OUR TEAM

Ron Thompson serves on the board of directors of Primero Conservation nonprofit and as President of this 501(c)(3) organization. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology. Ron has worked as a wildlife biologist and range conservationist for the US Forest Service; and as a research associate for Sul Ross State University.  He was the statewide big game habitat manager and large carnivore biologist for mountain lions and black bears for the Game Branch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Ron has worked as a contract biologist capturing and radio collaring mountain lions for research projects in the Tucson area and on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. As a past biologist for the Turner Endangered Species Fund he assisted with a project to restore a sub­population of desert bighorn sheep on a private ranch near Engle, NM through the application of an adaptive management strategy for mountain lions. For many years, he has worked with private ranch owners in Sonora, Mexico within an established jaguar conservation area with his conservation efforts directed at utilizing working landscapes in the presence of livestock and sustainable wildlife resources to better protect jaguars. Ron is a founding member of the governing Council for the Wild Felid Research and Management Association and the Cougar Working Group for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. He is the lead biologist and chief executive officer for Primero Conservation past and current projects and its new initiatives. Visit Ron’s Research Gate information for his involvement in publications.

Ivonne Cassaigne serves on the board of directors of Primero Conservation nonprofit. She was the the Mexico Coordinator of Team Sonora Jaguar Project. She received a degree in Veterinary Medicine and a Master of Science degree in Animal Health from UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico. She is a faculty member of Medicina Veterinia y Zootechnia, UNAM and pursuing her PhD with her thesis directed by PhD Rodrigo Medellin at the Institute of Ecology, UNAM. She has a prior thesis and publications that encompass epizootics, population dynamics, and diseases of bighorn sheep, mountain sheep, and tigers. She has worked as a veterinarian on captive breeding and conservation of mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn in the United States and Mexico. She was elected to the Council board of Wild Felid Association. She is the director of Wildlife Health Services in Latin America as Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, Mexico, S.A. and specializes in immobilization and capture of native species and developing immobilization drugs cooperatively with biologists and veterinarians on both sides of the international border. She is co­author of Chemical Immobilization Protocol for Capture and Release of Jaguars and Pumas by Ivonne Cassaigne and Ole Alcumbrac that appears in primary grant proposal referenced on this website. She works diligently to ensure the survival of jaguar on UMA Sonora and is facilitating the incorporation of UMA Jaguar Conservation Program of the High Sierra of Sonora Mexico’s new nonprofit.

Manuel Galaz Galaz has been a vaquero on most of the ranches that surround Nacori Chico, Sonora, Mexico who’s obvious promise as a biological technician was first identified when he offered to show Dr. Octavio Rosas Rosas jaguar sign along the Rio Aros in 2005. Memo’s ability to live and work in the harsh thornscrub without injury for almost 30 days at a time is remarkable in itself. His real talent though is his ability to read sign left by all the animals making a living in the thornscrub. Memo has been the primary person for the success of two significant biological studies on jaguars and camera trapping. He has captured jaguars over 75 times with his cameras and documented the first ever female with a cub. He is a natural naturalist and knows the names of all the plants, birds, and animals living in the Rio Aros river basin. His ability to get along with all individuals from the local vaquero who respect his cow sense and horsemanship to the profession scientist. It has been said, “ Memo is the glue that binds the UMA conservation activities in the field.” With the Jaguar Project he currently maintains 40 cameras on ­site with a proposal goal to deploy a total of 200 for investigation over a 5 – 6 year study. He serves under contract to Primero Conservation as it's Biological Technician with a full spectrum of duties from safe capture/handling of jaguar and mountain lion to javelina reintroduction to kill ­site investigations and data collection.

