Staff Bio

PETER KNIGHTS

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT

After graduating from the London School of Economics, Peter Knights first worked on wildlife trafficking as an investigator and campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency. He specialized in global on-site investigations and campaigning against the trade in wild birds for pets, as well as consumption of endangered species in traditional Chinese medicine, such as bear gallbladder, rhino horn, and tiger bone. Peter’s investigations have been featured in the TV series “Animal Detectives.” On birds, this work led to over 150 airlines stopping the carriage of wild birds and to the Wild Bird Conservation Act, which cut imports of wild birds into the US from 800,000 to 40,000. As a director of the Global Survival Network, in 1996, he introduced conservation to the concept of demand reduction, that is now widely accepted as an important tool in solving trafficking problems.

While working across Asia, Peter created the first international program aimed at reducing demand for endangered species products. He received an Associate Laureate of the Rolex Award for Enterprise for this work. WildAid’s demand reduction program uses sophisticated advertising techniques, donated airtime, and celebrity spokespeople with the message “When the buying stops, the killing can too.” More than 100 globally-recognized actors, athletes, musicians and business leaders have appeared in WildAid campaigns. Peter is still
working with his first ambassador, Jackie Chan. Since then, WildAid ambassadors have included Yao Ming, Prince William, David Beckham, Leonardo DiCaprio and many other famous names. The organization has been active in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Canada, and the US. It now attracts more than US$289 million of donated media space annually, primarily in China.

As well as contributing to the protection of manta rays and whale sharks, WildAid’s shark campaign led by Yao Ming has contributed to a 50-70% decline in consumption of shark fin in China, and an 81% decline in shark fin imports over three years. It has also helped to secure fin bans in a number of US states. Peter has been awarded a regional Jefferson Award for public service in honor of his role in achieving California’s ban on shark fin. Peter has led campaigns that have resulted in the banning of ivory sales in China, a more than 60% decline in the price of ivory, and a more than 50% decline in the price of rhino horn in China and Vietnam. He created, produced and featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming,” and is currently producing and co-directing five documentaries for Chinese TV and two for Vietnam. He has also created and produced dozens of public service announcements. In 2000, Peter co-founded WildAid as has served as Executive Director and now CEO. In 2017, the organization works in 12 countries, has over 45 full time staff, a US$10 million budget leveraging over $289 million in donated media, and was recently given 100 out of 100 by Charity Navigator for transparency and efficiency.

HARRY "HANK" LYNCH

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Harry ‘Hank’ Lynch is an established nonprofit leader and fund-raising authority. He holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Delaware, where he was selected into the prestigious Longwood Fellowship program, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture from the University of Maryland. He studied advanced executive leadership and management at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Executive program.

Over the past twenty-five years, Hank has successfully and expertly led regional and national mission-driven organizations with annual budgets up to $30M with over 450 staff. These included an internationally respected farm animal welfare organization, public gardens, maritime museums, a governmental cruise ship port authority and the nation’s first planned community. Hank and his teams have raised over $375M in philanthropic support. Hank recently served as the CEO of Farm Sanctuary, which was the first organization created to address the farm animal cruelty and environmental issues associated with factory farming. Utilizing a strategy to educate and influence consumers to adopt plant-based diets, Hank and his team grew this national organization’s social media following to over 1M and enhanced its world-class reputation for impactful advocacy. Under his leadership the organization experienced unprecedented growth, never-before achieved financial success and broad international outreach. In 2018, Hank took on the leadership of Reston, Virginia, the nation’s first and largest Biophilic and environmentally focused community. In Reston, he managed a full and part-time staff exceeding 500 with 60,000 members and 2,000 acres of woodlands, parks, lakes, open space, and wetlands.

Hank is an experienced and knowledgeable government lobbyist, having successfully received both funding and/or policy support from state leaders, the United States Congress, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is a sought-after leader in the communities in which he has served, frequently selected to serve on key community committees and boards.

Hank’s expertise, leadership, and management style was a featured case study in Dr. Mark Light’s Antioch University Ph.D. dissertation titled, Finding George Bailey: Wonderful Leaders, Wonderful Lives. Over a 3-year period, Dr. Light followed and studied Hank’s work and sought input from Board members, community leaders and staff who knew and worked with him. Among Dr. Light’s many observations, he stated that Hank “does not let his ego drive his behavior but, if you are going to pick someone to run a team, he will win the game.”

Because Hank is a passionate nonprofit professional committed to bettering his communities, he has also served as an active keynote speaker, local nonprofit board member, and organizational development consultant. His most proud volunteer work came serving as board chair for Spring Garden Waldorf School in Copley, Ohio, successfully leading them through a financial and organizational crisis.

