Shelly Torkelson (Communications and Outreach Coordinator) has a Masters in Environmental Conservation from the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her undergraduate degree in biology from Arizona State University, she realized she would rather work with animals than in a lab, and ended up doing administration, fundraising and public relations for a dog and cat rescue in Arizona. She has now worked in nonprofit communications and development for over ten years, most recently at Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo.
Jerry Pedretti (Bookkeeper) is a master of numbers and small organizational finances. He owned a small business for 35 years, he’s been a municipal clerk for 20+ years, and he keeps the finances in order for three different nonprofits. When he’s not shuffling papers, he’s usually working in his yard, gardening, and hiking in the woods at his home in Genoa, Wisconsin along the Mississippi and Bad Axe rivers.
Board of Directors
Dr. Teri Allendorf (President) is a conservation biologist who has been working on issues of local communities and protected areas since 1994. She is a scientist in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a research associate with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She is also an Honorary Fellow in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Land Tenure Center at the UW. She has been a member of USAID’s Biodiversity Team and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal. She conducts research on local communities’ attitudes and perceptions of protected areas and how those can be used to manage protected areas more sustainably. She has worked in Nepal, Myanmar, China, India, Uganda, Guyana, and Guatemala, to develop the capacity of local and national NGOs to design and implement biodiversity conservation projects in collaboration with local communities.
Mark Fenn (Vice-President) has a BS in Natural Resources Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and an MEd in Agricultural Education and Extension from the University of Minnesota. He is currently the Team Leader for Technical Assistance to the Madagascar National Park Service covering 43 parks and nature reserves on the island and supporting over 200 locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) around six marine parks. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso from 1983-1986 and has spent most of his career working for WWF on community conservation programs surrounding various forms of protected areas. His interests and work experience include ecosystem services maintenance, protected areas management, support for community managed conservation areas, developing climate change adaptation and resilience initiatives in coastal zones, ecosystem service valuation training programs and capacity development for government leaders, and promoting networks among development partners and donors.
Kara DeLanty (Secretary) is a native Wisconsinite with over 18 years of experience in the conservation industry as a zoo professional. Currently, she is the Zoo Area Supervisor of Primates at the Milwaukee County Zoo where she oversees and provides the care for a large collection of apes and monkeys. She has a BS in biology from UW-Stevens Point and an MA in biology from Miami University’s Project Dragonfly in Ohio. Her graduate studies took her to Baja, Brazil, and Borneo where she developed a passion for community-based conservation after witnessing its success in protecting a wide variety of species. She has recently been involved in efforts to protect jaguars in Belize, and has spearheaded multiple fundraisers for polar bear and gorilla conservation. She also serves as a passionate advocate for climate change mitigation through her work as an “Arctic Ambassador” for Polar Bears International and as a member of the external engagement committee for the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation’s governing council.
Laura Hewitt (Treasurer) got her introduction to community-based work and conservation serving two separate stints in the Peace Corps. She first served in Liberia in West Africa and later in the Dominican Republic. She has a B.S. in Biology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.S. in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development from University of Wisconsin – Madison. She worked for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy while in graduate school. She then worked for Trout Unlimited managing and overseeing collaborative watershed restoration projects. Her first project was in the Kickapoo Valley where she collaborated closely with Community Conservation on watershed education and outreach efforts.
Doug Pierce grew up in Oregon, where he developed a love for the environment at an early age. He has a liberal arts background (journalism and history). Prior to his retirement in 2013, Doug served as Executive Director of The Crossing, a progressive ecumenical campus ministry at UW-Madison, committed to social justice. In that role he traveled to multiple countries with UW students through a program he helped create, entitled Quest. Doug is also the co-founder of Okoa Toto Inc., a children’s project in Lumakanda, Kenya. He brings a passion for the work and knowledge of the challenges facing nonprofits and NGO’s, having worked closely with several over his lifetime.
Joe Rising has a strong background in not-for-profit organizations and law. He has a Juris Doctor Degree and undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Anthropology. Joe is a licensed Minnesota attorney with nearly 25 years of experience advocating for the environment and assisting communities with resource conservation. His environmental commitment came off the prairie where Joe grew up spending summers near St. Cloud, MN. He has written for numerous publications and enjoys writing haiku to reach further into nature. Community Conservation has always been an integral part of Joe’s work.
Nathan Schulfer is the Director of International & Professional MS Programs at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. In his role, Nathan manages the Institute’s two professional MS degree programs, while leading the Institute’s efforts to build and strengthen networks with NGO’s, government units, and private sector partners around the world. Prior to joining the Nelson Institute Nathan worked for the US National Park Service in Glacier National Park, for the Montana State Legislature, and in China advising NGO’s and government units on protected area management. Nathan holds a BS in Anthropology from Montana State University – Bozeman, and a MS in Conservation Biology & Sustainable Development from University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Community Conservation Founder Rob Horwich
Dr. Rob Horwich founded Community Conservation in his living room in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, in 1989. Rob was first inspired to work alongside local people to protect their forests in Belize. He initially travelled to Belize to study black howler monkeys, locally known as baboons, and quickly realized that without joining forces with local people to protect the howlers’ forest home, there might not be any more howlers to study in the future. Working with local human community members provided the opportunity to protect habitat via what is now known as the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a model for local community management of natural resources and ecotourism that is managed by and directly benefits the local people.
Rob continued his work focusing on people-centered conservation in 14 additional countries. His passion for protecting endangered habitat was limitless. His friends reflect on his endless kindness and generosity, and twinkling sense of humor. From his base in his rural home in Gays Mills, he inspired a generation of conservation professionals across the globe. We are grateful for his mentorship and legacy as we continue to work with local people to protect habitat around the world.
Please take a look at this wonderful video describing Rob’s pivotal work in Belize with the Community Baboon Sanctuary.