Our Team

Our Team

The MVI staff are a dedicated group of professionals who come from many countries and walks of life. But all of them share a passionate commitment to  the vision and mission of the Institute, the environment, the importance of sustainable practices and to the community. Every staff member is involved with multiple initiatives in the community. Almost all of them are at least bilingual (and in some cases trilingual) and have defined academic and community-based goals as part of their work plans.  

Executive Director, Debra Hamilton

Debra Hamilton is a long time member of the Monteverde community, working as researcher, educator, and business owner, Debra has served her community by leading reforestation efforts and as past board member of the Monteverde Institute and Cloud Forest School. Debra started her professional life in accounting, computer programming, and business management.  Feeling the need to contribute to society and the environment in a different manner, she changed careers to study conservation biology at Duke University.  She came to Monteverde in 1993 to investigate the use of windbreaks as possible micro-corridors that forest dwelling birds would require in order to move throughout the landscape.  This was the first of her investigations and publications regarding birds and conservation.  As a result of her research on the decline of the Three-wattled Bellbird, Debra and colleagues founded the Fundación Conservacionista Costarricense (FCC) to protect and restore habitat on the Pacific slope of Monteverde (while she owned and managed a local book store to fund the FCC’s operations).  Debra has united the actions of the FCC with the Monteverde Institute to lead reforestation efforts in the Monteverde zone.  Debra believes that the implementation of conservation actions as a result of scientific investigations is critical.  With this principle, she leads the Monteverde Institute in its quest to advance the knowledge of sustainability by focusing on conservation biology and community well-being through education, research, collaboration, and the implementation of significant actions.

Financial Supervisor, Seidy Torres Leitón

I’ve worked for the Monteverde Institute since 2001. During all these years I have collaborated in different departments, starting in reception, Homestay Coordinator, Accounting Assistant, and now Financial Director of the MVI.

I have lived most of my life in Monteverde, I love and enjoy this beautiful area the God has allowed me to live in.

I studied Management and I love to work with numbers, I also like to share with students and people from different cultures. I feel very proud to work for an institution that believes in and practices sustainable actions, this way we can leave a better off world for future generations.

---Trabajo para el Instituto Monteverde desde el año 2001. Durante todos estos años he colaborado  en diferentes departamentos, empezando por recepción, luego como coordinadora del programa de Homestay, asistente de contabilidad y ahora como Directora Financiera del IMV. 

He vivido casi toda mi vida en Monteverde, amo y disfruto esta zona hermosa que Dios me ha prestado para vivir.

Soy Administradora de empresas y me encanta trabajar con números, además me gusta compartir con estudiantes y personas  de diferentes culturas. Me siento muy orgullosa de trabajar para una institución que cree y practica normas sostenibles, para dejar un mejor legado a nuestras futuras generaciones.

Supervisor, Center for Community Initiatives, Selena Avendaño, MBA

Selena is head of our Center for Community Initiatives department she has lived in different countries including Austria, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Mozambique, and traveled through several others. She finished her MBA in communication and management and has a passion for participatory communication for social change.

Selena has been living in Monteverde since 2010.




Academic Director, Fern Perkins, MS

Fern was born in the United States and grew up exploring the woods and streams of the Carolinas. She earned the titles of Master of Science in Biology, Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Environmental Biology with concentration in Sustainable Development, and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Appalachian State University. As an undergraduate exchange student Fern fell in love with Costa Rica. She discovered her passion for education in graduate school while teaching biology and chemistry labs at ASU. As instructor of biology and adult high school science at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, and instructor of ecology and Spanish with Upward Bound at ASU, she further developed as an educator. Fern relocated to Costa Rica in 2011, and through 2014 taught field and classroom courses related to ecology and sustainability with Ecology Project International, University Studies Abroad Consortium, Universidad Veritas Center for International Programs, Earth Education International, and Hawai´I Pacific University. Her research experience includes lichens as indicators of air pollution, and quail and early succession songbird habitat management. Ecology, education, traveling, food, and sustainability are her primary interests, which she is combining through establishment of a sustainable farm and education center in northern Costa Rica. Fern joined the Monteverde Institute team in June 2014. As part of her role as International Programs Supervisor, she acts as Course Coordinator for several field courses each year. 

