Trust for Conservation Innovation Leadership


Laura Deaton, Executive Director

Laura joined the Trust for Conservation Innovation (T4CI) in 2013, and has led the organization through unprecedented growth—more than doubling the number of projects in T4CI’s portfolio and increasing annual revenue from $6 million to more than $18 million. Trained as a lawyer and with 20 years of nonprofit capacity-building experience, she brings strategic, financial, and operational leadership to T4CI’s growing and diverse portfolio of innovative local, regional, national and international projects. Earlier in her diverse nonprofit career, she directed national policy research and writing for a “think tank” project of a large private foundation, led the start-up of a new community-based nonprofit formed to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty through place-based wrap-around services, served as the Managing Director of a women's health center during a time of rapid growth, and played an integral role in leading the turn-around of a struggling regional symphony orchestra. She has a J.D. from Duke University School of Law and also holds a B.A. from Boston University College of Arts and Sciences.

Administration and Finance

Carolyn Schour, Finance Director

Carolyn is responsible for the organization's accounting functions. She has provided accounting services for three decades at nonprofit organizations devoted to immigrant and refugee services, literacy and education reform, and social services for children and families. Carolyn has a B.A. from Pitzer College, a teaching credential from Cal State East Bay and a Certificate in Accounting from Golden Gate University.

Jessica Le, Accounting Manager

Jessica joined T4CI in July 2015. She manages T4CI's expense processing and general ledger, and works closely with the Finance Director to ensure the integrity of consolidated organizational financial statements. Prior to T4CI, Jessica did accounting work at local for-profit and non-profit entities; she has a B.S. in Accounting from Golden Gate University and will receive her M.S. in Accounting from Golden Gate University in 2017.

Tenzin Sherpa, Accounting Associate

Tenzin joined T4CI in December 2016 and works with the Accounting Manager to process incoming and outgoing funds. Tenzin brings many years of accounting experience to T4CI, including 10 years at a recreational equipment company as well as recent experience developing an accounting system for a small social venture enterprise partnering with entrepreneurs in Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan and India. He earned a B.A. in International Business and Management from Dickinson College.

Communications and Outreach

Shannon Cherry, Communications and Outreach Director

Shannon is responsible for communications and outreach for T4CI and advisory support for its portfolio of projects. She has served as chief creative officer for her own communications agency since 2006, where she developed and implemented comprehensive marketing and PR campaigns, and provided marketing advisory support to businesses, startups and nonprofits. Prior to her own consulting and agency work, Shannon served in several other PR/development roles and started her career as an on-air anchor/reporter for an ABC affiliate in NY. She is accredited in public relations and holds a M.A. in Communications Administration from the University of Memphis and a B.A. in Communications from SUNY Geneseo.

Fundraising Advisory

Alice Ng, Senior Advisor, Fundraising

Alice provides consultative support in the areas of fundraising and development for the organization’s projects. Hailing from NYC, Alice brings over 16 years of experience in the nonprofit space. In 2003, she co-founded the program Animal Balance which successfully launched as its own nonprofit and currently operates in seven countries around the world. From there, Alice moved on to become the US Director for Animals Asia where she established and managed their North American operations. Most recently, she served as the Development Director for the Coral Reef Alliance. Alice holds a BS in Management Information Systems.

Grants and Contracts Management

Kvetka Smith, Grants and Contracts Director

Kvetka is responsible for financial and project-based grant management through the entire grant life cycle from proposal to close including budgeting, procurement, sub-grantee due diligence, financial management, and financial reporting. She joined the T4CI team in 2015 after relocating to the U.S. from Geneva, Switzerland where for the past decade she served as the Finance Officer for UNITAID, a project of the World Health Organization. She has an M.S. in Finance from Slovak Agricultural University, and an M.S. in Business Management from the University of Geneva.

Human Resources

Kristin Fischer, Human Resources Director

Kristin not only fulfills the traditional HR role for the organization, but also works as T4CI’s talent developer, capacity-builder, and executive steward of our most important resources – our team members. She has worked in the human resources and leadership field for more than thirteen years, including at an area law firm and restaurant software company. Kristin holds a Bachelors of Arts in History from Kenyon College, as well as a Grande Diploma in Culinary Arts at Ecole Ritz Escoffier.

Projects Management

Ty Walker, Project Operations Manager

Ty focuses on key project-facing areas and providing critical support for technology and data maintenance across several key database systems. With several years of for profit and nonprofit experience in office operations, administration, and project management, she has a focus on technology and user experience design. Ty has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and is pursuing a M.S. in Integrated Design, Business and Technology at the University of Southern California.

Board of Directors

John David Claussen, Board Chair

Program Officer, Conservation & Science, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

John Claussen is the Western Pacific program officer at the Packard Foundation. Before joining Packard in 2012 he was a partner at Mazars Starling Resources, a global business advisory firm (formerly Starling Resources, a firm he co-founded in 2004). He has advised and designed environmental, conservation and economic development strategies with business, government, and non-profit clients throughout North America and Asia for more than 15 years. A resident of Indonesia from 2004 to 2012, he has particularly deep experience in Southeast Asia. Previously, he was a senior associate at California Environmental Associates and worked for a number of high-tech manufacturing companies in the Silicon Valley. He also co-founded the non-profit Conservation and Community Investment Forum. He holds a BS in biology from Valparaiso University, Indiana.

