Raised in the town of Rincon, Julianka Clarenda has Bonaire’s heritage close at heart. Other than living on Bonaire, she studied in Curacao and the Netherlands where she completed her studies in Management, Economy and Law at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, HvA. Ultimately, she decided to come back home where culture and nature really are a part of everyday life. She joined the Echo team in 2015, at first just by offering to help with communications pieces in the native language of Papiamentu. After working more than a year as Communications Assistant, she was given more responsibility to help Echo grow in the areas of community engagement and outreach. In 2018, she was appointed by the Board as Echo’s Director.
Benito Koffie joined Echo in 2017, as the manager of the invasive species control program. The uniqueness and identity of Bonaire are what he has aimed to protect his whole life. Born and raised on Bonaire, he spent most of his childhood on a farm, raising chickens, geese and goats. His experience with native parrots started as a young child admiring big flocks during their daily visit in the “Hoba” native fruit tree in his backyard. As a professional sportsman and champion of ABC marathon runs, he has always been fit and active; which he has further proven after starting his work with Echo and becoming responsible for the daily management of the Conservation Centre and Echo’s conservation programs. Since joining the team, he has complemented his natural learning with more a formalized education through his participation in Echo’s field work on the management of invasive herbivores and the restoration of the parrot’s native habitat.
As an independent contractor, Johan van Blerk joined the Echo team in 2016 at the start of the Reforestation project, a three-year government-funded grant to restore 10 hectares of public land with up to 20,000 native trees. His knowledge of managing professional nurseries and his unmatched enthusiasm for identifying and locating all of Bonaire’s native plant species made him perfect for the role of Nursery Manager. While his involvement with Echo was intended to end as the grant work was finalized, he has become an indispensable member of the team and will help Echo continue to maintain the established restoration areas while also encouraging further development of new ones both on public lands and in private farms, terrains and gardens.
Board of Directors
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 Echo’s growing initiatives in parrot conservation, habitat restoration, and community engagement. She served as Director of the organization from 2015 – 2018 and upon leaving that position, was welcomed to join the Board as President.
Secretary (and Past-President)
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.
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.