Meet the Board of Directors

Janine Benyus


Janine Benyus is a natural sciences writer, innovation consultant, and author of six books, including her latest − Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. She co-founded Biomimicry 3.8 – the world’s first bio-inspired consultancy, bringing nature’s ideas to the design table and boardroom of 250+ companies including Nike, HOK, GE Procter and Gamble, Levi’s and General Mills; and the Biomimicry Institute, an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting the study of biomimicry. In addition to her biomimicry work, Janine teaches interpretive writing, lectures at the University of Montana, and works towards restoring and protecting wild lands. She has received several awards including the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Mind Award, the 2011 Heinz Award, Rachel Carson Environmental Ethics Award, and the Lud Browman Award for Science Writing.

Lauren Birney


Lauren is an urban STEM educator with a concentrated focus in obtaining STEM industry grants. Dr. Birney has 30 years of experience at secondary and university teaching positions on both the West Coast and East Coast. She currently is the Director of the STEM Collaboratory NYC® at Pace University and an Associate Professor of STEM Education in the School of Education in New York City preparing teachers in the areas of curriculum and instruction, classroom management, teaching methodologies and research techniques. Her areas of research focus upon project-based learning with an emphasis on environmental restoration based sciences. Establishing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM Education continues to be an integral component of her research. Dr. Birney has a B.A. in Biology/Chemistry from the University of San Diego, M.A. in Counseling and Ed. D in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education.

Angela Nahikian

Vice President

Angela Nahikian heads a cross-company effort to ensure that Steelcase achieves its global sustainability goals. As the world leader in contract furnishings, the company is committed to leadership in environmental sustainability. In her role, Ms. Nahikian is responsible for sustainability strategy and program development as well as integration of the key environmental platforms of life cycle management, materials assessment, and designing for recycling-reuse in new products. Ms. Nahikian also leads environmental research programs and corporate collaborative efforts with sustainability experts. With a BSEE and a background in architecture, she has filled diverse roles in architectural systems design, product and strategy development, technology licensing, futures exploration, and management strategies for environmental issues. In addition to her responsibilities at Steelcase, Ms. Nahikian serves on the board of advisors of Today’s Facility Manager, and is a LEED-accredited professional. She has been with the Steelcase family of companies since 1990 and was named to her current position in 2005. She is a native of Traverse City, Michigan, and is a graduate of Lawrence Technological University.

Jim Bunch


Jim is passionate about investing in businesses that drive social and environmental benefit, while generating attractive returns for investors. Over the last decade, he has worked for two family office impact investment platforms, deploying over $100 million into venture capital and private equity investments in clean tech, agriculture, and broader economic development.

Kent Snyder


Kent is an attorney, consultant, and CEO who has devoted much of his public service career working on collaborative solutions to complex problems. He served 10 years on the Sustainable Development Commission of Portland including three years as co-chair, working on Economic Development, Green Building, and development of the city’s Climate Action Plan. He chaired the National Board of Trustees of the American Leadership Forum, whose mission is joining and strengthening collaborative networks of diverse leaders to serve the common good. Kent was the founding Board Chair of the Green Electronics Council and works as a consultant to organizations on sustainable supply chain development. As an attorney, Kent was a nationally recognized expert and author in bankruptcy law with a focus on business workouts and turnarounds. He holds a B.S. cum laude in Environmental Biology from Kansas State University and a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School.

Kamal El-Wattar

Kamal believes that the collective knowledge of all human languages and nature holds vital solutions to humanity’s survival. With the coming wave of AI upon us, he focuses his efforts on the intersection of intelligence technology and nature’s knowledge as the fastest way to scale up solutions. In his previous life, Kamal managed software localization companies in the Middle East, Asia and South America. For 17 years, his teams adapted software into more than 100 languages for HP, Microsoft, Nokia, Adobe, Medtronic, Sanofi, Ford and others. Kamal co-leads the Kamanya Foundation which is dedicated to supporting knowledge preservation and revival, whether biological or cultural. Examples are minority language revival through The Answers Project ( and Wikitongues (, and natural solutions through AskNature ( at The Biomimicry Institute. He is a graduate of linguistics and biomedical sciences from The University of Manchester, UK.

