Karen Leavelle MSc – President
Karen is the founder and current director of Osa Birds: Research and Conservation. Karen has an MSc degree in Avian Ecology and Natural Resources from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and has worked in the field of avian research and conservation for over 19 years. She has dedicated her career to the study and conservation of threatened and/or endangered birds throughout the US and tropical America and has a particular interest in Neotropical migratory birds and the factors that limit migrant populations while on their wintering grounds. She started her career working with California Condors in the Grand Canyon and went on to work with neotrops in the southeast United States. Her later graduate research took her on an adventure into Cuba working with the local community to study the endangered endemic Blue-headed Quail Dove through the University of Nebraska. In 2010 Karen went to Costa Rica to work as the Resident Ornithologist for Osa Conservation on several projects including tracking the Yellow-billed Cotinga to determine seasonal movements and spatial distribution on the Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica is the place that originally sparked her interest in birds many years ago, and has now become the place where she is entirely dedicated to avian research, education and conservation. CV
Andrea Johnson – Vice President
Andrea has worked for 20 years on wildlife ecology, conservation, forest management, and political activism. She received a B.A. from Harvard University and a Master’s from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. After early work on orangutans in Indonesia and macaws in Peru, Andrea spent six years with the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency, leading EIA’s campaign to expose illegal timber trade and corruption, and push for stronger forest and climate policies. In 2012, Andrea moved to Costa Rica, where she has worked with organizations including CATIE, Central America’s pre-eminent forestry, and agriculture institution. Currently a consultant to NGOs and companies, Andrea divides her time between San José and the Osa where she is restoring 12 hectares of cattle pasture to natural ecosystems, with collaboration from Osa Birds. Her favorite flier is the Swallow-tailed Kite.
Carissa Cox – Secretary
Bio coming soon…
Pilar Bernal Castro – Treasurer
A biologist by profession, Pilar has promoted environmental awareness and awareness through the design and implementation of environmental education programs in the educational centers and communities of the Osa Peninsula. She has worked with Osa Birds since 2015, starting with the implementation of a participatory science project as a biodiversity conservation tool. Currently, she is the coordinator of projects and activities of the organization, such as the Christmas Bird Count and the Migratory Bird Festival. Pilar has taken on administrative tasks and is currently overseeing project accounting and budgets.
Janina’s background is in Environmental Studies and Biology – she has a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University, Toronto, Canada and a Bachelor of Science from Bielefeld University, Germany. In her Master’s research, she focused on tropical ecology and conservation and studied for 6 months in Costa Rica, and wrote her Master’s thesis on the impact of hunting and pet trade on wildlife. She decided to stay in Costa Rica to make a difference in 2011 working in the Costa Rican tourism and volunteer industry. This inspired her to start her own volunteer company Green Life Volunteers at the beginning of 2012. She has been supporting Osa Birds with volunteers since around 2015. Janina works also full time as a website developer and has been doing frequent redesigns and website updates to Osa Birds website. She is also on an advisory committee for social media and publicity.
Dionisio Paniagua Castro
Nito is a professional Naturalist and Tourism Guide locally known for his unsurpassed knowledge in all Costa Rican fauna, especially birds. At a very young age, he developed an interest in insects, especially for army ants. Such was his passion and obsession for ants that his brothers and friends began to call him “oso hormiguero”, which is Spanish for “anteater”. He took his passion seriously and in the year 2000, he received a degree in nature tourism from the Colegio Universitario de Alajuela. In 2003, he worked for Stanford University on an avian research study bird species composition in coffee plantations which took place in his hometown of San Vito, Costa Rica which sparked in him new interest and passion for birds. Since then, he has worked as a Nature Guide with an emphasis on bird watching on the Osa Peninsula. Whenever possible, he travels to other countries in order to increase his knowledge of all flora and fauna. In his home community, Nito has dedicated himself to environmental education, working with area schools and colleges, giving talks that focus on bird preservation and environmental conservation. He shares his enthusiasm and knowledge of the natural world with others and hopes to inspire in them a love and respect for nature.
Nina Koch – Vocal
Nina Koch is a retired teacher, living in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Prior to teaching, Nina worked at the National Outdoor Leadership School and The Northwoods Resource Center where she was a naturalist and skills instructor. She received a BS in Forestry at the University of Montana – Missoula and an MS in Science Education of the University of Colorado – Boulder. In her retirement, she serves on many executive boards including Osa Birds. All are conservation organizations with the exception of being on the board of the local food pantry and homeless shelter. When she is not at meetings, she is often kayaking, birding, or traveling. Nina serves on the board as well as the Education Advisory Committee.