Human Resources, Larissa Arroyo

Larissa was born in San José and lived most of her life between Heredia and Alajuela. Three years ago she came to Monteverde and since the end of 2016 became part of the Monteverde Institute’s family in the Human Resources Department.

She is a business administrator with training in Human Resources. Larissa enjoys studying and working with topics related to transpersonal psychology, coaching, sustainability and climate change. Since 2016, she has participated with CORCLIMA in climate change projects for Monteverde.

Research Coordinator, M.Sc. Luisa Moreno

I was born in Guatemala from “tico” parents and grew up in Venezuela. When I was 17 I came back to Costa Rica to get my college degree. I studied biology at the University of Costa Rica. When I graduated I immediately worked as an assistant in a project studying howler monkey population in Guanacaste. In 1991 and 1992 I worked in Monteverde as an assistant to the tropical biology and EAP-California courses. From 1991 to 1998 I worked as a professor in the ecological tourism career at the University of Costa Rica in Liberia teaching Costar Rican Fundamental Ecology and Natural History. In 1994 I made a study about the altitudinal migration of the Myadestes melanops (Black-faces Solitaire) and their relation with the abundance of fruits it feeds off of in the Atlantic side of the Cordillera de Tilarán in order to get my master’s in biology at the UCR. In 1999 I came back to Monteverde to work as a Field Biologist and academic course coordinator and have been living in Monteverde ever since. From 2002 till 2012 I spent my time taking care of my family. I work with bird ecology and I have a special interest in altitude migration. Currently I have a particular interest in researching about long term Climate Change effects in bird population in the Cloud Forest. I also coordinate the MOSI project.  http://monteverde-institute-blog.org/environmental/mosi-monteverde

Academic Coordinator, Jessica Arias, MA

Ms. Arias is pursuing her Ph.D. degree on Agricultural Sciences where she focuses her research on family farming and food security. She holds a Master Degree on Sustainable Development with emphasis on Biological Resources Conservation from the University of Costa Rica, with a base training on ecotourism. Her main research interest and projects are related to agriculture, sustainable agricultural production and agrobiodiversity as a way of local economies and cultures to adapt against environmental and climate change. She has also been involved in environmental education and conservation projects in biological corridors, working also in indigenous communities in Costa Rica.
As an educator, Ms. Arias has experience teaching a variety of courses associated to environmental change, ethnobiology and research methods as well as mentoring undergraduate student’s research, and leading educational trips abroad for students.

International Programs Facilitator, María Estela Coghi Jiménez

Mary has been a member of the Monteverde Institute staff for many years and has held many different positions. As such, she has a profound understanding of the role of MVI in the larger community. Originally from Turrialba, in the Cartago region of Costa Rica, Mary has traveled extensively in Costa Rica and has an intimate knowledge of the complexities of facilitating academic programs in such a ecologically, socially and economically diverse country. She is currently completeing her license to teach English as a second language and is a voracious reader.  

Community Outreach Program Coordinator, Jennifer Ugalde

Jennifer Ugalde is a student of business administration, born and raised in Monteverde. Since 2015, she has worked with foreign students who come to study and learn about the culture in Monteverde. She started at the Monteverde Institute as Community Outreach Program Coordinator in December 2017. She loves learning from students, being in contact with homestay families and enjoys being part of the MVI staff.

Public Health Program Coordinator, Jenny Peña

Jenny Peña is a Public Health Program Coordinator at MVI. She is a historian and is currently working on her master’s degree program in gender and domestic violence at the University of Costa Rica. She was born in Guanacaste, province of Costa Rica, but has been living in Monteverde for the last fourteen years.

