• Our Team & Advisors

    Our Team & Advisors

Meet the Experts




Photo of Andrew Taber, Executive Director at The Mountain Institute

Andrew Taber

Dr. Andrew Taber is Executive Director of The Mountain Institute. For 25 years, he has worked to conserve nature and improve the lives of rural people. He studied at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and holds a doctorate from Oxford University. His professional career started at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) where he undertook extensive fieldwork in Patagonia, the Gran Chaco, the Andes, and the Amazon. Dr. Taber played a key role in creating Bolivia’s Kaa-Iya Gran Chaco National Park, under co-management with native peoples–one of the Western Hemisphere’s largest protected areas. He also pioneered research on Neotropical wildlife including peccaries and jaguars. At WCS, Dr. Taber established an Amazonian conservation network and directed the Latin American and Caribbean Program. As Executive Vice President at Wildlife Trust, he coordinated an alliance of top conservation scientists and practitioners from developing countries. Prior to coming to The Mountain Institute, Dr. Taber was Deputy Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research based in Bogor, Indonesia. His current responsibilities included overseeing programs in North America, the Andes, and the Himalayas on climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, livelihoods of mountain people, and international environmental policy of relevance to mountains. LINK TO FULL BIO.

Bruce Brown

Bruce Brown, Controller, holds a B.S. in Accounting and has over twenty-five years’ experience in fiscal management, primarily in the non-profit and government sect. Brown has served as the Chief Financial Officer for Seniors First (Meals on Wheels) in Orlando, Florida, Director of Finance for Clean Water Action/Fund in Washington, D.C., in addition to his consultancy work with the Brookings Institution and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Brown also served as Senior Accountant for the construction and dedication of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Photo of Jesse Bruschini, Communications Specialist at The Mountain Institute

Jesse Chapman-Bruschini

Jesse Bruschini is TMI’s Communications Specialist with a background in international public relations, bilingual communications and event planning. Her experience includes working with wildlife conservation organizations based in the NYC area–The Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust, The Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and The Blue Ocean Institute. Fluent in Spanish, Bruschini also led a consulting group that created bilingual advertising campaigns for corporate and non-profit clients. She has a Masters in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Illinois.
Photo of Jennifer Drenning, Development Director at The Mountain Institute

Jennifer Drenning

Jennifer Drenning, Director of Development, has 20+ years of specialized experience in raising funds and managing government and foundation grants for international development and conservation organizations both large and small. She began her career with ACDI/VOCA as a coordinator of USAID-funded agricultural cooperative development projects and later worked for 10 years on the foundation relations team at Conservation International. Drenning has an MA in International Development from American University in Washington, DC, and BA in International Relations from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
Photo of Colleen O'Donnell, Program Officer at The Mountain Institute

Colleen O’Donnell

Colleen O’Donnell first partnered with The Mountain Institute in 2014 as she conducted research for her master’s thesis linking dry season water availability to pastureland management in the Peruvian Andes. She completed her bachelor’s at the University of Notre Dame. With a degree in biology and anthropology, she began working at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Conservation and Science Department. O’Donnell’s early work focused on animal behavior and captive animal welfare. Always a lover of wildlife, she shifted her attention to wildlife conservation and ecosystem health to benefit wild African carnivores, chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as, domestic dogs and people living in and around the protected areas of Tanzanian National Parks and the Congo Basin. Through the course of this work, she saw how important local communities were to conservation success and how human well-being and healthy ecosystems could be mutually reinforcing. This led her to pursue a master’s in sustainable development with the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies. Shortly after graduating, O’Donnell was invited to be part of the TMI Andes team to launch a wetland restoration project in the Huascarán National Park of Peru. As Program Officer, she works with TMI international programs and partners to advocate for community- and ecosystem-based approaches for adaptation to climate change, wildlife conservation, and prosperity for mountain communities.

Himalayas Program

Photo of Meeta S. Pradhan, Ph.D., Director, Himalaya Program at The Mountain Institute

Meeta Pradhan

Meeta S. Pradhan, Ph.D., is the Director of TMI’s Himalayan Program. She began her career with The Mountain Institute as the Women’s Development Officer with the Makalu-Barun Conservation Project. This innovative initiative, set up jointly by the Government of Nepal and TMI, encouraged local people to participate and sought to achieve a balance between conserving and managing natural resources and addressing social, economic and cultural development. Dr. Pradhan was involved in supporting community-based entrepreneurship opportunities for rural women in eastern Nepal and focused on empowering women in all project activities. After that initiative, Dr. Pradhan worked in technical and senior management positions including as Program Development Coordinator for CARE Nepal, and working on project monitoring and evaluation for UNICEF. She has produced a number of highly regarded technical and analytical reports and publications examining development impacts on poverty, social inclusion, and gender. Dr. Pradhan received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan concentrating on Social Exclusion and Social Change, examining the barriers that prevent local communities from fully participating in local development initiatives.

