Our Team

Michael Gilmore, Ph.D. – President

Photo: Mark Bowler

Mike has worked with the Maijuna and other indigenous groups of the Peruvian Amazon on a wide variety of community-based biological and cultural conservation projects since 1999. In 2004, he helped the Maijuna establish FECONAMAI, a Maijuna indigenous federation, ultimately helping to empower and give voice to communities that had been marginalized for generations. Amongst other initiatives, Mike spearheaded a multi-year project with the Maijuna to map their remote ancestral territory and worked closely with them to successfully push the Peruvian Government to establish a 391,000-hectare Maijuna protected area. This is almost 1,000,000 acres of Maijuna primary rainforest and is 22% larger than Yosemite National Park. Mike co-founded OnePlanet to continue to follow his passion of partnering with indigenous and traditional communities to build a more sustainable, empowered, and just future.

In addition to his work with OnePlanet, Mike is also a tenured professor in the School of Integrative Studies (an innovative, integrative, interdisciplinary program) at George Mason University (GMU), where he has worked since 2008. He also holds a Research Collaborator position at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and is on the Ethics Committee of the Society for Economic Botany. Mike’s academic research has been published in a wide variety of scholarly journals spanning the fields of ethnobiology, geography, ecology, and policy.

Laurence Benson, B.S. – Secretary & Treasurer

Laurence holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering from George Mason University. His work with the Maijuna began in 2012 when he designed the Biosand water filter that has empowered the Maijuna with access to safe drinking water. Laurence co-founded OnePlanet so that he could continue to use his technical knowledge to empower developing communities.

Bryan Endress, Ph.D. – Board Member

Photo: Ken Bohn

Bryan is an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University, and holds degrees in Biology (B.A.), Forestry (M.S.) and Botany (Ph.D.). His work has focused on applied ecology, sustainable natural resource management and community-based conservation. Projects have spanned the globe and include work in Palau, Vietnam, Mexico, Peru, and elsewhere.

Mark Bowler, PH.D. – BOARD MEMBER

Photo: Mark Bowler

Mark is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Conservation Research of San Diego Zoo Global. His research has a broad base in conservation biology, focusing on human impacts on mammal populations and distributions in the Amazon region, and on primate ecology and behavior. He received his Ph.D. at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology on the behavioral ecology of the red uakari monkey and had a postdoctoral position at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, researching self-medication in capuchin monkeys, social learning and on the public’s engagement with science. His current research projects include camera trapping in rainforest canopies and on the ground to monitor wildlife populations in a three-dimensional environment, effects of logging and hunting on wildlife populations, and the social behavior of the red uakari monkey and evolution of its red face. He has worked extensively on community-based conservation projects along the Yavari and Napo Rivers (including Maijuna indigenous lands) of the Peruvian Amazon finding alternative incomes to logging and reducing the hunting of vulnerable species.

Elizabeth Benson, B.A. – Director of Field Operations

Photo: Forrest Lewis

Elizabeth began working with the Maijuna in 2018, concentrating on research and development of OnePlanet’s stingless beekeeping, ecotourism, and mammal conservation projects. Elizabeth is passionate about the intersections of traditional knowledge, ecology, and food systems. Before joining OnePlanet, Elizabeth studied ecology and evolution at Harvard University.

J. Carlos Garcia Morales, b.s. – Stingless Beekeeping Project Coordinator

Photo: Will Martinez

Carlos has successfully developed and implemented stingless beekeeping (meliponiculture) projects in a variety of indigenous and local communities throughout the Peruvian Amazon since 2011. A native of Spain, he moved to the Peruvian Amazon to dedicate himself to the sustainable development of the region after graduating from the University of Córdoba with a degree in agricultural engineering. He established (with the Asociación La Restinga) the first stingless beekeeping organization in the Peruvian Amazon and has traveled to Brazil, Ecuador, and Columbia to exchange experiences and lead stingless beekeeping workshops. 

Brian griffiths, ph.d. student – DIRECTOR of outreach

Brian is a Fulbright Fellow and Ph.D. student at George Mason University and holds degrees in Environmental Engineering (B.Eng) and Plant and Soil Sciences (B.S.) from the University of Delaware. He has previously worked with another indigenous group in Peru, the Ese’eja, for a project with National Geographic and has spent time conducting marine science research in the Caribbean Sea. Brian began working with the Maijuna in 2017 while helping teach a George Mason University field course on conservation and sustainability. He continues to work in Maijuna lands studying mammals and Maijuna hunting practices and managing outreach with a local ecotourism company. Brian is passionate about conservation advocacy and using digital storytelling methods to conserve biodiversity and cultures for generations to come.

Forrest Lewis, B.a. – Staff scientist

Photo: Elizabeth Benson

Forrest began working with OnePlanet and the Maijuna in 2019. He currently lives in Maijuna lands where he assists with ongoing community-based conservation and sustainability projects. Before joining OnePlanet, Forrest studied Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Science and Public Policy at Harvard University.

Jacob Wagner, B.S. – Creative DIRECTOr

Photo: Will Martinez

Jake is a documentary filmmaker and graphic artist originally from California that currently resides in Northern Virginia. He has a B.S. in TV, film and new media production from San Diego State University. Some achievements include selections in the Las Vegas Film Festival, San Diego State Film Festival, and a Student Emmy for performance in cinematography. He started with an early emphasis on camera work but has developed an intense interest in telling stories and conveying visual messages. From filming in the Amazon to creating chalk designs for a bustling brewery, Jake enjoys finding different ways to channel his creativity. An ongoing documentary project has allowed him to help the Maijuna indigenous group fight for their ancestral lands in the Peruvian Amazon as well as develop an interest in conservation and sustainability.  

Will Martinez, B.s. – Field Photographer

Photo: Will Martinez

Will is a freelance photographer and aspiring cinematographer currently living in West New York, New Jersey. He joined the United States Navy and served onboard the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) for five years. After leaving the Navy he attended George Mason University to study accounting and marketing. While a student there, he worked on various projects aimed at helping the Maijuna indigenous people. He has fallen in love with the Maijuna on his trips to Peru and is passionate about helping to protect their incredible culture and lands.