Team and Advisors

Environmental Finance

Leslie L. Durschinger - Founder, CEO, Founding Partner, Terra Bella Colombia Fund

Conservation Finance, Sustainable Landscape Program Development  
Leveraging 20 years of experience and a proven track record in the financial services industry, Ms. Durschinger founded Terra Global Capital in 2006 to promote results-based approaches to sustainable landscape management through climate smart agricultural and reducing deforestation. Ms Durschinger is recognized as a pioneer and innovator in alignment of development values and financially viable approaches to sustainable landscape management. Terra is now the leader in forest and agriculture program development, GHG analytics and business model development, providing technical expertise their global client base of governments, NGOs, and private companies in a collaborative and participatory manner. Under Durschinger’s leadership Terra has structured risk mitigation instruments, trust funds and private equity funds to drive investment capital to sustainable agricultural production and forest management. Prior to Terra, Ms. Durschinger held senior management positions in the areas of derivatives trading, investment management, algorithmic trading, risk management, and securities lending. She the Chair of the International Emission Trading Associations REDD+ working group, and is a member of the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) AFOLU Steering Committee, REDD+ Social & Environmental Standards Committee, VCS JNR Permanence Work Group, Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse (C-AGG) Advisory Committee and W+ Standard Advisory Council. Ms. Durschinger and her family make small production olive oil on their farm in Mendocino County. Among her previous employers are JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Barclays Global Investors and Charles Schwab.

Sandra Carolina Sarmiento Neira, Principal

Agricultural Markets and Investments  
Ms. Sarmiento is an economist and was the founder and general manager at Molino Procesar S.A. an agro-industrial company for more than 13 years. She sourced, structured and secured funding of US$4 million for on-balance sheet investments in agricultural projects. Conducted and developed research studies related to corn farming and value chains to standardize practices with customers and suppliers focused on improving the quality of the product. Ms. Sarmiento has extensive knowledge in agricultural production processes, quality parameters, logistics, as well as corporate management in Colombia on tax, accounting and human resources. She has also had experience in project design and implementation for sustainable tourism businesses.

Carlos Molina, MBA - Finance and HR Manager

Corporate and Fund Finance and Operations  
Mr. Molina is has over 20 years’ experience in financial management with specific expertise in agriculture. He has a master’s in business administration from Arkansas State University and he has worked in multinational companies in different sectors in Colombian including banks, services and agro-industrial production. Mr. Molina has a broad experience in agricultural credit, treasury, financial control, planning and budgets, business advisory, administrative management, purchasing and logistics. Before working at Terra, Mr. Molina worked in agro-industrial companies Bengala Agricola (pineapple producer in Colombia), Duwest and Proficol (agroindustry companies) His bank experience includes ABN AMRO and Latin American Agribusiness Development Corporation (LAAD) and Rentandes a service company.

Terry Vogt - Managing Director, Finance Advisor

Latin American Investment Banking  
Experienced in international finance and private equity investments Mr. Vogt directed a program on conservation finance at The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, was the former Deputy Director General of IICA, a multi-lateral organization dealing with rural sustainable development and agriculture in Latin America, and founded of a boutique investment bank focused on Latin America. Mr. Vogt was the Director of Global Funding and Head of International Investment Banking at Wells Fargo Bank and is a member of the foundation board of CATIE, Central American graduate school and research institution in agriculture, sustainable development, and climate change. He has a degree in Latin American History from Harvard, an MBA in Operations Research from the University of Colorado, is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and in 1996 was awarded the Order of Rio Branco by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil.

Kevin Brennan, CFA - Finance Advisor

Investor Networks, Carbon Fund Management  
Mr. Brennan first trained as a portfolio management analyst at Merrill Lynch Investment Managers — now BlackRock — before moving into Institutional Sales and Product Specialist roles, including working on the initial capital raising for the BlackRock New Energy Technology Fund. Influenced also by the early development of emissions markets, Mr. Brennan was drawn to sustainability and pursued a Masters in Environmental Management, focusing on climate, environmental and natural resource economics. Subsequent roles combined project finance at HSBC with further product specialist work at the London-based fund-of-hedge-funds International Asset Management. Mr. Brennan has further experience with emissions reductions projects globally, working on the launch and portfolio structuring of the Natsource Carbon Asset Pool (multi-sector) in London and the Terra Bella Forest and Land-Use Carbon Fund at Terra Global . The Terra Bella Forest and Land-Use Carbon Fund was selected for an anchor commitment from OPIC, the US development finance bank, in a competitive tender in 2011. Mr. Brennan's current role at Equilibrium Capital gives him the opportunity to work across diversified sectors in capital raising and the structuring of investor-operator partnerships across real asset classes. Mr. Brennan completed his BCom bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business at the University of Edinburgh, including an exchange year at one of France’s leading business schools, Ecole Superieure des Affaires in Grenoble. He completed his Masters in Environmental Management at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.

