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Robyn has more than 20 years of experience in field research, studying bears and other wild animals with an eye toward improving conservation practices. She grew up on Canada’s west coast and was always interested in bears and remembers spending summers with her parents in the alpine, looking for bear sign and watching bears eat. Robyn earned a master’s degree from Simon Fraser University focused on bear research. She became interested in the little-known spectacled bears in Peru’s endangered dry forest. Robyn is completing a doctoral thesis in applied conservation biology, using SBC data, at the University of British Columbia.
As Executive Director, Alex leads SBC in achieving our vision and strategy to protect spectacled bears. He has a long-term commitment to protecting threatened ecosystems in northern Peru where he has been leading research and conservation programs since 2002. He has collaborated with communities and government authorities to create and manage community reserves and protected areas covering 350,000 hectares in northern Peru. Alex was born in southern Peru and studied biology at Universidad Nacional de Piura. Passionate about wildlife and nature since childhood, Alex is also an accomplished painter. His very first portrait was of a spectacled bear.
Isai manages the Batán Grande Conservation Center, maintains SBC field databases and also reports when bears are missing, ill or injured. Isai grew up in the mountainside village of Molino Viejo and learned adobe brick building from his father. He heard about SBC in 2009 and volunteered to help build the Conservation Center. Isai joined the field team in 2010, helping fit bears with GPS collars, tracking them and taking notes. Self-taught on computers, he took on the duties of entering the data collected by the team. Along the way, he attended English language classes at a college in Canada.
Javier leads the SBC field team – he is expert at tracking wildlife and knows the local forests and mountains. Javier worked at a nature preserve before joining Robyn Appleton in the search for spectacled bears in the equatorial dry forest in 2007. He is personally responsible for SBC’s success in fitting 11 bears with GPS collars and is one of the best photographers on the SBC team. Javier grew up in the village of Platanar in northern Peru. He has been a hunter, known as the best animal tracker in the region, helping people throughout northern Peru find lost cattle, goats, horses or mules. Over his 20 years of hunting, Javier noticed a drastic decline in the deer population. He turned to wildlife conservation to use his skills for restoring the wildlife and environment he appreciated while growing up.
Francisco helps local communities with land title issues and works with them to create private protected areas through SBC’s Forest Guardian Program. Francisco is from the town of Batan Grande, where the SBC Conservation Center is located. A socially minded person, Francisco is a leader in the community. He taught for more than 25 years at a local school and was president of numerous groups that worked to protect the cultural and ecological biodiversity of the region. He fought against illegal mining operations and for private land rights. In 2008, he approached SBC to learn more about its programs and volunteered his time and talents. He became the education coordinator for SBC and a full-time staffer in 2011.
Jose manages relations with SBC’s community partners. He is also involved with the Forest Guardian program and continues to be an important part of our field team. Jose grew up in a hunting family in rural Cajamarca but couldn’t bring himself to kill wild animals. He deliberately missed the shots when his father, Javier, took him out hunting. Jose was so excited about SBC's work to protect the bears that he became a volunteer. Even after he became part of the SBC team, he donated his salary to the construction of the Conservation Center. Jose’s perseverance and endurance in the field led SBC to the first-known discovery of an active spectacled bear natal den. His compassion and ability to connect with people have led to conservation agreements between SBC and many villages. In 2016, when massive wildfires broke out, Jose gathered hundreds of people to create fire barriers to control the flames.
Corina approached SBC in 2010 after she heard about our work to protect spectacled bears and the dry forest. She got involved with the Felti program and within months, Corina was designing new Felti animals and perfecting the quality of the products. She became the Felti instructor, then quality control manager, then full-time program coordinator in 2017, by which time the women were making 15,000 products a year. In a two-year period, sales increased over 100 percent because of Corina’s effective training program and the improved quality of the products. Corina grew up in rural northwestern Peru and sees the program not only as a way for rural women like herself to improve their lives but also as a source of support for each other. She was awarded the Disney Conservation Hero award in 2019 for her important work on SBC’s Felti program.
As Materials Coordinator of SBC’s Felti program, she helps make the operation run smoothly -- from sourcing the wool to cleaning, carding and dyeing it. Pepa developed new techniques to increase the speed at which the wool is passed through the carding machine. She was among the first women involved in the Felti program and played an important role in its success. Pepa grew up in the village of Chancay Banos in the Andes Mountains. She was interested in weaving as a child and learned at a young age. She particularly liked making bags to carry food to market by donkey or horse.
Julio manages the day-to-day at the Conservation Center and the horses and the rescue animals that live onsite. He grew up in the town of Batán Grande, where the center is located. Julio was a cattle rancher in the dry forest for 20 years before joining SBC. His grandparents used to tell him stories about bears roaming the forest, but he never saw one until he went to work for SBC. Julio helped SBC in its early years get supplies to its base camps. He later became involved in its parabiologist program and learned to collect field data on the endangered sapote tree, a critical source of food for spectacled bears.
Ian has years of experience in the outdoors and in designing outdoor equipment. At SBC, Ian is responsible for the field equipment and works with staff on fundraising and marketing. Some of the most reliable backpacks used by the SBC team were designed by Ian, and he has helped the team install climbing ropes in Peru’s challenging mountain terrain. He co-founded the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society with his wife, Robyn Appleton, and her parents. He currently is co-founder and vice president of 7Mesh, a Canadian company that makes cycling gear.
A retired healthcare professional, Jessica is an integral part of SBC’s success. She was a key fundraiser for the Batán Grande Conservation Center and was part of the Canadian volunteer team that helped build the center and staff housing. Jessica came up with the idea for SBC’s popular Felti program, which provides a marketable skill and income to women in rural and remote communities that own land with spectacled bear habitat. She held the first needle-felting workshop in 2010, teaching participants how to make bears, birds and other animal figures from locally sourced wool. Today, she continues her work with the Felti program, managing product design, production and marketing.
Rob is retired from the international business world. His experience working with different cultures in Africa, Asia and other parts of the globe is an invaluable asset to SBC. He was instrumental in fundraising and managed construction of the Conservation Center in Batán Grande. Rob also participated in the construction of SBC’s remote outstation in Incahuasi to accommodate the field team during research in the montane forest. With his wife Jessica, he joins their daughter Robyn and son-in-law Ian in SBC’s wildlife conservation work.
Gwen gives much of her time and energy to SBC and can always be called upon to help. In 2009, she helped raise funds to build the Batán Grande Conservation Center and staff housing. And because she can speak Spanish, she is an asset to SBC in promoting handcrafts made by indigenous women who live in northwestern Peru. Gwen enjoys working with woolen textiles and collects and repairs old sewing machines for use in developing countries. She also has volunteered on archeological digs in Spain and worked in Nepal.