At Wild Earth Allies, we are governed by an active Board of Directors who bring depth of expertise in science, law, finance, art and philanthropy to ensure we operate to highest standards in pursuit of our mission.
Clea Newman Soderlund, Chair
As the youngest daughter of the legendary acting couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Clea’s parents not only encouraged her to find her passion in life and pursue it with fervor, but they taught her the importance and power of giving back. Those two lessons merged for Clea when she discovered her passion in life was philanthropy and working to advance the causes and organizations she cared about.
In addition to her role as Board Chair at Wild Earth Allies, Clea serves as the proud Ambassador and spokesperson for SeriousFun Children’s Network (SeriousFun), helping to elevate awareness of the mission and advance the legacy of her father and SeriousFun founder, Paul Newman. SeriousFun is a global network of 30 camps and programs that provide life-changing experiences to children living with serious illnesses and their family members, totally free of charge.
Clea also sits on the Board of the American Institute of Neuro Integrative Development (AIND), an organization whose mission is to enhance the lives of children and adults with neurobiologically based learning; as well as developing and maintaining outreach, educational, recreational, and therapeutic programs while staying current with clinical and medical research.
Clea holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. She resides in Fairfield, Connecticut, with her husband Kurt Soderlund. A serious horseback rider since the age of six, Clea is still an avid rider competing in show jumping events throughout the United States. She also enjoys yoga, running, driving anything fast with four wheels, and walking her rescue dog, Teddy, on the beach.
Virginia M. Busch, Vice Chair
Virginia Busch grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. As part of the Busch family, she has always had a connection to wildlife and animals through the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Parks. For eight years, she served as Conservation Ambassador for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens as well as President of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. In her role, she assisted in the planning and execution of the parks’ expanding conservation programs, including development and oversight of partnerships to support collaborative research projects. She also served as media spokesperson for environmental efforts at the parks.
Since January of 2012, Virginia has led the Endangered Wolf Center as Chief Executive Officer. The Center’s mission is to preserve and protect Mexican gray wolves, red wolves, and other wild canid species with purpose and passion through carefully managed breeding, reintroduction, and inspiring education programs. The organization continues to assist U.S. Fish and Wildlife in the recovery efforts of the critically endangered Mexican wolf and red wolf.
Virginia contributes to conservation and animal welfare at home and abroad as Chair of the National Council and board member for World Wildlife Fund, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, and the Humane Society of Missouri.
Virginia earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with an emphasis in animal behavior from Washington University in St. Louis.
Steven Rosenthal, Secretary
Steven Rosenthal is a litigator who has handled more than sixty appeals in various appellate courts, including four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Among his noteworthy cases, he successfully represented environmental groups suing to challenge a federally-funded road construction project through El Yunque National Forest, a richly biodiverse tropical rain forest in Puerto Rico, and secured an injunction preventing the project from going forward. Steven also represented Keiko, the male orca that was the star of the movie Free Willy, in securing his transfer to specially-built facilities in Oregon from an amusement park in Mexico. He also successfully represented, at the request of the American Kennel Association, the owner of a pit bull dog who challenged a Denver city ordinance that banned ownership of pit bulls in the city.
Steven has long experience with nonprofits, having served as the President and trustee of the largest family social service agency in the Greater Washington area and as an adviser on legal and policy matters to other organizations. He is a Life Member of the American Law Institute.
Steven received an A.B. degree magna cum laude from Dartmouth College and a J.D. degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. He served as law clerk to the late Judge Malcolm Richard Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, one of the nation’s leading authorities on international law.
C. Jonathan Fischer, Treasurer
Born and raised in Madison, Connecticut, C. Jonathan Fischer currently resides in Miami Beach, Florida. He is a founding partner of Stone Harbor Investment Partners and, for over twenty years, has specialized in the pension industry.
He graduated with a degree in History from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1981. Jonathan began his career as a consultant and eventually headed the global sales effort for Gordon, Haskett & Company in Stamford, Connecticut. Later, after representing Citigroup Asset Management as a Managing Director of Institutional Sales, he became a founding partner of Stone Harbor Investment Partners.
His active interests include skiing, climbing, hiking, kayaking, and travel. He has climbed several notable peaks in Europe, North America, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Russia, New Zealand, and Africa. In addition to Wild Earth Allies, his non-profit involvement has included participation with the efforts of The Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, The Appalachian Mountain Club, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Mohamed I. Bakarr, Ph.D.
Mohamed I. Bakarr is a Sierra Leone national who has worked in the environment and conservation field for over three decades. His expertise covers a broad range of issues related to natural resource management in the tropics, with a focus on the linkages between biodiversity conservation, agriculture, and human livelihoods in rainforest regions.
Mohamed is currently Lead Environmental Specialist in the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Secretariat, where he oversees all major GEF programs designed to advance holistic and integrated solutions to global environmental challenges.
Prior to joining the GEF, Mohamed was with Conservation International (CI) as Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science. While at CI, he served as Deputy Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and played an important role in organizing the 5th World Congress on Protected Areas. Mohamed also served for four years as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Assistant Director General at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mohamed holds a B.Sc. in biological sciences from Njala University in Sierra Leone and an M.S. and Ph.D in tropical biology from the University of Miami in Florida. He has authored/co-authored more than three dozen peer-reviewed publications and contributed to major global assessments, including the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the International Assessment of Agriculture Science and Technology Development, and the 4th Global Environment Outlook. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Natural Resources Management at Njala University.
