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staff

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Joshua Plotnik, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO

josh@thinkelephants.org

josh
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Josh founded TEI in late 2009 with an initial meeting with a NYC middle school principal, a friend of his since childhood. Currently, Josh is a Newton Postdoctoral Fellow in the Dept. of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge in England, and the Head of Research at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand. He has published his elephant intelligence research in some of science's top peer-reviewed journals, and has had his work covered by more than 300 media outlets since 2006. He has an MA and a PhD from Emory University, a BS from Cornell University, and a certificate in elephant appreciation, conferred by one ornery young bull elephant who taught Josh that humility is a requirement when working with one of the world's most remarkable species. Josh serves as both President of the Board and CEO of TEI, and oversees all administration, staff and programs.
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Jennifer Pokorny, Ph.D.
Head of Education Programs

jen@thinkelephants.org

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Jen oversees all education initiatives, from developing curriculum and supervising and training educators, to evaluating the efficacy of TEI programs. She is passionate about science education and raising scientific literacy by using interactive techniques, such as problem-based learning, to motivate children to explore and investigate the world around them. Jen received her PhD in Psychology from Emory University in 2009. She worked with Dr. Frans de Waal examining social cognition in capuchin monkeys. She has experience teaching at various levels, including undergraduate psychology courses, 3rd grade environmental education lessons, as well as middle school science classes. Part of her graduate training involved participation in PRISM (Problems and Research to Integrate Science and Mathematics), an NSF funding program that pairs graduate students with middle and high school teachers to develop and implement problem-based learning curriculum in science and math classes. Jen is currently a post-doctoral fellow at UC Davis and just completed the Autism Research Training Program through the UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute. She has a broad research interest in social cognition and behavioral neuroscience from an evolutionary and developmental perspective.
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Matthew Plotnik
Head of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships

matt@thinkelephants.org

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Matt is currently the Director of International Digital Marketing at Sony Music, focusing primarily on the formulation and implementation of fully integrated interactive marketing plans for all of Sony Music's international priority artists. He has worked at Sony Music for over five years, and in that time, has risen through the ranks to become one of the company's youngest marketing directors. He was one of only five applicants to be chosen for Sony Music's highly selective management development program and the only one of the five applicants to secure an executive level position at the end of the program. He has his BA from the University of Southern California and is currently an MBA candidate at New York University's Stern School of Business, focusing on strategy, marketing and entertainment. Matt oversees all marketing, social media and business development initiatives for TEI.
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Darby Proctor, Ph.D.
Coordinator of School Research

darby@thinkelephants.org

josh
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Darby joined TEI in 2010 as Coordinator for School Research, and is responsible for organizing all TEI research projects in school classrooms. She recently completed her PhD in animal behavior at Georgia State University in summer 2012, and has worked extensively with nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys and baboons. Even though her passion is for primates, she is dedicated to the conservation of all vulnerable species as well as educational outreach about the importance of preserving the Earth's biodiversity. She is also interested in conducting cognitive and behavioral research with elephants using paradigms from the nonhuman primate literature. Darby has an MA and a Certificate of Excellence in College Teaching from Georgia State University, as well as an MSM and BS from the University of Florida.
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Christine Webb
Coordinator of Special Projects

christine@thinkelephants.org

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Christine is currently a doctoral student at Columbia University. She completed her undergraduate work at Emory, where she met Josh (and Jen) during her time as a research assistant at the Living Links Center. The following year, she worked as a field assistant in South Africa through the University of Capetown/Baboon Research Unit and a research assistant in Columbia's Primate Cognition Lab. Upon entering the graduate program, she began to blend her interests in human and non-human primate behavior through the study of conflict resolution. She now studies motivations for and individual differences in reconciliation behavior in both humans and chimpanzees. Specifically, she is interested in what motivates different individuals to resolve conflict and the various strategies/tactics that they use in order to do so. Christine has been integrally involved in developing and piloting the program for the past two years at East Side Middle School. She looks forward to continuing her involvement in many ways—sharing her own research, engaging with other scientists, expanding the educational and philanthropic aspects of the program—but most of all, teaching and learning from some of the smartest middle schoolers in the world!
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Preeyanoot Surinkaew
Thai Programs Manager

