U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, Congressional Auditorium
In a briefing to align with Half-Earth Day 2022, and the Half-Earth Project supported via legislation from Rep. Beyer, a series of discussions at the U.S. Capitol included wildlife corridors, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act (H.R. 2795), challenges facing biodiversity, finding solutions, and building partnerships. Featuring, Connor Vargo, Office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Levi Patterson, Legislative Assistant for Energy/Environment, Office of Senator Luján (D-NM), Dan Ashe, President & CEO, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Carlton Ward Jr., Wildpath, Jodi Hilty, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Chad Wilsey, National Audubon Society, Dawn Wright, Esri, and many more distinguished guests.
Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine is a published author, computer scientist, lecturer, mathematician, historian, columnist, preservationist, environmental justice advocate, environmentalist, film consultant, and “The Art-ivist.” She is the founder of the premiere advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition.
Queen Quet was vetted with the US White House as an Expert Commissioner in the Department of the Interior. As an expert commissioner, she was also the Chair of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor General Management Plan. Queen Quet also served as a member of the “National Park Relevancy Committee ” and proudly continues to work to protect the environment and to ensure that diverse groups of people engage in the outdoors and the policies governing them. Queen Quet has engaged in several White House conferences on this issue. She has also been a part of the United Nations COP 22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco and COP 25 in Madrid, Spain. She also spoke at the United Nations Ocean Action Summit in Korea.
Queen Quet was selected, elected, and enstooled by her people to be the first Queen Mother, “head pun de bodee,” and official spokesperson for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. As a result, she is respectfully referred to as “Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation.” This bio represents a small portion of Queen Quet’s work and accolades; see her full bio at www.QueenQuet.com.
Connor Vargo, Legislative Assistant, Office of Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08)
Connor Vargo serves as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08), where he covers animal and wildlife issues for the Congressman. Connor has held a number of roles with Congressman Beyer along with other Members over more than 4 years on the Hill. Connor holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of New Haven in Connecticut.
Levi Patterson, Legislative Assistant for Energy, Office of Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)
Levi is currently serving Senator Ben Ray Luján as a Legislative Assistant for energy, environment, and natural resources. In this role, he has had the opportunity to lead legislation for Senator Luján that promotes conservation, climate action, and environmental justice. Previously, Levi was able to contribute to these same issues for Senator Chris Coons as a Legislative Fellow sponsored by the American Nuclear Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Before coming to Capitol Hill, Levi worked at General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy where he worked on nuclear energy and cyber security projects. He holds a B.S. in Engineering Physics and a M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.
Dawn Wright, PhD, Chief Scientist, Esri
Dr. Dawn Wright is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (aka Esri), a world-leading geographic information system (GIS) software and data science company. Core to Esri’s mission is to inspire and enable people to positively impact their future by connecting them with the geoanalytic knowledge needed to make the critical decisions shaping the planet. Hence, Esri believes that geography is at the heart of a more resilient and sustainable future. As Chief Scientist, Dawn is responsible for strengthening the scientific foundation for Esri software and services, while representing Esri to the international scientific community. She also serves on the Half Earth Council and the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Board of Directors, and is still a Professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University where she has been on the faculty since 1995.
In the early 1990s Dawn was the first female of African descent to dive to the ocean floor in the deep submersible Alvin. On July 12, 2022 she became the first person of any gender and of African descent to dive to Challenger Deep, the deepest point on Earth, and to successfully operate a sidescan sonar at full-ocean depth. This was accomplished in the deep submersible Limiting Factor.
In April 2021 Dawn was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She holds an Individual Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Physical Geography and Marine Geology from UC-Santa Barbara, an M.S. in Oceanography from Texas A&M, and a B.S. cum laude in Geology from Wheaton College (Illinois). Follow her on Twitter @deepseadawn.