JOHN BAKER

CHIEF PROGRAM OFFICER

John leads and manages WildAid’s global programs including program strategy, institutional fundraising, and international program management. Since 2013, John has helped expand WildAid demand reduction campaigns in Asia and managed organizational growth with a doubling in staff, funding and budget. He brings valuable expertise from 15 years of leading and managing conservation programs in Southeast Asia and 12 years at Point Blue Conservation Science. John’s entrepreneurial spirit and hands-on attitude have helped launch innovative rural development projects in Thailand with pre-eminent social entrepreneur Mechai Viravaidya, manage a conservation program for the largest protected area in Laos, and establish an award-winning family planning program for the Vietnam Women’s Union. He also researched and edited a guidebook to Thai national parks and a coffee table book on Thai flora and fauna. During one watershed moment in recent Thai political history, John seized the opportunity to write speeches for Thailand’s former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun. He speaks Thai, Lao and proficient Vietnamese.

LEILA MELODY

CHIEF FINANCE OFFICER

Leila joined WildAid as Chief Financial Officer in 2022. She has over 20 years of leadership experience in finance, operations, and business administration. Leila’s career has spanned a variety of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations including an early-stage high-growth financial company, national animal protection organization, and established mid-size businesses. In her past roles, she has led accounting, finance, human resources, facilities, technology, and visitor experience, with an emphasis on instituting best practices and developing strategic financial plans that support significant organizational growth. She earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and a BA from Northwestern University. When she is not working, Leila can be found exploring new places with her rescued Formosan Mountain Dog.

MEAGHAN BROSNAN

MARINE PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Meaghan has worked for nearly 15 years to reduce illegal fishing activity around the world, and is an expert in domestic and international fisheries management, compliance, and enforcement. She spent four years at-sea enforcing fisheries law, and served as the deputy chief of the Coast Guard’s Living Marine Resources Enforcement program. Meaghan was also the lead manager of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ End Illegal Fishing Campaign. Additionally, she founded Exulans, Inc., a global consultancy providing compliance and enforcement solutions for ocean conservation to governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations. In these roles, Meaghan has worked in collaboration with senior government leaders and diverse public and private sector organizations in East Africa, Southeast Asia, the Western and Central Pacific, Central America and the United States. Meaghan continues to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, leading a department in the San Francisco Bay area. When she is not nerding out on ocean conservation topics, Meaghan can be found kayaking, hiking or camping with her family.

MATT GRAGER

CLIMATE PROGRAM DIRECTOR

After previously leading WildAid’s climate campaigns on food and transportation from 2015-2018, Matt rejoined as Climate Program Director in 2022 where his responsibilities include program development, fundraising, and partner collaboration. As Disaster Preparedness Director at Give2Asia (2011-2015) and Development Director at Project Drawdown (2018), Matt connected corporate, foundation and individual donors with some of the world’s most effective NGOs focused on local and global climate issues. When not addressing climate change, his roles have directly addressed disabilities justice as Executive Director at On-the-Move Community Integration (2019-2022) and Board Chair at the California Communications Access Foundation (2014-2019). Matt earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Chapman University and is now based in Portland, Oregon. He enjoys hiking, cycling, reading, scuba diving and cooking. He and his spouse can often be found dancing in the kitchen with their daughter to her favorite band, the Ramones.

RACHEL LEE HOLSTEIN

DONOR IMPACT DIRECTOR, EAST COAST

Rachel Lee joined WildAid in 2022 to build relationships with donors on the East Coast. A seasoned fundraising strategist and leader with nearly 20 years of experience, Rachel Lee relishes the process of connecting supporters with opportunities to support work they are passionate about. In her previous roles she built development systems from scratch, fostered a culture of philanthropy among staff and volunteers, and exponentially increased revenue. Her efforts have served environmental and racial justice, economic systems change, poverty alleviation, community arts, voter mobilization, and international fair trade. In her free time she can be found exploring local farmers markets and parks with her young daughter.

CORIE KNIGHTS

SENIOR DIRECTOR MAJOR GIFTS, EVENTS

Corie manages individual philanthropy as chief fundraiser for WildAid and is responsible for raising millions of dollars to enable the organization’s programs. Corie also leads event planning, ambassador relationships, corporate partnerships and donor trips both domestic and abroad. She has produced dozens of events ranging from corporate talks and donor hosted parties to WildAid’s annual star-studded gala evening. WildAid’s most recent gala at The Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles raised $2.4 million dollars for WildAid’s programs. Our 20th Anniversary celebration gala will take place at The Four Seasons on November 14th. For the past 11 years, Corie has been a guide and host on WildAid’s annual whale shark trip where supporters are able to experience conservation first hand by swimming with these rare ocean giants. Corie also leads our donors on expeditions to the Galapagos Islands onboard our partner boat “WildAid’s Passion” and to partner program sites in Africa to witness the conservation impact of WildAid’s work.

