FOUNDER & DIRECTOR WENDEE NICOLE:
Raging Inexorable Thunder-Lizard Evangelist for Change*
After earning her M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Texas A&M University in 1995, Wendee became a freelance journalist. For two decades, she traveled the globe to report on science, health, and environmental justice issues, from the Himalayan foothills of Nepal in search of the endangered red panda to the Peruvian Amazon to report on community-based conservation with the Yine Amerindians. Her work has been published in magazines such as National Wildlife, Nature, Discover, Scientific American, and Environmental Health Perspectives, as well as on Discovery Channel and Animal Planet Online.
In 2014, Wendee received the first $20,000 grant from Mongabay’s Special Reporting Initiative, awarded for her proposal, “Power to the people” which proposed to address how human livelihoods and forest conservation could coexist, based on Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom's groundbreaking theories. The grant brought her to Southwest Uganda where she tracked her favorite animal, mountain gorillas, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and visited Batwa ("Twa") pygmies in their current homes. Wendee returned to the US but soon sold her home in Texas and, in September 2014, moved to Buhoma village to start RSF, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Wendee serves as Director on the ground, inspiring change among the Batwa of Kalehe, and other local projects with the Bakiga tribe members. She also serves as President of an outstanding Board of Directors that includes American and Ugandan professionals with broad relevant experience.
* Hat tip to the first Raging Inexorable Thunder-Lizard Evangelist for Change, Brian Yeoman, who I know from Houston Advanced Research Center a decade ago, and who inspired me to bring passion to whatever I do!
RSF BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Leslie Thomas (Chairperson 2019, Member 2017-2019) is Director of Sales for an aircraft charter and management service in Minneapolis, MN, and Vice President of the Afton Museum in Afton, Minnesota. She is a certified wetland delineator in-training and spent two years volunteering to perform water stream analysis that leads to clean-up efforts. Leslie is a poet and co-founded a creative writing project called 'Write to the River' aimed at engaging people with the Mississippi River. She holds a B.S. in Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, a M.S. in Landscape, Environment and History from University of Edinburgh, and a Certificate in Irish Studies from National University of Ireland-Galway.
Steven W. Squyres (VP & Chairman of the Board 2014-2019, Member 2019) is the James A. Weeks Professor of physical sciences at Cornell University. He was the principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover project, and chairman of the U.S. NASA Advisory Council. In 1999 he helped organize the first international space science conference to be held in Africa, in Libreville, Gabon, and he has traveled extensively on all seven continents, with a particular interest in Africa.
Wendee Nicole (President 2014-2019) pursued a two-decade-long career in communications, environmental journalism and photography before starting RSF. Wendee previously founded and directed the nonprofit San Jacinto Conservation Coalition in Houston, Texas from 2000-2010, and earned degrees in Ecology (M.A., Ph.D. candidacy at Rice University, U.S. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; M.S., B.S. Magna Cum Laude 1993, Texas A&M). She now works as a Senior Editor for a health company in Houston while working with RSF remotely. Baptized Episcopalian, she was a long-time member of a Lutheran church and is a member of the non-denominational Woodlands Church in The Woodlands, Texas. The Woodlands Church sells RSF baskets in their WC Trading Co. store. Faith guides her work promoting social justice for the Batwa.
Beverly Finlay (Secretary & Member 2017-2019) is a self-employed custom sign maker and a clock repair specialist living in Deer Island, Oregon. For around 30 years, she ran a brick-and-mortar clock and sign shop in St. Helens, Oregon, but presently works on call from home. She went to Portland Community College to achieve a 2-year certificate in commercial illustration. Family, travel, keeping up with world affairs and tending a massive vegetable garden are the main activities and interests at this time. She is presently involved with a church-supported ministry to help feed homeless folks twice weekly in Longview, Washington. Her interest in RSF began when she learned more about her step-daughter Wendee Nicole’s work with the Batwa villagers and children and RSF’s noble cause and watched as they have shown great gains over the years since the project first began.
Miranda C. Spencer (Member 2014-2019, Secretary 2016-2018) is an American journalist and editor who has run her own consulting company, Red Panda Communications, for more than 10 years. Her work has been published in many national outlets including Nuclear Times, Extra!, Biography, E: The Environmental Magazine, and The Daily Climate. She has also edited or helped develop scores of books for bestselling authors, including Arianna Huffington and Gene Stone. Miranda also has professional and volunteer experience working in communications with organizations including the Open Space Institute, Environmental Grantmakers Association, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and others.
Wilson Bamwerinde (Member 2018-2019) is the former Trust Administrator for Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT), managing the Trust resources for the conservation of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Park mountain gorillas, to increase tourism potential, and to improve livelihoods and income alternatives for communities around the two national parks. Previously, he served as a professor at Kabale University and worked for ten years as National Project Manager for United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), overseeing a Transboundary Agroecosystem Management for between Uganda and Tanzania, facilitating sustainable management of natural resources, integrated ecosystem management as the means to integrate issues of land degradation, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, climate change and other environmental concerns, as well as agricultural productivity, food security and poverty alleviation with communities around river Kagera and national parks of Lake Mburo, Akagera and game reserves in Tanzania.
Rachel E. Seibert (Member 2019) is a scientist, currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Epidemiology. She has an M.B.A. and M.P.H., with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. She has a long history of working in the private sector in engineering, business, marketing and strategy. Her public and volunteer work in Uganda and Haiti led to her career change, from engineering to public health, where she now studies disparities in the health sector. Rachel resides in Buffalo, NY, but is still very involved with the youth of Uganda, providing sponsorship and support for orphans needing schooling, supplies and mentoring. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys skiing, volunteer work, and spending time with family and friends.
Ben Ssenkeera (Member 2017-2019) - bio coming soon