Our Team 2017-12-08T23:28:01+00:00


Board of Directors

Jerry Toth


Studied economics at the London School of Economics and Cornell University (B.A. ’00), and briefly worked in investment banking on Wall Street before relocating to South America. After traveling through most of the continent, he founded Third Millennium Alliance with Isabel and Bryan and established the Jama-Coaque Reserve in 2007. The Reserve expanded from 100 acres to 1,000 acres during his five-year tenure as Director of Conservation. His current priority is strengthening TMA staff and integrating local community members into the management of the Jama-Coaque Reserve at all levels. One of Jerry’s favorite roles in the Reserve is the design and management of the experimental food forest, in which over 50 different species of tropical food trees are thriving in less than one hectare of area.

Isabel Davila


Isabel was born in Ecuador and studied International Commerce in Chile, with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Isabel has more than 10 years of experience in sustainable project design, developing sustainable practices in rural communities, youth education and social and environmental innovation projects. During her time as Community Program Director for TMA (2007-13), she established the Jama-Coaque Reserve and designed and led the construction of The Bamboo House. Isabel also designed a comprehensive model for sustainable tourism development in rural and remotedestinations in Venezuela, co-working with a multidisciplinary team at Fundación Esteban Torbar in 2013-15. The program was awarded by Ashoka Foundation and supported by corporate partners such as Polar Corporation, DIAGEO, YPO and by the Ministry of Tourism of Venezuela. In 2015, Isabel Founded Lugar Sostenible, and independent consultant firm, specialized in sustainable destinations design, local sustainable initiatives, education and social innovation projects. Currently she lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Bryan Criswell


Bryan grew up hiking and camping in the Southern Rockies where he developed a profound appreciation for nature. His esteem for the environment led him to attend Colorado State University where he earned a B.S. in Restoration Ecology. Upon graduating he moved to the Southern Cascades to work as a field ecologist, where he surveyed flora and fauna throughout the western U.S. In 2007 he co-founded TMA and began migrating south for the winters where he worked to establish the Jama-Coaque Reserve. He currently lives with his family in Oregon where he’s studying to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy at George Fox University. Bryan looks forward to finishing his studies, so he can put his medical training to use to care for JCR’s friends and neighbors during his Ecuador visits.


Ryan L. Lynch, MS

Executive Director

Ryan has a B.A. in Ethnobiology and an M.S. in Wildlife Ecology & Conservation. Ryan has been traveling and working in Ecuador since 2001 on a variety of research and non-profit projects. Working out of the Yanayacu Biology Station in the Eastern Andes in 2005, Ryan studied the nesting ecology of a variety of birds, diversity and natural history of Lepidopterans, and tri-trophic interactions across an elevational gradient spanning from the Amazon all the way up to the high Andes. Ryan also has a special interest in reptiles and amphibians after spending years working with frogs, alligators, crocodiles, and the notorious Burmese python in the Florida Everglades. Ryan joined the TMA team as Executive Director in 2014 after spending two years working with partner NGO The Biodiversity Group. Ryan’s current goals include the dramatic expansion of the Jama-Coaque Reserve via a conservation corridor and to grow the international recognition of TMA.

Shawn McCracken, PhD

Director of Educational Research & Program Development

Shawn has a PhD in Aquatic Resources from Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas. Shawn’s research interests lie in identifying evolutionary and ecological drivers of biodiversity in tropical forests through observation of system perturbation effects on these factors at local and landscape scales. Shawn’s dissertation work was conducted in the Ecuadorian Amazon where he looked at the environmental quality effects and the ecological context of a rainforest canopy bromeliad fauna. Currently Shawn is a Research Assistant Professor at Texas State University in the Department of Biology, where he teaches Herpetology and leads a Tropical Ecology study abroad course in Ecuador, which is co-lead by TMA staff. Shawn is excited to join the TMA team and spend more time studying Ecuador’s coastal forests and teaching students about their importance and conservation status.

