Meet the People
Behind the Mission
Beth Rattner (she/her)
Bay Area, California
Beth directs the Institute’s strategic vision, managing the organization’s program development, fundraising, and marketing efforts. She speaks publicly on how biomimetic design in products, cities, and agriculture can bring about a new level of resilience to our economy and ecosystem, which in turn spur new levels of social equity.
An attorney by training, Beth was also a managing director for one of the first sustainability business consultant firms, Blu Skye, and business manager for Hewlett Packard’s Emerging Market Solutions (EMS) group. This HP internal “start-up” championed a new lens on providing technology solutions to those who earn less than $2 a day. The team launched HP’s first multi-user, daisy-chained computer for poorly funded schools and a solar-powered printer. The printer provided microfinance opportunities for women who brought paid photography to remote villages, allowing people to photograph their family events for the very first time.
Beth is a graduate of U.C.L.A. and Loyola Law School and lives in Marin County, California.
Lex Amore (she/her)
Lex combines her background in biomimicry and communications to reconnect humans with their place in the animal kingdom. She guides the Institute’s outreach and communications strategy to further biomimicry education and application across industries and audiences. She has advocated for sustainability thought leaders for over a decade, bringing expertise in writing and strategic communications to each project aimed at making a positive impact on the world. Lex achieved her Master of Science degree in Biomimicry from Arizona State University in 2018 and bachelor’s degree in journalism from Georgia State University. She has also received extensive training from the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, LEED, and in sustainable design by working with a multitude of industry leaders across the globe. Her ultimate mission is to help people heal themselves so they can be empowered to act with positive movement forward using nature-inspired innovation and community collaboration.
Marc Cappelletti (he/him)
Development and Marketing Manager
Marc Cappelletti is responsible for the Biomimicry Institute’s development and marketing efforts. Previously, he served as a freelance marketing and content development consultant for a variety of nonprofit and private sector organizations. Marc brings a 15-year career in travel industry and international education marketing and development. He recently served as VP of Expedition Product Development for Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, doubling the organizations’ offerings in Alaska, British Columbia, and Central America. Marc is also a published writer and photographer. He lives in Philadelphia, PA with his wife and daughter, and together they seek out nature whenever possible.
Megan Dwyer (she/her)
Partnership and Brand Strategy Director, AskNature
Brooklyn, New York
Megan Dwyer brings a rigorous approach to research, insights, design, and communication to set the strategic plan for the AskNature platform. She also looks to create partnerships with like-minded organizations that inspire people to embrace nature-inspired solutions. Being a New Yorker, her passion is born from the importance of nature in cities, and she believes that everyone, regardless of background or location should be able to benefit from connecting with nature. Before joining AskNature, she led her own brand strategy practice working with purpose-driven brands and is committed to solving problems for people and the planet through innovation and sustainable design. Over the past twenty years, she has worked at advertising agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi and Joan, partnering with leading companies such as P&G and Google. She is currently studying at Columbia University’s Climate School getting an M.S. in Sustainability and holds a Design Certification from Pratt Institute, where she studied Sustainable Design and Biomimicry, as well as a B.A. from Georgetown University.
Jen Fredette (she/her)
Visual Design Manager
Jen is the Visual Design Manager for The Biomimicry Institute and its initiatives. She is a web and graphic designer with deep roots in communications and storytelling. Her work began in 2009 as the Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator for spectrUM Discovery Area, a not-for-profit science museum located on The University of Montana campus. After leaving her position with spectrUM, she went on to run a successful Web, Graphic Design, and Communications company where she supported independent businesses, non-profits, and public schools with their online presence and communication efforts. She and her husband live on a 20-acre homestead with their four children and a myriad of pets. She is a dedicated CrossFit athlete and coach and loves spending time rafting the amazing rivers of Western Montana and road-tripping around the United States with her family. Jen graduated from The University of Montana with a degree in Communications but is continuously inspired by nature and all that it has to lend to positive and prosperous living.
Katia Hardgrave (she/her)
D4D Project Assistant
Orange County, CA
Katia is driven by a passion to meaningfully and sustainably address social justice issues. She brings a unique mix of experiences from living and working across North America, South America, and South/Southeast Asia. Katia draws from her roles at an impact startup, an early-stage impact VC, an impact-focused investment bank, and at an impact advisory firm. She applies these experiences and her international development background to support the systems change work at the Biomimicry Institute.
Gretchen Hooker (she/her)
Visual Science Communications Manager
A designer by training and nature nerd at heart, Gretchen manages visual communication on AskNature, working to reveal the mechanisms behind nature’s strategies with powerful illustrations and diagrams. Gretchen also contribues to overall content and product strategy for AskNature, drawing on more than 10 years of experience at the Institute managing and creating educational programs for learners of all ages. Before transitioning to the AskNature team, Gretchen founded and led the Biomimicry Youth Design Challenge and helped to establish the Institute’s Youth Education program as Interim Director. Prior to that, she was a core contributor to the Institute’s education programs for university students and young professionals. Gretchen is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and Montana Master Naturalist, holds a master’s degree in Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design, and earn her BA at Macalester College.
