CARN is comprised of leaders in the fields of tropical research and evolutionary biology, conservation science and awareness, public health, and international development with a history of working in Central Africa for over 30 years.

Thomas B. Smith

Dr. Thomas Smith is the founding director of CARN and the UCLA Center for Tropical Research (CTR) at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). Also a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, he is a member of the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration. Dr. Smith has more than 30 years of experience working in the tropics and oversees a host of research projects worldwide. A central focus of his research investigates how biodiversity is generated and maintained in rainforests and approaches to conserving them. Dr. Smith is a frequent consultant for conservation organizations. Working with the World Bank and international conservation organizations, he has helped implement conservation programs and establish new national parks in tropical countries. Dr. Smith holds a B.S. in Natural Sciences and an M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a Ph.D. in Zoology from UC Berkeley.

Hilary Godwin

Dr. Hilary Godwin is a Professor at UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department and in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. She received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1989 and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Stanford University in 1994. She conducted postdoctoral research from 1994-1996 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, where she was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow. Prior to joining the faculty ay UCLA, Dr. Godwin was a Professor at Northwestern University and Chair of the Chemistry department. Since joining the UCLA faculty in 2006, she has served as Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the School of Public Health, and the Faculty Director for the Global Bio Lab. Dr. Godwin has received several awards for her teaching and her research. Dr. Godwin’s research focuses on elucidating the molecular toxicology of engineered nanomaterials and development of assays for detection and analysis of infectious diseases. She works actively with local organizations and community groups to prepare for and diminish the impact of climate change on public health.

Mark Cappellano

Mark Cappellano is conservationist, artist and Director of the Skyscrape Foundation – a Family Foundation funding environmental, fine art, and humanitarian projects. Mark has consulted, funded, and collaborated with numerous NGO’s over the past 20 years. Most recently, CARE Int’l regarding underrepresented indigenous women, Audubon’s Salton Sea Initiative and Mongabay’s Conservation Optimism Stories. He is a Director Emeritus of Earthwatch Institute and a Founding Board member of 5gyres. Formerly a vintner in the Napa Valley, he co-launched Versant Vineyards, running all aspects of the premium wine and olive oil business. He has a B.S. degree in English literature and is currently an active member of The Pacific Council on International Policy. Additionally, he has been involved with over 25 film projects on globally diverse topics, including wildlife documentaries, PSA’s, and presenter led segments. He resides in Los Angeles, California with his wife and two daughters.

Mark Gold

Mark formerly served as President of the environmental group Heal the Bay, and was their first employee hired 20 years ago. Heal the Bay is an environmental group dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. Mark received his Bachelors and Masters in Biology and his doctorate in Environmental Science and Engineering from UCLA. He has been inducted into the UCLA School of Public Health Hall of Fame, and has received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award and the Aspen Institute Catto Fellowship.

Mark has worked extensively over the last 20 years in the field of coastal protection and water pollution. In particular he has worked on research projects on urban runoff pollution, DDT and PCB contamination in fish, and the health risks of swimming at runoff contaminated beaches. He created Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card, and has authored or co-authored numerous California coastal protection, water quality and environmental education bills. He served on the USEPA Urban Stormwater Federal Advisory Committee and was the vice chair of the California Ocean Science Trust and is vice chair of the National Estuary Program’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. Mark was recently appointed Acting Director at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Virginia Zaunbrecher

Virginia Zaunbrecher is the Associate Director of the Center for Tropical Research at UCLA. As a lawyer with a science background, she works to translate scientific findings into policy and regulation. She currently focuses on incorporating diverse data streams into decision making on conservation in Central Africa. This includes incorporation of genetic diversity and socio-economic data and exploring the use of decision support tools. Her previous work focused on incorporating predictive techniques and decision analysis into chemical regulation. She also designed and managed aid and development projects in Africa and Asia for nearly five years. Virginia also helps oversee the Congo Basin Institute (CBI)—UCLA’s first foreign affiliate located in Cameroon. She manages partnerships for CBI, and represents the academic and research institutions on the Advisory Council of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP).

