To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we are taking the opportunity to highlight Latinx leaders working in conservation who inspire us!

Today we get to learn about Miriam Hernandez! We asked her about her career and her experiences as a Latina working in conservation.

Thank you again to the SCBNA team for featuring me in the Hispanic Heritage month profile! It’s an honor to be highlighted. I am the Finance Manager on the Society for Conservation Biology Global Services team and assist with finances and administrative operations of the Society. I am proud to be a Hispanic woman working for the Society and among many colleagues that care about conservation, protecting our planet and its flora and fauna and disseminating conservation practices around the world.

The Latinx community is vast and diverse with passionate people connected and committed to the protection and well-being of our Earth. To be a part of this community means to protect what we cherish and look out for one another. From my upbringing, I was taught that Earth provides everything we need to survive: food, shelter, water. Earth provides life so it is my, and our, purpose to take care of it, to be stewards of the Earth. I love being part of an organization that strives to make a difference in the world whatever way it can and cares about connecting scientists, students and professionals from all countries, backgrounds, beliefs. Everything from ICCBs and webinars to programs and journals, SCB aims to provide as many resources as possible for members. Knowing that I am a piece of the puzzle working to advance conservation efforts makes me feel proud and happy and I hope to be an example to others around me.

Thank you so much to Miriam for sharing with us!

Check out our profiles of other Latinx leaders in conservation who were generous enough to share their stories with us: Mayor Regina RomeroMirna Manteca, and Sergio Avila.

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we are taking the opportunity to highlight Latinx leaders working in conservation who inspire us!

Today we are featuring Sergio Avila! We asked him to share about his career path and his experiences as a person of color working in conservation.

Sergio was born in Mexico City (1972) and grew up in Zacatecas, Mexico. He’s an immigrant to the United States, living in Tohono O’odham and Yaqui lands, known as Tucson, Arizona. He was first hired by the University of Arizona in 2004, and became a U.S. Citizen in 2016.  Sergio is a husband, son, brother, uncle and cousin; a trail runner; and an outspoken justice and equity advocate.

Sergio holds a Master’s degree (Arid Ecosystems Management & Wildlife Research) from University of Baja California; and a Bachelor’s in Biology (University of Aguascalientes), both in Mexico. For twenty-five years, Sergio has worked on regional conservation efforts along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. His varied experience includes living with the Indigenous Tarahumara of the Sierra Madre (1998), and ranching communities of Sonora (2003), which transformed his vision of environmental stewardship and conservation. Avila tracked and studied borderland jaguars and ocelots in the southwest United States and northwest Mexico for 10 years. Two live encounters with jaguars in the mountains of Sonora were life-changing experiences that shaped Sergio’s personal and professional life. He has led efforts to protect Monarch butterflies’ migration, studied Cactus-ferruginous pygmy-owls in the Sonoran Desert, and mountain lion predation on bighorn sheep in Baja California. 

Throughout his career, Sergio has felt invisible, alone, and not represented in the environmental and conservation communities as a person of color, feeling forced to ‘code switch’ and ‘fit in’ in spaces, instead of feeling true belonging. While studying borderland jaguars and monitoring the impacts of border wall construction, Avila became directly aware of U.S. immigration policies and enforcement. Continued racial profiling, harrassement and threats by the U.S. Border Patrol caused Avila to stop jaguar research along the borderlands. Due to personal and professional events like those described above, Sergio left conservation science and now works with the Sierra Club as an advocate for equitable and inclusive outings programs that allow underrepresented communities to enjoy and protect Nature, elevate Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and shine a light to broader engagement opportunities than the typical scientific or recreational interests of the dominating white conservation movement.

Sergio admires Arizona Congressman and Chair of the Natural Resources Committee in U.S. Congress, Raul Grijalva. An inspiring leader, decision-maker and representative who demonstrates that conservation and care for the environment does not require an academic degree, diplomas or publications.

Thank you so much to Sergio for sharing his experiences with us. You can keep up with him by following him on Instagram.

Stay tuned to hear from more Latinx leaders in conservation this month! In case you missed it, check out our last highlights of Mayor Regina Romero and Mirna Manteca.

This National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), we celebrating by highlighting Latinx conservation leaders who inspire us!

Today we introduce you to Mirna Manteca, Mexico Program Road Ecology Coordinator at Wildlands Network. We asked her to share about how her conservation goals have shaped her career and about her experiences as a Latina working in conservation.

I’m Mexico Program Road Ecology Coordinator for Wildlands Network based in Cananea, Sonora, Mexico. I lead the road ecology projects in Sonora, working in research, management, and communications in conjunction with NGOs and government agencies to advocate for the establishment of appropriate mitigation structures in our highways and reconnect our landscapes and wildlife. I’m co-chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Transport Working Group of the IUCN’s Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group, and co-founder and co-director of the Asociación Mujeres y Conservación, a volunteer initiative that aims to empower, highlight, and support women conservationists in Latin America. In my day-to-day work, I try to foster local leadership, whether it be a senior road engineer or a young biology student, I believe there is much power in local community-led conservation.

I feel proud to be a Hispanic conservationist! I’m often asked if I feel afraid or unsafe working and living on the Mexico side of the borderlands, and the truth is the only time I have feared for my safety was during bitter experiences with the Border Patrol on the US side. I might have been a professional conservation scientist doing my job, but I was still judged by my nationality and my color.

In spite of the overwhelming conservation and environmental justice issues all over the world, there is a quote that never ceases to inspire me from Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader murdered in 2016: “Juntémonos y sigamos con esperanza defendiendo y cuidando la sangre de la tierra y los espíritus.”

Thank you so much to Mirna for sharing her experiences. To keep up with her work, you can follow her on Instagram: Mirna, Wildlands NetworkLACTWG, and Asociación Mujeres y Conservación.

Stay tuned for more profiles on Latinx in conservation! In case you missed it, check out our last highlight of Mayor Regina Romero.