Andrew Howley (he/him)
Chief Editor, AskNature
Andrew is your guide through the vast collection of materials on AskNature, commissioning and curating an ever-growing body of stories of life’s innovations and adaptations. As a science communicator, he spent 11 years at the National Geographic Society, connecting audiences with explorers and grantees through websites, blogs, social media, and live-streamed interviews and events. He has also served as Communications Director for the conservation nonprofit Adventure Scientists, conceived and hosted a podcast on human origins, and aided various scientists and organizations with their online efforts. He also once spent an afternoon running the path of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. He studied anthropology with a focus on archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia.
Dave Hutchins (he/him)
Launchpad Program Manager
Dave manages the Biomimicry Institute’s Launchpad Program, supporting scientists and researchers as they take their nature-inspired solutions from the lab to the market. He has a background in environmental engineering with a PhD in materials science, where his research focused on remediating mining impacted waters. He has served as a research associate at the Center for Advanced Materials Processing and as professor with Montana Technological University. Dave is also a sculptor, entrepreneur, and amateur journalist who is passionate about science communication and the intersection of art and science. He has volunteered with Butte’s Citizens’ Technical Environmental Committee, the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program, and founded the community bicycle shop Bike Lab.
Angela Klinefelter (she/her)
Director of Finance and Administration
Angela manages the financial details of the Biomimicry Institute’s amazing projects and is also the assistant to the executive director. Before the Biomimicry Institute, Angela managed the finances for several other local non-profits such as Buffalo Field Campaign, Wind River Bear Institute, and Cold, Mountain Cold Rivers. She also worked as an accountant at Lambros Real Estate. Her past life was spent roaming Montana’s Glacier Country as a bear conflict specialist.
Sarah McInerney (she/her)
Ray of Hope Prize Program Manager
Sarah manages the Biomimicry Institute’s Ray of Hope Prize Program, identifying, supporting, and accelerating the world’s most promising nature inspired startups to address humanity biggest environmental and social challenges. Traditionally trained as a zoologist and educator, Sarah completed her PhD in integrated bioscience focusing on the potential of biomimicry to advance the narrative of corporate sustainability through design and behaviour. Through this work she has provided professional biomimicry education and innovation services for a variety of audiences from Fortune 500 companies to K-12 institutions within academic, corporate, and natural settings. Sarah grew up on the west coast of Ireland and before completing her PhD she worked in wildlife conservation training as a falconer and volunteering with a variety of non-profits across Europe.
Brian Oliva (he/him)
Youth Education Program Assistant
Megan Schuknecht (she/her)
Senior Biomimicry Professional
A biologist by training and an interdisciplinary generalist in practice, Megan helps lead the Institute’s thought leadership and systems level biomimicry work. Applying her deep knowledge of the practice of biomimicry, Megan previously played a primary role in developing many of the Institute’s key offerings, including AskNature, the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, and its Biomimicry Launchpad and Ray of Hope entrepreneurship programs. Megan holds an MS in environmental studies from the University of Montana, Missoula and a BA in biology from Grinnell College, and served as a beekeeping extensionist as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
Jared Yarnall-Schane (he/him)
Director of Innovation
Jared brings his entrepreneurial background and startup coaching experience to the Biomimicry Institute, where he supports startups as they commercialize biomimetic innovations that are addressing major climate and environmental issues. Before joining the Institute, Jared developed and ran startup training programs with Penn State University’s incubator and accelerator programs and was the Program Director of Thought For Food, a global community of food and agriculture entrepreneurs. He is the creator of the open-source startup training toolkit Startup Guts, was an initial founding member of the AgTech company GreenTowers, and started a small food preservation company in rural Kenya. He has an Executive Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Penn State University.
Kelli Young (she/her)
Bozeman Area, Montana
Kelli brings over 15 years of Human Resources experience to the Biomimicry Institute, where she works directly with the Director of Finance and Administration. She earned her BA in Psychology from Roanoke College, VA and a Masters of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations, with an emphasis in Compensation and Benefits from Penn State, PA. Kelli also holds a certificate in Supervisory Leadership from the University of California, Irvine. Kelli and her husband enjoy the outdoors, specifically hiking, and together have visited roughly half of the national parks in the United States. Recent transplants to Montana, they look forward to introducing their newborn son to the great outdoors.
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.
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.
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.
