Bat Conservation International has a new leader. Nina Fascione, Vice President for Field Conservation Programs at Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C., and a conservation professional for 24 years, becomes Executive Director of BCI on March 1. She succeeds Merlin Tuttle, who founded BCI in 1982 and built it into the world's foremost organization for bat conservation before stepping down last May 31.
"I have known and admired Merlin for many years, and I am thrilled at this opportunity to help protect his legacy and build on it as Bat Conservation International expands into the future," Nina said. "Merlin cultivated public support for BCI and for bat conservation by correcting myths about bats and explaining their many benefits to ecosystems and economies. I will continue those efforts as we grow our membership, build enthusiasm among our supporters, and create solid partnerships and collaborations to enhance BCI's mission around the world."
"Stepping back from BCI after all these years has been difficult," Merlin said, "but Nina Fascione is an excellent choice to lead the organization into the future and I look forward to working with her. I wish only the best for Nina and for BCI in the years to come."
Nina, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in applied anthropology from the University of Maryland, joined Defenders of Wildlife as a program associate in 1995 and rose quickly to leadership positions. In her current position, she manages the largest division at the nonprofit – the fifth-largest environmental organization in the United States, with more than 500,000 members nationwide. She oversees 30 staffers at nine regional offices committed to innovative approaches to endangered-species and habitat conservation.
"We are very excited about Nina's enthusiasm and her vast experience in the conservation of mammals and especially her interest in bats during her many years of service with Defenders of Wildlife," said John Mitchell, Chair of BCI's Board of Trustees. "Nina was unanimously selected by the Trustees after a six-month search that considered a number of exceptional candidates. We are convinced by her track record that she will lead BCI to new achievements and even greater stature in the years ahead."
Mitchell also praised BCI's Management Team for leading BCI through this difficult transition, "and especially the performance and tireless dedication of Dave Waldien, who served admirably as Acting Executive Director while still working as BCI's Co-director of programs. Dave's leadership was invaluable during this period."
"I know I speak for the Management Team and all of BCI in expressing our pleasure at the Board's selection of Nina as our Executive Director," Waldien said. "Nina brings new skills and ideas to lead us into the future while recognizing and valuing the many past accomplishments of BCI under Merlin's founding guidance. We are confident in Nina's leadership and totally committed to making the next 27 years even more successful than the first!"
Nina brings a rich range of wildlife experience to BCI. Internationally, she was an adviser to such initiatives as a lion project in northern Kenya, a koala-conservation summit in Australia and zoo-research training in Taiwan. She co-founded the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders program, which provides two years of intensive training for young professionals in wildlife management and conservation. She also worked with a coalition of groups to draft and seek congressional support for the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act to fund the conservation of 15 imperiled species.
And, Nina notes, "I have nearly 25 years of experience in bat conservation and education." She was co-chair of the American Zoo and Aquarium's Bat Taxon Advisory Group in 1991-97, coordinating strategic planning and implementation of conservation and breeding programs for threatened bats. In that role, she wrote an article, "The Evolving Role of American Zoos in Bat Conservation," that appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of BATS magazine. (You can read Nina's article at www.batcon.org/nina.)
She has worked in various aspects of bat-conservation education and outreach and participated in a weeklong field-training workshop conducted by bat biologist Brock Fenton in Canada. Nina currently leads Defenders of Wildlife's work on White-nose Syndrome.
Bat Conservation International is moving into the future with confidence and enthusiasm as Nina Fascione takes the helm. With the continued support of our members, friends and partners, we will continue to make a real difference for bat conservation around the world.