Wildlife Conservation
Science and Education

Meet the team

WILDCONSCIENCE’s work is supported by a network of fully committed professionals with a wide range of expertise and eager to protect nature by providing nature organizations and governments with outstanding knowledge and tools for natural sciences, management and environmental education and training.

Fernando Simal

Managing Director

Born in Spain and living in the Caribbean region since late childhood, Fernando holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Lousiana at Monroe and a MSc in Nature Conservation and Management from the Universidad de Cádiz, Spain. After 10 years working as manager of the Washington-Slagbaai National Park including 2 years as Interim Manager of the Bonaire National Marine Park, he created the Natural and Historic Resources Unit of STINAPA Bonaire, which he managed during 4 years. During his years as park manager he created a visitors centre for the park that includes a 7 exhibits indoor and outdoor museum, a small library, hiking trails with interpretation signs and a gift shop among others. He was granted money for several projects that he wrote and all of them were carried out successfully. Fernando also authored and successfully implemented the Management Plan 2006-2010 for the park. On the science side, Fernando engaged in scientific research and monitoring that includes different habitats and populations of birds, bats, flora, invasive species, coral reefs, marine mammals and more. Fernando established the PPRABC (Bat Conservation Program for the ABC Islands) and acted as General Coordinator of this group for 3 years, successfully leading projects in scientific research, education and conservation. Additionally he is a board member of BirdsCaribbean, the Society for Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds, the largest bird conservation organization in the region. Totally in love with the nature of the Islands above and below sea level, Fernando is happy to go as many extra miles as needed for the conservation of these ecological treasures and strongly believes that a truly regional approach is the only way to achieve significant goals in nature conservation of this biodiversity hot spot known as the Caribbean region.

Read here Fernando's CV.

Jimmy van Rijn

Fisheries Specialist

Born in Amsterdam and with an early crave for the outdoors, Jimmy got especially interested in nature conservation during a three months sailing and SCUBA diving trip in the Pacific. He noticed a big gap in biodiversity between the descriptions of the diving sites and the reality in coral reefs around Thailand and Malaysia and decided to get involved. Jimmy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Coastal Zone Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden. As part of his studies Jimmy had the privilege to work on the Islands of Bonaire ands St. Eustatius. During his work with the Bonaire National Marine Park, Jimmy was involved in baseline research on beach debris and tar pollution and participated in studies on the effectiveness of lionfish removal. On St. Eustatius he was involved in designing and testing methodology for studies on Queen Conch working with IMARES. The new methodology was a success and it is currently used in several islands in the Caribbean. In 2013, Jimmy accepted a job as the Saba Bank Park Officer, where he coordinated dependent and independent surveys in fisheries, facilitated research projects, was involved in management aspects of the Saba Bank Nature Park and was involved in marine mammal studies that aim to establish a marine mammal reserve in the Dutch Caribbean. He is currently working on his masters in Marine Resources Management at Wagenigen University but his heart is settled with the Caribbean islands where he wants to devote his time working towards building a base of comprehensive knowledge about the natural resources of the islands that will help conserve the vital resources of the Caribbean. Jimmy’s motivation is that people need nature and now nature needs us.

Frank F. Rivera-Milan

Scientific Advisor

Frank is a population ecologist working with the Branch of Population and Habitat Assessments, Division of Migratory Bird Management, United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Previously, Dr. Rivera-Milán was with the Service’s Division of International Conservation. He received an Honor Award from the Service in 2010, for achieving extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation. Dr. Rivera-Milán has over 25 years of experience working in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1990, he earned a doctorate degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. As part of his dissertation work, Dr. Rivera-Milán developed a monitoring program to inform the management of game and nongame pigeons and doves in Puerto Rico. Currently he is monitoring parrots and other landbirds in collaboration with government agencies and NGOs in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Bonaire, and Grenada. Dr. Rivera-Milán is mainly interested in population ecology, ecological modeling, and the application of statistical methods to wildlife research, monitoring, and management. He has over 40 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals; and, in collaboration with wildlife biologists and statisticians, he is involved in the development and application of survey sampling designs and counting methods for birds and other taxa. See a selection of Frank’s publications.

Read here Frank's publications.