Shiva Basnet

Office Assistant

Umesh Basnet

Senior Program Officer

Photo of Purushotam Bhattarai, Regional Finance and Administrative Officer, Himalayan Program at The Mountain Institute

Purushotam Bhattarai

Purushotam Bhattarai, Regional Finance and Administrative Officer, is a native of Kathmandu, Nepal. Bhattarai started his career in the finance unit of The Mountain Institute in Nepal in 1992. He was part of the team that supported the Makalu-Barun National Park in the eastern part of the country that was jointly managed by The Mountain Institute and the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation. Bhattarai is a graduate and holds a professional Audit license from the Government of Nepal. His major responsibility is to oversee all accounting matters for the TMI Himalayan Program. He has attended special Finance/Accounting trainings organized by the Institute in its headquarters office in Washington D.C. Bhattarai has also worked closely with a number of TMI’s local NGO partners in different parts of Nepal helping them strengthen their financial management and accounting systems and maintain good accounting practices and transparency. Bhattarai is also a volunteer for a number of organizations.
Photo of Karma Bhutia, Regional Livelihoods Coordinator at The Mountain Institute

Karma Bhutia

Karma Bhutia, Regional Livelihoods Coordinator, is a native of Chyamtang village in the Upper Arun Valley of Eastern Nepal, one of the several districts where TMI supports mountain farmers to cultivate and market high value medicinal and aromatic plants. He joined TMI in 1997 and has over 17 years experience in community development and natural resource management. Bhutia has lead the work on medicinal and aromatic plants cultivation and marketing, and has trained over 8,000 farmers to increase their income and conserve the biodiversity in mountain communities in Nepal, India (Sikkim and Darjeeling), and Bhutan. He has also supported orientations on the concepts of REDD+ and on the “Free Prior and Informed Consent” (a key principle in international law and jurisprudence related to indigenous people) in mountain communities in Nepal. Bhutia has been instrumental in raising funds for community development programs in Nepal. He has attended a number of trainings and workshops in different countries around the world, and volunteered at Washington State University as well as different herbal and agricultural farms in the USA. Bhutia was awarded the “World Wildlife Fund Young Conservation Leaders Award” in 2007 and received a “Certificate of Achievement” from ICIMOD in 2011.

Shree Bahadur Gautam

TMI Guard

Keshav Prasad Khanal

Team Leader-Nepal, Mountain EbA Project

Alisa Rai

Senior Program Officer

Dikee Sherpa

Administrative Assistant

Ichchha Thapa

Senior Program Officer

Andes Program

Photo of Jorge Recharte, Ph.D., Director at The Mountain Institute

Jorge Recharte

Jorge Recharte, Ph.D., is the Director of TMI’s Andes Program. He is based in Huaraz and Lima, Peru, and holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University. Dr. Recharte has taken full advantage of the dramatically visible consequences of climate change on tropical glaciers to draw attention to the Andes’ important role in the welfare of mountain communities and the region as a whole. He and his team have organized and implemented many transformational climate change adaptation projects for mountain ecosystems. Fostering cooperation between scientists, mountain communities and local governments, he has helped develop solutions for large watersheds as well as for specialized challenges, including reducing the risk of glacial lake flooding. Dr. Recharte joined The Mountain Institute in 1997 after spending three years in Ecuador working for the Latin American Social Science Faculty (FLACSO) designing and heading the graduate education and research program in Mountain Societies and Sustainable Development. Between 1980-1981 and 1990-1993 he was an associate researcher at the International Potato Center where he developed participatory research methodologies in agriculture. Dr. Recharte currently serves on the Board of The Common Good Institute and is a member of the Andes Chapter of the International Mountain Society (IMS). LINK TO FULL BIO.

