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TNC newsletter 10 jan 2006

A profile of Silvia Ziller, coordinator, South America Invasive Species Program, Brazil

Working for the largest environmental nonprofit in the world keeps Silvia Ziller busy—but as we all know, if you love something enough, you will inevitably find time to do more. In addition to working for The Nature Conservancy, Silvia is also the founder and executive director of Instituto Hórus de Desenvolvimento e Conservação Ambiental, or the Horus Institute for Environmental Conservation and Development in Brazil. Before she became a part of the Conservancy, her interest and concern with the growing problem of invasive species in Brazil caused her to take action.
As a natural scientist, Silvia has spent most of her life doing field work and vegetation surveys. In 1996 while working as a private consultant, she observed Brazilian grasslands speckled with non-native pine trees. She realized that if something was not done to curb the invasion of the non-native pines, it would become an even bigger problem. When Silvia enrolled in graduate school the following year, she chose to study invasive species for her doctorate, despite the lack of information on invasive species in Brazil at the time. By the time she was finished with her doctorate, Silvia felt compelled to do more than just write a paper. When she began to work for a nonprofit partner of The Nature Conservancy in 1999, she met John Randall, who at the time was director of the Wildland Invasive Species Team. John provided her with materials and connections to the world of invasive species.
In 2001, Silvia became an Ashoka Fellow and for three years worked to pursue her creative idea of starting a nonprofit organization. The resulting organization, the Horus Institute, focuses on the study of invasive species in Brazil in the attempt to educate the importance of healthy ecosystems. The Nature Conservancy works frequently with Horus in Brazil, most recently partnering on a national survey on endangered species with Brazil’s minister of the environment.