Daniela Simal

Biologist and Science Communicator

Daniela holds a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Master of Science in Biology, both of which she completed in The Netherlands. Born and raised in the Caribbean, she is interested in spending more time in this biodiversity hot spot in order to contribute to nature conservation and the local communities of the region. Daniela has always had an interest and curiosity towards nature and its complex systems and processes. In recent years however, she has realised how nature conservation and societal issues are deeply intertwined, especially within the Caribbean region. With this in mind, she completed a specialization in science communication at the Free University of Amsterdam (VU) during her MSc at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). She believes that this new knowledge and perspective on science will be helpful in the realm of nature conservation. During her studies, Daniela worked with a wide variety of marine and terrestrial fauna, but somehow has often circled back to bats. This all started during high school, when she worked as a field assistant collecting data for STINAPA Bonaire for three years on their bat research and monitoring program. Later she conducted an inventory of bat roosts on Aruba during her BASc, and the final research project for her MSc was on the effect of exclusion barriers on the exit and entry behaviour of bats at their diurnal and maternity roosts on Bonaire. When it comes to the marine environment, Daniela has 21 years of SCUBA diving experience under her weight belt. These 21 years of diving include a coral restauration internship, setting up conch experiments on seagrass beds, and lionfish eradication work. In addition, she is also experienced in sea turtle surveys and captures. Daniela is currently working at an ecological consultancy in The Netherlands where she primarily conducts house sparrow, swift and bat roosts inventories in the urban habitat during spring and summer. Although she currently enjoys working with bats, she is also very eager to expand her experience with other marine and terrestrial wildlife.

Read here Daniela's CV.

Linda Garcia-Smith

Marine Ecology Specialist

Born in South Africa and living in the Caribbean region since 2010, Linda holds a National Diploma & B-Tech Diploma (Cum Laude) in Oceanography from the Cape Technikon (now Cape Peninsula University of Technology) and a MSc in Statistical Sciences, from University of Cape Town, Avian Demography Unit. Linda worked as a Senior Research Technician at the Department of Sea Fisheries, later the Marine & Coastal Management in South Africa. For 9 years she was involved in scientific research and monitoring of top predators (Great white sharks, marine mammals & different populations and habitats of sea birds) and eco-tourism (monitoring & management of the boat-based whale watching & Great white shark cage diving operations), as well as sustainable fisheries in the Antarctic Region within the EEZ of South Africa (Patagonian Toothfish industry). From 2005 - 2008 she was one of the Directors of Global Ocean Video Services, and also established Africa Diver Booking cc. In 2009 she left South Africa, sailed to the Caribbean and settled in Aruba, working full time as a Scuba Diving Instructor. In 2012 she attended a Bats and Caves Workshop given by the group PPRABC (Bat Conservation Program for the ABC Islands). Working in close cooperation with Parque Nacional Arikok, Linda has been the person responsible for the data collection, storage and management of the bat monitoring sessions and the cacti phenology project of the PPRABC. In March 2014 she elected as the Scientific Research Coordinator of the PPRABC. From a young age Linda has always had a passion and huge love for nature, especially animals, and a deep desire to contribute to conservation of these delicate systems and educate anyone willing to listen and learn. She loves to be outdoors and enjoys nature both on land and underwater.

Fadilah Ali

Invasive Species Ecology

Fadilah is an ecologist with a specialty in invasive species biology, control and management. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, she has a Masters degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Biodiversity and Conservation and is currently completing her PhD in Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton in England. During her time in Southampton she has conducted research on biological indicators for water quality as well as the distribution and impact of marine debris on British coastlines and also designed an Environmental Management System for the Southampton City Council. Additionally, she has received training in Environmental Law, Environmental Impact Assessments and Environmental Pollution and Oil Spill Response. However, Fadilah’s main specialty has been her research on the lionfish invasion within the Southern Caribbean for the last 5 years. She has conducted research in many islands throughout the Caribbean but the majority of her work was based in Bonaire. Recently, she was responsible for conducting an ecological analysis of the lionfish invasion in Anguilla in a means to develop a Lionfish Management Plan for the Government of Anguilla. Her work has concentrated on understanding lionfish feeding ecology since monitoring their diet and any changes over time will be the best way to predict their impact on local industries. Fadilah especially enjoys education and outreach activities and has conducted numerous workshops with participants ranging in age from less to 5 to more than 75 years old! Throughout her graduate career, she has presented at many local, regional and international scientific meetings and has been awarded numerous awards, bursaries and grants.

Read here Fadilah's publications.

Adriana Vallarino Moncada

Seabird Specialist

Adriana is a Postdoctoral Fellow at ECOSUR Campeche in Mexico, the country where she was born. She obtained a PhD at the University of Glasgow in 2008 after surviving two field seasons rising and getting down eggs and chicks from the steep cliffs of the North Sea. She spent many hours of her life doing behavioural observations of seabirds and another considerable portion of her time taking and analyzing blood samples at the lab trying to understand why seabirds behave as they do. She has 13 years of experience working on the field with aquatic and sea birds (census, monitoring, behavioral observations, GIS, blood and regurgitate sampling amongst others), in the lab measuring different physiological parameters (hormones, pollutants, enzymes, oxidative stress, etc.) and in the office writing articles that have resulted in authorship of 9 publications in scientific journals, 1 book and 4 chapters for other books. During her free time, Adriana co-founded the “Café Scientifique of Campeche” and coordinates the Campeche Bird Festival. She likes to do these events in order to act as a science translator for it to become understandable and usable for everyone not familiar with the sciences and also promote environmental education and nature conservation activities.

Read here Adriana's publications.