DANIELLE PORTNOY

DONOR IMPACT DIRECTOR, WEST COAST

Danielle leads Major Gift development on the West Coast, bringing more than 15 years experience of connecting people who are passionate about a cause to meaningful opportunities to make an impact. Most recently she supported efforts to bring leadership programming to low-income communities at Girl Scouts Greater Los Angeles, and previously spent five years as Advancement Director for the Santa Monica based environmental group, Heal the Bay.  In these roles, Danielle raised millions of dollars from individuals, foundations, and corporate supporters, growing the pipeline of leadership donors across the board.  Prior to Heal the Bay, she managed community-based fundraising at the American Cancer Society as a Regional Director for Relay for Life. Her early years in Los Angeles were spent in T.V. production, but she actually began her fundraising career as a college student, going door to door to ask for donations on the streets of Boston with Clean Water Action. Danielle can be found dreaming up trips with her spouse to see the plains of Africa, boat alongside glaciers and whales, and discover nature with her two girls.

CHRISTINA VALLIANOS

WILDLIFE PROGRAM DIRECTOR, ASIA

Christina helps research, develop and oversee WildAid’s species campaigns, having designed and led the pangolin campaign since inception. Her work includes managing project implementation in coordination with the international team, campaign planning, creative content development, grant writing, and authoring of WildAid’s published reports. Before joining the team in 2013, she designed enrichment programs for river otters at the Oakland Zoo, taught ecology to youth at summer camps in Massachusetts, and worked in account management at a design agency in San Francisco. She is passionate about sustainable food projects, loves hiking and photography, and has backpacked throughout South America and Europe, most recently completing the Tour du Mont Blanc. She is a dedicated environmentalist who believes wild places and animals deserve protection, and joined WildAid to support its conservation efforts. Christina holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

GARY YIP

DIRECTOR OF VIDEO PRODUCTION

Originally from Hong Kong, Gary joined WildAid in 2010 after working for several years on numerous video campaigns for schools and non-profits as a freelancer in the US. Gary has worked with Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Prince William, David Beckham, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o and many others to create some of WildAid’s most memorable PSAs, behind the scenes clips, and mini-documentaries. Gary also filmed the Emmy-nominated Animal Planet documentary “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming”, CCTV’s “The End of The Wild”, and Shanghai Media Group’s “Celebrity Explorers” — the latter a five-part documentary series for Chinese television. Gary speaks, reads, and writes in Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. He enjoys all things technology (leading to his default designation as Head of IT), video games and movies, and loves to travel to arctic climates to photograph polar bears and the northern lights.

CLAIRE ALTIER

CONTROLLER

Claire joined the team in April of 2018 and is responsible for all financial reporting, forecasting, and audit preparation for WildAid’s US and international offices. She has 10 years of accounting experience and has held head of accounting roles with three different companies, each in unique areas of the for profit sector. While this is her first foray into non-profits, Claire has been a life-long wildlife advocate and supporter of conservation efforts and is thrilled to make the jump into a more mission-driven atmosphere. She attended the University of Vermont, majoring in International Business, minoring in Studio Art, and concentrating in Animal Sciences. Outside of the office, Claire is an avid scuba diver and loves experimenting with underwater photography.

KAYLYN BECK

SENIOR SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER

Kaylyn joined WildAid in 2022 as Senior Social Media Manager, bringing with her over 7 years of experience in social media management, digital marketing, and storytelling. From providing on-the-ground crisis communications during active disasters to leading social strategies to advocate for imperiled wildlife and shift society’s perception of farm animals and our modern food system, Kaylyn has seen the power in online communities to create positive change. She is passionate about animals and environmental conservation. In her spare time, she enjoys eating vegan food, hiking, and exploring Los Angeles.

SILVIA BOR

MARINE PROGRAM MANAGER

Silvia has worked with WildAid Marine since 2016 to reduce illegal fishing and poaching in some of the world’s most biodiverse places. Her work includes project planning and implementation, fundraising and grant writing, and sharing marine successes with the community, as well as the creation of WildAid’s Marine Tracker to evaluate marine projects on their progress towards a complete Marine Protection System. Silvia has a BA in Communication from Stanford University and an MA in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She loves traveling, reading, yoga, and exploring California with her husband, son, and two Huskies.

