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Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee is an independent unit within the Wyss Academy for Nature. Reporting to the Board of the Wyss Academy, its task is to advise and challenge us: It provides outside views, innovative ideas and critical reflections in support of the Wyss Academy’s development, including its projects and incubators. The Advisory Committee plays an important role in ensuring that the Wyss Academy remains an impact-driven organization. Advisory Committee members are experts in a range of different areas relevant to our work, including science, nature conservation, land use, energy, indigenous knowledge and societal transformation.


Valérie Courtois specializes in indigenous issues, forest ecology and ecosystem-based management and planning. Valérie Courtois has served as Director of the Canadian Indigenous Leadership Initiative since 2013. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation du Mushuau–nipi, a non-profit organization that encourages cultural and professional exchanges on the George River. Valérie Courtois has served as a forestry advisor to the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador, as a forestry planner for the Innu Nation and as a consultant in Aboriginal forestry, including certification, spatial planning and caribou planning. In 2007, she was awarded the James M. Kitz award from the Canadian Institute of Forestry for her early-career contributions to the forestry profession. She is registered as a professional forester and holds a degree in forestry sciences from the University of Moncton.

Dr. Maja Göpel is a political economist and an important voice advocating for a sustainable transformation of society. A bestselling author (“Unsere Welt neu denken”) and frequent speaker, Dr. Göpel’s work addresses the intersection of economy, politics and society. From 2017 to 2020, Maja Göpel was Secretary-General of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). In 2019, she was appointed honorary professor at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg. She is a member of the Club of Rome, the World Future Council, the Balaton Group, the Bioeconomy Council of the German Federal Government, and a co-initiator of the “Scientists for Future” network. From 2020 to 2021, Maja Göpel was Director of Research at The New Institute, Hamburg, which develops ideas for substantially redesigned societies.

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Dr. Adrienne Grêt-Regamey is an environmental scientist and landscape planner. Since 2008, she has served as a professor at the Chair of Planning Landscape and Urban Systems (PLUS), at the Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development of ETH Zürich. Currently, her research focuses on understanding how human interactions and/or actions shape landscapes at various temporal and spatial scales, using various land-​use decision models in forecasting and backcasting modes. One of her recent research projects was awarded the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Transdisciplinary Award. In 2017, she received an ERC Starting Grant for the GLOBESCAPE project, linking design and land system science to foster place-​making in peri-​urban landscapes. In 2018, she was a finalist for the ETH ALEA Art of Leadership Award.

Dr. Sofia Heinonen is an activist for nature. For over 15 years, she has led the first rewilding effort in South America, with the restoration of the Esteros del Iberá, the largest wetlands in Argentina. She is a biologist and has spent more than 30 years designing strategies for the creation of protected areas in Argentina, with a unique capacity to envision projects on a large scale and for the long term. She worked for national and regional conservation organizations, as well as in the Argentinian National Park Service administration before joining the team of Rewilding Argentina as its leader in 2005.


Dr. Nathalie de Noblet was Lead Author of the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, published in August of 2019. Her research focuses on how land use affects the climate at local, regional and global scales, through disturbances of the energy balance and the hydrological cycle. She has more recently also worked on assessing the impacts of climate change on cereal crops, in an attempt to develop climate services for agriculture. Dr. de Noblet is a Research Director at the CEA in France (Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives), working at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE). She has co-coordinated the Laboratory of Excellence BASC (Biodiversity, Agroecosystems, Society and Climate) over the past 8 years, where they combine knowledge on climate, agronomy, forestry, ecology and economics to improve decisions about land use at the territorial level. Dr. de Noblet is a consultant professor at AgroParisTech and a member of the French Academy of Agriculture. 

Dr. Roland Siegwart is a Professor of Autonomous Systems at ETH Zurich and Founding Co-​Director of Wyss Zurich. From January 2010 to December 2014, he served as Vice President, Research and Corporate Relations on the ETH Executive Board. He is a member of the boards of various companies, including Komax and NZZ. He received his Diploma in Mechanical Engineering in 1983 and his Doctoral Degree in 1989, from ETH Zurich. He developed a spin-​off company, spent ten years as professor at EPFL Lausanne, and has held visiting positions at Stanford University and NASA Ames.


Dr. Youba Sokona has over 40 years of experience addressing energy, environment and sustainable development issues in Africa. He has been at the heart of numerous national and continental initiatives. He is a global figure with deep technical knowledge, extensive policy experience and an unreserved personal commitment to African-led development. He is currently a Vice-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Before that, he served as Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III, on climate change mitigation, having been a Lead Author since 1990. Youba Sokona has a proven track record of organisational leadership and management, for example as Inaugural Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) and as Executive Secretary of the Sahara and the Sahel Observatory (OSS). He is affiliated with numerous boards and organisations, including as Honorary Professor at University College London (UCL). He is a member of the World Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Sciences, and of the Science Advisory Committee of the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA). 

Brian O’Donnell has been a leading land and wildlife conservationist for more than two decades. He is the Director of the Wyss Campaign for Nature. From 2007 through early 2017, Brian served as Executive Director of the Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF). Brian led the foundation’s efforts to protect, restore, and expand the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands. At CLF, Brian led a campaign that protected millions of acres of land as National Monuments. Prior to joining the CLF, Brian was the National Public Lands Director for Trout Unlimited. He also worked for The Wilderness Society, where he led campaigns resulting in the congressional designation of the Black Rock Desert and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas and dozens of new legislated Wilderness areas throughout Nevada.


Enrique Ortiz  is the Senior Program Director of the Andes Amazon Fund. He is a leading expert on rainforest management and one of Peru's most respected conservationists. Trained as a tropical ecologist, he has conducted research on species and ecological systems in coastal areas, deserts, highlands, and tropical forests. Enrique is also known for his leadership throughout Peru and Latin America in biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, and for his editorial opinion pieces in international and domestic newspapers and journals. For over two decades, working for philanthropic organizations, he has facilitated funding to governments and organizations that support conservation in the Andes-Amazon, resulting in more than 20 million hectares of new protected areas throughout the region. He is also a founder, board member and / or advisor of several NGOs and environmental initiatives.

He holds degrees from San Marcos University (Peru) and Princeton University (USA). Although he resides in Washington DC, he is often seen in the halls of Latin American environmental agencies and at regional events, or returning from wild places in the region.   

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