Manuel Asencios

Director of Finances

Doris Chavez

Rangeland Management Project Officer

Beatriz Fuentealba

Science Coordinator

Mirella Gallardo Marticorena

Climate Change Specialist

Junior Gil

Adaptation Project Officer

Cristina Giraud

Adaptation Project Officer

Milena Huerta

Administrative Assistant

Gabriela Lopez Sotomayor

Rural Development Specialist

Vidal Rondan Ramirez

Environmental Education Program Officer

Laura Trejo

Adaptation Project Officer

Florencia Zapata

Cultural Heritage Program Officer

Juan Sanchez

Field Staff

Donato Sanchez Lirio


Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees

Augusta Molnar

Director of Country/Regional Programs, Rights and Resources Initiative (retired).
Sr. Natural Resource Specialist, World Bank Group (retired).
Eagle Vail, Colorado

Walter W. Arensberg

Managing Director, Social Capital Group
Washington, DC

Ruth Greenspan Bell

Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Research Associate, Center for Decision Science, Columbia Business School Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute
Washington, DC

Richard Boucher

US Ambassador (retired)
Former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia
Former Deputy Secretary General OECD
Washington, DC

Susan Braatz

Senior Forestry Officer, Forests and Climate Change, FAO
Rome, Italy

Edie Farwell

Executive Director, Sustainability Leaders Network
Norwich, Vermont

Bennett Freeman

Senior Advisor, Business for Social Responsibility
Former Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments
Former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC

Susan MacGrath

Chair, LaGuntza Foundation
Bozeman, Montana

Robin Murphy

Senior VP of Marketing and Communications, The Conservation Fund
Alexandria, Virginia

William Stacy Rhodes

Chief of Staff, Peace Corps (retired)
Arlington, Virginia

Jed Shilling

Senior Economist, World Bank (retired)
Purcellville, Virginia

David Sloan

Senior Advisor, The Scowcroft Group
Eurasia Group
Corporate Strategies International
Washington, DC

Andrew Taber, Ph.D.

Executive Director, The Mountain Institute
Washington, DC

Senior Fellows

Senior Fellows

Miriam Torres Angeles

Former Protected Areas and Ecotourism specialist with the Andes Program, Torres Angeles joined TMI in 1995. She graduated from the National Parks and Wildlife Management program of Peru’s National Agrarian University. Her professional history includes working with mountain protected areas in Peru, particularly conducting participatory management plans. Torres Angeles was a member of the team that produced the first management plan of Huascaran National Park in 1990, the lead in developing its Ecotourism Plan in 1997, as well as the lead on the second Management Plan initiative and the National Master Plan for the Peruvian protected areas system in 1995. Before joining TMI, she was a staff member of Pro Naturaleza, supporting several of Peru’s protected areas. She is a member of the Andes Chapter of the International Mountain Society (IMS) and the IUCN Commission on Protected Areas, Mountain Areas and Non Material Values.

Ganesan Balachander

Balachander is the Executive Director of the Ashoka Trust for Researh in Ecology and the Enviroment. ATREE does interdisciplinary research in various aspects of environment and development, conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Balachander served as member of the Executive Committee of the founding Board for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). He was also CGIAR’s Chair of its Science, Programs and Partnership Committee overseeing 15 Centers around the world. Balachander was The Mountain Institute’s Director in Washington, D.C. and also served as Director of the Biodiversity Conservation Network, a USAID-funded program for promoting conservation of vulnerable ecosystems in Asia. He holds an MBA from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Rutgers University. He was also a post-doctoral Bullard Fellow at Harvard University.

Edwin Bernbaum

Bernbaum is currently working on an IUCN project to integrate the cultural and spiritual significance of nature into protected area management and governance. He is a scholar of comparative religions and mythology focusing on culture and the environment. Bernbaum led TMI’s Sacred Mountain Program and worked with TMI on a program in the Indian Himalayas to involve pilgrims in reforestation. Bernbaum initiated TMI’s project to develop interpretive materials for US National Parks based on the cultural and spiritual significance of mountains. He is the author of the award-winning “Sacred Mountains of the World”, the basis for a photographic exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, and “The Way to Shambhala”, a study of Tibetan myths of the hidden valleys resembling the fictional Shangri-La of Lost Horizon. Bernbaum has climbed and conducted research in mountain ranges throughout the world, and he leads seminars and lectures on mountains, leadership, culture, and the environment for many organizations including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Wharton School, and the American Museum of Natural History. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from the University of California at Berkeley with additional graduate work in Social Psychology and Anthropology at Harvard University.

