Our Team

Michael Gilmore, Ph.D.  President

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 New Century College (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 – 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 communities.

Elvis Valderrama, M.S.  Director of Field Operations

Born and raised in the Peruvian Amazon, Elvis has conducted scientific and community-based research in the Amazon Basin since 2003. He received his Master’s of Science (M.S.) degree from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2013. Since graduating, he has worked on a wide variety of community-based biological and cultural conservation projects in Maijuna lands.