preeyanoot@thinkelephants.org

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"TomTem" joined the TEI team in June, 2013. She has a Bachelor's in Elementary Education, and two Master's degrees (one from Chiang Mai University in Thailand and the other from Sophia University in Italy). As a former primary school teacher and someone who has developed activities for children in Northern Thailand, she is particularly interested in TEI's conservation education initiatives. TomTem's previous experience is also strongly geared towards interdisciplinary work. She is passionate about encouraging dialogue between different fields of study, different people and different cultures. She is especially happy to be part of an international non-profit that tackles conservation issues using science and education programming. In addition to her integral role in TEI's education initiatives, she is also responsible for overseeing the team's research and guest program schedules.
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Rebecca Shoer
Research Staff

 

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Rebecca graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts with a BA in Biology and Neuroscience. She completed a year-long honors project on zebra finch communication and syntax development, focusing on the role of females in male song development. She spent two summers gaining field experience working with Williams' professors in Massachusetts and Isle Royale, Michigan, working on a number of ecological and population studies. Projects included studies of mutualism interactions, pollination systems, and invasive species. In 2012, she worked at the St. Louis Zoo as a behavioral research intern, working with equine and antelope species. In addition, she spent a semester in Australia, and completed a month long project researching the effects of artificial feeding programs on a population of wild dolphins. Her desire to combine conservation with animal behavior and communication research while traveling abroad made an assistantship with Think Elephants a perfect fit. She hopes to gain new perspectives on conservation issues, as well as to engage in novel research on the cognitive abilities of elephants.
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Sophie Wasserman
Research Staff

 

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Sophie graduated from Haverford College with a BS in Psychology, concentrating in Neural and Behavioral Sciences. As an undergraduate, Sophie completed a senior thesis project studying the relationship between decline in cognitive abilities and regulation of emotions in older adult populations. Additionally, she was part of a research team at the University of California, San Diego studying neural plasticity and language development in children with early stroke. Joining the Think Elephants team represents her first foray into research with non-human subjects, as well as satisfaction of her lifelong interest in animal intelligence. Sophie's childhood dream was to become a zookeeper, but the closest she ever came was walking dogs for the local animal shelter. Her passion for conservation education stems directly from her experience leading outreach programs for the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Sophie hopes to eventually pursue a graduate degree in animal behavior, and believes that a crucial element of conservation efforts is creating direct channels between the ever-expanding scientific knowledge and public understanding.
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Lisa Barrett
Research Staff

 

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Lisa graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Evolutionary Anthropology and a minor in French and Francophone Studies, and she is enthusiastically pursuing a career in animal behavior research. As an undergraduate student, she acted on this passion by studying squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica through a primate behavior and conservation field course. Upon her return, she combined her love for research and education as an intern at the Philadelphia Zoo. She later investigated parental care and offspring quality in Eastern bluebirds in Oklahoma as part of the NSF REU Animal Behavior program. Besides conducting research, Lisa enjoys traveling, writing, playing with her dog, and teaching dance to children. She completed her senior honors thesis on tolerance and social cognition of fox squirrels living on and off-campus at Michigan under the supervision of Dr. John Mitani. She is eager to further develop these interests as she joins the Think Elephants team in conducting research while teaching about the importance of conservation—especially because she has always dreamed of working with elephants!
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Elise Gilchrist
Research Staff

 

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Elise graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a degree in animal behavior. Under the guidance of her advisor, Dr. Dan Ardia, she participated in behavioral research on urban red-tailed hawks and a study on the body condition of a wintering population of Carolina chickadees. She was also involved in a research project investigating the spotted eagle ray during a semester abroad at the School for Field Studies facility in Turks and Caicos. She has always loved the outdoors and has been fascinated by the behavior of animals since she was a young girl. She has a strong interest in wildlife conservation and believes that working with the Think Elephants team will be a great venue to grow as a scientist as well as explore careers available in the conservation field. She is so excited to be working with the elephants and living in Thailand!
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board