Natural Resource Management

Erica Meta Smith, M.F., RPF - Director

Foresty, Field Training, GHG Quantification  
Ms. Smith, M.F., RPF. Forest Carbon Field Development Specialist, Joined Terra Global Capital in 2009. Ms. Smith provides technical forestry knowledge, on-ground carbon quantification expertise, and specializes in forest mensuration programs. She has firsthand knowledge of a forestry-based income the experience of depending on natural resources as a livelihood. Before working with Terra Global Capital Ms. Smith worked in forest policy and on forestry technical operations. She received her undergraduate degree in forestry and Master of Forestry from University of California-Berkeley in 2005 and 2007. Her master’s work reviewed California Climate Action Registry’s Forestry Protocols and implications of carbon markets in California. Ms. Smith is a Certified Ecologist through the Ecological Society of America and a Registered Professional Forester in the State of California. Ms. Smith has worked extensively in the REDD+ sector training communities and working with in-country experts for excellence in MRV across Africa and Asia.

Krysla Grothe, M.S., Associate

Natural Resource and Climate Change Mitigation Program Manager  
Ms. Grothe is a natural resource and climate-smart agriculture specialist focusing on improving economic and environmental outcomes through innovative, market-based approaches, and evidence-based policy and program implementation. She holds a bachelor’s in science in international agricultural development from University of California, Davis, a masters in science in global health policy and management, and a masters in sustainable international development from Brandeis University. With 9+ years of experience in sustainable agricultural and climate change mitigation program implementation in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, she has led projects to be effective through building meaningful partnerships among various stakeholder groups, and leveraging indigenous knowledge into program design. Prior to working with Terra Global, Ms. Grothe worked for MIT’s Development Lab (D-Lab) researching participatory action and humanitarian innovation design methods and analysis. Utilizing complex policy and market-based strategy, and supporting gender and racial equity through participatory program design, she is effective at strengthening strategic focus by using evidence-based methodologies to advance program development for improved socio-economic and environmental outcomes.

David Montoya González

Remote Sensing Analysis and GIS  
Mr. Montoya has a widely experience in remote sensing and GIS. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Forest Engineer from the National University of Colombia (UNAL) and a master’s degree in remote sensing from Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) – Brazil. Mr. Montoya has worked with multiple Colombian government entities, such as the national department of statistics (DANE), supporting the 3rd National Agricultural Census, and the National University of Colombia in research projects in the Andean Region, focused in geomorphometry, and in the Sibundoy Valley with the indigenous communities Inga and Kamentsá analyzing the land cover changes and natural resources sustainability. Mr. Montoya has also worked in the private sector developing GHG assessments and quantification in Latin America,, Australia and the United States.

Alphius Lipiya - Malawi

Special Projects  
A qualified Wildlife Manager with an Advanced Diploma in Wildlife Management from CAWM-Mweka, Tanzania, Mr. Lipiya worked for almost 40 years at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in Malawi. His positions included law enforcement officer and supervisor in protected areas for over ten years, wildlife research officer/ supervisor for three years, park manager for seven years, Divisional Wildlife Manager for five years and Wildlife Education and Extension Supervisor for three years. He supported the Kulera REDD+ Project for three years from the DNPW headquarters. Other experience includes working with human-animal conflict for five years and the counterpart to a Technical Advisor in an International Project funded by EU. Mr. Lipiya has two other diplomas in Wildlife Management and in Nature Conservation.

Glenda Lee - Co-head Terra Latin America

Forestry, FSC Certification  
Ms. Lee has more than 20 years experience in forest management and forest certification and 12 years experience in Carbon Markets and Finance working in various countries throughout Latin America. Ms. Lee has a background in Natural Renewable Resources, Engineering and Post Graduate studies in business environmental strategies and specialized studies in Forest Certifications in Sweden and South Africa and a Specialization in Forest Governance in Indonesia. She developed biomass allometric equations to estimate carbon stocks in 3 broad leaves forests in Guatemala. Ms. Lee was the Ecobusiness Manager at Grupo Agroindustrial Occidente, leading carbon market platforms for forestry, agro forestry and renewable energies in Latin America. Advising on developing the financial products through an IDB/RAINFOREST ALLIANCE/FIDOSA project designed to target Forestry Concessions in the Petén, Guatemala. Ms. Lee also assessed the performance of the financial products developed from a technical point of view based on FSC Certification. Ms. Lee possesses experience and good relationships and coordination with multi-stakeholders among Public and Private sectors. She is currently the Chairman of the board for the National Sustainable Forest Management Standards Council of Guatemala as well as the Network Representative for the Forest Stewardship Council International Network.

John Lewis, Ph.D. - Managing Director

Rural Development, Agriculture and Food Security  
Dr. John Van D. Lewis has worked for over 40 years combining his discipline, ecological and economic anthropology (Ph.D. Yale 1979), with international development management experience. By 2000, he had completed a 22-year career with USAID, retiring after six years as the Agency Senior Agriculturalist and Director of its central Office of Agriculture and Food Security. From that Senior Foreign Service vantage point Dr. Lewis brought several international agribusiness corporations to collaborate with US AID field programs. Serving in Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, Egypt, Tunisia, and then Haiti, Dr. Lewis was able to design and implement path-breaking new approaches to community-driven sustainable development in rural settings. Immediately following his retirement from the Agency, he became Executive Director of the Near East Foundation and then Pro-Natura USA, both in New York City. He has been a Managing Director at Terra Global since 2007.