Kyle Thompson serves on the board of directors of Primero Conservation nonprofit and as Vice­ President. Kyle holds a B.S. in Wildlife and Restoration Ecology and a Master of Science in Wildlife Conservation and Management. He used remote motion sensor cameras to track wild cats including mountain lions, bobcats, ocelots, and jaguars in southeastern Arizona. He works in the Sierra Madre of Sonora, Mexico studying neotropoical river otters in remote rivers only accessible by kayak. In Arizona and New Mexico Mexico he works with ranchers, landowners, biologists, and conservationists to carry out on-the-ground restoration and habitat improvement. This collaborative conservation is key to ensuring wildlife habitat conservation while working with the people who live and work in these areas. Kyle also serves on the non-profit board of the Fishing Cat Conservancy that works for the conservation of endangered fishing cats and their mangrove habitat in southeast Asia including India and Sri Lanka and on the board of the non-profit Refugio Pozo Verde where he leads grassland habitat restoration. He has trained local community members from the Krishna River Delta, India to be field technicians and is currently leading projects to restore riparian habitat on the Gila River, restore grassland habitat on Rancho Sierra Vista de Sasabe, and several other dryland watershed restoration projects.

Melanie Culver is Assistant Professor in the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and an Assistant Unit Leader in Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Arizona/USGS. She earned her PhD at the University of Maryland. Dr Culver’s expertise is molecular taxonomy, molecular ecology, relatedness, non­invasive and ancient DNA. Dr Culver has 31 Professional Publications, co­authored one book, and has 8 papers in preparation. She recently completed projects in Florida Panther population’s size, Powell River mussel, and Muskellunge; ongoing projects include Florida Panther DNA from scats, AZ black bear conservation, Grand Canyon and southwest National Parks carnivores, eastern Salamander gene sequencing, southern Rocky Mts water shrew, and Verde River crayfish. She was elected to the Council board of Wild Felid Association. Dr Culver is on the faculty of UA Wild Cat Center for research and conservation. She participates in the Sonora Project as DNA expert investigator for scat analysis to identify jaguar and puma species, individuals, and prey selection from field samples.

Rodrigo Medellin is Professor in the Department of Biodiversity and Ecology in the Institute of Ecology UNAM. He received his PhD in Philosophy from the School of Forest Resources and Conservation University of Florida. Rodrigo Medellin has studied and worked on the conservation of mammals and birds for over 35 years. Along these years, he has created or contributed to create many institutions, among which are the Mexican Society of Mammalogists, the Program for Conservation of Mexican Bats, and BIOCONCIENCIA, an NGO dedicated to protecting and studying mammals in Mexico. He is generous with his time and is always ready to help students (his own and others') and colleagues from Mexico or any other country. His influence reaches all continents and he is currently directing theses or carrying out research in 15 countries of 4 continents. His interests are broad and diverse, always along the common thread of biodiversity conservation in harmony with human wellbeing. His commitment to conservation is indicated not only by his research and students graduated from his lab, but also by his impact on the decision­ making process in Mexico and abroad. From creating protocols to integrate federally protected species lists to creating new protected areas and working for Multilateral Environmental Agreements such as CITES, his influence on policy making for conservation is wide, rich, and long­ lasting. Dr. Medellin is (2011­2013) President Elect of the Society for Conservation Biology. He is author of the Social Component of the primary project proposal referenced on this website. Responding to, “who are we as a project Team”; Rodrigo from a science­ humanitarian bias succinctly expresses, “I believe we are a group of conservation professionals fully committed to biodiversity conservation in the context of social and economic development in northern Mexico. The jaguar to me is the spearhead...”

Jim Sanderson is a Faculty member of UA Wild Cat Center for research and conservation and Founder and Director of Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation. He received a PhD in Mathematics from the University of New Mexico and a PhD equivalent from the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida. His publications include author and co­author of 5 books, 8 book chapters, 3 book reviews, 49 journal articles, and 5 other publications. Dr. Sanderson is a member of Sigma Xi, of the Feline Conservation Federation, IUCN Cat Specialist [Core] Group, and Fellow of the Wildlife Conservation Network. His research interests are camera data systems, mountain lions in the southwest United States, and international projects investigating the Andean cat, fishing cat, Chinese mountain cat, guina, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, Pallas’ Cat, and Borneo bay cat. His current interests include analysis of species co­ occurrences on islands and gradients; ecology, biology, and conservation of small wild cats, and camera photo­trapping for surveying, monitoring, and population estimates. As a tireless working Team member Jim has spent countless hours processing thousands of camera­ trap photos and identified jaguar and ocelot individuals on UMA Sonora coordinating with PC's biological technician "Memo" Galaz. Dr Sanderson developed the process for concise collation of camera data used in the recent UA Jaguar Survey.