Christina Garcia

Executive Director

Christina Garcia is an outstanding conservation leader. With a background in natural resource management and marine biology, she became the Executive Director of the Ya’axché Conservation Trust in Belize in 2012. Her leadership has contributed to the strength, resilience, influence and impact of Ya’axché –  now considered the most successful NGO in Belize.

Christina upholds the organization’s vision of aiming to achieving harmony between nature and human development. Christina believes in empowering her staff and enabling their creativity and professional development, and fostering the passion, dedication and morale of the team to achieve conservation and community gains. She heads a highly dedicated, motivated and well qualified team of expert staff, volunteers and community representatives. As a result of her considered and grounded management, the organization has scaled up its geographic impact and political influence.

Today, Ya’axché manages three critically important protected areas – the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, Bladen Nature Reserve and Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve – within the Maya Golden Landscape in southern Belize.

Marvin Vasquez

Operations Director

Marvin has a Bachelor’s of Science in Natural Resources Management from the University of Belize. He focused his undergraduate studies in avian community structure in two of Belize’s protected areas. He has been in the field observing birds and as a field assistant for a jaguar camera trap survey in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Conservation Biology remains one of his passion, but his work experience has lead him into project management since 2012. His work experience with the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance in Bonaire, has honed his networking, coordination and communication skills. His previous work experience in Belize, prior to joining Ya’axché in 2018, exposed him to community-based organizations and good governance concepts for the improved management of grassroots organizations.

Marvin is committed to an integrated management approach of linking community outreach and livelihoods, protected areas management and biodiversity conservation. As a team and community-oriented individual, his coordinating experience with staff and community-based organizations remains centered at strengthening institutional capacities.

Ivanny Hernandez

Finance Director

Ivanny started her career in the NGO world in 2009 as Ya’axché’s Administrative Assistant, managing the office and assisting the Finance Manager with the maintenance of the accounting system. In 2010, she took over the position of Finance Manager which enabled her to be involved in decision making. Now as Finance Director, Ivanny maintains Ya’axché’s entire financial system. She liaises, communicates, and collaborates with funders through financial and project reporting.

Ivanny has an associate’s degree in Accounting and Economics from Corozal Junior College and two bachelor’s degrees, the first in Accounting and the second in Business Management/Administration, both from the University of the Ozarks, USA.

Said Gutierrez

Protected Areas Program Director

Said holds a MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity from the University of Exeter in the UK and a BSc in Natural Resource Management from the University of Belize. Said has over 10 years of experience working in conservation science and protected areas management. Prior to joining Ya’axché Said worked in field research at the University of Belize, Environmental Research Institute. With a research background, he is an advocate for science-based decision making in all aspects of protected areas management and biodiversity conservation. This background and experience allowed him to hold several key positions within Ya’axché over the years since he joined the organization.

Said joined Ya’axché as Assistant Research Coordinator in 2014 managing projects focused on threatened tree species in Belize. He transitioned to the position of Science Director in 2015 taking charge of all aspects of Ya’axché’s developing science program. In 2019 he took on the leadership of Ya’axché’s Protected Areas Program as the Protected Areas Program Director and is now responsible for the oversight of staff and daily management of three protected areas under the program.

Elizabeth Dorgay

Science Director

Beth holds a MSc in Conservation Ecology from the University of Michigan where she focused on agroecology. For her thesis, she worked with the NGO Paso Pacifico to examine the social and ecological dimensions of living fencerows as a reforestation strategy in southwestern Nicaragua. She has experience with research projects exploring native pollinators in urban gardens and cover crop mixes on diverse vegetable farms.

Beth joined Ya’axché in 2016 to oversee the organization’s botanical research and monitoring, primarily relating to a Global Trees Campaign project to improve the conservation status of rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii) in Belize. Now as the Science Director, Beth is responsible for the oversight of Ya’axché’s Science Program which includes the ongoing development of biodiversity research and monitoring and ensuring that management and conservation actions are based on sound science. Beth is passionate about supporting conservation in human-dominated landscapes, and is working to expand agroecological research and biodiversity monitoring in the working landscapes bordering Ya’axché’s protected areas.

Gustavo Requena

Community Outreach & Livelihoods Director

Gustavo is a farmer from San Pedro Columbia who has also been a Biology professor at Julian Cho Technical High School for the past 15 years. He graduated from Toledo Community College and then enrolled at the Belize College of Agriculture at Central Farm, University of Belize from where he received an Associate Degree with specialization in agroforestry systems. He then went on to attend the University of Belize from where he received a Bachelor Degree in Biology Education.