Nick Slobodian

Director of Agroecology

With a B.A. in Agroecology and Latin American Studies from UC Santa Cruz, Nick has been working in Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Education for the past seven years. He studied permaculture design at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, CA and received his Permaculture Teaching Certificate from the Southern Oregon Permaculture Institute. For the past two years he has worked as a Horticultural and Vocational Therapist for adults with the developmental disabilities, designing and facilitating an individual learning plan in edible landscaping, land management, and construction for a young man with Autism and a Project Leader for an Aquaponic Farm that serves as a job training program for adults with disabilities. Nick is excited to continue to enhance the Permaculture Design Course and contribute to the overall Agroforestry Plan at the Jama-Coaque Reserve.

Mike Ellis, MS

Director of Research & OAJC

In 2012, after several years of traveling, working on various research and education initiatives, and chasing birds, Mike got his first taste of the Jama-Coaque Reserve. An initial two-month stay as a reforestation intern quickly snowballed into a full year spent surveying birds and designing research projects. Afterwards, Mike briefly joined a migratory bird banding station in New York before pursuing an M.S. in wildlife science at Oregon State University. His thesis research uncovered precipitous declines in riparian obligate bird species and has important implications for the conservation of birds and riparian zones in a changing climate. Mike rejoined Third Millennium Alliance in 2016 and is throwing himself into all things science, conservation, and bird-related. He is extremely excited to launch the new Jama-Coaque Bird Observatory in 2017 after a solid year of planning and hardwork. When not walking around with binoculars or a camera pressed to his face, Mike can usually be found plucking away at one instrument or another.

Betty Estupiñán Aguirre

Executive Secretary

Born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, Betty has been working in Office Coordination, Management and Administrative Assistance most of her life. Before joining the TMA team, Betty initiated and worked on a variety of Temp Agencies and Human Resource Groups – Grupo CASESFAL, Cia. Ltda. Betty spent many years working as General Manager and Senior Associate in ProApoyo Empresarial Cia. Ltda., Percapej Cia. Ltda. and in 2003 she co-founded CASESFAL Cia. Ltda. In 2000 Betty also opened Rainbowtours Cia. Ltda., a Tour Operator in Quito, Ecuador. Other jobs that Betty has held during her career include: SITA (Societé Internationale de Telecomunicationes Aeronautiques), FUNDAGRO (Fundación para el Desarrollo Agropecuario del Ecuador/USAID), Escuela Politécnica del Ejército (ESPE), and The Universidad Técnica “Luis Vargas Torres” Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Bringing all of her great experience to TMA, Betty is excited to help the organization continue to grow well into the future.

Gabriela Samaniego

Research & Intern Manager

Gaby studied biology in her home city of Cuenca Ecuador at the University of Azuay. As a student she got involved in the study of birds as an intern and later a field tech for the High Andean Bird Monitoring program in Cajas National Park where she learned how to band and conduct census of the birds of the paramo. To gain further experience she pursued an internship with the Hummingbird Monitoring Network (HMN) in southern Arizona where she improved her banding skills with hummingbirds and learned new field techniques for nest searching and the study of the interaction between hummingbirds and plants. The following year she returned to southern Arizona to work as the intern coordinator at HMN. After returning to Ecuador she was selected as the national volunteer at the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galápagos Islands where she worked with the Galápagos Land Bird Monitoring project. During her time on the islands she studied the state of the populations of the endemic subspecies of Vermillion Flycatcher. After traveling through South America and working at her family farm she started her new adventure at the Jama Coaque Reserve. She is interesting in learning more about the patterns of reproduction and molt of the tropical birds.

