Conservation Advocacy & Outreach

Case Study: Securing International Protection for Whale Sharks

The Need: An international wildlife conservation organization sought to reduce the severe impacts of whale shark overfishing by regulating whale shark trade through the U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In order to be successful, the organization needed to build support among decision-makers, experts, and grass-roots advocates from around the world.

The Solution: Working as a staff person within the lead conservation organization, Elizabeth helped the organization plan and execute a cutting-edge campaign to raise international awareness about the whale shark's plight. Elizabeth conducted original research to measure the value of a whale shark, dead versus alive, in several nations around the world. She then worked with an internationally renowned advertising agency to design outreach materials that highlighted the whale shark's superior ecotourism value, its vulnerability, and its important role in marine ecosystems. Working closely with a team of international campaigners and shark experts, Elizabeth organized press events in Asia and South America and lobbied U.N. delegates from multiple countries in order to secure a CITES Appendix II listing for the whale shark—the first-ever international protection for a shark species.

Case Study: Conserving the Endangered Florida Panther

The Need: A wildlife conservation organization wanted to explore strategies to help recover the critically endangered Florida panther throughout the southeastern United States. Challenges included: addressing public fears about living with predators, coordinating potential conservation strategies with wildlife agencies, and building public support for puma reintroduction throughout the panther's historic range.

The Solution: Working within the lead conservation organization, Elizabeth brought together leading panther experts to identify the most urgent threats to panthers and the biggest barriers to their recovery. She summarized findings in a full-color report, which was strategically distributed to policymakers and the general public. Elizabeth coordinated a series of meetings among biologists, conservation leaders, partner organizations, and key wildlife managers. This team crafted strategies to address public and biological hurdles to reintroduction and began to lay groundwork for reintroducing panthers to northern Florida and other southeastern range states.

Case Study: Balancing Wildlife Conservation & Renewable Energy

The Need: A local conservation organization sought to address over 20 years of illegal bird kill at the Altamont Pass Wind Resources Area, the largest wind farm in the United States. For two decades, the outdated wind turbines had killed thousands of federally and state-protected birds, including golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, burrowing owls, and many migratory bird species—yet wildlife agencies had never enforced the strict wildlife laws that protect these birds. The local wildlife group sought to end the egregious avian mortality but also recognized the importance of wind power in reducing the impacts of climate change on birds.

The Solution: Elizabeth helped the local conservation organization craft and execute a multi-year campaign to compel the wind companies to reduce bird kill significantly without forcing the removal of the Altamont Pass wind turbines. The campaign focused on using the best available science to reduce avian mortality over the short- and long-term, including pushing the companies to replace their dilapidated turbines with newer technology thought to minimize bird impacts.

Elizabeth led the organization through an ambitious policy process, which included: an administrative process to appeal the companies’ effort to renew their permits; a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit over the companies’ failure to conduct proper environmental review; and a precedent-setting legal settlement that compelled the companies to reduce avian mortality by half within three years, and create a long-term, state-approved conservation plan to govern ongoing wind turbine operations at the site.

Elizabeth also helped the local organization shine state- and national-level spotlights on the campaign. She was instrumental in gaining support from the California Energy Commission, the Department of Fish and Game, and top-level policymakers and funders in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Significantly, Elizabeth also helped the organization initiate one of California’s first-ever wildlife conservation plans for renewable energy—a plan that may serve as a template for other renewable energy developments in California and beyond.