Staff

Peter Seligmann

CEO

For over 40 years, Peter Seligmann has been an influential and inspiring voice in conservation. He works in partnership with communities, governments, and businesses to find innovative solutions to ensure the sustainability of the planet’s natural and cultural resources. Peter co-founded Nia Tero in 2017. He is also the Chairman of the Board and former CEO of Conservation International, a global nonprofit organization he co-founded in 1987. Peter began his career in 1976 with The Nature Conservancy as the organization’s western region land steward, later becoming the director of the California Nature Conservancy.

Peter earned a Master of Science in Forestry and Environmental Science from Yale University and a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology from Rutgers University. Peter holds Honorary Doctorates in Science from Michigan State University and Rutgers University. A world traveler, avid fisherman and diver, Peter lives in Seattle with his wife, Lee Rhodes, an entrepreneur and the founder of Glassybaby.

Marc Ballandras

Director of Innovation and Infrastructure

Marc is a veteran of international renewable energy development, with over 20 years experience in developing, financing, and managing investments in infrastructure and clean energy projects worldwide. Before joining Nia Tero, Marc worked in structured finance and energy project development in Singapore, Pakistan, Texas, Morocco, Spain, and most recently France, where he was the CEO of PCER, the renewable energy project development and investment affiliate of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine regional government.

PCER owns and operates 18 renewable energy power generation sites (solar and hydro) and is governed as a public/private cooperative. Marc remains a member of the Board of PCER and a member of the Ethics Committee of Enercoop, France’s largest pure renewable electricity provider, also run as a cooperative. Marc enjoys the contradiction of being both a vintage petrol car connoisseur and a proud commuter on a wind-powered electric unicycle.

Melissa Billows

Associate Director, Finance and Operations

Melissa Billows has over 20 years of finance and operations experience, with the last 15 years focused in the nonprofit sector. She brings to Nia Tero a diverse and multidisciplinary background – she has worked within a large health care system in Miami; with a foundation whose sole beneficiary was Boston’s only public school for the arts; at an antiquarian library/museum whose mission is to engage all who seek knowledge; and most recently for an architectural firm resolved to construct beautiful and comfortable spaces for marginalized communities.

She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Sociology, and through her longtime experience with data and analytics came to specialize in finance and operations. She is married and has two boys – one in college and one in high school – and two dogs she unapologetically refers to as her fur babies. She is a voracious reader and a self-described coffee addict who loves being outdoors. She is originally from Boston and arrived in Seattle in August of 2018. Still fairly new to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys basking in the natural beauty that is just outside her door.

Angeli Brathwaite

Executive Assistant and Program Coordinator

Angeli Brathwaite is the Executive Assistant to the Chief Program Officer at Nia Tero. Prior to joining Nia Tero, Angeli worked at Kibble and Prentice, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Raised in sunny California’s Bay Area, Angeli is now a resident of Washington State where she lives with her two daughters.

Heather Brown

Executive Assistant to Leadership

Heather Brown comes to Nia Tero from Western Washington University, where she worked for the Institute for Global Engagement supporting the Senior International Officer and Chair. Heather brings over 10 years of experience supporting senior level executives in corporate, non-profit, and academic environments. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Health and Human Performance from the University of Montana. She also studied abroad at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia where her coursework and research focused on culture and identity.

After graduating, Heather continued to pursue her passion for international engagement and cultural exchange through volunteer work in South America and Asia. Heather enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, watching and playing sports (especially soccer), sailing, photography, reading, and meeting all the pups she can.

Felipe Contreras

Associate Producer

Felipe Contreras comes from a proud Puerto Rican/Salvadoran family and is a photographer, media maker, and storyteller. Felipe believes we can amplify voices and uplift other people through stories. As an artist, he's passionate about improving activism, awareness, and narrative shifts around social justice, gender equality, and climate change. Simultaneously, he enjoys analyzing discourse and flipping narratives to encourage people to act in their enlightened power by focusing on the interconnection between humans and the natural world.