Matthew Franz

Permaculture Operations Manager

Matt’s education in agriculture began in early childhood, learning from his grandparents in the family garden outside Tucson Arizona. Although permaculture wouldn’t become a widely recognized word for nearly two decades his father taught him many of the basic principles. After two years studying architecture and a variety of other things at the University of Arizona Matt switched his focus to archaeology so he could study the agricultural pre-history of southern Arizona. He began working as an archaeological field tech across the southwest U.S., Hawaii and Mexico, before taking an internship at the Native Seeds/SEARCH conservation farm, where he met his future wife Gabriela (who now also works with TMA.) The following year he worked as a farm assistant with Native Seeds/SEARCH, and at the end of the agricultural season he packed up his things and rode his motorcycle to Ecuador. Matt and Gaby then traveled across South America volunteering on various small farms and other projects. Matt and Gaby managed Gaby’s family farm for a year prior to joining the TMA team.

Carmen Azahara

Avian Studies Coordinator

Carmen was born and raised by the Strait of Gibraltar in southern Spain, one the most important bird migration areas of Europe. She spent many seasons counting the migrating raptors on their way to and from Africa. After graduating with a master’s degree in Biodiversity and Conservation from the University of València, Carmen was employed in various ornithological jobs across Spain. Carmen moved to Scotland in 2015 and began working as an environmental consultant. She is a keen bird bander and has licences in both Spain and the UK, and has also banded at observatories in Eilat, Israel and the Amur Oblast in Far East Russia. Carmen is very excited to finally visit South America and work with the birds and people there.

Euan Ferguson

Avian Studies Coordinator

Euan has been a keen birdwatcher from a young age and started training to be a bird bander when he was 15. He has been involved in a large variety of ornithological studies in his native Scotland, such as running a colour-banding project on urban gulls and assisting with a reintroduction program of red kites. Euan has worked at bird observatories in Canada, Israel, and most recently Russia, as well as having banded in Australia and Spain. The past few years he has been employed in the field of environmental consultancy, and conducted surveys for the first windfarm projects in Saudi Arabia. Euan is looking forward starting work
at the Jama-Coaque Bird Observatory and getting to grips with the birds of the rainforest.

Katherine Theus

Social Media Manager

With B.A. in Journalism and Spanish from Boston University, Katherine joined the TMA team in 2013, and spent the majority of the year working from our base in Quito. Originally from Northern California, she manages our donor communications, web content, and social networking. A traveler at heart, she has called many places home, including Ghana and New Zealand, and spent the beginning of 2015 exploring Southeast Asia. Currently in the San Francisco Bay Area, she splits her time between working with TMA, Giant Steps Therapeutic Equestrian Center, and exercising horses, including two of her own, Spritz and Houdina. If she’s not on a horse, you can find her on her motorcycle!

Juan Jose Lugo Bernal

Community Conservation Manager

Coming Soon

Uver Vaca

Manager of Field Operations

Uver was born in the local community of Camarones, earned his high school degree in Quito, and later returned to Camarones to play a central role in TMA’s field staff. As Manager of Field Operations at the Jama-Coaque Reserve, Uver oversees wildlife monitoring, trail building and maintenance, and all other field work. In the community of Camarones, Uver is the lead instructor for the PEEK program, jointly implemented with The Biodiversity Group, which teaches local children and youth how to use photography as a means to study and document wildlife.

Edilberto Marquez

Head Park Ranger

Edilberto was born and raised in the local community of Camarones. He is the Head Park Ranger for the Jama-Coaque Reserve and also leads various other field activities, such as trail design, trail building and reforestation activities. His wealth of knowledge about native plants and wildlife, and his patient and kind demeanor, have allowed him to develop into an excellent field research guide. Edilberto led the construction of the Three Forest Trail and all other trails within the Jama-Coaque Reserve, and was certified as a Nature Trail Guide in 2011.

Daniel Fabricio Murillo Morales

Field Assistant

Daniel (Dany) was born and raised in the local community of Camarones, and works part-time as a field assistant in wildlife monitoring, trail maintenance, park operation, agroforestry, reforestation activities, and sustainable systems/permaculture land management in the Jama-Coaque Reserve. To put it in fewer words, Dany is a jack of all trades and an extremely versatile member of our team. Dany’s first work with TMA grew out of his participation in TMA’s youth group in Camarones. Dany was certified as a Jama-Coaque Reserve Nature Trail Guide in 2011.
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