Staff

Lia Cheek

Campaign Director

Lia Cheek is the Endangered Species Coalition's national campaigns director and oversees our field representatives throughout the country. She has a bachelor’s degree in ecology from Dartmouth College and spent three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, where she focused on community-based marine conservation. She's worked on marine conservation issues in the Asia Pacific region with Rare, and with Foreign Policy experts during her time at The Brookings Institute.  With international experience in policy and wildlife conservation, Lia brings her strengths in biological research, project management, community organizing, and cross-cultural understanding to her work with ESC. Lia is the 2020 recipient of the Murie Spirit of Conservation Rising Leader Award.

Chris Connolly

Pacific Northwest Field Representative

Chris leads ESC’s organizing efforts in Washington and Oregon, where he focuses on saving the vital Chinook Salmon and Southern Resident Orcas. Prior to joining the Endangered Species Coalition, Chris was Campaign Manager of a Seattle City Council race. Chris began his career with Environment Washington, where he helped pass the nation’s strongest clean energy bill in Washington State and was an Assistant Canvas Director on the issue of the Southern Resident Orcas. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S. in Environmental Science, where he first discovered his interest in political science and the intersectionality of the climate crisis, social justice, and politics. When Chris isn’t working, he volunteers with Sunrise Movement, hikes, runs, skis, or cheers on his favorite football teams: the Patriots and the Fighting Irish.

Jeanne Dodds

Creative Engagement Director

Jeanne Dodds is a visual artist, teaching artist and environmental educator. She graduated with a Master of Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College in Washington State, with a thesis exploring wildlife trafficking, animal welfare, and the use of visual art for biodiversity conservation. Her previous education includes a BFA in Photography and a Certificate in Scientific Illustration. She has created artwork and taught at artist residencies in the US, New Zealand, and Indonesia. During a 20-year career as an arts and environmental educator she designed and presented curriculum in schools, museums and non-profits across the Pacific Northwest.

Eddie Estrada

New Mexico Field Representative

Eddie Estrada has been involved in social justice efforts for over 15 years. He is passionate about politics and community engagement and has helped with various political campaigns in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. Eddie has worked on voter registration drives, voter outreach, and county-wide GOTV initiatives. He has volunteered his time for canvassing, phone banking, and letter writing for important social and political campaigns. Eddie also has over 10 years of experience in public education - from teaching high school social studies to working in higher education for medical residency education. He has a B.A in Political Science from the University of Texas at El Paso and is pursuing his M.A in Education at New Mexico State University. Eddie can directly trace his family roots in the New Mexico region as far back as the 16th century. Eddie is committed to getting more young people and minorities involved in the political process by helping educate citizens on how to elevate their voices. He has taken active roles in Democratic Party leadership at both the county and state levels and continues to work on improving his community. His hobbies include music, web design, multimedia production, and instructional design.

Derek Goldman
Northern Rockies Field Representative

Derek previously worked as an organizer for the Montana Wilderness Association. After receiving his MS degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, he spent the 2005 Montana state legislative session in Helena lobbying on environmental issues with Montana Audubon. As a volunteer and board member of a local social justice nonprofit, Derek helped organize an international coalition opposing the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Free Trade Area of the Americas and other socio-economic issues. Derek has been a river guide in Wyoming, Alaska, Utah and Montana and a snowboard instructor in Wyoming.

Hailey Hawkins
Southern Rockies Field Representative

AAs the Southern Rockies Field Representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, Hailey organizes our campaign efforts in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. While getting her M.A. in Environmental Leadership at Naropa University in Boulder, CO, Hailey nurtured her passion for conservation by exploring the interconnectedness of all life and the impact of development on wildlife species. Hailey began her environmental career in 2011 working with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Southern Energy Network harnessing grassroots support for renewable energy in the Southeast. She has a B.A. in Communication with a minor in Environmental Science from Mississippi State University.

