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WHO WE ARE

Our Story

Pro Eco Azuero was founded by a group of scientists and local landowners interested in sharing the joy of conserving local wildlife through restoring the dry forest they depend upon with the larger community. Since 2010, we have been dedicated to reforestation, habitat restoration, sustainable land management, and environmental education with the mission to:

Preserve the earth’s ecosystems, protect biodiversity, and promote healthy communities by helping people to make informed decisions, take sustainable actions, and share knowledge.

The Azuero Eco Foundation is incorporated in Panama with the organizational identification number R.U.C. 2161354-1-36636 D.V. 90 and the tax exempt resolution number 201-9122, of July 29, 2013.

Jay Chiat Environmental Learning Center

Home is the place that creates a sense of calm and safety that people look for to live. This is exactly what this house represents for Pro Eco Azuero . This is the place that shelters the hope of building a greener Azuero, the place where tons of ideas on how to continue to restore the region’s habitat are born. This compound holds the Azuero Eco Foundation office ever since it started. It is here where all the planning of our projects take place. Here, we receive people that is looking for information about environmental topics, it is a refuge of environmental knowledge. Every Friday, this becomes a school for the Pro Eco Pelaos, one of our environmental education programs. 

January 3rd, 2020, was a great day for our organization, as Edwina Von Gal, founder of Pro Eco Azuero, believing in our environmental efforts, has officially donated the house to our organization. Edwina Von Gal was the creator of this space, she dreamed that this compound would host such a commendable project.
 

OUR TEAM

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The Azuero Spider Monkey, CHARRITO

The Azuero Spider Monkey, CHARRITO (Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis), is our indicator subspecies and guiding symbol because it is a vitally important but critically endangered species in the Azuero dry forest ecosystem. The few that remain on the planet live only on the Azuero. They are victims of rapidly decreasing habitat, hunting, and capture for the pet trade. They are particularly smart and cute, but also shy, which may be why they have managed to hold on this long. However, the loss of habitat and shrinking gene pool may be more than they can manage. We are working to stop the killing and capture of Spider monkeys, and all monkeys, and provide them with sufficient habitat to ensure their future.

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Sandra Vásquez de Zambrano, Executive Director

Sandra, Salvadoran by birth, resident of Pedasi for more than 10 years with her husband and three children. She has a psychology and business administration degree. Sandra has more than 15 years of executive experience in human resources management, business start ups, marketing strategies, project execution, among many others. She started the Panama and Honduras operation of Search Inc., a head hunting firm of management level positions, positioning it into one of the most important firms in the region. She has had the opportunity to work in several Central American countries. She started at Pro Eco Azuero as an environmental volunteer and events organizer. She was later hired as Programs Director where she led projects such as forming an Eco Artisan association, leading Social Innovation workshops, coordinating many community outreach events, fundraising strategies, developing and implementing communication plans. Sandra was promoted to Executive Director in January of 2020 where she has achieved to grow Pro Eco Azuero’s environmental education programs and reforestation programs. Sandra is part of the workforce of the 20×20 Initiative, a member of the IUCN Education and Communications Committee, and certified in Syntropic Agriculture. She has led several local and international conferences. Furthermore, she is the founder of Festarte Las Tablas, the first festival of art, culture and gastronomy in the region, which began in 2016. For Sandra, the most important thing is her family, leaving them a better world, fuels her passion for her work, empowering communities and observing how one can make a profound impact with scarce resources. You can contact her at sandra@proecoazuero.org.

COLLABORATORS

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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Rossie Pope-Meyer

PRESIDENT

Rossie is a Panamanian-American environmental advocate and development strategist focused on the connection between environmental justice, wildlife corridors and women's leadership. Her work promotes ecological stewardship that prioritizes climate mitigation, forest restoration, soil regeneration, and sustainable living practices. Rossie has a Masters degree in education and obesity prevention from the University of Texas-Austin, is a certified Nutritional Therapist (Nutritional Therapy association) and also serves on the board of Rachel's Network. When not in Panama, she lives in Mill Valley California with her husband and two young sons. 

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Alfa Garcia Montenegro

SECRETARY

Alfa was born and raised in Las Tablas, where she has resided permanently since 6 years ago with her husband and daughter. Social communicator and professional film maker with more than 20 years experience in the audiovisual industry in Panama and Spain where she lived and work for over 10 years in television and film. Her professional experience has been in production, part of the technical team in cameras, and in the last few years as wardrobe artist in several Panamanian advertising campaigns, and important cinematographic productions. She is also an active member in the Club de Leones Las Tablas and co founder of Festarte Las Tablas.

