Lauren Schmaltz first joined the Echo team as a volunteer back in 2013 and has enjoyed being a part of its growth and development ever since. Lauren completed a dual Bachelor degree in Biology and Spanish and a Master of Environmental Studies, and is currently pursuing a Master in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profit management. In between her studies, Lauren also spent several years living overseas in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Bonaire. Lauren’s interest in environmental management, community outreach and education, and sustainable development harmonized with Sam’s growing initiatives in parrot conservation, habitat restoration, and community engagement.
The following Echo staff are listed alphabetically by last name:
Assistant Director, Administration & Community Relations
Raised in the town of Rincon Julianka Clarenda has Bonaire’s Culture and Nature close at heart. Other than living on Bonaire; she studied in Curacao and Netherlands but after 8 years abroad decided to come back home where culture and nature is really a part of everyday life. Since moving back, she became the co-owner of a traditional, family-run restaurant in Rincon and active in culture and environmental campaign. Due to her overall knowledge how of things operate on Bonaire and her study of Management, Economy and Law at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, HvA she joined the Echo team to co-manage its operations ‘on the ground.’ Her work with Echo started two years ago just by offering to help with daily problems concerning communication in the native language Papiamentu. After working more than a year as Communication Assistant, she was given more responsibility to help Echo grow in the areas of community engagement and outreach.
Quirijn Coolen is in charge of the ‘on the ground’ management of Echo. This includes managing projects, research, operations and the team of international volunteers at the Echo Conservation Centre. After completion of his Bachelors in Tropical Forestry, Quirijn pursued a Masters degree in Forest and Nature management, during which he traveled to Bonaire for his thesis study on the impact of feral goat herbivory on the vegetation of the island. Afterwards he returned to Bonaire, as an intern for Echo where he was significantly involved in the planning of Echo’s reforestation project. After demonstrating much success as a student and completing his degree, he was invited to return back to join the Echo team as a permanent staff. He first served in the role of Habitat Restoration warden and was later promoted to the position of General Manager, where he is able to do what he loves best: conservation management of a tropical island ecosystem.
Habitat Restoration Warden
Nick Verhey took a break from studying philosophy at University of California Santa Cruz in November 2015 to come to Bonaire and volunteer with Echo. Although the dry forest ecosystem was far from the redwood forests of home, he fell in love with it and spent 6 months learning all he could about Bonaire’s flora and fauna as well as managing Echo’s native plant nursery. Almost immediately after he went home he felt Bonaire pulling him back and in November of 2016 he returned for another 6 months of volunteering. After these 6 months he was hired as the Habitat Restoration Warden and now supervises Echo’s reforestation projects. His main duties include building fences to protect reforestation sites, planting native trees to restore biodiversity to the forest of Bonaire, and leading the team of Echo volunteers. He plans to eventually return to university to study conservation and pursue his interests in connecting people with nature but for now he is happily planting trees.
Communications and Outreach Specialist
Roos van Rijen is responsible for Echo’s communications such as press releases, educational articles, and Echo’s presence on social media. While working for Echo, Roos is also studying and working hard to complete her degree as a primary school teacher. Her knowledge of and ability to distill information so that it is interesting and accessible to broad audiences is highly valuable to helping raise awareness about Echo’s efforts. Roos is also managing and leading the tours of Echo’s Conservation Centre at Dos Pos.
Board of Directors
Dr. Rowan Martin spent several years on Bonaire, studying the nature of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot’s monogamous breeding partnerships for his doctoral research. During the hundreds of hours he spent observing and recording their every movement he developed a deep affinity for these birds and for the ecology of Bonaire. Although he now works in African conservation, coordinating initiatives for the World Parrot Trust, he has been integral to the development of Echo and continues to play a key role in Echo’s success from afar.
Steve Milpacher is a dedicated conservationist who has traveled extensively in Central America and the Caribbean to study parrots in the wild and has kept and bred parrots for over 30 years. Before his current role as Operations Director of the World Parrot Trust he completed undergrad studies in biological sciences and received a certificate in Endangered Species Management from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (UK). Steve is a speaker at international conferences and has published articles in parrot-related magazines and journals. In his spare time, Steve is an enthusiastic wildlife photographer whose pictures have been published in magazines, books, and calendars.
James Gilardi is the Executive Director of the World Parrot Trust. He is a conservation biologist specializing in behavioural and physiological ecology with special focus on tropical forest birds and marine vertebrates. Following undergraduate studies at the University of Washington and UC Santa Cruz, he earned a Ph.D. in Ecology from UC Davis studying parrot social behaviour, foraging ecology, and soil-eating in south-eastern Peru. Dr. Gilardi has also worked on parrot conservation in Guatemala, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Mexico. In the fall of 2000, he became the director of the World Parrot Trust, where he oversees the work of the Trust, developing, supporting, and implementing parrot conservation and education programs around the world.
Dr. Sam Williams is passionate and dedicated to parrots and their conservation. His parroty experiences started early with him keeping birds as a boy in Yorkshire, England. Aged 16 he traveled to Mauritius to volunteer with the Echo Parakeet and experienced field work and conservation work that would prove formative. From there he completed a degree in ecology, at Stirling, Scotland. Parrots then led him to Brazil, where he spent six months observing Lear’s Macaws. Following that in 2003, Sam visited the Yellow-Shouldered Amazon Parrots on Bonaire. That visit led to a PhD on the limiting factors for the population. On completing the Phd Sam established Echo. Its aim: to address the conservation challenges his research identified.