Vandal Alumna Wins Prestigious Conservation Award
By Jill Maxwell
Vandal alumna, Lisel Alamilla ('95) has been awarded the 2012 Whitley Fund for Nature award, one of world’s most prestigious conservation awards. This is shaping up to be a very big year for her. In March, she was appointed Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, Sustainable Development and Indigenous Affairs in her native Belize. She is the first woman ever chosen for that post.
The conservation prize was awarded to Minister Alamilla for her inspirational conservation leadership, as executive director of the Ya'axché Conservation Trust. Founded in 1998, the Trust manages two pieces of pristine natural forests in the Maya Golden Landscape region of southern Belize.
Alamilla’s career has been marked by a commitment to sustainable development and a passion for conservation. In remarks made upon receiving the award in London, Alamilla said that, early in her career, she learned the importance of being the voice of the voiceless, and making the invisible people visible. “By definition,” she added, “wildlife has no voice. I wanted to give it a voice.”
She earned a master’s degree in Conservation Social Sciences in the College of Natural Resources.
Alamilla was one of 15 students from Central America who participated in the Regional Office of Central American Programs (ROCAP) Scholars program. The program, directed by Sam Ham, conservation social sciences professor, was financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Regional Office of Central American Programs. The ROCAP Scholars program still is touted in international development circles as one of the most successful degree programs ever conducted at a single university.