New Executive Director: Manuel Alonso

Born in Spain, Manuel is a cultural anthropologist interested in the protection of cultural and biological diversity. He has been working with non-profit organizations for more than 20 years in Europe, Central and South America and the United States. 

A graduate of the Universidad Autónoma Madrid in 1976, he lived in Puerto Rico from 1977 to 1987, where he finished his doctoral research at the Center of Advanced Studies of the Caribbean while teaching humanities at the University of Puerto Rico and Caribbean University College.

After two years as a community conservation consultant in Seattle, in 1989 he moved to an isolated rural community in Costa Rica where he founded and directed the TUVA Foundation (United Lands of Neighbors for the Environment, preserving endangered rainforest

Over ten years, TUVA created both the 12,000 acre Osa National Wildlife Refuge and the Rio Oro National Marine Refuge by working with local communities, landowners and the Chiricano and Ngabe indigenous communities to establish protected areas, develop sustainable businesses and participate in scientific research and cultural preservation efforts.

Between 1990 and 2000, TUVA worked with more than 70 national and international organizations, including the United Nations Development Program, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, the German Technical Cooperation Agency and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, developing and maintaining a wide range of forest conservation demonstration projects that have been replicated around the world. This includes an award-winning model of low-impact natural rain forest management based on the economic benefits of light-gap management, harvesting trees that fall naturally in the forest. In this way, large areas of the critical buffer zone around the Corcovado National Park have been protected permanently.

Manuel also worked for two years with the Ethnnobiology Conservation Team in the Amazon where he helped develop an international network of indigenous groups (Ngabe-Guaymi, Embera, Ingano, Sequoia and Kofan), developing their role as community conservation partners and co-managers of protected areas.

After more than 20 years living in the tropics, Manuel returned to Spain where he directed for 10 years several European Social Fund (FSE) development projects building professional skills, cooperatives, social enterprises and small businesses in rural communities.

From 2011 to 2013 he worked with La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley as Development/Finance Director and interim Executive Director, leading a large organizational change process, while continuing to engage artists and communities around issues of social justice and cultural understanding through the arts. Currently he is the Executive Director of EarthTeam, a Berkeley based grass roots environmental education network linking 60 local high schools to inspire students to become the environmental leaders of the future undertaking energy, waste and climate change projects from a community based perspective.

Manuel has traveled and lectured around the world on issues ranging from the political ecology of the environmental movement to the cultural, social and economic impacts of the biodiversity crisis. He enjoys growing grapes and making wine at a small vineyard in the Sierra de Malaga, Andalucia. He has three children, born in different parts of the world: Lucas (Puerto Rico), Manuel (Seattle) and Catalina (Costa Rica). He lives with his wife Martha near Berkeley’s Tilden Park where he enjoys gardening and long walks with his dogs.