Ryan Cabinte, Treasurer

Associate Dean of the MPA and Dual Degree Programs, Presidio Graduate School

Ryan Cabinte is the Associate Dean of the MPA and Dual Degree Programs at Presidio. He also teaches Market Failure and the Regulatory Environment in both degree programs. His academic areas of interest include innovations in corporate structure, law and governance as well as novel approaches to moving capital to mission-driven organizations. Before Presidio, Ryan worked with the Amada Group, an impact investing private equity firm focused on sustainable businesses. He also has nearly a decade of experience as a litigator. His practice areas included environmental law, consumer protection, toxic torts, securities, corporate and fund formation and intellectual property. Ryan has also served as a strategic consultant and legal advisor to numerous social entrepreneurs and sustainability ventures. Ryan is a graduate of Yale University, Boston University School of Law, and Presidio Graduate School.

Melissa Beard Clack, Secretary

Director of Recruiting Services, California Environmental Associates

Melissa Clack brings more than 15 years of consulting and recruitment experience in conservation and clean-tech sectors. Prior to rejoining CEA in June 2008, Melissa ran her own recruitment business and has had extensive experience in running small businesses and nonprofit efforts, providing expertise in human resource management, insurance and liability issues, and fiscal oversight. Formerly, she was the President of the Marin Council of California Cooperative Nursery Schools, and assisted the Chief Financial Officer of the International 1990 Earth Day event. She also ran the financial and human resource operations of California Environmental Associates.

Bernd Cordes, Board Member


Bernd Cordes is a consultant and is the former Senior Research Program Manager (Oceans) for Vulcan, Inc. and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Prior to that, Bernd served as the program officer for the Western Pacific program of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In this role, Bernd managed the Packard Foundation’s coastal marine conservation investments in seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region. He was responsible for implementing a grantmaking strategy focused on the conservation and sustainable use of specific coastal habitats in the world’s center of biological diversity and on increasing the number of individuals in the region with the resources to sustain the effort over the long-term. Bernd holds an A.B. in diplomacy and world affairs from Occidental College and a M.A. public policy studies and southeast Asian studies from the University of Michigan.

Sam Goldman, Board Member

California Program Director, Conservation Lands Foundation

Sam Goldman has been the California Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation since 2011. Previously, Sam coordinated California wilderness campaigns for the Wilderness Society for four years. He worked to help pass the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which protected 2.2 million acres of wilderness across the country. Prior to working on wilderness designation campaigns, Sam worked as a consultant in Washington, D.C. where he directed field operations and online advocacy campaigns for national environmental groups. Sam also has extensive experience on electoral campaigns and with training volunteers, conservationists, and organizers. Sam is active in the Jewish community and serves on the board of Wilderness Torah and is a member of the Wexner Heritage Program. A graduate of Bates College and Green Corps, field school for environmental organizing, Sam is an avid backcountry skier, hiker, and loves exploring remote regions of California and the West.

Heather King, Board Member


Heather is a consultant and is the former Director of U.S. marketing and business development for Eight Inc., a global design strategy firm that is most known for its work developing Apple’s retail stores, Virgin Airlines, Tesla and more. Heather has over 15 years in senior level operating and consulting roles with market pioneers in the tech and clean tech worlds including Apple, Disney, Discovery, Oracle, Scholastic, Waste Management, Autodesk and EnPhase. Heather has also been active as a producer and writer in media. She produced Day in the Life of Africa, an ambitious, multi-media photo documentary and was a featured blogger following Fortune 500 CEOs for major media outlets including Reuters and GreenBiz, and an InterNews Fellow at the Global Climate Talks in 2010 and 2012. She holds both a BA and MBA from Dartmouth College.

Alexis Krivkovich, Board Member

Partner, McKinsey & Company

Alexis Krivkovich has served a broad range of clients across the financial services, industrial and nonprofit sectors on issues related to strategic growth and transformational change. Currently at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, Alexis received an M.B.A. from Stanford Graduate School of Business where she was an Arjay Miller Scholar. She also holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Economics from Stanford University.

Robin Nakao, Board Member

COO & CFO, Robertson Stephens Advisors LLC

Robin Nakao has been involved with TCI since 2007 as Executive Director and CFO and joined the Board in 2013. With more than 25 years of financial management and leadership experience, Robin is currently the President of Robertson Stephens Asset Management and has held executive management positions at several large investment and securities firms including Charles Schwab & Co, Robertson Stephens and ING. Robin has also served as a CFO and financial consultant to various environmental organizations. Robin began her career at Deloitte, an accounting & consulting firm. She earned an MBA from the Haas Graduate School of Business of the University California at Berkeley and a BS in Business Administration from University of Southern California.

Board Members Emeritus

We are grateful to the following Board Members for their prior service:

Harriet Barlow

Founding Director, Blue Mountain Center and Director, HKH Foundation

Gigi Coe

Founding Board Chair, The Bay School and Board Member, Hanford Challenge

Jill Kauffman Johnson

Director, Sustainability, Solazyme, Inc.

Leslie Leslie

Former Grant Director, Fred Gellert Family Foundation, Board Member, International Rivers

Andreas Merkl

President & CEO, The Ocean Conservancy

Joseph Piazza

Chairman & CEO, Robertson Stephens LLC

Elena Schmid

Community Volunteer

Rachel Wagner

Managing Director, Principled Solutions, Inc.

Brad Whitehead

President, The Fund for Our Economic Future