Lisa Craig Gautier

In 1998, Lisa co-founded the ecological public charity, Matter of Trust (MofT) with her husband Patrice Gautier (VP Internet Software and Services – Apple Inc.). Moft’s reuse, recycling, renewable resources and eco-educational programs concentrate only on what we DO want to see in our environment. As the pro-bono president since its inception, she has led MofT’s enthusiastic teams to provide pilot studies and real solutions for 19 current and over 50 completed projects and fiscal sponsorships. Prior to Matter of Trust, Lisa worked in the International Development and Treasurer departments at Valeo Headquarters – Paris (1995-1996), Logistics FedEx – Paris (1994) and at Cecchi Marlow & Massoni Atty and CPAs in San Francisco (1985-1993). Her unusual education includes: French at the Sorbonne (1993-4) and Breeding of Endangered Species and Zoo Management (surprisingly useful in all things) at the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust in the Channel Islands, UK (1983-4). Lisa is fluent in French and the mother of 3 daughters.

Diana Lee

Diana served as the Individual Giving and Outreach Manager for the Biomimicry Institute before retiring in 2016 and joining the Institute board. Prior to joining the staff of the Biomimicry Institute, she worked for Earthjustice; the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security; Redefining Progress; and Greenpeace. Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Diana earned a B.A. at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where she studied art, and later returned to Hawaii, where she co-founded a modern dance company.

Meet our Advisory Council

Ibrahim AlHusseini

Managing Member The Husseini Group | FullCycle Energy LP

Ibrahim AlHusseini is a venture capitalist dedicated to financing companies that implement market ready solutions to our bigger social and environmental challenges. Ibrahim has spent much of his earlier career as a sustainability-focused entrepreneur and investor, with significant experience in operations, sales, and finance. Currently, he is dedicating himself to addressing our growing garbage problem. By launching FullCycle Energy LP, Ibrahim and his partners are financing projects that revolutionize our relationship with waste by converting a costly environmental problem into clean, valuable fuel to power communities around the world.

Mr. AlHusseini is concurrently manages his Family Office in Los Angeles, CA. The Husseini Group LLC, has over a decade of funding ventures that embrace social enhancement and ecological sustainability. Ibrahim is a frequent speaker at Family-Office and wealth conferences, colleges and universities nationally and internationally promoting the merits of impact investing and the solution economy. Learn more.

Annie Berdy

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

Annie built a successful commercial real estate company and now applies her resources to supporting perception, practice and policy that creates conditions conducive to peace and health. While working, Annie earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from New York University in 1987. As a widow and single mother she graduated the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University in 2006, and completed the Biomimicry Specialist Certification Program in 2013. Annie has been a member of Threshold Foundation since 1988 and has co-facilitated the Sustainable Planet and Middle East Peace initiatives. She is a co-founder of Partnership for Peace and Friends of Taghyeer Movement, both under the Peace Development Fund. Annie is on the Board of Inside The Middle East and American Friends of Combatants for Peace.

Lynelle Cameron

President and CEO, Autodesk Foundation

Lynelle Cameron is President and CEO of the Autodesk Foundation, and the Senior Director of Sustainability at Autodesk, Inc. She founded both to invest in and support people who are using design to solve today’s most epic challenges. Prior to Autodesk, Lynelle led sustainability teams at HP, and has 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector at the intersection of conservation and economic development with WWF, TMI, and NOLS. Lynelle serves on the Board of CEH, Innovators International, UC Berkeley CRB, and previously on Biomimicry 3.8 and Net Impact. Lynelle has degrees from UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, and Middlebury College. Learn more.

Karen Cowe

Chief Executive Officer, Ten Strands

Karen Cowe, CEO, is an education-industry executive with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, professional development, business development, and operations. She most recently acted as President and CEO at Key Curriculum Press. She has worked with curriculum leaders and teachers to introduce innovative, inquiry-based math and science instructional materials and learning tools to students. Karen combines her deep personal interest in environmental stewardship and place-based education with her education industry experience. Learn more.

Denise DeLuca

Director, MA in Sustainable Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)

Denise DeLuca is the Director of MCAD’s MA in Sustainable Design program.  She was co-founder of BCI: Biomimicry Creative for Innovation, a network of creative professional change agents driving ecological thinking for radical transformation. Denise is author of the book Re-Aligning with Nature: Ecological Thinking for Radical Transformation, which was illustrated by MASD alum Stephanie Koehler.  She also teaches a BioEmpathy course for the Amani Institute. Denise’s previous roles include Education Director for the International Living Future Institute, Project Manager for Swedish Biomimetics 3000, and Outreach Director for The Biomimicry Institute.  Denise is a licensed civil engineer (PE) and holds a Master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus on modeling landscape-scale surface and ground water interactions.  In addition, Denise is a Biomimicry Fellow of The Biomimicry Institute, on the editorial board of the Journal of Bionic Engineering, and a Researcher with Katerva. Denise is based in Montana. Learn more.

