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.
GUSTAVO REQUENA (COMMUNITY OUTREACH & LIVELIHOODS PROGRAM 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.
IVANNY OLIVA (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 BSc in Natural Resource Management from the University of Belize and an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity from the University of Exeter in the UK. Said’s education has lead him to pursue a management and research based career with major interests in wildlife behaviour, spatial ecology, landscape ecology and conservation and corridor connectivity. He has experience in protected areas management from his early career days with the Belize Audubon Society at the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. Most of his research experience stems from his position as wildlife biologist at the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Belize through a corridor project in central Belize.
Said joined Ya’axché as an Assistant Research Coordinator in 2014 with responsibilities in managing a long term Global Trees Campaign project focusing on threatened tree species in Belize and then transition to the position of Science Director in 2015. He is now responsible for the oversight of Protected Areas Management Program, which looks at the 3 protected areas managed by Ya’axché.
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.
MARCELIA ASSI (CONSERVATION BUSINESS DIRECTOR)
Marcelia has an Associate’s degree in Business Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Belize. She has experiences in organizational internal development, market research, planning and executing of trainings and teaching at the primary and tertiary schools in the Toledo District. Marcelia conducted an internship with Ya’axché in 2017 and admired the incredible work of the organization.
In 2018, she joined Ya’axché as the Conservation Business Manager to develop and manage Ya’axché Institute for Conservation Education (YICE) – the sustainable financing initiative of Ya’axché. YICE includes EcoTourism Belize and Nursery.
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.
MARCHILIO ACK (PROTECTED AREAS MANAGER)
Marchilio has been working with the Ya’axché Conservation Trust for over a decade. He started out at the grass roots level as a community based protected area ranger and has since developed an impressive set of skills, including wildlife monitoring of a wide range of taxa. Marchilio has been both Chairman and Alcalde of his village in the past 15 years and have used this position to inspire others to take a similar path and to use resources sustainably.
With over 18 years of experience in wildlife conservation in Belize, Marchilio is now adapting his skills to education and training of the younger rangers to ensure that they have the same opportunities to develop. Marchilio has always recognized the importance of a ranger being fully committed to conservation in both their professional and personal life and he works actively to ensure that all staff have this same commitment.
JULIO CHUB (COMMUNITY LIAISON MANAGER)
Julio has seven years working experience in community outreach and environmental education at Ya’axché. He is responsible for developing and implementing environmental education programs, communicating Ya’axché’s work to communities, providing technical assistance to farmers and conducting socio-economic assessments in the Maya Golden Landscape.
DIANNE GOMEZ (FINANCE MANAGER)
Dianne’s educational background intertwines as a business major with an associate’s degree in Business Science and a bachelor’s degree of Science in Management, which she obtained at the University of Belize.
She joined Ya’axché in February, 2014 as Administrative Assistant. As Finance Manager, Dianne works closely with the Finance Director to manage the finances of the organization and support projects.
Megan holds a MSc in Conservation Leadership from Colorado State University. During the summer of 2019, she partnered with Ya’axché to conduct her master’s capstone research, which focused on understanding local, small-scale cattle farmers’ change in perception of jaguars and evaluating Ya’axché’s Human-Jaguar Conflict Program. Having never worked on wildlife issues before, this research allowed her to understand how human wildlife conflict fits squarely at the intersection of conservation and human development, a passion developed through past work experiences as a park ranger for the U.S. National Park System and at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
Megan joined Ya’axché in January 2020 as Ya’axché’s Lead Development Officer. Megan is responsible for fundraising and developing projects so that Ya’axché can continue achieving its mission of promoting environmental conservation alongside community development.
SAYURI TZUL (MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION OFFICER)
Sayuri began her conservation career in 2012 at Blue Ventures studying the mangrove systems. There she appreciated the fragile margins between sea and land. In 2016 she partnered with Wildtracks to complete her bachelor’s degree internship project on primates and their interaction with the forest. After obtaining her BSc in Natural Resources Management from the University of Belize, her passion for wildlife made her returned to Wildtracks. She joined the post-release tracking team and experienced the important balance between humans and nature. In 2017 she joined Caves Branch Botanical Garden as a Botanical Community Outreach Manager where she contributed to the Inventory of Epiphytes in Belize, a pioneer project.
All the adventures led her to join Ya’axché as Marketing and Communications Manager. Sayuri is responsible for developing and maintaining effective internal and external communications.
ERWIN TUSH (AGROFORESTRY EXTENSION OFFICER)
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 AND 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.
FLORENTINO CHIAC (WILDLIFE OFFICER)
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.
DIANA MAI (RESEARCH OFFICER)
Diana Mai has a Master’s degree in Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development from the University of West Indies, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Belize. Through her master’s thesis, she was able to integrate her passion for macroinvertebrates by comparing macro-benthic communities of a natural oil seepage site to an oil spillage site in Trinidad, a topic she hopes to continue following. Before attending the University of West Indies, she was employed as Forest Officer at the Forest Department in Belmopan, overseeing the Sustainable Land Management Program. During this tenure, she gained knowledge in implementing policies and legal procedures pertinent to the utilization and management of forest resources.
After completion of her graduate degree, she further gained experience in land management during her term as Senior Land Officer for the Northern Zone (Orange Walk and Corozal District Office), gaining hands-on experience with sustainable land management for the “future generation”. Diana as the Research Officer will further increase her skills in biodiversity research and monitoring focusing in vegetation and fresh water ecology.
ESTEVAN ASSI (AGROFORESTRY EXTENSION OFFICER)
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.
RONALDO COC (AGROFORESTRY EXTENSION OFFICER)
Ronaldo Coc is from San Vicente village and holds an Associate’s degree in Applied Science (Agriculture) from the University of Belize. His interest in agriculture was foster at his childhood years helping his family in traditional farming to generate income. During his studies, Ronaldo started his career at the Taiwanese Sheep and Goat Project and Maya Mountain Cacao where he gained knowledge and skills in agricultural practices and cacao production.
After being introduced to the importance of sustainable agriculture practices, it became a passion and joined Ya’axché’s Community Outreach and Livelihood program as an Agroforestry Extension Officer. Ronaldo will work closely with the indigenous communities in the Toledo District to promote the use of Climate-smart Agriculture.
AMIRA PALMA (ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT)
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 TECHNICIAN)
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 (YICE FACILITY KEEPER)
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.