Mission and Vision
Our mission is to facilitate evidence-based conservation of Asian elephants and their habitats through science, education, policy and advocacy.
We share a common fate with the wildlife on our planet and the future depends on what we do now. Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are large-brained, long-lived animals with mysterious social lives that we are only just beginning to understand. They are also keystone species that modify and 'engineer' their landscapes in ways that affect countless animal and plant communities. Asian elephants and humans have lived side-by-side for thousands of years. Yet today they are classified as Endangered under the IUCN Red List of threatened species. We envision a world in which elephants and people can peacefully flourish side-by-side on a rich, biodiverse landscape that meets all our needs.
Shermin de Silva
President & Founder
Shermin is a professor in the Ecology Behavior and Evolution at the University of California, San Diego. She obtained her Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania and directs the Udawalawe Elephant Research Project in Sri Lanka, which she initiated in 2005. She is a member of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. She completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution, the College of Life Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin and Colorado State University. Homepage >
Sergey is a professor in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution at the University of California at San Diego. He received his Ph.D from Princeton University in 2008 and did postdoctoral research in theoretical biology and evolutionary dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. Sergey is interested in making science open and relevant to the public.
Esther A. Clarke
Esther completed her Ph.D in 2010 at the University of St. Andrews (UK). She studied the vocalizations and behavior of wild white-handed gibbons in one of Thailand's National Parks. Esther became interested in elephants after a run in with a rather large one in the forests of Thailand. As a research fellow at Durham University, UK, Dr. Clarke has broad interests in biodiversity conservation and education.
Joe retired in 2020 as Deputy Director of the Harvard Transactional Law Clinics. He received his JD from Boston University School of Law and a BA in Geology from Middlebury College. He has extensive experience as a transactional lawyer in a variety of roles, including working with nonprofits. Joe has an interest in supporting sustainable conservation that bridges the relationship between people and the environment. He has previously served as a field volunteer in Borneo for the Orangutan Foundation International and is currently a board member of Tech Goes Home, a digital equity nonprofit based in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to attending law school, Joe’s geology field work focused on mineral resource assessments of wilderness areas in the western United States.
Philip received his M.S and Ph.D. from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a Professor of Environmental Studies at Colby College, Maine, USA. His research bridges the natural and social sciences to address human interactions with the environment. He is particularly interested in large mammal conservation, large landscape conservation, and human-wildlife conflict. He is a member of the Cat Specialist and Conservation Planning Specialist Groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and was founding Series Editor of Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes.
Could this be you?
We are seeking additional
If you are passionate about Asian elephant conservation and would like help Trunks & Leaves develop further to achieve its vision, we would like to hear from you!
Chief Operating Officer
Lizzie received her PhD from the University of Stirling, Scotland, having studied the development of captive and wild elephant calves, working alongside UWERP. She studied Wild Animal Biology for her Masters at the Royal Vet College, London, and worked in Cambodia with Fauna & Flora International for her dissertation on trends in elephant crop raiding. Lizzie currently teaches at the University of Salford, England, and is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and of the Zoological Society of London.
Floriane is currently studying veterinary medicine at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She aspires to be a wildlife veterinarian or conservation researcher.
Sri Lanka Project Consultant
Salik is a Sri Lankan native with globe-trotting experience using his MBA training to manage a diverse portfolio of projects emphasizing social good and community development.
Project Coordinator (UWERP)
Sameera manages all field-based activities, maintains the camera trap network and leads the community-focused work of the Coexistence Project.
T. V. Kumara
Research Supervisor (UWERP)
Kumara is an elephant researcher extraordinaire, in charge of field data collection and and all aspects of data management for the Udawalawe Elephant Research Project.
Field Technician (UWERP)
Janaka participates in all aspects of data collection as well as maintenance of the field station, vehicles and other equipment.
Students and Volunteers
Annie is a PhD student at the University of Nebraska, studying the effect of ecological conditions on social networks in animals. Her questions truly encompass all creatures great an small - from elephants to sparrows!
Partners are institutions and organizations with which we have an ongoing relationship.
Current & Past Collaborators
Our research collaborations have included individuals from these institutions and organizations:
We are grateful to have received support from the following sources.