We would love to meet you in person, and welcome you to Paraguay. Before that happens, take a few minutes to get to know us.

 Karina Atkinson

Karina Atkinson

Executive Director

Karina obtained her undergraduate degree from University of Glasgow, and Masters from Miami University. She is a Rolex Awards for Enterprise winner (2012), Young Alumnus of the Year (2013, University of Glasgow), Global Conservation Fellow (2015, Miami University) TEDx University of Glasgow Fellow (2016), and Woman of the Year (2017, Valle de Aosta). She is the co-founder of Para La Tierra, running projects and field stations in multiple locations in Paraguay. She has published widely, mostly in the field of herpetology, and is actively involved in science, conservation and education projects. She is categorised as a Level 1 Investigator by PRONII/CONACyT.

 Joseph Sarvary

Joseph Sarvary

Deputy Director

Joe obtained his undergraduate degree in Biology from Tufts University in Massachusetts. He spent a semester studying in Buenos Aires, where he learned to speak Spanish and was Para La Tierra’s first intern in 2010. He is a Rufford Foundation Small Grants for Conservation recipient (2012) for his project studying the ‘Ecology of the Endangered White-winged Nightjar’. Joe is also a ‘One Young World’ ambassador (2017) presenting his project ‘Voces de la Naturaleza’ at the global conference in Bogotá, and a 2018 North American Association for Environmental Education 30 under 30 awardee for his work in developing the programme for children in Paraguay.

 Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith

Primate Project Leader

Becca obtained her undergraduate degree in Zoology from the University of Edinburgh and her Masters at Roehampton University. She is now studying towards a PhD in Conservation Science with the University of Aberdeen. She has previously worked with captive and wild primates in Namibia, Panama and Puerto Rico. She studied the hooded capuchins of Laguna Blanca and has published several papers on their behaviour. She has presented her research at conferences in Asuncion, Chicago, Nairobi and Durham. She is a National Geographic Explorer and received the Lawrence Jacobsen Education Development Award from the International Primatological Society. She is currently studying Capuchin monkeys in San Rafael National Park, and the urban Howler monkeys of Pilar.

 Jorge Ayala Santacruz

Jorge Ayala Santacruz

Education Coordinator

Jorge grew up in a rural village in Eastern Paraguay. He joined Para La Tierra in 2011 as a forest guard, after completing his forest guard training with Fundación Moisés Bertoni in Reserva Natural del Bosque Mbaracayu. He was a vital link to the local communities around Laguna Blanca, and was an integral part of engagement programs, including coordinating the Female Empowerment Project from 2012-2014. He completed a course in environmental education through Proyecto Ambiental and is currently learning English with the Centro Cultural Paraguayo Americano. In 2016 he travelled to Mexico for training in participatory environmental education with HUNAB, and he is now second in command of PLT’s Eco-Leadership for Sustainable Development Program.

 Jeremy Dicken

Jeremy Dickens

Scientific Director

Jeremey obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa in Zoology and Environmental and Geographical Sciences, and Masters from the Zoology Museum of the University of São Paulo, focused on Avian Taxonomy, Systematics and Biogeography. Having lived and studied for the past six years in South America, he is presently curator of the Coleccion Cientifico de Para La Tierra and a supervisor and active participant in field studies conducted by Para La Tierra in Paraguay.

 Robert Owen

Robert Owen

board member

Robert has a B.S. and a Ph.D., both in Zoology, from the University of Oklahoma. His research focuses on systematics and distribution of small mammals, particularly in the Neotropics. He has conducted field work in the US, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Paraguay. He began work in Paraguay in 1991, and has lived here since 2005. He has published over 70 articles in approximately 35 peer-reviewed journals, and serves as an Associate Editor for Therya and Acta Chiropterologica. He is categorised as a Level 3 Investigator by PRONII/CONACYT.


Michelle VanCompernolle

Research Supervisor

Michelle obtained her undergraduate degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and her Masters in Geography from Indiana University, where she studied climate change impacts on stream fish distributions. In addition to various fisheries fieldwork experiences in the United States, she has participated in sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica and cheetah rehabilitation and conservation in South Africa. Her love of travel, particularly throughout Latin America, led her to Para La Tierra and the wetlands of Ñeembucú, where she is currently a supervisor for interns conducting independent research.

 Paul Smith

Paul Smith


Paul obtained his undergraduate degree at University of Liverpool and his Masters at University of Southampton. He has been studying the fauna of Paraguay since 2003. He founded the online community faunaparaguay.com and has published over 100 articles on Paraguayan wildlife. He is a Board member of the conservation organisation Fundacíon Para La Tierra and is actively involved in inventory projects all over Paraguay. He is categorised as a Level 2 Investigator by PRONII/CONACYT.


Bridget Tam

peace corps volunteer and board member

Bridget is a Peace Corps Environmental Conservation Volunteer. She was a member of the Global Honors Program at the University of Washington Tacoma and received her undergraduate degree in Global Cultures and Languages from Southeast Missouri State University. She has worked with the Missouri Department of Conservation and assisted the naturalists at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center in outreach and education. Bridget combines her experience and a passion for service with environmental education in support of the Eco-Leadership for Sustainable Development Program and our network of children's Eco-clubs, "Voces de la Naturaleza". 

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Patrizia Ugolini

intern and Volunteer coordinator

Patrizia obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Basel, with a Major in Plant and Animal Biology. She received her masters in collaboration with the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Zoology and Evolution. Her scientific career began during high school when she studied plant genetics for her final thesis. Since then she has worked on various projects in herpetology, ornithology and botany in several countries, including Ecuador, Greece and Australia. Patrizia is skilled in a variety of fieldwork methods, such as trapping, radio-tracking and behaviour observations, as well as in instructing and supervising field assistants. This broad background helps her support diverse projects.

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Jack McBride

Intern and Volunteer Coordinator

Jack obtained his undergraduate degree from Seattle’s University of Washington in Anthropology: Human Evolutionary Biology, with Honors. His range of work includes ‘fishing’ hand, administrative support, and veterinary assistant. He always wanted to live and work in South America due to his interest in the literature, environment and wildlife, and his desire to enhance the Spanish he picked up studying the Basques and Catalans of Spain. Jack supports volunteers and interns at Para La Tierra, actively participating in research as well as doing his best to help them enjoy Pilar, research, and to take best advantage of the opportunities presented to them. 


Brogan Pett

Museum Curator and Taxonomist

Brogan obtained his MSc in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from Napier University in Edinburgh, and his BSc from Plymouth University. Interested in entomology from a young age, Brogan began his scientific career with PLT at Laguna Blanca in 2015, studying bromeliad spider interactions. Since then, he’s worked on amphibian monitoring in Tanzania, and in Madagascar as an entomologist, including leading a research expedition to study one of the rarest spiders in the world. Brogan is working on the description of a number of spider species new to science and is excited to discover more new species in his museum curator role in Paraguay.