Brian Dougherty

Founding Partner and Creative Director, Celery Design Collaborative

Founding partner and creative director at Celery Design Collaborative and co-founder of the Charlie Cart Project. Brian works across multiple media, including brand strategy, packaging, print, digital and 3D design. He has over 20 years of experience specializing in socially and environmentally responsible design and business strategy. He advises Fortune 500 corporations, local and global non-profits, and innovative start-ups. Brian is the author of Green Graphic Design and lectures internationally on the topic of sustainable innovation. Learn more.

Natasha Giraudie

Creative Director and Founder, Micro-Documentaries

Natasha founded Micro-Documentaries with a vision to make compelling cinematic filmmaking accessible to all social innovators. Natasha regularly writes and teaches on topics related to storytelling, social innovation, and short documentary film production, and distribution for purposeful businesses and nonprofits. Prior to Micro-Documentaries, she was CEO of Papilia, where she helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars with an innovative stewardship software that showed donors the difference their gifts make. She started her career in her native Venezuela filming adventure and nature documentaries distributed through the Discovery Channel. She went to film school at the University of Texas at Austin and received her Master’s degree in Journalism from Stanford, where she was awarded a Stanford Haas Center for Public Service fellowship to pursue documentary work in Nepal. Natasha combines her passion for film with a lifelong commitment to the nonprofit sector. She co-chairs the Advisory Board of the Dalai Lama Fellows and serves on the Board of Directors of the Biomimicry Institute and the Advisory Board of Tools for Peace. Natasha lives in the Bay Area with her husband and daughter, where she enjoys paddleboarding with sea lions and discovering the joys of the violin. Learn more.

Ashok Goel

Professor, Computer and Cognitive Science, Director, Design and Intelligent Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology

Ashok Goel is a professor of computer science and cognitive science in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is director of the school’s Design & Intelligence Laboratory (DILab)and a co-director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Biologically Inspired Design (CBID). He serves on the advisory board of the Bioinspired! digital newsletter. Ashok recently co-chaired two workshops on Computer Aids for BioInspired Design sponsored by the US National Science Foundation. He is co-editing a volume on Computational Methods and Tools for Biologically Inspired Design to be published by Springer in late 2012. Learn more.

Erika Harrison

Founder and Principal, EcoTone Advisors

Erika is a social impact advisor, investor, and a life-long learner at the intersection of culture and living systems. She is principal of EcoTone Advisors, serving leaders creating purpose-driven organizations and building legacies benefiting the greater good. In 2012, driven by her passion for education, Erika founded the New Literacies Fund, a private philanthropic fund to support lifelong learning in ecosystem-based leadership skills and essential competencies for regenerative society. Erika holds a Master’s degree in Media & Communications from Royal Roads University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology & Environmental Studies from the University of Victoria.

Paul Hawken

Executive Director, Project Drawdown

Paul Hawken is one of the environmental movement’s leading voices, and has authored best-selling books on environmental movements and the impacts of commerce on living systems, founded successful, ecologically-conscious businesses, and consulted with heads of state and CEOs on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy. Paul is one of the pioneering proponents of corporate reform with respect to ecological practices, one of the themes on which he often focuses in his writing.

Paul is the founder and Executive Director for Project Drawdown, a non-profit that describes when and how climate change can be reversed. He has appeared on numerous media including the Today Show, Larry King, Talk of the Nation, Charlie Rose, and has been profiled or featured in hundreds of articles including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Washington Post, Business Week, Esquire, and US News and World Report. He authors articles, op-eds, and peer-reviewed papers, and has written seven books including four national bestsellers The Next Economy (Ballantine 1983), Growing a Business (Simon and Schuster 1987), and The Ecology of Commerce (HarperCollins 1993) and Blessed Unrest (Viking, 2007). Learn more.

Stefan Heck

Consulting Professor, Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University

Stefan Heck is a Consulting Professor at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, teaching courses and conducting research on innovation, energy, and resource economics. Stefan lectures widely on his new book Resource Revolution: How to Capture the Biggest Business Opportunity in a Century to long-term investors, academic audiences, and the broader public. Previously he was a Director (senior partner) at McKinsey and he co-founded the Cleantech and Sustainability Transformations practices.  Stefan has worked extensively with Fortune and Global 100 technology, industrial, infrastructure, building systems, retail, utility and energy companies across the US, China, Korea, Japan, India, and Europe. Stefan is on the Innovation Advisory Board of United Technologies, the advisory board of New World Capital, the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford, and now the Biomimicry Institute. Stefan received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from UCSD and a B.S. with honors in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University. His research focused on neural network algorithms and the neural basis of reasoning. Learn more.