Felipe has a Bachelor of Arts in Social-Cultural Anthropology from the University of Washington in Seattle. To further his media making skills, he attended graduate school hosted at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada where he earned a degree from the Environmental Visual Communications Post-Graduate program at Fleming College. His hobbies include boxing, writing music, animal caretaking, and coaching basketball.

David Cook

David joins the Nia Tero community after spending a decade with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, where he worked in multiple roles to advance strategic priorities in global health, global development, and education reform. Previously, David had worked in the field of environmental education, facilitating hands-on, outdoor learning experiences for students to develop connections to their natural and social communities. David holds both MPA and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Washington, as well as a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Indiana University.

When it's time to unplug, David loves to spend time hiking and camping with his family, snowboarding, going for long bike rides, and reading great books.

Nathalie Figueroa

Development Manager

Nathalie brings an entrepreneurial attitude to everything she does — a skill honed in the unpredictable and fast-paced environments she's worked in over the past eight years. Before joining Nia Tero, she helped to scale fundraising and communications initiatives alongside senior management at NESsT, a nonprofit impact fund manager that invests in social enterprises around the world including the Amazon basin. Nathalie is grateful to have lived and worked in Brazil, India, Rwanda, Israel and Haiti through fellowships completed during her time at the University of Pennsylvania and as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar.

Beyond dance moves and friendships, these experiences connected this Salvadoreña to kindred souls who prove that we are not alone in creating the equity and environmental justice we seek globally.

Chris Filardi

Chief Program Officer

Dr. Chris Filardi is a research scientist by training. He brings to Nia Tero 30 years’ experience in building grassroots partnerships with Indigenous peoples to sustain thriving natural systems under their stewardship. Chris has helped establish community-based wildlife reserves in Papua New Guinea and has facilitated strategies for customary protected areas in the Solomon Islands. He has also contributed to Indigenous-led large-scale conservation initiatives in North America. Chris established the Pacific Programs at the American Museum of Natural History and directed that effort for more than 10 years.

He has worked with Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, and the Wildlife Conservation Society on integrating science and reciprocal agreements with Indigenous peoples into large-scale conservation programs.

Carmen Geraldes

Operations Project Manager

Carmen Geraldes is a passionate international cooperation and development worker with experience within the NGO and UN context. Before joining Nia Tero, Carmen was responsible for managing a COVID-19 emergency procurement related portfolio at UNOPS. She was responsible for all aspects of the project life-cycle, in particular the oversight of the supply chain cycle of medical equipment and supplies to several countries in Pasifika and Indonesia.

Prior to UNOPS, Carmen worked in development organizations including ChildFund International as a Program Effectiveness Consultant where she supported the organizational change processes at the regional level, and OXFAM Australia where she conducted prospect research and managed the OXFAM database for financial sustainability projects. She holds a Master's degree in International Development from La Trobe University in Australia. Carmen is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish and in her free time she loves going for walks and long conversations over a cup of tea.

Haley Gustafson

Operations & Grants Coordinator

Haley Gustafson supports Nia Tero’s senior staff and leadership. Before joining Nia Tero, Haley worked as a Project Coordinator and Administrative Specialist. She brings a diverse background in fundraising and event management to the organization. Haley holds a Master of Law (LL.M.) in International Human Rights Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland Galway, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Washington.

Haley’s academic background has focused on community organizing and institutional representation in marginalized populations; conflict resolution, legal recourse, and negotiation; and sustainable local and global community systems. Haley is Chickasaw and Choctaw, and is an enrolled tribal citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. Outside of work, Haley is a voracious reader and cooking aficionada, and she has a soft spot for the opera and symphony. She also enjoys rowing on Lake Washington in any weather, spending time with her cats, and getting as much sunshine and fresh air as possible.

Lauren Guzauskas

Managing Director, Development

Lauren has over 15 years of nonprofit fundraising experience across multiple fields with an unwavering focus on equity, access, and empowerment. Previous to Nia Tero, she managed a broad scope of fundraising initiatives for The Nature Conservancy to help solve local and global conservation challenges on land and at sea, helping them achieve their record-breaking global campaign. Lauren holds a masters in public administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance and a bachelor of arts in cultural anthropology from University of Minnesota.

