Lia Cheek is the Endangered Species Coalition’s National Field 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 leads ESC’s organizing efforts in the states of Washington and Oregon, where he focuses on saving the iconic Southern Resident orcas and the chinook salmon they rely on. 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 Canvass Director to build support for preventing the extinction of the Southern Resident Orcas. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.S. in Environmental Science, which allowed him to discover 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, enjoys the beautiful Pacific Northwest by hiking, running, or skiing, and cheers on his favorite football teams: the Patriots and the Fighting Irish.
Jeanne Dodds, Creative Engagement Director, is a visual artist whose work investigates human and more-than-human relationships, conflicts and interdependencies. At ESC, she oversees the Pollinator Protectors campaign for native plant and pollinator conservation and values working with creatives who are dedicated to protecting wildlife and wild places. She graduated with a Master of Environmental Studies from The Evergreen State College in Washington. Her thesis explores wildlife trafficking, animal welfare, and the use of visual art for biodiversity conservation. As a researcher, she continues to explore these subjects, presenting on the wildlife trade and the role of art in biodiversity conservation for organizations in Malaysia, Colombia, New Zealand and the United States. After earning a BFA in Photography and a Certificate in Scientific Illustration, she owned and operated a small arts business for a decade, creating artwork and teaching via artist residencies in the US and internationally. As a long-time arts and environmental education professional, she designed and presented curriculum for schools, museums and non-profits across the Pacific Northwest. She strongly values linking biodiversity conservation and environmental justice in her work at ESC. As a passionate naturalist, she loves equally experiencing deep wilderness and the local ecology of urban and rural spaces.
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 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.
Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition, has 25+ years of environmental experience—managing grassroots, national, and international campaigns. 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, and developed markets for environmental and energy-efficient products. She has served on nonprofit boards and spoken at congressional events, conferences, and festivals. Leda co-founded EcoWomen—a nonprofit with five chapters—that empowers environmental leaders. Leda speaks Ukrainian and Spanish. She completed a Bachelor’s of Science degree in environmental science and environment and resource management at University of Toronto and graduated with distinction from Vermont Law School with a Master’s degree in environmental law and policy.
Katie Little, Executive Assistant for the Endangered Species Coalition, has more than 15 years of administrative experience, much of which was spent with environmental organizations. In her position, Katie is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. In addition, she helps with grassroots organizing in the Mid-Atlantic region and policy advocacy in D.C. Before advocating for endangered species, Katie spent several years protecting wilderness areas in Alaska including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Tongass National Forest. During that time she had the opportunity to oversee the Alaska Coalition’s online activist network as well as participate in an outreach tour across the Midwest educating the public and increasing the number of supporters. Katie is also a board member of Raising Community, a non-profit organization in Ecuador that assists economically-marginalized people and abandoned animals with resources to improve their quality of life. Katie has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Penn State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado. When she’s not working, Katie enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking with her family, friends, and her dog, Pepper.
Mitch Merry, the Digital Director for the Endangered Species Coalition, has been with the organization for more than a decade. He manages the organization’s website, email campaigns, and technology. He lives in Baltimore, MD and is an enthusiast runner and enjoys reading and microadventures in his time outside of work.
Sarah Starman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Urban Studies and a minor in Sustainability & Environmental Management. After college, she also completed Green Corps’ one-year fellowship program for environmental organizers. She is deeply committed to protecting our environment and advancing justice through grassroots organizing. Over the past four years she has worked on 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 watersheds in the Pacific Northwest. She currently manages three projects for ESC: Endangered Species Day, a day of celebration and education around endangered species; the Stop Extionction Challenge, a coordinated, nationwide lobbying event to support strong conservation policies; and the Activist Training Lab, a yearlong training program for aspiring grassroots organizers. Originally from Michigan, she is currently based in Seattle, Washington. Outside of work she spends her time reading, enjoying the great outdoors, and cooking.
Tara Thornton, Deputy Director for the Endangered Species Coalition, has worked for ESC for the last fourteen years. She began as the Northeast Representative, then advanced to Program Director and now serves as Deputy Director. In this capacity, Tara supervises staff, develops our policy and program priorities, works with our coalition partners to formulate joint strategies and tactics, and is an integral part of our leadership team with a focus on organizational development. Prior to joining ESC, Tara worked on environmental and social justice issues for twenty years. She was the Executive Director for the Military Toxics Project, a national non-profit network of neighborhood, veterans’, Indigenous, peace, environmental, and other organizations representing people affected by military contamination and pollution. Tara also help found the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), a global coalition that campaigns for a ban on the use, transport, manufacture, sale and export of all conventional weapon systems containing uranium (usually called depleted uranium weapons). It also seeks health monitoring and compensation for communities affected by the use of uranium weapons and the environmental remediation of such sites. Before that, Tara was a Canvass Director and worked on outreach programs for NGO’s and politcal campaigns in New York, Virginia, South Carolina and Texas. Tara earned a B.S. in Communication and Political Science from Ohio University.
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 in the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and the American Indian Environmental Office. 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.