Walter Jetz Scientific Chair, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
Walter Jetz is a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Adjunct Professor in the School of Forestry and the Environment at Yale University. Dr. Jetz is Director of the Yale Center for Biodiversity and Global Change, which links scientists, students and practitioners engaged in the environment, biological, informatics, policy or health aspects and implications of global biodiversity change. He also leads the Map of Life, which consolidates global biodiversity distribution data sources into a single asset to provide the best possible species range information and species lists for any geographic area worldwide.
Dr. Jetz’ work addresses patterns and mechanisms of changing biodiversity distribution and the resulting implications on conservation and environmental management. His research combines remote sensing, phylogenetic, functional, and spatiotemporal biodiversity data with new modeling approaches and informatics tools. Dr. Jetz is particularly interested in how environmental, ecological, and macroevolutionary mechanisms combine to determine the co-occurrence of species and the structure of species assemblages.
In addition to his work at Yale, Dr. Jetz chairs the IPBES Task Group on Biodiversity Indicators and is Co-Lead of the GEO BON Working Group on Species Distributions. Dr. Jetz was previously a professor of biological sciences at the University of California San Diego.
Dr. Jetz earned his MSc in Integrative Bioscience and DPhil in Zoology from the University of Oxford.
Alyssa Ravasio, Founder and CEO, Hipcamp
Alyssa Ravasio is the founder and CEO of Hipcamp, a global online platform that brings the sharing economy to one of the planet’s most plentiful resources—land. Built on the belief that getting outside should be simple, Hipcamp partners with private landowners across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom to create new spaces for recreation, increasing access to the outdoors while providing sustainable revenue to protect nature. To date, Hipcamp has unlocked access to more than 4 million acres of private land and helped people enjoy more than 6 million nights under the stars.
Alyssa has received industry recognition for her achievement. She has served on the Outdoor Industry Association’s Recreation Advisory Council and in 2022 she was recognized by Outside Business Journal as one of the 20 most influential people in the outdoor industry.
Alyssa earned her bachelor’s degree in Digital Democracy and Complexity Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in the wilds of Marin County with her husband and young son, and one of her deepest passions is shaping how the internet impacts our humanity and our planet.
Daniel M. Ashe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Dan is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. AZA is an organization of 240 aquariums, zoos and science centers and more than 7,000 individual members, across 13 nations, and constituting the world’s largest, most prestigious zoological accrediting and professional organization. With AZA staff and over 400 volunteer committee members, Dan advances AZA’s vision, mission and priorities.
A lifelong wildlife conservationist, Dan joined AZA, in January 2017, after serving for 22 years in increasingly responsible, career executive positions within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including Assistant Director for External Affairs, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Science Advisor to the Director, and Deputy Director. Then-President Barack Obama nominated Dan to be U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, and in June 2011, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, serving for nearly six years and leading the agency during a period of extraordinary challenge and opportunity.
Prior to joining the Service, Dan served for 13-years on the career staff of the former Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Dan earned a bachelor degree in Biological Science from Florida State University, and graduate degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington.
Jodi Hilty, President, Chief Scientist, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
Dr. Jodi Hilty is president and chief scientist of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a joint US-Canada non-profit organization. Y2Y’s vision is an interconnected system of wild lands and waters stretching from Yellowstone to Yukon, harmonizing the needs of people with those of nature. A conservation biologist specializing in ecological corridor and large landscape research, she has over 20 years of experience managing large landscape conservation efforts. This work focuses on applying best available information to address complex conservation challenges through community-based and collaborative efforts. A co-editor or lead author on four books, her most recent release is 2019’s Corridor Ecology: Linking Landscapes for Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Adaption. She currently serves on the Board of the Smith Postdoctoral Fellowship and as Deputy Chair of the IUCN Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group.
Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition
Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, has 25+ years of environmental experience—managing grassroots, national, and international campaigns. She leads staff in protecting imperiled wildlife, from the gray wolf to the Rusty patched bumblebee. Previously, Leda was the Acting Executive Director for Finding Species, an organization that advanced science and conservation, primarily in the Amazon. Leda has protected forests by working with university presses, advocated for better medical school education on environmental causes of disease, and developed markets for environmental and energy-efficient products. She has served on nonprofit boards and spoken at congressional events, conferences, and festivals. Leda co-founded EcoWomen—a national nonprofit with five chapters—that empowers environmental leaders. Leda speaks Spanish and Ukrainian. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science from the University of Toronto and graduated with distinction from Vermont Law School with a Master’s degree in environmental law and policy.
Susan Holmes, U.S. Federal Policy Director, Coordinator Connectivity Policy Coalition, Wildlands Network
Susan Holmes has worked for over 25 years to protect wildlife and wild places. She currently directs Wildlands Network’s U.S. federal policy and government affairs work in Washington, D.C., where she promotes legislation and policies to safeguard wildlife habitat and corridors, endangered species, and landscape connectivity across America. As part of this work, she leads the Connectivity Policy Coalition—a nationwide coalition of organizations dedicated to advancing policy solutions related to wildlife connectivity—and the conservation community’s efforts to pass the federal Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act. She also serves as the board chair for the Endangered Species Coalition. Susan graduated from Dartmouth College and received Dartmouth’s Nelson A Rockefeller Distinguished Public Service Award.
Carlton Ward Jr., Founder, Wildpath, National Geographic Explorer
Carlton Ward Jr is a National Geographic Explorer and Photographer focused on protecting connected lands and waters, especially in his native Florida. He founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor project in 2010 and has since trekked 2,000 miles during two expeditions to advocate for the corridor’s protection. In 2015, he launched the Path of the Panther project, a policy impact campaign with the National Geographic Society and other partners, helping inspire the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act in 2021. Carlton is currently leading Wildpath, a storytelling and advocacy group working closely with fellow conservation organizations towards a shared goal of growing the Florida Wildlife Corridor movement and protecting nearly one million acres of the Corridor by 2030.
Chad Wilsey, VP, Chief Scientist, National Audubon Society
Chad Wilsey is Vice President and Chief Scientist for the National Audubon Society. He leads a team of scientists conducting analyses in support of Audubon’s national initiatives on Climate, Coasts, Water, and Working Lands. Recently, Chad was principal investigator on Audubon’s Survival By Degrees: 389 Bird on the Brink report, North American Grasslands and Birds report, Future of Birds in Our National Parks study, and Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline report.
Chad’s research generally focuses on the impacts of climate and land-use change on birds and ecosystems. He commonly works with big data collected by volunteer scientists along with tools such as GIS, machine learning, and systematic spatial prioritization.
Prior to Audubon, Chad’s scientific research focused on applied conservation biology with an emphasis on birds. He completed a comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts on birds and other threatened wildlife in the Pacific Northwest; he examined the sustainability of cowbird management for the then-endangered Black-capped Vireo in Texas; and he demonstrated the value of cacao and banana plantations for birds in Costa Rica. Chad began his professional career as a wildlife biologist conducting surveys for Greater Sage-Grouse, Bald Eagles, and other breeding species in energy development projects in Wyoming.
Chad has a PhD from the University of Washington, an MS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a BS from the University of Puget Sound.
Tom St. Hilaire, Senior Officer, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Tom St. Hilaire is a senior officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts and works with members of Congress and the Administration to advocate on behalf of fish and wildlife migration corridors and habitat connectivity.
St. Hilaire’s more than thirty-years of experience includes building unique coalitions to secure landmark federal, state, and local funding and protection for parks, recreation, clean water, public health, and natural resources protection, including wildlife migration and habitat connectivity. He honed his campaign organizing skills through local, regional, and national legislative and grassroots campaigns on Capitol Hill and across the country working on clean water, national parks, sportsmen’s issues, and fish and wildlife protection.
St. Hilaire has a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Environmental Analysis from Central Michigan University.