Laura Navarro Noriega

Environmental Education Advisor

Born and based in Mexico, Laura has over twenty years of experience in the fields on environmental and artistic education. For over 20 years she has been the Coordinator of Education, Communications and Community Work for the Bat Conservation Program of Mexico and since 2010 she is the Education Coordinator of RELCOM (The Latin America and Caribbean Bat Conservation Network). She has designed several education strategies that include programs for rural communities and didactic units for school teachers and students of all levels. Laura has facilitated more than one hundred workshops, courses and conferences in Mexico and other latin American countries. An avid writer, she has written 11 children books, 8 of them about different species of bats, co-author several chapters in other books and academic articles. In the area of communication she has designed and created exhibits, radio series, interpretation trails and mass media campaigns. Her work has been recognized internationally with several prizes and awards like “Educator of the year” by Bat Conservation International, “The CERC Overbrook Fellowship for latin American Conservationists” and the “Conservation Hero Award” in 2006 by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund.

John Mickelson

GIS Specialist

John is a landscape ecologist and geospatial engineer who works to create GIS, remote sensing and spatial data tools to improve researchers’, land managers’ and decision makers’ access to and understanding of complex spatial issues. He holds M.S. and B.S. degrees from the University of Connecticut in forest ecology and natural resource engineering and his 18 year multidisciplinary background spans the fields of biogeography, restoration ecology, conservation planning, hydrology, geology and soils. He is trained as a field ecologist and since 1993 has been developing and conducting trainings with digital field data collection systems (GPS) in support of habitat, vegetation, and biophysical community surveys across the Americas and SE Asia. As a senior geospatial lead at Columbia University’s Earth Institute (at Lamont-Doherty), John designed and delivered analytic, project management and geospatial expertise for diverse NASA, USGS and related earth science and data programs. He recently served as founding GIS and Information Systems manager for a small, environmental non-profit in New York City, developing the spatial analyses and data support to aid reforestation programs for some 9,000 acres (1 million trees) of New York City’s tree canopy. As a private consultant, educator and technical trainer, he has long provided ecological and geospatial systems support to a wide range of resource agencies and stakeholder groups across the Hudson Valley region. Having worked and played across the Caribbean for nearly 30 years, one of John’s passions is in helping local stakeholders by equipping them with the data, information and technical resources that they might safeguard their most precious collective resource: the natural world.

Odette Doest

Wildlife Veterinary

Odette was born and is based in the Island of Curaçao. She graduated as a veterinarian in 1999 at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. During her studies she worked as a technician at the exotics and birds department of the university. In 1999 Odette did her first study on a mixed species colony of macaws in the wild in the pampas of Bolivia and Peru, following a study of macaw behavior in the wild during a reintroduction program. She also worked with the animal trainers at the Disney Animal Kingdom. During her rotations she frequently joined the veterinarians of the Bronx Zoo, while attending the exotic and bird department at the animal medical center in New York. Back in Curaçao, in 2002 she started her own animal clinic with a focus on zoo and wildlife medicine, where she has treated large felids, lions, bears, deer and several species of resident and migratory birds. Her busy clinic does not keep Odette from getting involved in wildlife conservation programs on the Caribbean Islands; she helped starting up the education and registration program for the Yellow-shouldered parrot on Bonaire and participates in the annual counts of this species. After a few years as the Conservation Coordinator, she became the General Coordinator of the Bat Conservation program for the ABC Islands and also became a CITES member for the Dutch Caribbean in 2014. On the education side, Odette spends time visiting children at the local schools and had a spot on a local TV station program in Curaçao on veterinary education and animal management. At the moment she is doing research on the potential zoonotic effects of bats and their vectors in the ABC islands, with the aim to achieve a PHD at the University of Utrecht and is also working as a consultant for the Bonaire Government for whom she is supervising their feral donkey program.

Read here Odette's professional profile.

Eneida Fajardo

Sea turtle Conservation Specialist

Eneida is a Venezuelan biologist with 13 years of experience on sea turtle conservation, science and education. In 2006 she obtained a degree in Biology at LUZ (The University of Zulia, in Maracaibo). As one of the coordinators of the Research and Conservation Project of Sea turtles of the Paria Peninsula in Venezuela, she monitored reproductive activity, marked with metallic and PIT (Microchips) tags and collected morphological data on several species of sea turtles. She has also participated with sea turtle work in other islands in the Caribbean, like Puerto Rico and Bonaire. Part of her work included the organization and facilitation of workshops and courses addressing sea turtle biology and conservation. Additionally, Eneida has obtained experience on marine mammals conservation and research at CIC (Center for Cetacean Investigation, in Venezuela), coral recruiting and survival at Los Roques Ntl. Park and research at Delta del Orinoco Reserve of the Biosphere. She also participated on research work at STINAPA Bonaire, where she was involved in data collection and GIS work for bird and bat populations. Today Eneida chooses to spend most of her time educating the coastal communities in Venezuela because she considers this activity to have the strongest effect in her goal to change perceptions and attitudes towards our precious natural resources.