Current Board Members
Chantal Elkin, President
Chantal currently serves as head of the Values and Beliefs Programme at WWF. She was formerly the Director of the Wildlife & Forests Programme at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), a small British-based NGO originally under the WWF umbrella. Chantal was with Conservation International for eight years as the Washington-based Manager of the Indo-Burma program and then as Director of CI’s Wildlife Trade program, focusing on the illegal trade in Asia. Chantal holds two Master’s degrees from the University of London, the first in Environment and Development in Southeast Asia and the second on Buddhism and conservation. Prior to working with CI, Chantal co-authored the 1998 publication, “Logging Burma’s Frontier Forests: Resources and the Regime” for the World Resources Institute. She is also author of the chapter, Strengthening Forest Conservation through the Buddhist Sangha, in the publication, Cambodia’s Contested Forest Domain (2013). Chantal has been a member of SCB’s RCBWG for several years.
Ashley Massey Marks, Vice President
Ashley is a member of the Science Faculty of a small Catholic independent all-girls school in Rye, New York, USA, and serves as Co-Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP) Theme on Culture, Spirituality and Conservation. Her doctoral research in Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford focused on sacred forests on a landscape scale in Malaysia Borneo, northern Ethiopia, the Gambia, and Japan. As the Research Administrator for the Mapping the Sacred project, Ashley collaborated with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to develop an online spatial database of sacred natural sites around the world. Previously she studied Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management at Oxford (MSc with Distinction), and worked in rural Guinea and the Gambia, West Africa, for two years as an agroforestry and biodiversity conservation extensionist in the US Peace Corps. She graduated with honors from Dartmouth College, with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in Environmental Public Policy. As an undergraduate she interned with the University of Port Elizabeth Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit in South Africa and studied human-environment relationships on the Dartmouth College Africa Foreign Study Program. Her undergraduate honors thesis considered local perceptions of conservation in and around Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.
Alex Greene, Secretary
Alex Greene is an interdisciplinary researcher whose work employs the techniques and theory of anthropology, botany, ecology and religious studies to examine the diversity of ways that human systems are interdependent with environmental systems. Alex’s particular interests include traditional knowledge, spiritual ecology and multispecies ethnography, and he has a strong background in field botany, ornithology and environmental education. His work focuses on the culture and ecology of south and southeast Asia, where he has conducted research on traditional plant use in Viet Nam, elephant medicine in northern Thailand and sacred forests in far western Nepal. He believes that sound research can build the relationships and lay the groundwork that lead to collaborative sustainable development projects which empower local communities to improve their welfare while also protecting the ecological systems and many lives that help constitute our earth and home.
Ken Kitatani, Treasurer
Rev. Ken Kitatani is the Executive Director of Forum 21 Institute, a multidisciplinary research association for catalyzing positive, integrative solutions and actions for human and environmental
upliftment. Forum 21 works on all levels of society with a specific interest in three areas: (1) promoting sustainable development and uniting NGO’s of the United Nations to support the
adoption of Sustainable Development Goals and their implementation; (2) promoting eco-spirituality, eco-ministry, and eco-justice and supporting eco-ministry as an authentic and necessary
form of service within the faith, interfaith, and interspiritual communities; and (3) sponsoring education and training programs on the local, regional, state, national, and international level that deepen and broaden constituencies to foster sustainable practices and leverage sustainability policies at all levels. Ken is an ordained minister of Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development and currently serves as the Manager of the North American Regional Headquarters. Rev. Kitatani is the Principal Representative of the Sukyo Mahikari United Nations NGO in special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. He also serves as the Chair of the UN NGO Committee of Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns and Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of the Center for Earth Ethics of Union Theological Seminary. Ken graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and pursued his graduate studies at Columbia University before enrolling in the seminary program of Sukyo Mahikari International.
Dekila Chungyalpa, Member-at-Large
Dekila Chungyalpa is currently Associate Research Scientist at Yale University as well as the director of Sacred Earth, a faith and conservation program that she created at the World Wildlife Fund and continues to manage today. Between 2005 and 2011, she was the WWF US Director for the Greater Mekong Program. Prior to that, she worked for WWF in the Eastern Himalayas for 5 years. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Environmental Policy from the College of Wooster, Ohio and a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development from American University, Washington DC. Dekila – who speaks Sikkimese, Tibetan, Hindi and Nepali – has extensive experience working with local communities in the Himalayan region and established several projects that benefit both communities and wildlife in tiger landscapes. In the Mekong, Dekila led the development of environmental solutions at a larger scale; in particular, regional climate change adaptation and sustainable solutions for hydropower for the Mekong river basin. In 2009, Dekila launched the Sacred Earth initiative, a pilot program at WWF that built partnerships with religious institutions and leaders towards concrete conservation results in the Amazon, East Africa, Himalayas, Mekong, and the United States. Dekila also serves as the environmental advisor for His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism. Under his auspices, she advises over fifty-five monasteries in the Himalayas on environmental projects ranging from source water conservation to green monastery design. More information on these projects can be found at www.khoryug.com For her work with religious leaders, Dekila was awarded the prestigious McCluskey Fellowship award by Yale University in 2014.