Aaron French

Aaron French is a sustainable supply chain and operations executive working for Humphry Slocombe ice cream, named a Top 5 ice cream in America (Food Network). He has worked with and consulted to some of the largest food producers and retailers in the United States. Formerly, he was the founding chef at the Sunny Side Café and the author of The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook (Voyageur Press, 2011). Aaron has an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business and has a MS in Ecology & Systematic Biology from SF State University. Aaron’s writing and photography has been published by National Geographic, The Sun Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Gastronomica, Earth Island Journal, Natural History, Orion Magazine, Fungi Magazine, Wildlife Conservation, Grist, American Scientist, The National Audubon Society, and Birder’s World. His photography has been shown at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. He has been featured and praised by The New York Times’ Mark Bittman and cited as one of the “11 Influential Eco-Chefs Who Are Changing the Way We Think About Food” by EcoSalon.

Kevin Njabo

Kevin Njabo is the Associate Director and Africa Director for the UCLA Center for Tropical Research at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the IoES and the UCLA Department of Environmental Health Sciences. Kevin is also a founding member of the non-profit organization, the Center for Tropical Research, Cameroon, and is involved in the oversight and management of the International Research and Training Center (IRTC) in Cameroon. Kevin provides content direction and leadership to CTR’s core research priorities, fundraising for research projects, direct and strategic links to regional and international partners and collaborators, and provides assurance for all research work and reports carried out in Africa, including proposals, ethical reviews, and research donor reports. Kevin also serves on several professional bodies including the Board of Directors of the Society for Conservation Biology and as a Council Member of the Pan African Ornithological Congress Committee (PAOCC), 2008-2016. Kevin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife and Master of Science in Plant Ecology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; a PhD in Biology from Boston University, and was a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA. Kevin’s current research interests are in ecology and evolution of emerging tropical diseases.

Sassan Saatchi

Dr. Sassan Saatchi is a senior scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and a Adjunct Professor at the Center for Tropical Research, Institute of Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles. He received the Ph.D. degree from George Washington University in 1988 with concentration in electrophysics and applied mathematics. The focus of his Ph.D. dissertation was the modeling of wave propagation in natural media. Dr. Saatchi has been involved in a number of international research studies in modeling global biogenic carbon distribution in tropical and boreal forests, hydrological processes in arid and semi-arid regions, spatial modeling of species distributions, design and scientific applications of several earth science spaceborne sensors. Sassan’s present research activities include land cover classification, biomass and soil moisture estimation in boreal forests, land use and land cover change, forest structure and carbon stock in tropical forests, applications of remote sensing in biodiversity and conservation. His research interests also include wave propagation in disordered/random media and EM scattering theory. Sassan Saatchi has been involved in developing and teaching courses in the use of remote sensing for environmental problems.

Edward Mitchard

Ed Mitchard is a tenured researcher at the University of Edinburgh. His research centres around developing and testing algorithms for using satellite data to map forests and savannas in the tropics, focused particularly on quantifying changing carbon stocks and rates of deforestation and forest degradation. Most of his research has been based on Cameroon and Gabon, in both intact rainforest and forest-savanna mosaic regions. Ed has worked with over 20 voluntary sector avoided deforestation and reforestation projects across the tropics since 2007; has acted as an advisor to governments, including being a scientific advisor on carbon and land-use change mapping for the Government of Gabon since 2008; and in this capacity formed part of the Gabon delegation to the UNFCCC COP15 meeting in Copenhagen in 2009. Ed has also assisted with writing project documents under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Carbon Communities & Biodiversity (CCB) and Plan Vivo standards for projects in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Uganda, Cambodia, Peru, Nicaragua and Colombia. He is the Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee for the Plan Vivo standard, providing inputs on the development of the standard and reviewing many of the current projects; he has also acted as a field validator for a Plan Vivo project in Sri Lanka.