Steven De Gryze, Ph.D. - Science Advisor

Soil Science, GHG Quantification  
Ecosystem scientist and software engineer, focusing on carbon and nitrogen cycling and greenhouse gas emissions from terrestrial systems at a regional scale. He has developed and used advanced ecosystem models to forecast carbon changes for the past 10 years. He completed his B.Sc. majoring in Bio-engineering Sciences, his M.Sc. in Environmental Technology (in collaboration with the Natural Resource and Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland), and a second M.Sc. in Statistics and his PhD in soil conservation from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). Mr. De Gryze is a recognized leader of methodology and protocol development at the project and jurisdictional level for REDD+ and has developed protocols for numerous market standards for low emission agriculture. Mr. De Gryze lead the carbon analytics team at Terra Global and is currently employed as a Senior Scientific Software Engineer at The Climate Corporation.

Montague W. Demment, Ph.D.

Technical Advisor, Director of the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP)  
Dr. Demment is Associate Vice President for International Development at APLU, former Director of the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program, a program funded by USAID and the US university community, and professor emeritus of ecology at the University of California, Davis. In his position at APLU he has been involved in advocacy for higher education support for Africa, been instrumental in the creation of APLU’s Africa U.S. Higher Education Initiative and organized the process by which the research community provided input to the FTF strategy. Dr. Demment conducts research on nutritional ecology of herbivores and nutrition of children in developing countries. He is past president of AIARD (Association for Agriculture and Rural Development) and chaired then NASULGC’s International Agriculture Coordinating Committee that advocates for international issues in agriculture. Demment served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. A native of New York, Dement earned his BA from Harvard in Architectural Sciences, his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Zoology. He received an NIH postdoctoral fellowship to study animal nutrition at Cornell before arriving at UC Davis in 1982.

Susan L. Ustin, Ph.D.

Technical Advisor, Professor in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at the University of California Davis  
She received a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of California Davis in 1983 in the area of plant physiological ecology. She became interested in remote sensing research as a post-doctoral fellow when she had the opportunity to participate in the first stage of development of imaging spectroscopy at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her research since this time has focused on developing and testing methods for retrieving ecological information from remote sensing data at spatial scales from microscopic to global and encompasses both theoretical and applied research. She has served on a wide range of state and federal panels and committees, most recently an NRC review of 50 years of NASA Earth Science Research and NPOESS Science Advisory Board for Northrup-Grumman. She manages the Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing (CSTARS) laboratory of about 25 people.

Emilio A. Laca, Ph.D. - Science Advisor

Rangeland Ecology  
Dr. Laca received his Ph. D. in Ecology in 1992 from the University of California Davis and holds a M.S. in Range and Wildlands Science and B.Sc. Agricultural Engineering. He has research and teaching experience in multivariate systems and modeling, physiological basis for grazing management and ecology and conservation of natural resources. His recent work has covered statistical protocols for measuring carbon flux, carbon sequestration in the rangelands of Central Asia and, quantification of CO2 exchanges using tower measures, modeling and remote sensing. He serves as chair for three committees in Environmental Sciences and Ecology at the University. He is the Associate Editor Rangeland Ecology and Management and serves to review manuscripts and proposals from multiple international journals and funding agencies. He manages a team of 17 Ph.D. and MS students who are engaged practical applications of carbon measurement research and field science.

Tamrini Said - Zanzibar

Special Projects  
With 33 years working experience in forest sector that also covers management of wildlife resources, Tamrini has shown outstanding contribution in overall performance to the forest sector in forest reserves management and conservation, afforestation and forest plantation management and wildlife resource management. He has served in several related positions including a District Forest Officer Central and North B, Head of Unguja Ukuu Forest Plantation, Masingini Natura Forest Reserve and Chaani Forest Plantation. In his different positions, he collaborated with his colleagues to ensure together achievement of the shared goals. For example, Tamrini managed to facilitate the arrangement of the Kiwengwa-Pongwe Forest into a Forest Reserve and introduced ecotourism as a main livelihoods project. In 2019, Tamrini managed to facilitate the preparation of detailed policies and regulations on Zanzibar for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Tamrini was appointed a member of Tanzania National REDD+ Task Force and managed to produce a Tanzania National REDD+ Strategy Document. Due to his commitment to REDD+ programs, Tamrini became a member of an International REDD+ Safeguards Steering Committee and served for three years. Tamrini was recommended to be an Interim Board Member of Tanzania National Carbon Monitoring Centre (NCMC) hosted at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). Tamrini has engaged in local consultancy works related to climate change, social research and project management.