Treasurer, Certified Biomimicry Professional
Erin Rovalo, Ph.D. is a Certified Biomimicry Professional since 2010 and was among the inaugural graduates from the MSc Biomimicry program at ASU in 2016. She is an experienced scholar and researcher holding a PhD in Design Practice focused on biomimicry design and has published academic research as well as editorial articles in Fast Company, Greenbiz, and Metropolis among others. She serves as Faculty Associate in the MSc Biomimicry program jointly offered by Arizona State University and Biomimicry 3.8 where she teaches Biomimicry & Design and iSites: Nature Journaling for Biomimicry. Erin is the Director of Education at the International Living Future Institute where she leads the education team in their mission to empower an international and diverse community of practice with the skills, values, and knowledge necessary to take bold action towards a built environment that is socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative. In this role, she is responsible for ILFI’s educational strategy and oversees curriculum design, course development, and credentialing.
Billy Almon is a biology-inspired storyteller and inventor who highlights the connection between nature, technology, and design. A co-host on Animal Planet’s “Little Giants” television show, Billy harnesses the power of entertainment to demonstrate the ingenuity and strategic creativity found in nature. Through his Billy Biology platform, Billy guides the next generation of scientists and students in exploring the natural wonders around us. Previously, Billy worked as an Imagineer for the Walt Disney Company, leading multi-disciplinary teams that dreamed up, designed and built new attractions, cruise ships, real estate developments, and regional entertainment venues worldwide. While an Imagineer, Billy received the prestigious “Inventor’s Award” for creating a patent-winning design during his first year on the job. He has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Howard University and a Master of Science in Biomimicry from Arizona State University.
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.
Dimitri is a marine biologist with main training in photobiology (the field that studies the interaction between light and biological material) and ecotoxicology (the field that studies the impact of contaminants on the biology of ecosystems). Dimitri is an expert generalist research scientist, and therefore believes that exciting and instructive science comes from studies across disciplines, species and ecosystems. In that mindset, he believes that thinking outside the box provides a much-needed dimension to address challenges that arise from understanding the natural processes behind the evolutive adaptation of organisms, and the climax of ecosystems. Dimitri was born in Africa, where he grew up watching Nature for countless hours (which was a much-improved substitute to any current Nature shows~!). This unique exposure forged and shaped his interest around biomimicry and his passion to learn from Nature to develop bioinspired technologies for sustainability and global circularity.
Evelyn Arce Erickson
Founder and CEO of Indigenous Resilience Consulting
A descendant of the Muisca people of Colombia, Evelyn is passionate about Indigenous self-determination and Indigenous-led philanthropy. She is the Founder and CEO of Indigenous Resilience Consulting (IRC), with the mission to build Native-led capacity and serve as a strategic advisor to both donors and Indigenous communities. She is the former Vice President for Native Conservancy, the first Native land trust in the US where a fundraising campaign she led raised millions and played a pivotal role managing daily operations with a focus on development, program, financials, and forward-looking strategies.
Evelyn helped to found and ran for 15 years the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP), a donor affinity group dedicated to supporting Indigenous communities. It was the first organize effort to bring hundreds of millions of dollars directly into Indigenous communities globally. Evelyn was one of the first voices for Indigenous-led philanthropy and notably led the effort for several donor publications, including the Foundation Center’s Funding Indigenous Peoples: Strategies for Support.
She currently serves on the Board and Development Committee for three NGOs: Biomimicry Institute, Fortunate Farm and Love Wild Horses, and is an advisor to Earth Codes Observatory. She is the co-found of Coastside Friendship Organize Garden (c-FOG) and served on the HMB Parks and Recreation Commission. She served as a board member of Cultural Survival for nearly a decade.
She obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Cornell University. She is a Goldman Environment Prize nominator and a Donella Meadows Leadership Fellow. A Master Gardner of San Mateo and San Francisco County, California, Evelyn lives in the territory of the Pomo tribe (now called Mendocino) with her husband and three children. She spends her free time gardening and exploring the raw beauty of the land.
Lisa Craig Gautier
Managing Member The Husseini Group | FullCycle Energy LP
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.
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
President and CEO, Autodesk Foundation
Chief Executive Officer, Ten Strands
Director, MA in Sustainable Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)
Founding Partner and Creative Director, Celery Design Collaborative
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 (theanswersproject.net) and Wikitongues (wikitongues.org), and natural solutions through AskNature (asknature.org) at The Biomimicry Institute. He is a graduate of linguistics and biomedical sciences from The University of Manchester, UK.
Creative Director and Founder, Micro-Documentaries
Professor, Computer and Cognitive Science, Director, Design and Intelligent Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology
Founder and Principal, EcoTone Advisors
Executive Director, Project Drawdown
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.
Consulting Professor, Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University
Environmental lawyer, activist
Founder, David Oakey Designs
Founder and President, Ten Strands
Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Alchemist, Numi Organic Tea
Life-Centered Strategy + Concept Designer
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.
Executive Vice-President, lululemon athletica inc.
Program Officer in Environment, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
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