 

JAZMINE LIU

SENIOR ACCOUNTANT

Jazmine is the staff accountant at WildAid and is responsible for the day-to-day upkeep of the ledger and financial index, and for supporting the senior accountant in executing the monthly close and yearly audit. Prior to that, she had a few accounting roles in both for-profit and non-profit organizations, where she gained some great accounting experiences. Jazmine holds a Bachelor Degree in Business Management Economics with an emphasis in accounting from the UC Santa Cruz. She is fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Outside of office, Jazmine is a foodie and loves to explore different Asian restaurants in the Bay Area.

EMILY OWEN

MARINE SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER

For over sixteen years, Emily Owen has worked internationally with communities, governments, researchers, and civil society to find collaborative and innovative conservation solutions that support both people and the planet. Prior to joining WildAid in 2022, Emily managed The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Protecting Coastal Wetlands and Coral Reefs project, which helps countries protect coastal ecosystems to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Emily started her career in Chile, where she worked for 10 years on community-based conservation efforts, first in Southern Chile with World Wildlife Fund and then on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) with Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a focus in Conservation Biology from Middlebury College and is a Wild Gift Fellow. Emily enjoys hiking, biking, reading, and scuba diving and lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two sons.

VANESSA PENERYA

ASSISTANT VIDEO EDITOR

Vanessa provides support as WildAid’s assistant video editor. Before joining in 2022, she spent a few years as a freelancer videographer/editor, helping startups and small business boost up their media game through social ads, promos, and long-form video content. Vanessa enjoys using her skills to share stories and strengthen connections within communities. As a lover of sea turtles with a great appreciation for all things mother nature, she wanted help be the voice for wildlife and continue that conversation between people and the world. Vanessa graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Digital Media Arts. During her off time, Vanessa enjoys finding new trails with her dog to walk on, going to theme parks, and traveling the world with family and friends.

ALYSSA RICHARDS

WILDLIFE PROGRAMS OFFICER

Alyssa works on our wildlife programs team, specifically in the areas of program communications and grant writing. Alyssa’s first career was in veterinary medicine, working with a variety of species from rabbits to whales. Wanting to focus on animal advocacy, Alyssa returned to college and earned two master’s degrees, in Museum Studies and in Business Administration, with an intent to help science museums and non-profits. After years of focusing on museum funding, Alyssa is excited to bring her skills to her true passion: animal welfare and environmental conservation. When she is not researching conservation, Alyssa spends her time running, hiking, and working with the Adolescent and Young Adult program at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

CAROLYN SOTKA

MARINE GRANTS OFFICER

Carolyn works with WildAid’s Marine Program to support institutional fundraising for project sites. Carolyn has 20+ years working in ocean conservation and brings a strong understanding of the importance of MPAs and community-based coastal/fisheries management. Carolyn helped build and secure funding for the COMPASS California program, in conjunction with Stanford University, to improve science communication and public engagement in the implementation of MPA networks. With NOAA, Carolyn co-led an initiative of government agencies, universities, and NGOs to advance understanding of the connections between ocean/wildlife health and human health. She is co-author of The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival and a contributing author to The Ocean: The Ultimate Handbook of Nautical Knowledge; Global Climate Change and Human Health: From Science to Practice, and national policy reports. Her work has been featured on NPR, PBS, BBC, and in National Geographic, SEVENSEAS and Sunset magazines. She loves to travel with her children to remote islands and share stories about intersection of culture, wildlife and sustainability

CARRIE SULLIVAN

DEVELOPMENT AND ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT

Carrie Sullivan is WildAid’s Development and Administrative Assistant. Carrie comes from a long background in non profit administration, recently at UpStart. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, she spends her free time taking ballet classes, riding bikes, reading and walking dogs for the SPCA.

REBECCA UTECH

DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

With 15 years of experience in the non-profit and event spaces, Rebecca joined WildAid’s Development team in 2022 to continue her passion for philanthropy. A Chicago native, she holds a bachelor’s degree from North Park University. In her previous non-profit work, Rebecca has found her most rewarding moments to come from connecting with donors and taking the time to learn the different things that make people so invested in a specific cause. Outside of her time with WildAid, Rebecca can be found spending time with her three rescue animals, singing, cooking and traveling.

NELSON VALEL

JUNIOR ACCOUNTANT

Nelson is the junior accountant at WildAid and is responsible for supporting the accounting team. Prior to joining WildAid Nelson was working at a non-profit organization in the bay area. Nelson holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from San Francisco State University. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, working out, and in general being outdoors.