Gillian Bowser

Bowser is currently working on a joint project in the Peruvian Andes on wetland restoration, funded by the National Science Foundation. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Bowser started her career as an art major, earning a degree in fine arts. Her academic focused shifted to biology with an emphasis on wildlife and population genetics. But her art shows and exhibits continued. Bowser’s career represents the nexus between art and science. She went on to become a wildlife biologist at Yellowstone National Park studying insects, bison, and rodents over 11 years. During the next ten years of her National Park Service Career, she worked on desert tortoises, habitat modeling, military overflight issues and international relations with China’s National Park system. Bowser spent two years in the headquarters office of the National Park Service working for the director of the National Parks Service where she assisted with policy briefs and other political documents. Dr. Bowser is now a research scientist at Colorado State University where her research is focused on biodiversity, sustainability and women’s scholarship. She leads interdisciplinary teams from multiple universities to do large-scale network analyses of women in sustainability.

Bob Davis

Joining TMI in 1979, Bob Davis held numerous leadership positions at The Mountain Institute in his thirty-three years at the organization. He served as TMI’s CEO from 2004 to 2009 and has worked in many of the organization’s programs and regional projects over the years. He has extensive international conservation and development experience. Bob holds an M.S. in Organization Development from American University, and an M.A. in Religious Studies from Yale University. He currently teaches organizational development and management courses at Eastern Mennonite University, and serves on the board of directors of a number of non-profit organizations. Bob is long time resident of Pendleton Country, West Virginia.

Rodney Jackson

A three-time finalist for the Indianapolis Prize, Rodney Jackson is the world’s foremost expert on the elusive snow leopard that serves as a flagship species for Central Asia’s high mountains. Credited as being the first individual to radio collar snow leopards to track their movements, Jackson has been able to obtain unprecedented data on the species’ movements and behavior. Jackson currently leads the Snow Leopard Conservancy—an organization that grew out of Jackson’s thirty years’ experience gained in working closely with rural herders and farmers whose lives are directly impacted when snow leopards prey upon their livestock. Upon receiving a 1981 Rolex Award for Enterprise, Rodney launched a pioneering radio-tracking study of snow leopards in the remote mountains of the Nepalese Himalaya. The four-year study led to the cover story in the June 1986 National Geographic. In addition, the June, 2008 issue of National Geographic featured Rodney’s work with the Snow Leopard Conservancy India.

Wendy Brewer Lama

Brewer Lama holds an MES from Yale University, and has worked in ecotourism development throughout Asia for the past twenty years. While living in Nepal from 1984 to 1999, she managed TMI’s Langtang Ecotourism Project and co-authored “Community-Based Tourism for Conservation and Development”, built upon the Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action (APPA) framework. With the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wendy led some of the first ecotourism planning in China at Wanglang panda reserve in Sichuan; introduced Community-Based Tourism (CBT) to Kyrgyzstan; and brought eco-adventure tourism to Mongolia with USAID. From 2002-07, she advised the UNESCO Cultural and Ecotourism in Mountain Regions of Central and South Asia program. As owner of KarmaQuest Ecotourism and Adventure Travel, she organizes ecotours that support wildlife conservation and community-based conservation and operates academic travel programs for Stanford and other universities. At home in Half Moon Bay, California, Wendy introduced ecotourism to farmers, fishers, and Main Street entrepreneurs. Wendy is a former California Coastal Commission planner.

Brian Peniston

Peniston worked with The Mountain Institute from 1996 through mid-2014, directing a national park, Himalayan Regional programs, and Innovation and Livelihood programs. He has experience in rural enterprise, protected area and natural resource management, food security, climate change adaptation, operations research, primary health care, community development, mountain agriculture, cultural restoration, and community-based tourism. Starting in 1975, Peniston worked in Nepal (24 years), Indonesia (6 years), Malaysia (2 1/2 years), Thailand-Cambodia border (1 year) and Peru (1 year). Brian also helped design integrated conservation, development, and livelihoods projects in Bhutan, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Tibet Autonomous Region of China, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Brian’s work experience includes Wildlife Fund, USAID, Plan International, CARE, GIZ, American Refugee Committee, Britain Nepal Medical Trust, and US Peace Corps. Currently Peniston is Director of Markets and Communities, Inc and is the US Representative of Ennovent Ltd, both seeking to promote and accelerate impact investing and innovation in developing country markets. He has Masters degrees in Forestry (Yale University), Public Health (University of Hawaii) and an undergraduate degree in Philosophy (Connecticut College).