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Ruth Metzel

VOCAL

Ruth has a Master of Forestry and MBA from Yale University, and a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. In addition to working with the Azuero Earth Project, she has been a part of The Forests Dialogue, the International Society of Tropical Foresters, and the Governance, Environment and Markets Initiative at Yale. Ruth has written about Azuero in publications such as “Manejo de Nutrientes y Seguridad Alimentaria en Huertos Caseros Mesoamericanos” (2015) and “Farm to Forest: Factors Associated with Protecting and Planting Trees in a Panamanian Agricultural Landscape” (2015). Her field experience includes research projects with the Smithsonian in Panama, along with work in Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, Venezuela and the United States. If she is not in the office, you can find her dancing típico, kayaking, hiking or in a “junta de embarre.”

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Bryan Goldner

VOCAL

Bryan is a Panamanian born biologist and entrepreneur focused on developing equitable and ecologically sustainable tourism in rural communities. A background in biology, ecology, and sustainable agriculture as well as small business management gives Bryan a unique perspective on creating opportunities for eco-tourism in vulnerable areas. By prioritizing training, education, conservation and community outreach in his business, he strives to develop long term solutions for environmental protection in the Azuero Peninsula. His vision supports the personal growth of local collaborators as well as clients through immersive storytelling, incorporating subjects on natural history, climate change, forest management, and preservation

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Vernon Scholey

VICE PRESIDENT

Vernon has worked as a fisheries biologist in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, Japan, Ecuador and since 1985 has been the Director of the Achotines Laboratory at the southern tip of the Azuero Peninsula. The Achotines Laboratory is a field station of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. Investigations there focus on the ecology and biology of tuna with research carried out at sea and on land where simulated ocean conditions allow scientists to work with all life stages of yellowfin tuna.  Vernon is also partnered with his brother and sister-in-law in actively transforming a 57-hectar cattle ranch into a Tropical Dry Forest parcel.  Reforestation started in 2005 they have to date planted over 35,000 native tree species on that land.  

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Maydelin Pecchio

MEMBER

Panamanian, lives in the county of La Enea, in Guararé, Los Santos. Medica by profession, Internal Medicine specialist with a Sub-specialization in Infectious Diseases. He works at Gustavo Nelson Collado Hospital in Chitré, Herrera. As part of his academic training he worked as an associate researcher in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Research for 5 months in 2016, University of Louisville Hospital, Kentucky, USA. She also has a Postgraduate Degree in Higher Education (2013) School of Higher Education, University of Panama.
She currently belongs to the Panamanian Society of Internal Medicine since January 2014 and to the Panamanian Society of Infectology since October 2016 where she is a member of the board of directors as spokesperson for the Society. His interest at the community and hospital level is research, which is why he is part of the Institute of Medical Sciences of Las Tablas, with the aim of collaborating in investigations of infectious causes, whether community or hospital.

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Dr. Dinabel Peralta

VOCAL

Dinabel was born and raised in Chitré Herrera. Currently lives in New York with her husband and two kids. She is a Medical doctor, graduated in the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. Fellow of American Boards of Pediatrics, and fellow of American Board of Obesity Medicine. She is currently the Director of the New York Weight Wellness Medicine and Director of Pediatric Hospitalist Medicine and Newborn Nursery at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, NY. Dina is passionate about Global Health, mindfulness and wellness. Her interests are traveling, cooking, Pilates, and Latin American history and music. BLS, PALS, NRP certified.

ADVISORY BOARD

  • Mark Ashton, PhD. Professor of Silviculture & Forest Ecology, Dir of School Forests, Yale University
  • Bronson Griscom, Forest Carbon Sicence Coordinator, Climate and Tropical Forest Initiative, The Nature Conservancy
  • Scott Mori, Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany, New York Botanical Garden
  • Stephen W. Pacala, Petrie Professor of Ecology; Director, Princeton Environmental Institute
  • Robert Ridgely, Director, World Land Trust, author, Birds of Panama
  • Mark Wishnie, Managing Director, Equator Environmental
  • Alexander Vreeland, former Board Member

OUR PARTNERS

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