She also serves on the Board of Fabian’s Fund, a nonprofit that provides liberation education in partnership with incarcerated people throughout Washington State, as an active commitment to supporting the sustainability, vibrancy and health of Black and Brown communities. To recharge, Lauren swims, boxes, gardens, and spends time outside with her family.

Heidi Hanson

Grants Manager

Heidi Hanson has nearly 17 years of international grant-making experience. Prior to joining Nia Tero, Heidi worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a handful of roles that supported the Global Health Division. She also spent many years working with local professional sports teams. Heidi earned a Bachelor of Arts from Pacific Lutheran University. In her free time, she enjoys playing steel pan, dancing, writing, traveling and listening to live music.

Taylor Hensel

Producer

Taylor Hensel is a storyteller. Her work as a photographer and filmmaker often reflects the nuanced relationships we have with all beings. Taylor is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She earned her BA in Journalism and Digital Media from Metropolitan State University of Denver and holds a MA in Documentary Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has worked as a journalist, photographer, and video producer with the United States Department of the Interior and the Humane Society of the United States where her work involved covering stories of animal justice, environmental conservation efforts, and relationships between Indigenous peoples and the land.

Taylor continues to align her life and her work valuing the land, justice, and diverse perspectives through her work. Most importantly, her wish is to continue telling stories that inspire hope.

Monique Lada

Executive and Board Manager

Monique Lada comes to Nia Tero from Conservation International, where she was the Executive Coordinator to the Chairman and CEO, as well as the Board Meetings Manager. Monique brings a diverse array of skills and experience to Nia Tero, including eight years as an event manager at SH Worldwide. She was also a website producer for Corbis and WorkLife Solutions and worked with ESL students at Bellevue College. Monique is first-generation American; her parents are both emigres from Poland.

In addition to Nia Tero, her passions include experiencing new places and cultures, enjoying nature’s splendor, all things dance, and petting any cat that crosses her path.

Eleni Ledesma

Associate Producer

Eleni Ledesma is second generation Mexican-American of Indigenous descent who brings a unique lens to her role as Associate Producer at Nia Tero. A University of Washington graduate, her passion for storytelling and amplifying authentic voices led to her career in filmmaking, beginning with work as a volunteer on productions such as Big in Japan, and My Last Year With the Nuns. Eventually she held a role as Producer on Confessions of A Social Bully and co-produced Mildred Bailey.

She is currently working as Associate Producer on Why We Serve, a project for the National Museum of the American Indian and Richman Poorman, a Hemlock Productions film. Additionally, Eleni has worked as an Associate Producer for Longhouse Media, and Program Manager for Indigenous Showcase. She is a member of the Seattle Urban Native Nonprofits group, has served as board member for Seattle Latino Film Festival, board President for the Northwest Literacy Foundation, and volunteers for the Seattle International Film Festival.

Dan Lin

Pacific Storytelling Lead

Dan Lin supports Nia Tero in promoting storytelling as a vital source of knowledge and information towards local and global conservation efforts, as it has been for countless generations within many Indigenous communities. He believes firmly in the power of stories to inform public audiences and increase solidarity amongst disparate voices. Dan is an avid seeker of stories and storytellers from around the world, but has focused primarily on the Pacific Islands for the past decade.

He is the founder and director of the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative, where he oversees the development and training of young storytellers from across the Pacific region in various forms of digital media. Additionally, Dan is a filmmaker and freelance photojournalist focusing on the impacts of climate change, post-colonialism, and globalization on cultural identity within Indigenous communities around the world. He is a Hōkūle‘a crew-member and a National Geographic Explorer.

Margarita Mora

Managing Director, Partnerships

Margarita Mora is passionate about empowering local groups in their efforts to manage their territories. She has dedicated the past 19 years to co-creating and implementing strategies for integrating conservation into a positive vision of the future for these communities. Margarita, in her earlier role as the Managing Director of the Conservation Stewards Program of Conservation International (CI), a pioneer in the conservation agreements model, has been involved in conservation agreement initiatives in 19 countries around the world.