Gustavo spends a lot of time on his organic farm producing crops and rearing animals; and providing tours. He is passionate about resources conservation and the improvement of people’s livelihoods. As Community Outreach & Livelihoods Program Director, Gustavo is responsible for ensuring that communities are empowered.

Denise Garcia

Development Director

Denise executes Ya’axché’s fundraising strategies and leads grant development. She holds a Master of Environmental Science and Management from Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California Santa Barbara, with over 15 years’ experience in natural resource management. Denise commenced her career in conservation as a marine biologist, spending the early part conducting biodiversity monitoring and research.

Denise is well-versed in protected areas management and system planning, coastal marine resource management, and stakeholder community engagement. She is knowledgeable of Belize’s terrestrial and marine environment, relevant policies and legislative framework, and national and regional conventions and agreements. Through her work trajectory with governmental and non-governmental organizations managing Belize’s natural resources, Denise’ apply solution-oriented skills to Ya’axché’s fundraising arm.

Dianne Gomez

Finance Manager

Dianne’s educational background intertwines as a business major with an Associate degree in Business Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Management which she obtained at the University of Belize. Dianne joined Ya’axché in February of 2014 as the Administrative Assistant. She later took over the position of Finance Manager in 2019, where she oversees the office administration.

As Finance Manager she is also responsible to maintain and lead the updating of the accounting system, works closely with project managers, and directly provides support to the Finance Director in managing the finances of the Organization.

Hilberto Rash

Protected Areas Manager

Rash is a son of Toledo, who strives to protect the Crown Jewel of Belize. Rash started working with the Bladen Management Consortium working as a Ranger/Admin Assistant in 2007. He further took up the call and furthered his survival skills by joining the Belize Defense Force in June of 2009. Having served 3 years, he left the military and pursued his love for conservation by working in the Cayo Region with Friend of Conservation and Development. Using the experience gain working in Chiquibul National Park, he continued to work hard to protect the resources of Belize. 

In May 2015, Rash joined Ya’axché Conservation Trust as a Ranger. With over 7 years’ experience working in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, The Bladen Nature Reserve and Maya Mountain North Forest Revere, Rash now serves as Ya’axché Protected Areas Manager. 

Carlene Myvett

Development Manager

Carlene obtained an Associate Degree in Arts and Natural Science from St. John’s Junior College where she double majored in Literature and Biology. Thereafter, she obtained a Bachelor of Science from the University of Belize and a Master of Science in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development from the University of the West Indies. In partial fulfillment of her Master’s, she completed a terrestrial field practicum in Suriname, which was focused on biological survey techniques; her thesis was focused on investigating microplastic pollution at four recreational beaches in Trinidad.

Professionally, she has taught for several years at the high school level and has also served as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Belize where she taught in the Natural Resources Management Program. Prior to joining Ya’axche’, she was employed with the Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Office.

Nathaniel Castillo

Marketing and Communications Manager

Nathaniel Castillo is a graduate of the University of Belize with a B.S. in Natural Resource Management. During Nathaniel’s time at the University of Belize, he focused his undergraduate research on water quality by assessing the effects of the seasonal changes on water quality in the City of Belmopan.

Nathaniel has enjoyed photography and videography from a young age and decided to further his skills in this area. After completing the Film Production course at Galen University, he then realized he can merge his hobbies and studies to influence people toward pro-environmental behavior. He has now joined Ya’axché as a Marketing and Communication Officer. Nathaniel is tasked with maintaining a positive image of Ya’axché among stakeholders.

Florentino Chiac

Science Manager

Florentino Chiac recently completed his bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Management at the University of Belize. Education played a significant role in his life, but that didn’t surpass his interest towards volunteerism. He has gained invaluable volunteer experiences at Fragments of Hope, Belize Raptor Center and at the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute while he was still pursuing his education. His career started where he was employed in 2017 as a Data Entry Intern at the University of Belize, Environmental Research Institute for a Bird Data Project. At the time, he recognized the importance of the proper management of biodiversity data that allows for sound science and informed decision making.

As a young open-minded individual who is constantly fascinated by nature, he firmly believes in the importance of resource conservation which supports community livelihoods. He is certain that his career will allow him to make a difference. Being employed as a Wildlife Officer at Ya’axche will allow him to continuously collect data on wildlife conflict issues in the Toledo District with an emphasis on Human-Jaguar Conflict. He will also be providing support for small scale cattle farmers on conflict mitigation measures to reduce cattle depredation within the Maya Golden Landscape and engage in biodiversity research and monitoring with a focus on camera trap surveys.