Her work with the Monteverde Institute began with the Family Life Program 10 years ago which focused on domestic violence prevention, and public health problems. She has developed and administered a number of self-esteem training workshops for parents, women, children and youth. Most recently in the past four years, Jenny has served as a course coordinator, delivering lectures on Costa Rican culture, society, gender and women’s issues, and as a teaching assistant with the Globalization and Community Health course.

Jenny also currently coordinates field research for a project on nutrition (The Impact of Economic Change on Food Habits and Nutritional Health in Monteverde, Costa Rica: Mixing Food Production and Tourism), initiateid in partnership with the University of South Florida and funded by the National Science Foundation. The purpose of this study is to examine the way in which participation in agriculture and/or in the tourism industry affects the type, quantity, and quality of food people eat, as well as, their nutritional health.

Finally, Jenny loves to work with the community, women and children. When she first started working with feminist organizations and women’s issues 17 years ago, she made a commitment to work toward preventing violence against women and families.

Library Service Coordinator, Marlene Leiton Campbell

Marlene Leiton Campbell started working for the Monteverde Institute in May 1995. She contributed to the development of John and Doris Campbell Library in 1999 as a Library Service Coordinator with the training help of Jean Stuckey, Librarian for the Monteverde Community Library. She currently works as a Library Service Coordinator at the Institute.

She recently completed a course at the Universidad Instituto Tecnológico de Cartago to create the database of existing materials and information at the library. She has also worked for the last three summers with volunteers from the University of Vermont and University of Syracuse to digitize hundreds of search documents for public access through MVI’s Library.

Marlene was born in Monteverde, Costa Rica. She graduated from Monteverde Friends School, which is a primary and secondary Quaker school in Monteverde. During her high school years she was a member of the library committee at the community library at the Friends School. Marlene is also certified in Wilderness Advanced First Aid.

Geographical Information Systems, Randy Chinchilla

Randy, was raised in San José and studied Geography at the University of Costa Rica. In 2014 Randy moved to Monteverde after finishing his Bachelor Degree. He is in charge of the area of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). 

Professor of Spanish and Culture, Jessie Zuñiga

Jessie is from San José, lives in the community and has worked at the Monteverde Institute since 2015. She is a Spanish philologist with a specialty in Latin American Literature, from the University of Costa Rica. Jessie has taught Spanish as a foreign language for ten years. Among her interests she enjoys fantastic literature, gender and postcolonial theories, film, food security, and others. At the Monteverde Institute she coordinates the Spanish Department, and is the academic coordinator for the Goucher & Mount Holyoke programs. Jessie also directs the Spanish courses for the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP).

Academic Assistant, Dinia Santamaría

Dinia Santamaría is a Monteverde native and graduate of the Friends School. Dinia has experience with MVI programs as a homestay sister and a participant in an MVI course, which led to a study abroad experience at the Community School in New Hampshire. After studying Criminology at ULICORI and working for several multinational corporations in the central valley, she returned home to Monteverde and joined our team in December, 2017 as an Academic Assistant

Academic Assistant, Lilliam Zuñiga

Lilliam was born in Pérez Zeledón and has lived in Monteverde since 2004. In 2010, Lilliam started working with the Monteverde Institute teaching Spanish as a foreign language but in 2015 she joined our Human Sources Department. Now she works assisting our Academic Department. She enjoys working with people and participating in activities that promote sustainable practices. 

Communications Assistant, Hazel Guindon

Hazel Guindon is a professional graphic artist, born and raised in Monteverde. She has worked teaching environmental education to local groups of all ages, and enjoys promoting sustainable initiatives. Hazel recently joined the Monteverde Institute team, but has been an active member of the community since her return from college in 2014.

Sustainable Futures Program Coordinator, Aníbal Torres Leitón

Born and raised in Santa Elena, Aníbal is “Monteverdeño” at heart. In 2004 he was awarded a 9 month scholarship from the NGO “EarthCorps” to participate in an educational program on Environmental Restoration techniques in Seattle, Washington (U.S.A.).

