Women for Conservation

Our Team

Sara Inés Lara
Founder & Executive Director

Born in 1973 with indigenous ancestry, Sara Ines Lara grew up in a small village in the Andes of Colombia. Throughout her childhood, Sara’s guiding light and inspiration was her mother, a woman loved and  respected in the local communities for her involvement with marginalized women. Sadly, her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 37 and died several years later. Following this tragedy, Sara was subjected to physical, sexual, and psychological abuse from her father.

Sara found in nature indescribable healing to her wounds and used it as a therapeutic tool to recover from childhood trauma. In 2003, following her passion for nature and wildlife conservation, she became Executive Director of Fundación ProAves, a leading conservation organization in Colombia. Under her leadership, the organization established and managed 17 nature reserves to save endangered species. In 2004, Sara combined her love of nature with her drive to empower women and started the initiative Women for Conservation. This program quickly spread to communities neighboring ProAves’ nature reserves, where local women learned about the importance of safeguarding their natural environments. With this knowledge, they were motivated to develop projects that reduced deforestation, such as producing eco-friendly artisan products and reducing their usage of wood-fueled stoves.

Sara continued to develop the Women for Conservation program as Vice President of International Programs at American Bird Conservancy and then at Permian Global. Sara’s principal interests include empowering women, preventing species extinction, safeguarding tropical habitats, and alleviating poverty. It is her life mission to protect the natural world so that we all may have the opportunity to heal through nature.  Sara has been recognized as One in a Hundred Great Latin American Women by Billiken Magazine, read more about it here.

Isabella Cortes Lara
Co-founder & Director of Conservation

Isabella is a graduate from West Virginia University who is passionate about conserving the environment while enhancing people’s well-beings and livelihoods. As a lifelong enthusiast of conservation, she has been involved with numerous community-level projects that link the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity with economic development. Isabella is an environmental professional with diverse experience, including community leadership, mobilization and organization of projects. Additionally, an endangered species of hummingbird is named after Isabella, Eriocnemis isabellae. An ambassador of the species, she promotes the conservation of the hummingbird, which is also known as the Gorgeted Puffleg or Zamarrito del Pinche. As a student, she encouraged peers to participate in outreach programs with Women for Conservation and presented different projects for women’s empowerment as a guest speaker for the International Conservation class.

Emily Knudson
Communications & Outreach Manager

Emily (she/they, ella/elle) is an activist and communications specialist with over 7 years of experience working with international grassroots organizations promoting environmental education, women’s rights, and intersectional social justice advocacy. Trained in Environmental Studies at Augsburg University in Minneapolis and International Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Granada in Spain, Emily is thrilled to contribute their expertise to Women for Conservation’s mission.  Prior to joining Women for Conservation, Emily worked as a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil and a Communications & Education Specialist for an Environmental Justice non-profit in New York City. 

Deanna Alderson

As an experienced writer and editor, Deanna (she/her) is excited to bring her passion for protecting the environment and improving the lives of women to her role as grant writer. She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she studied the impact of conservation projects and eco-tourism on indigenous women in Peru. She previously worked on grant proposals for a large animal shelter in Southern California and also raised funds for a community organization that provides support to families experiencing housing instability. Deanna is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science at the University of Idaho, with a focus on natural resource management and policy. In her free time, she volunteers with ecological restoration projects at the coastal wetlands near her home.