes, Uruguay/Colombia

Federico is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Andes and also works with the non-profit research and conservation group Cetáceos Uruguay. About his work, he explains, "My research and work is focused on marine mammals (cetaceans, sea lions and fur seals) habitat use, home range, spatial density/distribution, overlap with human activities and environmental impact assessment. More than 30 species of marine mammals inhabit Uruguayan waters and two of the most emblematic species are the southern right whale and Franciscana dolphin, the latter have serious conservation issues (IUCN, vulnerable and population trend decreasing). By and large, my aim is to map the distribution, home range and core areas of these animals and the spatial overlap/interaction with human activities (e.g. fisheries, offshore development). And, consequently and most important is to use these data to map the hotspot of interaction and propose areas for conservation (Marine Protected Areas).” 

Regarding the opportunities and challenges of his work, Federico says, “The most exciting part of my work with marine mammals is that there is a lack of information about the species that I work with so every finding/result is motivating and innovative. However, the most difficult part is to finance the cost of the research, because there [are] virtually no government research grants; and thus my research funding is from overseas. Further, another difficult part of the work is the lack of interest from the local government and lack of management actions and plans towards marine mammal conservation.”


Ela Šegina, Geological Survey of Slovenia, Slovenia

Ela works for the Geological Survey of Slovenia. She describes the history of her work with GIS and conservation as follows, “I used a GIS as a conservation tool during my volunteering at a NGO CIPRA Slovenia, where we were developing a plan of revitalisation of the alpine lake. I was also working on a land use change in Koper, Slovenia. In my diploma thesis I performed spatial analysis of factors that cause rockfalls on coastal cliffs along the Slovenian coast and produced the geohazard susceptibility map of a large part of Slovenian coast. I participated at the conservation of a seagrass Posidonia Oceanica meadows in the Bay of Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. In my PhD thesis I performed numerous spatial analysis of karst surface features that contributed to the understanding of karst geomorphology and evolution of the karst surface on Krk Island in Croatia.” Ela concludes that “the most challenging [aspect] in my GIS work is how to use a high-tech computer tools in interpreting and understanding something as basic as the nature.”


Angela Tarimy, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC), Madagascar

Angela is the National Coordinator for the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) in Madagascar. About her organization and her work, she says, “The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) in collaboration with Malagasy and Russian (NGO Transparent World) Partners is developing in Madagascar a new mapping tool for tropical forests, as local conservation tools, through the project called Manondroala. The word manondroala is Malagasy language, and it means showing the forest. It is also the name of an endangered local tree species that grows in the East coast of Madagascar – and is highly dependent on the remaining forest areas. The aim of the project is to develop a forest monitoring network throughout Madagascar, for local to national level, from community associations to universities and to forest administration.”

Regarding the Train the Trainer summit, Angela explains that the "Skills obtained from this new program will help [her] to develop training on ArcGIS Pro, to exchange experiences and to build strong and long-term capacity for Malagasy network of conservationists."


Alejandro Rubén Vila, Wildlife Conservation Society, Chile

Alejandro works as the Chief Science Officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Santiago, Chile. About his organization, he explains, “The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), founded in 1895, saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education, and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. WCS conserves critical landscapes and seascapes by helping governments, national organizations, and communities establish and manage parks and protected areas, and integrate them with the complex matrix of surrounding land uses. WCS conducts more than 500 wildlife research and conservation projects in 60 countries, and is a leader in identifying local solutions to wildlife conservation challenges.”

About his beginnings in conservation, Alejandro says, “My first job in the conservation arena was at the Education Department of Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA) in 1988. At the same time, and while still an undergraduate student, I volunteered in several WCS research projects studying sea lions, elephant seals and killer whales at Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia.”


Buh Gaston Wung, World Wildlife Fund, Cameroon

Buh is the GIS Coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Cameroon Country Program Office (CCPO). He is “one of the national coordinating team members for SCGIS in Cameroon and [has] been an active member since the inception of this local chapter in 2007.” Buh explains that some of the challenges in his conservation and GIS work are “field based site work with constant movement to other project sites to extend the application of GIS. Image analysis and interpretation has been challenging […] and constantly require knowledge in this domain to complete GIS assignments. Considering the fact that I do work in remote areas, there are problems of internet connections and with occasional cut off from others. So any difficult[y] will require self solving.”

About his desire to work with SCGIS, he says, “My request to participate in the SCGIS annual conference is expressing my yearning to further build knowledge in the field of GIS that will permit me [to] transfer this knowledge back to my home country Cameroon in order to provide better geospatial services that will robustly contribute toward effective and efficient nature conservation in this part of the world.”


Ilona Zhuravleva, Greenpeace, Russia

Ilona works with GIS and Conservation for Greenpeace Russia. After attending a conservation seminar led by Greenpeace Russia she began work with Greenpeace in 2005 and was joined the following year by her friend and colleague Anna Komarova. Since then these two scientists have assisted with many SCGIS, Chapter, Conference and Training efforts.

About the work of her organization, Ilona explains, “There are three items in focus in Greenpeace Russia GIS work: intact forest landscapes, forest fires and forest cover change. Forest fire areas in Russia [have grown] significantly during the last 15 years. It’s the consequences of legislation changes (federal avia-forest-monitoring system closing and giving forestry function to regional level) and decreasing of forest fire defense funding (total funds decreased three times from 2000 to 2009). In this situation Russian Federal State Statistics gave five times less forest fires than Remote Sensing. That’s why Greenpeace Russia monitors forest fires not only for rapid response (we have own fire-fighting volunteer group), but [also] for raising awareness while authorities try to hide information. Especially we check protected areas fire status and track fires on contaminated areas after Chernobyl’ disaster.”