James R. Spotila, PhD
James R. Spotila is the distinguished Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He leads our Global Cause science team and also serves as Senior Science Advisor on Endangered Species Conservation for the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. A respected ecologist and physiologist, he is an expert on endangered sea turtles who has written two award winning books on sea turtles and more than 150 articles on mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles in leading scientific journals. Dr. Spotila helped create the field of biophysical ecology and is the founding President of the International Sea Turtle Society and of the Leatherback Trust, two organizations dedicated to conservation and research on sea turtles. He served for two years in the Clinton Administration as Chief Environmental Scientist of the Department of the Army.
Benjamin Kilham, PhD
Benjamin Kilham is an expert in bear behavior who has helped pioneer our unique approach to reintroducing pandas. He joined our Global Cause science team in China in 2008 and completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Science at Drexel University with his adviser Dr. James R. Spotila. With 25 years’ experience, Dr. Kilham has successfully reintroduced many orphaned black bear cubs into the wild. His approach is similar to that used in other reintroduction programs and is respected by international bear rehabilitation and reintroduction experts. Our science team is working with him on adapting his safe, innovative methodology to giant pandas. Dr. Kilham is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for the State of New Hampshire where he and his sister, Dr. Phoebe Kilham, operate the Kilham Bear Center. For more information on his work with black bears, see www.kilhambearcenter.org.
Jacob Owens, PhD
Jacob Owens became the Director of Conservation at the Los Angeles Zoo in mid- 2019. He had previously been a Global Cause Postdoctoral Fellow since 2014. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding has engaged Dr. Owens as a Research Associate to help its panda project science team develop an effective program to release giant pandas into the wild. He continues as a reintroduction team advisor. Dr. Owens completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Science at Drexel University in 2013 and is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission for both the Primate Specialist Group and the Reintroduction Specialist Group.
Ramana Callan, PhD
Ramana Callan was selected as a Global Cause Postdoctoral Fellow in 2016. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding later hired her as a Research Associate to help its project science team implement the soft release reintroduction method. She interacted with captive bred giant panda cubs at the Panda Valley research station in Dujiangyan and has done important research on panda habitat. Dr. Callan completed her Ph.D. in Forest Service at the University of Georgia in 2010 and has taught wildlife conservation at the SUNY ESF Ranger School in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Since returning from China in 2018, she has been on the faculty at Miami University in Ohio.
Frank Paladino, PhD
Frank Paladino is the Schrey Distinguished Professor of Biology at Indiana Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a recognized authority on leatherback sea turtles and has worked for many years with James R. Spotila on conservation efforts to preserve them. Together, he and Dr. Spotila were instrumental in creating the important marine national park at Las Baulas in Costa Rica. Dr. Paladino has conducted important research in the field of comparative vertebrate physiology and physiological ecology, ranging from studies of locomotion of birds to respiration of elephants and sea turtles and has published extensively.
Ronald Smith MS
Ron Smith is the lead environmental science educator and programs coordinator for the Haddonfield School District in New Jersey. He has worked with Global Cause to create online lessons focused on panda ecology, behavior, and conservation. He has held a wide variety of roles as an educator since 1993, and currently serves as the director of the Life Sciences Field Training Institute of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. In his various roles, he has developed environmental assessments and curriculum for colleges, high schools, and environmental conservation organizations throughout New Jersey. Mr. Smith completed his M.S. in Biology/Ecology at Rutgers University in 2004.
George B. Schaller, PhD
George Schaller, who has advised the Global Cause science team, is a distinguished mammologist, biologist, conservationist, naturalist and author. He is one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation, and is the world’s preeminent field biologist, having studied wildlife throughout Africa, Asia, and South America. In 1980, he became the first western scientist to work with giant pandas in the wild since 1939. Dr. Schaller has worked in China for 33 years on various wildlife investigation and research projects. He is author of the acclaimed book The Last Panda (1993) which documents the urgent need for conservation to help save giant pandas in the wild.
In April 2017, Dr. Schaller wrote to Dr. Zhang Zhihe, Director of the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, to express his support for our panda reintroduction project. As he explained:
“The giant pandas in your program do not become accustomed to everyone; they remain wary of strangers. However, because the pandas are familiar with the investigators they remain approachable in the wild. They can then be closely monitored and helped if they have problems.
I have visited your excellent facility in Panda Valley, and noted how well the pandas are cared for and adapted to interacting with the Chinese team and Drs. Owens and Callan. Released animals will have the best possible chance for survival. And they will provide valuable information of the kind that this precious animal, this natural treasure of China, is assured a future.
I congratulate you on your dedication to this well-planned, long-term project, and wish it all continuing success.”
The following month, Global Cause arranged meeting in New Hampshire for Dr. Schaller, Dr. Zhang, Dr. Kilham, and our president John Spotila.