Leda Huta
Executive Director

Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, has 25+ years of environmental experience—managing grassroots, national, and international campaigns. At Endangered Species Coalition, she leads staff in protecting imperiled wildlife, from the gray wolf to the Rusty patched bumblebee. Previously, Leda was the Acting Executive Director for Finding Species, an organization that advanced science and conservation, primarily in the Amazon. Leda has protected forests by working with university presses, advocated for better medical school education on environmental causes of disease, developed markets for environmental and energy-efficient products, and more. Leda co-founded EcoWomen—a national organization with chapters across the country. She is a regular speaker at conferences and with the press and has served on a number of NGO boards. Leda speaks Ukrainian and Spanish. She has completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree in environmental science and environment and resource management at University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in environmental law and policy at Vermont Law School.

Alan Lepore
Development Associate

Alan Lepore is the Development Associate for the Endangered Species Coalition. He is responsible for the day to day fundraising operations of the Coalition. He has previously worked on presidential campaigns, on Capitol Hill, and most notably at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in their Los Angeles office as a part of the Hispanic Outreach and Political teams. Alan graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a dual Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Sociology. He is currently studying to get his Master’s degree through Villanova University in Public Administration with a focus in Nonprofit Management.

Katie Little
Executive Assistant

As the executive assistant for the Endangered SpeciesCoalition, Little is responsible for day-to-day operations. She also assistswith the Species Guardian program, development activities, and some policyworks. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Penn State University,and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado.In addition to 15 years of administrative experience, she has roots ingrassroots organizing having previously worked on the Arctic National WildlifeRefuge campaign. Prior to coming to ESC, she was a volunteer in Colorado bothfor ESC and Defenders of Wildlife. In her spare time, she enjoys outdooractivities including hiking, camping, snowshoeing, and kayaking. She alsoenjoys yoga, live music, the theatre, and of course, spending time with herfamily, friends, and pup, Pepper.

Mitch Merry
Digital Director

Mitch has worked in digital and field organizing roles for multiple environmental and political organizations and campaigns. Most recently he worked with 21st Century Democrats, training progressive organizers and as a blogger with the Environmental Working Group. Mitch was also a volunteer coordinator with the Presidential Inaugural Committee and an organizer with the Campaign for Change (Obama for America) in Iowa. Mitch led our successful effort to obtain a unanimous Senate resolution proclaiming May 15, 2009 Endangered Species Day.

Sarah Starman
National Grassroots Organizer

Sarah Starman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Urban Studies and a minor in Sustainability & Environmental Management. After college, she also completed Green Corps’ intensive one-year fellowship program for environmental organizers. Along with a deep commitment to protecting our environment and advancing climate justice, Sarah brings concrete skills and knowledge of grassroots organizing to her work at the Endangered Species Coalition. Over the past four years she has worked for or led diverse campaigns across five states, on issues such as voter registration and mobilization, homelessness and affordable housing, stopping offshore drilling, protecting wildlife habitat from agricultural expansion, banning single-use plastics, and restoring salmon and orcas in the Pacific Northwest. Originally from Ann Arbor, MI, she is currently based in Seattle, WA.

Tara Thornton
Program Director and Northeast Representative

Tara has worked in the environmental and social justice movement for 20+ years. Tara worked previously as Executive Director for the Military Toxics Project (MTP), a national network of neighborhood, veterans', indigenous, peace, environmental, and other organizations representing people affected by military contamination. Before that Tara coordinated environmental outreach programs for Texans United in Houston, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, Clean Water Action Project Virginia and the Long Island Citizens Campaign. Tara is a founding member and serves on the Board of Directors for the International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). Tara now lives in Maine and in addition to supervising our field staff, Tara carries our Northeast field work.

Corry Westbrook
Senior Grassroots and Policy Advisor

Corry has spent twenty years working with the US Congress and several administrations in Washington DC to protect our air, water and wildlife. She did this in her roles as legislative director for the National Wildlife Federation, federal policy director for Oceana and as a lead specialist on oceans policy at World Wildlife Fund. Early in her career Corry worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. Corry grew-up in Florida believing the environment is crucial to quality of life. It is also the most important economic driver in the state, so in 2014 and 2016 she ran for US Congress in Florida’s 8th district to protect it. Corry has a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and a master’s degree from George Washington University. She also served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in the Eastern Caribbean. Corry has visited all fifty states and all seven continents, with most of her trips focused on exploring nature and watching wildlife.