Our people

Jonas Philanthropies is led and supported by leaders and experts from the worlds of healthcare, business, philanthropy and education

Our board

James Calabaza National Program Coordinator, Trees, Water & People Indigenous Knowledge, Cultural Preservation

Born in the state of New Mexico, James grew up with a passion to help indigenous communities across the country. As a first generation college graduate with an Agricultural Business degree from Colorado State University, James strives towards educating others about the importance of higher education and self-identity. James joined Trees, Water, & People as the National Program Coordinator and will work closely with communities across the country on developing a plan to move their communities towards a renewable and cleaner world. As a proud indigenous community member, he understands and experienced first hand the hardships that affect indigenous communities across the country. Following his passion and spiritual education from his community elders, his vision is to educate and empower the warriors of tomorrow, all while respecting and honoring our ancestral roots.

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Tracey Osborne Associate Professor, University of California Merced, Climate Change Mitigation in Tropical Forests, Indigenous Alliances

Tracey Osborne is Associate Professor at the University of California, Merced. Her research focuses on the social and political economic dimensions of climate change mitigation in tropical forests and the role of Indigenous Peoples, the politics of climate finance, global environmental governance, and climate equity and justice. She has worked on these issues globally with extensive field experience in Mexico and the Amazon.

She also leads the Climate Alliance Mapping Project, a collaborative effort between academics, environmental non-governmental organizations, and Indigenous organizations working for a socially-just response to climate change through research, maps and digital stories. The mapping project is an initiative of the Public Political Ecology Lab, which Tracey founded and directs to support engaged scholarship by communicating environmental research to broader publics. She received her PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Gerardo Ruiz Board Member, Apios Institute Agroforestry, Regenerative Enterprise

Gerardo consults throughout Mexico and Latin America on regenerative land use planning. For the last 5 years, he has been a member of the Wixarika Research Center, a non-profit that works to preserve the culture and the natural heritage of the Wixarika (Huichol) people in Mexico through regenerative development and permaculture. He Co-founded Plantum land planning and management firm, the international Apios Institute non-profit and his innovative ‘Mexquitl’ mesquite value-adding brand he is enabling more and more producers and people to become part of the regenerative agriculture future.

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Valerie Small, Phd National Program Director, Trees, Water & People Indigenous Knowledge, Cultural Preservation

Dr. Valerie Small (Apsáalooke) is the National Director of Tribal Programs. As a ‘First Generation” student to graduate with a college degree in her family, Valerie completed her PhD in BioAgricultural Sciences & Pest Management-Weed Sciences Division from Colorado State University. Her interdisciplinary research was conducted on the homelands of the Crow Tribe of Indians focused on trees, water and the Crow People, and incorporated western science within a traditional knowledges framework. This research was essentially a vulnerability assessment of the culturally significant riparian species, Plains Cottonwood that is quickly being replaced by the invasive species Russian olive, along the Little Bighorn and Bighorn River watersheds within the exterior boundaries of the Crow Indian reservation. This research was also recently published in the recently released 4th National Climate Assessment.

Val is dedicated to improving access and availability to harvest culturally significant plant/animals species within Tribal lands for future generations to use as food sources (decolonizing the diet), and plant species utilized in the practice of sacred ceremonies.

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Eric Toensmeier Author, Lecturer at Yale University Perennial Tree Crops, Carbon Farming

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens as well as a senior fellow and contributor for Drawdown. He is an appointed lecturer at Yale University, and an international trainer, presenting in English and Spanish in the US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean. Eric has studied permaculture and useful plants of the world for over two decades. He managed an urban farm project for five years, ran a seed company, and co-developed a farm business training curriculum that is now used in eight US states and three Canadian provinces. Eric’s most recent book is the Carbon Farming: a Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices which was backed by supporters through a Kickstarter campaign.

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Amrita VK Vatsal Managing Director, Business Development Ecotrust Forest Management, Conservation Finance

Amrita is a member of EFM’s management team. In this role, she shapes the company’s growth and impact investment strategies managing new product development, fund structuring and investor recruitment. Additionally, as a member of the investment committee, she contributes to property sourcing, transaction structuring, conservation finance, and carbon project development. She cultivated a passion for financing the growth of environmental business while working for Piper Jaffray’s cleantech banking group. Her love for forests began during a stint in Indonesia where she helped develop a carbon project on 200,000 hectares of pristine tropical peat forest. Amrita is a Fellow of the Erb Institute and graduated from the University of Michigan with an MBA and an MS in Natural Resources.

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