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Maura S. Dughi, Esq.
Director and Chair

 

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Maura Somers Dughi is a nationally recognized leader on the federal, state and local level in advocating for the rights of children and families, with particular focus on the prevention of abuse and neglect in all its forms. Maura is a member and committee chair of the New Jersey Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect. She is the former Chairman of the Board of Directors and current Executive Committee member and Program Chairman of both Prevent Child Abuse America and Prevent Child Abuse - New Jersey. She also chairs the Program Committee for the Board of Directors of Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Jersey. She has been a member of numerous Child Welfare Advisory and Policy work Groups in the public and private sector and assists non-profit organizations with board governance and management policy and strategy issues. Maura holds a JD from St. John's University School of Law and a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University.
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Joshua Plotnik, Ph.D.
Director and President

 

josh
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Josh founded TEI in late 2009 with an initial meeting with a NYC middle school principal, a friend of his since childhood. Currently, Josh is a Newton Postdoctoral Fellow in the Dept. of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge in England, and the Head of Research at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation in Thailand. He has published his elephant intelligence research in some of science's top peer-reviewed journals, and has had his work covered by more than 300 media outlets since 2006. He has an MA and a PhD from Emory University, a BS from Cornell University, and a certificate in elephant appreciation, conferred by one ornery young bull elephant who taught Josh that humility is a requirement when working with one of the world's most remarkable species. Josh serves as both President of the Board and CEO of TEI, and oversees all administration, staff and programs.

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Carly Shapiro, CPA
Director and Treasurer

 

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Carly Shapiro is a senior financial services consultant with over 7 years expertise in providing consulting, valuation, accounting, audit and assurance services and risk management for investment managers, advisors, private equity funds, hedge funds, fund of funds and other financial institutions. Carly's diverse financial and accounting background makes her well-suited as the Treasurer for Think Elephants International. She is experienced in financial statement preparation and analysis, recalculation and analysis of management fees, carried interest/waterfall calculations, capital calls, distributions, partners' capital balances, financial highlights and valuations. Previously, Ms. Shapiro was a manager at Deloitte & Touche LLP in the investment management and audit division. Currently she is a senior financial services consultant at Constellation Investment Consulting and focuses on working with hedge fund clients as an outsourced CFO, performing valuations, due diligences, analyzing financial transactions relating to dispute resolution matters and audits. She received her B.S. Honors Degree in Accounting with a double minor in Economics and Management Information Systems from the University of Delaware. She is a New York State Certified Public Accountant.
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Miranda Pugh
Director, Secretary and Fundraising Chair

 

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Miranda has spent most of her career devoted to raising funds for non-profit organizations. During her five-year tenure with a university in Oklahoma, she successfully solicited more than $66 million in major gifts for numerous college projects, including two new academic facilities. Born and raised in a small Oklahoma town, Miranda graduated from Cornell University in 2004 with a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations. Her love of traveling the world was ignited when she spent the first six months of her professional career living and teaching English in Ombalantu, Namibia. She fell in love with the TEI Mission after a 2011 visit to Thailand. Miranda is currently completing her final year of law school at The University of Tulsa College of Law where she has been recognized for her academic and leadership excellence.
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Robert Herriott
Director

 

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Robert is the founding Partner of RBT Public Affairs Group and has been involved in public affairs for over 20 years. He has been involved in campaigns dealing with issues from financial services and healthcare to energy and consumer product safety. He has served in key strategic and legislative development roles in the U.S. Congress working with the committees of jurisdiction in the areas of banking and financial services, healthcare, energy, consumer product safety, among others. He has liaised with regulatory agencies and worked to influence legislative and regulatory outcomes. In the private sector, Mr. Herriott led targeted public affairs campaigns to effectively communicate with key decision makers and influence both public and private sector policy outcomes. He has represented industry before government entities in the United States, European Union and the People's Republic of China. In particular to TEI, as a father of three, Mr. Herriott is interested in efforts to enhance science education at a young age. He joined the TEI Board of Directors because of the interactive nature of its education programs, and its emphasis on the science behind conservation.
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Prof. Frans de Waal, Ph.D.
Scientific Advisor