Sara Nichols

Environmental lawyer, activist

Sara R. Nichols is a graduate of Syracuse University and Villanova University Law School with a Master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of New Hampshire. She was an international flight attendant for TWA, a public defender then the staff attorney for a public interest environmental organization in Pennsylvania before running for US Congress in 1994. Currently, Sara is an environmental and political activist in Los Angeles. Sara and her husband, Frank Arentowicz have one son, Drew, and one granddaughter, Lucja. In her free time, Sara enjoys skiing, reading, political and environmental activism, organic gardening, water sports, travel, hiking, and horseback riding.

David Oakey

Founder, David Oakey Designs

David Oakey founded David Oakey Designs in 1985 and leads global efforts in sustainable or “smart design” by learning from nature. Oakey challenges industrial designers, architects, teachers, and students to take action and impact change today. He has been featured in Business Week, Fast Company, Interior Design magazine, The New York Times, Green Futures magazine, I.D. magazine, and Smithsonian magazine. Learn more.

Will Parish

Founder and President, Ten Strands

Will is a credentialed public high school science educator with a 30-year record of innovative accomplishments in the environmental and educational fields. He taught Environmental Science at Gateway High School in San Francisco, and now serves on their board. He served on the California State Board of Education’s Curriculum Commission and then founded Ten Strands as a nonprofit organization to support California’s efforts to achieve statewide penetration of high-quality environment-based education into schools. Learn more.

Ahmed Rahim

Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Alchemist, Numi Organic Tea

Ahmed Rahim is the Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Alchemist behind Numi Organic Tea, the largest premium, organic, Fair Trade Certified tea company in North America. Ahmed is responsible for all of the unique Numi blends and products that the company launches every year. Before starting Numi in 1999 in Oakland, California with his sister, Reem, Ahmed studied Theater & Psychology in New York City. He then spent a decade living, working and traveling throughout Europe as a professional filmmaker and photographer. At Numi, Ahmed travels to remote regions of the world seeking unique herbs and teas unknown in the United States. Numi has developed meaningful partnerships based on mutual gratitude, and has proudly been involved in sponsoring schools, hospitals, community centers, road construction and other needs to improve living standards in farming communities. Since 2009, Ahmed and his sister Reem have been evolving their vision for Numi through the Numi Foundation, with initiatives that focus on acknowledging and addressing the challenges within inner city Oakland; from education to health and nutrition. Ahmed sits on various boards and works with many non-profit organizations to focus on infusing art and nature into inner city communities, and mentors for-profit companies on enhancing their growth and sustainability goals. In 2011, Ahmed helped launch the nation’s first Waldorf-inspired multi-lingual, multi-cultural K-4 charter school: Community School for Creative Education. Learn more.

Ethan Smith

Director of AskNature

Bellingham, Washington
Ethan is passionate about cultivating great ideas, talented people, and symbiotic relationships to develop products and services that empower innovators to help create a healthy and vibrant future. Ethan has collaborated on numerous award-winning products, services, and media for clients and employers in the outdoor recreation and environmental conservation industries. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial design and has received extensive training in sustainable development, LEED, biology, and biomimicry. His professional background spans creative direction, business strategy, marketing, product design and development, web design and development, and more.

Duke Stump

Executive Vice-President, lululemon athletica inc.

Duke Stump is the executive vice president for community and brand at lululemon athletica, where he works to amplify lululemon’s global impact. Prior to this position, Duke was the principal and chief architect of The Northstar Manifesto, a dynamic culture and leadership studio focused on cultivating and nurturing bonfires with soul—positive systemic change-makers who are out to transform the world and have a great time along the way. Before creating The Northstar Manifesto, Duke worked as a brand builder for more than 20 years, most recently as the chief marketing officer for Seventh Generation and prior to that as a senior executive for NIKE. Learn more.

Marilyn Waite

Program Officer in Environment, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Marilyn leads the climate and clean energy finance portfolio at the Hewlett Foundation, is author of Sustainability at Work: Careers that Make a Difference, and serves as editor-at-large for GreenBiz. She founded SustyTrip and SustyJobs and serves on the boards of COI Energy and the Kachuwa Impact Fund. Marilyn previously worked across four continents in renewable and nuclear energy, energy modeling, and venture capital. She holds a Master’s Degree with distinction in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, magna cum laude, from Princeton University.

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We believe that the widespread adoption of nature-inspired solutions will catalyze a new era in design and business that benefits both people and the planet. Let’s make the act of asking nature’s advice a normal part of everyday inventing. We hope you will join us.

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