Bas Verschuuren, Member-at-Large
As a freelance researcher and adviser Bas Verschuuren works on conservation and rural development issues in protected areas, World Heritage sites as well as in indigenous and community conserved areas. He links practical conservation experience and applied multidisciplinary conservation-research in order to strengthen community well-being and support sound management and policy solutions. His academic work includes teaching, education and applied scientific research undertaken on the conservation projects he is involved with. Through his associate research position at Wageningen University this work increasingly results in peer reviewed journal articles that offer historical, political and ontological perspectives on the global development of conservation. He is currently working on his third edited volume bringing together 50+ authors on the philosophy and practice of conservation in Asia. His freelance work involves advising conservation NGOs, government actors and conventions. He serve as a co-chair for IUCN Specialist group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas and a founder of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative. As initiator, chair or programme coordinator and adviser he also supports non-profit initiatives that help create positive social and environmental change. He offers continued strategic support and assistance with network coordination, project acquisition, fund raising, programme management, evaluation and the facilitation of planning processes, meetings and international symposia and workshops.
Kit Magellan, Member-at-Large
Kit Magellan is primarily a behavioural ecologist specializing in biological invasions in aquatic ecosystems. She received her PhD from the University in St Andrews in Scotland in 2005 and since then has held academic positions in Africa, Europe and Asia. She has also worked as an Ecological Consultant, with NGOs and in ecotourism, and has travelled around much of the world. The main focus of her work is behavioural interactions between native and invasive fish species with the dual aims of using these systems to inform ecological theory and providing information necessary for conservation efforts. She also works on behavioural theory, evolution, ecotoxicology, aquaculture, and biostatistics. Her interest in science-religion cooperation stems from invasion biology and encompasses both the management of biological invasions and policy. The main focus in this respect is mercy release, the Buddhist and Taoist practice of releasing captive animals to achieve good karma. Although founded in compassion, this often involves releasing unsuitable animals, including invasive species, into inappropriate habitats and can have devastating effects on recipient ecosystems, populations of native species, and the released animals themselves. Since joining the RCB, Kit has contributed to the SCB policy brief on mercy release and the Good Practise Guidelines for interacting with faith based communities. She also recently initiated a global network: the Conservation and Mercy Release Asia Network (CAMRAN), whose aims are to establish a knowledge sharing network, to facilitate discussion and coordinate actions to address the impacts of mercy release, and to develop region wide projects in line with international biodiversity and conservation targets. While this group is small right now, membership spans 9 countries, and projects are starting to be developed. Finally, as Editor-in-Chief of Aquatic Invasions and a member of the Executive Committee of INVASIVESNET (International Association for Open Knowledge on Invasive Species), she is ideally placed to monitor current research and promote recognition of these issues in the invasion biology community.
Liza Zogib, Member-at-Large
Liza Zogib is founder and co-creator of DiversEarth, an NGO working at the special interface of nature, culture and spirit. As well as working to support local communities and their practices that benefit nature, DiversEarth also focuses on the protection, management and restoration of sacred natural sites and facilitating interreligious dialogue. Liza is a founding member of the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture and coordinator of their current project. DiversEarth’s geographical focus is the Mediterranean, Asia (in particular the Himalayas) and Switzerland. Thematically, DiversEarth directs its energy towards supporting mobile pastoralism and spiritually inspired conservation initiatives. Prior to the creation of DiversEarth, Liza worked for 11 years with WWF International first within the global protected areas programme and latterly in the Global and Regional Policy unit where she coordinated an international team leading on the development and implementation of WWF’s social policies. Liza is also co-chair of the IUCN CEESP Specialist Group on Religion, Spirituality, Environmental Conservation and Climate Justice (ReSpECC). A long-time yoga practitioner/teacher and a dancer of Bharata Natyam, Liza’s work is inspired by yogic and tantric teachings.