Jacob Marlin is Executive Director for BFREE and President of the BFREE Board of Directors. Raised in Washington, D.C., he had a passion for the natural world at a young age, with a focus on reptiles and amphibians. In his early twenties, Jacob travelled to Belize to explore the country and its wild places – soon after, in 1995, he co-founded and established BFREE. Jacob is an active advocate for the conservation and protection of the Bladen Nature Reserve and the larger system of National Protected Areas in Belize. Jacob is adjunct assistant professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Some of the recent conservation initiatives he has developed and managed are the “Integrated Community-Based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program for the Maya Mountains Massif” in 2006 with Dr. Jamie Rotenberg of UNCW; “Hicatee Conservation and Research Center,” in 2011 with Rick Hudson of the Turtle Survival Alliance, and “Belize Cacao-based Agroforestry Restoration Project (BCARP)” in 2012 in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Most recently, in 2015, he has established the Monkey River Watershed Association in an effort to provide a structure for stakeholders to share information and work together to solve problems and find solutions, all for the overall purpose of protecting and conserving the health of the watershed. Jacob splits his time between the US for BFREE headquarters in Gainesville, Florida and the BFREE Field Station in Belize, Central America.
Dr. Rob Klinger is a population and community ecologist with a strong interest in the link between mammal community structure, plant-animal interactions and functional processes in ecological communities, especially in the context of shifting climates. What that means in English is that he works on the ups and downs of animal populations and tries to relate these to changes in groups of plants then tries to see how climate change contorts all this stuff. He worked on these types of things in the Bladen Nature Reserve and at BFREE from 1999 through 2006. His day job is an Ecologist with the US Geological Survey, with most of his work now being done in the alpine zone of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the Mojave Desert. He has worked in a number of capacities with BFREE for 15 years and has been a member of their Board of Directors and Science Committee since 2008.
Dr. James “Jamie” Rotenberg is an associate professor of tropical environmental ecology in the Department of Environmental Studies at UNCW and the department’s Graduate Program Coordinator. His research interests include studying birds as environmental indicators of habitat change and conservation. In addition, his research explores avian habitat selection and foraging behaviors, as well as human dimensions of environmental studies, studying people and their environment. As a Fulbright Scholar to Guatemala in 1997, he has conducted avian monitoring and research projects in Guatemala, the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and now in Belize. He lived in Rio Dulce, Guatemala for two and a half years, studying birds for his doctorate, and Mexico for two years as a post-doctoral fellow and the Science Director of the El Eden Ecological Reserve. He was a member of the original scientific team that rediscovered wild Harpy Eagles in Belize, and is currently the principle investigator for avian research at the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental Education (BFREE). He, along with Jacob Marlin, initiated the “Integrated Community-Based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation Program for the Maya Mountains Massif” in 2006. Since then, Rotenberg has developed significant collaborations to enrich the project including: The Institute for Bird Populations in California, BioDiversity Research Institute in Maine, York University in Canada, and the University of California San Diego’s Center for Interdisciplinary Science For Art, Architecture and Archaeology, Qualcomm Institute.
Dr. Peter Esselman is a conservation ecologist with more than 20 years of experience researching and implementing conservation projects in the rivers of Belize. Dr. Esselman has been closely affiliated with BFREE since its inception in 1995. He lived and worked at BFREE in 1997 – 1998 and again in 2000-2002 when he built one of BFREE’s researcher cabins, and used BFREE as a base of operations for his graduate field research. Peter received his Masters of Science degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable development from University of Georgia in 2001, conducting foundational research on freshwater ecosystems of the Monkey River. He subsequently consulted to a variety of conservation groups in southern Belize and at the national scale before going back to school for a PhD in Aquatic Resource Ecology and Management, which he received from the University of Michigan in 2009. Dr. Esselman’s PhD research addressed Belize aquatic ecosystem conservation, documenting distributions and drivers of aquatic biodiversity, distributions of invasive aquatic species, and the most suitable locations for freshwater protected areas. Dr. Esselman was an Assistant Professor of Zoology at Michigan State University before joining the U.S. Geological Survey to work on the Laurentian Great Lakes. He continues to actively advise students and contribute to education, research, and conservation projects at BFREE an in Belize.
Gentry Mander, an attorney practicing trusts and estates law in Atlanta, Georgia, is BFREE’s newest board member. She has long felt a deep connection with rainforests around the world, after she learned as a toddler about deforestation from her older sister’s first grade lessons on the rainforest ecosystem. Gentry began her relationship with BFREE through the University of Florida’s Conservation Clinic while pursuing her law degree and a masters in sustainable development practice (MDP) at UF. As a law student, Gentry prepared contracts and other legal documents for BFREE before ultimately deciding to focus her master’s practicum on BFREE’s work in Belize. Gentry spent a balmy summer in Belize performing a value chain analysis of the Belizean cacao network. After graduating Gentry has continued to work with BFREE to promote shade-grown organic cacao as a alternative to traditional and destructive farming practices in Belize. Some of her recent projects have included the development of a farmer’s manual for cacao-based agroforestry and the expansion of the research portion of the BFREE website to include resources such as an online database of scientific research. Because of her practical and judicious advice on past projects and her continued passion for BFREE’s mission, Gentry was invited to join the Board of Directors in the fall of 2015. When not in the jungle, Gentry lives in Atlanta with her husband, Sean, and two domesticated mini-jaguars.