Conference Speaker Biographies



David Carruthers is Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University where he has taught since receiving his PhD from the University of Oregon in 1995. He earned undergraduate degrees in Latin American Studies and Sociology from Southern Oregon University, and studied for a year at the Universidad de Guanajuato, Mexico. Trained in comparative and international politics, Carruthers studies the political ecology of Latin America. His dissertation examined alliances between environmental and indigenous organizations to promote sustainable agriculture and community autonomy in rural Mexico. Research and teaching interests include Latin American and Inter-American politics, social movements, environmental justice, agriculture and rural politics, globalization, and sustainability. Recent research has focused on environmental justice in Latin America and the US-Mexico border region, and on the political and environmental struggles of the Mapuche Indians of southern Chile. Current collaborative projects include analysis of the San Diego-Tijuana border city relationship, and sustainability in Baja California Sur.

Robert G. Darst is Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Sustainability Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. His research focuses on the transnational politics of environmental protection, human rights, and waste disposal. His current project, in collaboration with Connecticut College Professor of Government, Jane Dawson, is a study of the politics of meat in comparative perspective.

Vinay Gidwani is an Assistant Professor of Geography & Global Studies at the University of Minnesota. He received a PhD from the University of California, Berkley, a Masters of Forest Science from Yale University and  Bachelor’s Degree from Bowdoin College. Recently named a McKnight Land-Grant Professor, Gidwani brings his research into the classrooms to prepare the next generation by investigating issues that will drive the economic and political futures of the world's people.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo is from the Lubicon Cree First Nation located in Northern Alberta, Canada. She has been working as an advocate for Indigenous rights for the past 10 years. She has studied and worked in Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada focusing on Indigenous rights and culture, resource extraction, ICTs and international diplomacy. She has worked with organizations such as the Indigenous Media Arts Society, TakingITGlobal, the Indigenous Portal, and Redwire Native Media Society. She has produced short documentaries and researched and worked on topics ranging from the tar sands, inherent treaty rights, water issues to cultural appropriation.  Melina pursued her Masters in Environmental Studies at York University before joining Greenpeace as a tar sands Climate & Energy campaigner in Alberta.

Daniel Lopes Cerqueira works for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights since January 2006, in the working group of its Executive Secretariat in charge of evaluating requests for protection and in the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. Since October 2009 he is in charge of drafting reports and giving follow-up to the human rights situation in Bolivia and Peru. For the past year he was involved in the change of the Inter-American Commission’s Rules of Procedure, Policies and Practices. He holds degrees in law from the Federal University of Minas Gerais and in International Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais in Brazil. He obtained a LL.M. in International Legal Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and he is a currently a MSC candidate in the Global Rule of Law and Constitutional Democracy Program of the University of Genoa, Italy. He has published several articles in Portuguese, Spanish and English on International Law, International Human Rights Law, and International Relations.

Alison Ormsby is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida. She has a PhD in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England, M.S. in Environmental Studies from Yale University and a B.S. in
Environmental Science from the College of William and Mary. At Eckerd, Alison teaches 10 different courses for the Environmental Studies major, focusing on behavioral science topics such as Wildlife Policy, Environmental Education and Protected Areas.  Her doctoral
research focused on people/park interactions in Madagascar while her recent research focuses on sacred forests in India, Ghana and Sierra Leone.  She served on the Africa Section of the Board for the Society for Conservation Biology and is currently a board member for SCB’s Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group. She is also a member of the IUCN’s task force for Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas.

Jim Puckett is an environmental health and justice activist, serving as Executive Director of Basel Action Network, a global toxic trade watchdog organization. Previously, Jim served as Greenpeace International’s Toxics Director and as co-coordinator of Greenpeace’s Toxic Trade campaign, both based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Greenpeace Toxic Trade Campaign was instrumental in achieving the Basel Ban, as well as numerous regional waste trade bans. In 1997, he left Greenpeace to return to Seattle to help found the Basel Action Network. He has represented civil society within the Basel Convention since its inception in 1989 and has traveled extensively to research, write, produce films, and campaign against all forms of toxic trade. 

Kristin Shrader-Frechette, PhD, is O’Neill Family Endowed Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame where she also directs the Center for Environmental Justice and Children’s Health. Author of 16 books and nearly 400 professional articles, Kristin was the first female president of 3 major professional associations. Her work has been translated and published in 13 different languages, and the US National Science Foundation has funded her research for 28 years. She also has served on many US National Academy of Sciences boards and committees and advised US and foreign governments on energy and environment problems, especially waste management. In 2004 she became only the third American to win the World Technology Award in Ethics. In 2007, Catholic Digest named her one of 12 "Heroes for the US and the World" because of her pro-bono environmental justice (EJ) work with minority and poor communities. In 2011, Tufts University gave her the “Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award” for her pro-bono EJ work throughout the world. To promote EJ, she and her students perform detailed scientific analyses to show the harmful pollution impacts on EJ communities, and supply their analyses to the affected communities, pro-bono attorneys, and government leaders, and thus help save lives.

Adam Whelchel, Director of Science, The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut, earned his PhD in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Delaware in 2006, the same year that he began work with The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. Prior positions included serving as a wetland ecologist with URS Corp. (NJ), senior ecologist with Wetlands Research Associates (CA), herpetologist for the U.S. National Park Service (CA), and research ecologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pt. Reyes Observatory, and the Environmental Division of the U.S. Navy, San Nicolas Island (CA). Adam is currently responsible for overseeing climate impact assessment and adaptation solutions for both people and nature via the Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience Network (www.coastalresilience.org). In 2009, Adam was awarded a Coda Global Fellowship which has taken him to Kenya, Africa to advance important watershed management and water fund work alongside the late 2004 noble peace prize winner – Wangari Maathai (Founder of the Green Belt Movement). Adam is also serving as a key advisor for Puerto Rico Climate Adaptation Project and a Lead Author on the recently released Northeast section of the U.S. National Climate Assessment.

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