Estevan Assi

Community Outreach & Livelihoods Manager

Estevan Assi has an extensive career in sustainable agriculture and holds an Associate’s Degree in Natural Resource Management from Independence Junior College. His career in the agriculture sector began in his early childhood years; which included getting up early and walking many hours to the plantation with his grandfather to do traditional farming.

Estevan is an avid promoter of sustainable farming systems and has been involved in developmental projects with partner organizations such as Peacework International and worked with Sustainable Harvest International, Na’ Lu’um Cacao Institute and Toledo Cacao Growers Association where he gain knowledge and skills in sustainable cacao production. His direct involvement with cacao farmers earned him a position in 2015 as Chairman of the Toledo Organic Alliance. Estevan developed a deep appreciation for conservation as a Park Manager at Mayflower Bocawina National Park.

He joined Ya’axché’s Community Outreach and Livelihood program as an Agroforestry Extension Officer. He will help in promoting the use of Climate-smart Agriculture targeting cacao farmers and beekeepers of the indigenous communities in the Toledo District.

Erwin Tush

Community Liaison Manager

Erwin is from the beautiful village of Pueblo Viejo, in the Toledo District and speaks Mopan Maya Q’eqchi’ Maya, Spanish and English. He has an associate’s degree in University of Belize – Central Farm Campus in applied Science Agriculture. After graduation, he worked with the Taiwanese mission with sheep and goat improvement project for 6 months, and later, as an Agriculture science teacher at the Independence High School for 2 years.

He joined Ya’axché as an agroforestry extension officer in June 2019. He has a passion of working with farmers to improve the livelihoods of the people of the Maya Golden Landscape.

Evarista Sho

Education Outreach Officer

Evarista has an associate’s degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Belize. She has volunteered at the Ya’axché prior to joining the organization. She has a passion for working with people and educating them on how to save our forest for future generations. As an Education and Outreach Officer, Evarista is responsible for leading the development and implementation of educational plans in the Maya Golden Landscape.

Janiel Chan

Research Officer

Janiel recently graduated from the University of Belize with a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Resource Management. His deeper appreciation for the environment and the numerous wonders it possesses started early on when he understood that humans and nature can still coincide with each other. His journey started by volunteering as an intern at the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) where he gained a greater understanding on the numerous challenges involved in incorporating environmentally-friendly practices and the best approaches to obtain cooperation from people. Janiel then worked as a consultant for the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute (UB ERI) for a Carbon Project in the Belize Maya Forest. This experience gave him a deeper understanding of the advantages and disadvantages on different approaches and making informed decisions that take into account both the immediate and long-term effects on biodiversity.

The vast richness and beauty that our jewel Belize possesses greatly expanded his passion for photography. Janiel has taken up the position of Research Officer at Ya’axché, where he is responsible for overseeing research and monitoring activities related to freshwater and vegetation.

Amira Palma

Administrative Officer

Amira graduated from the University of Belize in 2016 with an associate’s degree in Business Science. She joined Ya’axché as the Administrative Assistant in 2019. As Administrative Assistant, Amira works closely with the finance team to manage the office’s administrative responsibilities

Miguel Coc

Nursery Keeper

Miguel is from Indian Creek and has worked as a landscaper at a lodge for seven years prior to working at Ya’axché. As Nursery Technician, Miguel ensures that the tree nursery is always stocked with some +35,000 plants and keeps monitoring them. He also does grafting of cacao and fruit trees at the nursery.

Petrona Coc

Conservation Business Assistant

Petrona Coc is from San Marcos village and a graduate of Julian Cho Technical High School with a diploma in Business studies.

Petrona comes with a diverse area of experiences including working with a women’s group, nursery assistant at a well known lodge and housekeeping. Petrona joined the Ya’axche Institute for Conservation Education program in 2019 with responsibilities as housekeeper. She now manages all facilities at the Golden Stream property ensuring that a high level of cleanliness is maintained. She also carries the role of a part time Gold Standard Program Manager for Ya’axchè’s Gold Standard Certification amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her skills in nursery also make her a great helping hand in Ya’axchè’s nursery. She enjoys meeting customers and guests. Upon your visit, you will meet Petrona who is willing to provide any assistance for a greater experience at our facilities. Your health and safety is of high priority.