Johan Reinhard

Reinhard received his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna, Austria and was a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence from 1999 to 2013. While making over 200 ascents over 17,000 ft in the Andes, he led expeditions resulting in the discovery of more than 50 high-altitude Inca ritual sites. In 1995 and 1999 Time Magazine selected his finds of Inca frozen mummies in Peru and Argentina as among “the world’s ten most important scientific discoveries” of those years. Museums in Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia have been built to exhibit the archaeological finds made during his expeditions. In the Himalayas his studies included shamanism, the “hidden lands” of Tibetan Buddhism, and culture change among one of the world’s last nomadic hunting and gathering tribes. He has directed Nepal Peace Corps Training Projects, and while mountaineering in the Himalayas, he participated in the successful 1976 American Everest Expedition. His research has been featured in TV documentaries on National Geographic, BBC, NOVA, PBS, the History Channel, and Discovery. In 2001 the Ford Motor Company chose him as one of twelve “Heroes for the Planet” and in 2002 he was awarded the Explorers Medal of the Explorers Club of New York. He has authored more than 70 publications, including “The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes”, “Machu Picchu: Exploring an Ancient Sacred Center”, “The Nazca Lines”, and “Inca Rituals and Sacred Mountains”.

Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa

Sherpa received a Ph.D. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington and is the first person from the Sherpa community to receive a doctorate. He began his education in the Sir Edmund Hillary Schools in Nepal’s Khumbu region. His higher education was achieved through a Colombo Plan scholarship to Lincoln University in New Zealand followed by a Fulbright student scholarship to the United States. Sherpa joined the Government of Nepal in 1980 to work as Park Superintendent in Rara Lake and Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Parks. He collaborated with TMI in 1989 to carry out planning of the Makalu-Barun National Park, and later joined TMI on a full time basis as Manager of the Qomolangma Conservation Program in the Tibet Autonomous Region (China). He also served as Co-Director of The Mountain Institute’s Himalayan Program from 2005 to 2009 during which he developed and implemented an integrated cultural conservation and livelihood improvement project in the Sagarmatha National Park. Presently, Dr. Sherpa was also a Visiting Fulbright-Post Doctoral Fellow at Yale University, USA.

Ang Rita Sherpa

With over 22 years of experience in the management of protected areas, eco-tourism, community-based tourism, and sustainable and livelihoods development, Ang Rita Sherpa has been instrumental to TMI’s Himalayan Program. He also has extensive experience in project design, development, monitoring, and evaluation and has facilitated many workshops on ecotourism and sustainable development in Nepal and in Central Asia. Sherpa is a native of the Khumbu region at the foothills of Mt. Everest. He has a Masters Degree in Protected Landscape Management from the University of Wales, UK, and an undergraduate degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism from Lincoln University, New Zealand. Sherpa served as a volunteer for the National Park Service in the USA, where he spent nine months working in Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Shenandoah and Smoky Mountain National Parks both before and after he joined The Mountain Institute in 1988. He is currently the Chairperson of the Himalayan Trust in Nepal, which Sir Edmund Hillary established in 1964.  Sherpa was awarded the 2011 Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal for his remarkable services in the conservation of culture and nature in mountainous regions. In 2004, he received TMI’s “Hero of Conservation” award.

Jeremy Spoon

Dr. Spoon is an Associate Professor at Portland State University. His research focuses on indigenous ecological knowledge inside and around mountainous protected areas in the Nepalese Himalaya and the Western United States. Dr. Spoon recently initiated a new project on social-ecological transitions after natural disasters in mountain ecosystems. In all of these projects, he utilizes collaborative methods and applies research findings to tangible projects created in participatory ways. Dr. Spoon’s applied research on natural disaster recovery in Nepal is funded by a National Science Foundation RAPID grant. His project with the Department of Energy (DOE), Nevada Field Office and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to revegetate a low-level nuclear waste storage site on the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) (formerly the Nevada Test Site). The project blends indigenous knowledge and western science to create innovative restoration solutions.

Robert Wampler

Wampler has worked on U.S. foreign policy, federal research and development, technology transfer strategies, and high technology business development issues. His current research interests include sustainable development and design, community- and regionally-based environmental protection and management, and ecological restoration. He has pursued these interests in support of The Mountain Institute’s programs, particularly in connection with TMI’s Major Mountains of the World initiative; sustainable development, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation for mountain towns and cities along with TMI’s overall education and training programs.
Since 1972 The Mountain Institute has partnered with remote mountain communities in the highest, longest and oldest mountains of the world. We work together to conserve ecosystems, develop sustainable livelihoods and protect unique mountain cultures.