Margarita has applied the lessons and experiences from nearly two decades of work to shape Nia Tero’s approach to building partnerships with Indigenous peoples and local communities worldwide. Margarita believes that if ecosystems that are vital for humanity’s well-being are to thrive, the people who have sustained these places and are most knowledgeable about them must also thrive. She is an alumna of the Mulago Foundation's Conservation Fellowship, MIT Media Lab's Director’s Fellowship, and a Heinrich Böll Stiftung alumna.

Leigh Morgan

Chief Strategy and Operating Officer

Leigh Morgan is the lead architect of Nia Tero’s growth and impact inclusive of strategy, innovative finance, infrastructure and enterprise, operations, and governance. Before joining Nia Tero, she served as Chief Operating Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was accountable for a broad portfolio and led the foundation’s transformation efforts. Her global leadership experience spans multiple sectors, including the corporate healthcare sector, where she served as Vice President and Global Head of HR (Product Development) for Genentech/Hoffmann LaRoche.

Her public sector roles include Associate Chancellor at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and serving in former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt’s administration. Leigh serves on several Boards, including the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Institute (Seattle and Uganda), the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and NYC-based Springboard Enterprises. She is also a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Aaron Oravillo

Program Coordinator

Aaron Oravillo is currently splitting his time between Nia Tero and studying issues related to social justice, equity, and inclusion at school. Aaron has worked as a grassroots fundraiser for local community groups, and he volunteers for organizations that center on immigration, gender, race and equity, and environmental justice. Aaron is passionate about the rights of the homeless and is committed to the mission of assisting Indigenous communities in attaining and maintaining sovereignty over their own lands. His goal in life is to identify and address the root causes of systemic oppression and help change them.

Hill Ossip

Associate Director, Marketing

Hill comes to Nia Tero from National Geographic Partners, where they were most recently the Director of Integrated Marketing, and previously the Director of Social Strategy across Nat Geo’s television, documentary films, and Disney+ portfolios. Hill is passionate about equity and inclusion, and during their time with National Geographic they co-founded and led the company’s first employee resource group, Nat Geo Pride, in support of LGBTQ+ employees and allies, and partnered with leadership across The Walt Disney Company on intersectional diversity-focused initiatives.

Prior to National Geographic, Hill was a digital and social media producer at Discovery Communications for Discovery Channel, HowStuffWorks, and Curiosity. They hold a BA in Anthropology from Mount Holyoke College, where they focused on visual and cultural representation in museums, memorials, and heritage sites. Their studies were put into practice during their time as a Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, and continue to inform their work in marketing as they consider the nuances and power of representation across mediums.

Michael Painter

Managing Director, Programs

Michael is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He came to Nia Tero from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where he was a senior program officer from 2005 through 2020. In addition, Michael was a 2003-2004 RWJF Health Policy Fellow with Senator Frist, Majority Leader. In 2021, he also received the 2021 Susie Nanney Culture of Health Champion Award. Michael holds a JD from Stanford Law School and MD from the University of Washington and serves on the boards of Native Americans in Philanthropy, We Are Healers and the Princeton Buddhist Meditation Group.

Michael feels that a healthy future is one where humans thrive in harmony with all living things.

Neyda R. Quiñones Ortiz

Executive Assistant to Managing Director, Storytelling

Neyda comes to Nia Tero from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico with a passion for amplifying and empowering LGBTQIA+ people, women’s rights, sexual health advocacy and equitable access to education. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Puerto Rico in 2010, Neyda continued on to the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Law, where she graduated in 2014 with her Juris Doctor degree. After law school, Neyda moved to the mainland United States, where she was the Executive Assistant to the President of Dragados USA for five years.

Neyda hopes to set down roots permanently in the Evergreen State she loves so much, refocusing her attention back to her interests: advancing social justice work, aerial dancing, and a newly discovered passion for gardening.