 

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Prof. Frans de Waal is the C. H. Candler Professor in Emory University's Psychology Department, and was both Dr. Pokorny's and Dr. Plotnik's dissertation advisor. His many works include Our Inner Ape, Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society and The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates. Dr. de Waal is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, and directs the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2007. Dr. de Waal has supported Think Elephants International since its inception, and continues to be involved with its research team.
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alumni

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Rachel Dale
Research Staff

 

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Rachel graduated from the University of Dundee, Scotland, with a BSc in Psychology where she focused on studying human children from different cultures. Animals were always her true passion though and so she then went on to attain an MSc in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology at the University of St Andrews. During her Masters she learned a great deal about the evolution of behavior and the cognitive abilities of a number of different species. However, since visiting an elephant orphanage and rehabilitation site in Kenya throughout her childhood, she has always been especially interested in elephant behavior and conservation. Consequently, she completed her MSc research project on self-awareness in African elephants in South Africa, gaining valuable experience in studying elephants experimentally. Rachel worked with Dr. Plotnik from May, 2012 until March, 2013, when she accepted a PhD studentship in Austria studying dog cognition.
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Daniel Brubaker
Research Staff

 

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Dan graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia with a BS in Biological Anthropology and a minor in Linguistics. With primary interests in animal intelligence and communication, he spent his undergraduate career gaining cognitive research experience with rhesus monkeys, brown capuchins, and chimpanzees at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. During this time, he was primarily involved with image matching experiments that required subjects to use touch screens to select image pairs based on various criteria. Under the supervision of Dr. Frans de Waal and Dr. Sarah Gouzoules, he conducted a token exchange experiment, investigating how brown capuchins assess food reward value in terms of both quality and quantity. Before arriving in Thailand, he continued employment at Yerkes, monitoring colony health and collecting samples from macaques and sooty mangabeys for biomedical research. With guidance from training specialists, he headed up a daily positive-reinforcement program which aimed to make the mangabey population more easily accessible for veterinary examination. His recent involvement with Think Elephants International marks his first venture into cognitive research with a non-primate species. He is excited to be involved with such research, especially in its promotion of methodological advances in elephant conservation.
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Lydia Tiller
Research Staff

 

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Lydia has been working alongside Dr. Joshua Plotnik and his team since January 2012. After graduating from Bangor University in the UK with a BSc in zoology, Lydia then went on to earn an MSc in wild animal biology at the Royal Veterinary College and the Zoological Society of London. She subsequently spent 6 months working for Oregon State University in the US as an avian field technician, monitoring the behavior of colonies of caspian terns and double-crested cormorants. Her passion for animals and conservation began at a young age, which led her to gain experience on different projects around the world; she has worked with sea turtles in Greece, clouded leopards in Thailand, and fruit bats in Australia. Although Lydia loves all animals, she has a particular interest in elephants and elephant behavior. She worked in an elephant sanctuary in Ayutthaya, Thailand, and she also conducted her MSc research project on the human-elephant conflict in Bardia National Park in Nepal. Lydia's enduring ambition is to devote her working life to making a practical and positive contribution to wildlife and conservation and feels that research, education and conservation are the key to sustaining all life types.
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Elsa Loissel
Research Staff

 

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After graduating in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon in France, Elsa did a three-year Master's degree where she had the opportunity to conduct research in Experimental Psychology. During this time she did several internships at Birmingham, Harvard and Cambridge Universities, working on morality, social and physical cognition in children, adults and birds. Her last job as a research assistant in Comparative Cognition at Cambridge University led her to meet Dr. Plotnik and she joined the Think Elephants International team in August 2012. This has allowed her to pursue her childhood dream of doing research in the field. This is her first venture into conservation work.
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