Aníbal is currently working towards completing his bachelor’s degree in Geography (with an emphasis on land planning) at the National University of Costa Rica. He also works collaboratively developing and organizing geographic tours and lectures for university-level students. He has been working for the Monteverde Institute in various capacities since 2003. Aníbal has worked on several research projects and coordinated various academic programs, including the University of California’s Educational Abroad Program (EAP) and the Mt. Holyoke/Goucher semester-long program.

Aníbal has also coordinated the Sustainable Futures course, which is comprised of a consortium of universities that bring students from diverse design disciplines to learn about sustainable construction and development in Costa Rica. As part of the larger Sustainable Futures Program, he is also working on two other initiatives. The Greenways and Sidewalks projects are efforts to create trails and sidewalks to improve pedestrian safety and encourage healthy behaviors and activities. The database project, while still in its pilot stage, seeks to link and integrate data from various governmental and municipal entities in order to better understand the needs of the local community. 

Anibal is also a certified Wilderness First Responder.

Out of all of my formal activities I love dancing, my Latino culture, and meeting people from all over the world.

Children Summer Camp Coordinator, Evelyn Rockwell Solano

Evelyn is in charge of youth camp in the summer. So far the camp has been proven to be a valuable resourse to the community, offering important learning opportunities for local children.

Evelyn was born and raised in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Education, traveling and family are central to her life. She is an Earlham College graduate where she studied sociology and anthropology. During her time in Indiana, she participated in the Earlham´s South Asia Program and had a chance to live in South India and Sri Lanka for four months in 2005.d.

Professor of Environmental Sustainability, Carlos Guindon, PhD

Carlos Guindon was born and raised in Monteverde and is still a “Monteverdeño” at heart even though he currently resides in Exeter, New Hampshire. Carlos is a graduate of the Monteverde Friends School followed by Earlham College where he was awarded a Watson Fellowship upon graduation and spent a year comparing natural resource management in Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador. Carlos went on to finish a masters degree at Ball State University on natural resource management conducting his thesis on protection of habitat critical to the Resplendent Quetzal on private land bordering the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. This was followed several years later with a doctorate from Yale University where he looked at the importance of these forest fragments on private property for the maintenance of regional biodiversity in more detail for his dissertation. Since 2013 Carlos again has been able to return to his roots in Monteverde, Costa Rica, teaching environmental sustainability for the Goucher/Mount Holyoke study abroad spring semester program run through the Monteverde Institute. This has served to reconnect him to many of his interests and passions which match nicely with the mission and goals of this organization and can be incorporated into many aspects of the learning experiences of the students.

Education Abroad Program Coordinator, Sofia Arce Flores , MS

Sofia Arce Flores has an undergraduate degree in Agronomic Engineering from the University of Costa Rica and a Master of Science degree from the University of Georgia (USA) in Conservation Ecology & Sustainable Development. Her Master\'s thesis included a major focus on applied Agriculture and Soil Ecology. 

Currently, Sofia is one of the instructors of and coordinates the University of California Education Abroad Program at the Monteverde Institute, where students learn about tropical biology, agroecology and conservation in Costa Rica. Sofia, born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica, is fluent in three languages and has a passion for reforestation projects and social aspects related to natural resource conservation.

Sofia is also a certified Wilderness First Responder. 

Reception, Lilliam Arce

 Lilliam is originally from San Elena, but lives in San Luis. She has been our warm receptionist since 2013.

Technical Support, Leandro Castillo

Leandro is from Tilarán (50 km away from Monteverde). He lives in Los Llanos and has been in charge of the technical support department for over 5 years. 

Maintenance, Jorge Mora

Jorge comes from San Rafael (15km from Monteverde) but he currently lives in Cerro Plano. He has been working in our Maintenance & Construction Department since 2014.

Maintenance, Cynthia Leitón

Cinthya has lived all her life in San Luis. She works in our Cleaning & Kitchen Department starting in 2017.

Maintenance, Elieth Rodriguez

Elieth is from Tilarán, but lives in Monteverde since 1994. She has worked for 7 years in our Cleaning & Kitchen Department.

Contact Us