Jessica Ramirez

Creative Producer

Jessica identifies as a queer Mexican of Indigenous descent who is a multi-disciplinary creative and community organizer. As an advocate for social change, Jessica uses anti-racist, anti-oppressive and decolonizing frameworks to create narrative shifts and storytelling strategies that build community power. She attended the University of Washington where she received a bachelor’s degree in American Ethnic Studies with a concentration in Chicano Studies and minors in Labor Studies and Law Societies & Justice.

She is a programmer for the Seattle Queer Film Festival, arts curator, and a board member of the Northwest Film Forum. Jessica resides on the traditional unceded territory of the Duwamish peoples (presently known as Seattle, Washington) with her dog, Luna Ramirez Thomas.

Tracy Rector

Managing Director, Storytelling

Tracy Rector comes to Nia Tero with a passion for amplifying and empowering Indigenous voices. She brings two decades of experience as a community organizer, educator, filmmaker, film programmer, and arts curator, all infused with her deep roots in plant medicine. For the last 20 years she has directed and produced over 400 films including shorts, features, music videos, and virtual reality projects.

Her work has been featured on Independent Lens, ImagineNative, National Geographic, and the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, as well as at international film festivals including Cannes and Toronto. Tracy served as a Seattle Arts Commissioner for 8 years, sits on the board of the Mize Foundation, and is the co-founder of Longhouse Media and the founder of Indigenous Showcase.

John Reid

Senior Economist and Partnership Lead

John Reid has pioneered the use of economic insights and strategies to protect natural ecosystems. He founded Conservation Strategy Fund in the late 1990s, and propelled its global impact for nearly two decades. The organization’s innovative blend of economics education and on-the-ground applications earned it the MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. John’s work, primarily in Latin America, has focused on the themes of infrastructure, conservation incentives, and protected areas.

He has also guided business planning with Indigenous and local communities. John has written about economics, public policy, and conservation for The New York Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Conservation Biology, Ambio, and other publications. He has a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University. He enjoys mountain biking, photography, and writing fiction.

David Rothschild

Senior Partnership Lead

David Rothschild is applying 28 years’ experience in philanthropy and working with Indigenous peoples in support of Nia Tero’s mission. At the newly-formed Fossil Foundation, David led development of new philanthropic systems and overall strategy. At the Skoll Foundation, he led environmental partnerships and the strategy to address deforestation. Before turning to philanthropy, David worked with Indigenous peoples in the Amazon from his positions at the Inter-American Development Bank, the Field Museum, and the Amazon Alliance for Indigenous and Traditional Peoples.

David also currently sits on the board of STIR, which improves learning outcomes by increasing teacher motivation in India and Uganda. David earned a Master’s in International Policy and Practice from the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University, where he received a high-honors fellowship, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz, where he received honors and the Dean’s Award. David loves exploring new locales and discovering the unexpected with his family. He has a profound respect for and appreciation of cultural differences and varied ways of knowing.

Jonathan Saceda

Staff Accountant

Jonathan Saceda joins Nia Tero with over seven years of accounting experience, as both as accountant and budget manager, for the State of Alaska. With a degree in business administration, Jonathan’s fiscal journey began as the finance officer of a social enterprise in the Philippines that manufactured charcoal briquettes made of recycled forest materials, which provided employment to nearly 30 members of a rural community.

He brings a cornucopia of skills from his experience in government and fund accounting, nonprofit financial reporting, accounts payable and receivable duties. Jonathan enjoys spending time with his family, travel, team sports and the arts.

Jessica Schroeder

Managing Director, Operations

Jessica Schroeder began her career in nonprofit administration in 2007, when she joined the staff of Town Hall Seattle. She worked in a variety of capacities there, including event production, project management, and operations management. In 2017, she became Director of Finance and Operations at On the Boards. As part of the Executive Leadership team, Jessica was responsible for all of the organization’s daily business activities, including financial management, strategic planning, facility management, human resources, and more.

Jessica also volunteers with the Seattle nonprofit Bushwick Northwest and enjoys dancing, teaching Gyrotonic, hiking, biking, reading, and playing with her adorable dog Gus.