David Hamlin is a multi-Emmy and Pulitzer Prize-winning media executive and filmmaker. He’s responsible for 250+ award-winning, commercially successful landmark Specials, Long Form Series, Digital Shorts, and VR Experiences for broadcasters, including National Geographic, NBC, PBS, TBS, Smithsonian Channel, USA TODAY NETWORK, Google/YouTube, and numerous global foundations and NGO’s.
For two decades, David served as an Executive Producer and Writer/Producer/Director at National Geographic Television. David’s work has received numerous international awards, including two Emmy wins and eight nominations. He’s led production crews of 100+ in environments ranging from the Polar Regions to the Amazon to the Himalaya to the Congo Basin. His work focuses on science, natural history, conservation, and social justice. Hamlin’s landmark series, Great Migrations, remains the highest-rated Natural History program in the history of National Geographic Television.
David also produced almost 100 AR/VR/XR projects, including The Protectors, filmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This project was co-produced with Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), National Geographic, and Here Be Dragons. The Protectors premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was introduced by Hillary Clinton.
Currently, David is working for Gannett, America’s largest newspaper company, to launch a new film/television production studio, Blue Point Originals. He holds an MFA from USC School of Film/Television and a BA from Dartmouth College.
Jo-Elle Mogerman, Ph.D.
Jo-Elle Mogerman is a native Chicagoan who grew up with a love of animals. Jo-Elle applied that love to her academic pursuits, obtaining a B.A. in biology from Macalester College, an M.A. in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in biology with a focus on foraging ecology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition, she is currently adjunct at DePaul University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, teaching an online course that engages students as citizen scientists.
Currently, she serves as the first African American female zoo director as the Director-Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Park. There she is leading the effort to build from scratch a new safari experience and animal science and conservation breeding facility. At John G. Shedd Aquarium she oversaw the vision and strategic direction for all learning and community programs. She brings extensive executive experience in informal education and community relations and is well-versed on topics related to the conservation and zoological community through nearly 14 years at Chicago Zoological Society’s Brookfield Zoo.
Jo-Elle has served as chair of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Diversity Committee, a member of the AZA Ethics Committee and Executive Council of Chicago Wilderness. She currently serves as an executive committee member of North County Inc. and chair of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. She is an Illinois Nature Preserves commissioner and chair of the AZA Wildlife Conservation Committee. She has garnered more than 10 awards for the organizations, programs and projects under her lead.
Sophie Oppenheimer grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma and developed a deep love for nature from a young age. She has had the opportunity to travel the world and explore different cultures, which has helped to foster an appreciation for diverse perspectives. As a Trustee of the Reed Jules Oppenheimer Foundation, Sophie has been involved with philanthropy most of her life and finds joy in supporting individuals and organizations working to make the world a better place.
Sophie has a background in food systems, applied nutrition, and public health. She believes that people can live in harmony with nature to produce their food – and that transitioning to a nature-based approach to agriculture is crucial to improving human and environmental health. She has spent the majority of her professional career supporting people and organizations focused on improving livelihoods, increasing food security, and restoring natural ecosystems.
Sophie is the Executive Director of the Valley Foundation and the Co-Founder/CEO of the Earth Allies Restoration Network (EARN). Prior to these roles, Sophie worked as a professional researcher and evaluation consultant for twelve years. Sophie holds an MPH and an MS from Tufts University, as well as a BA from the University of Colorado Boulder. Sophie also received her official permaculture design certificate in February 2020.
Beth Ruoff worked at senior levels with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide for more than 25 years. A member of Ogilvy’s Strategy & Planning team, Beth was integral to shaping communications strategies and programs for corporate, nonprofit, and government clients. She has a particular expertise in awareness building and behavior change and developed innovative programs that address such topics as heart disease, sexual health, education, and environmental sustainability.
Beth was the creative force behind the National Institute of Health’s campaign, The Heart Truth, also known as “The Red Dress Campaign,” which made that garment an iconic symbol for women and heart disease. In addition, Beth helped lead the development of Ogilvy’s corporate responsibility (CR) offering, working closely with agency clients to develop CR strategies and surrounding marketing and communications programs.
She also brings professional, real-world experience to Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches a graduate course in corporate responsibility.
Beth is active in the nonprofit community, serving on several boards and providing branding and communications expertise to a diverse set of organizations. She holds a BA in graphic design from Pennsylvania State University and currently resides in Washington, D.C.
Karen B. Winnick
Karen Winnick is an author and illustrator of children’s picture books, including How Lucky Got His Shoe and Goodnight, Baby Animals, You’ve Had a Busy Day, Gemina, the Crooked Neck Giraffe, Hank the Ballpark Pup, Lucy’s Cave, Mr. Lincoln’s Whiskers, Sybil’s Night Ride, A Year Goes Round, Barn Sneeze, The Night of the Fireflies, Cassie’s Sweet Berry Pie, and Sandro’s Dolphin and Patch & The Strings. Her paintings have been exhibited in local galleries, and her poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies.
Karen also serves as President of the Board of Commissioners for the Los Angeles Zoo, the Board of Trustees Emeritus at Brown University, and on the Board of the Lange Foundation, an animal rescue group.
She and her husband Gary, Chairman of Winnick and Company, support many health, education, and animal charities.
Karen received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University. She also studied in Florence, Italy, at NYU, the School of Visual Arts, and at the University of California, Los Angeles.