OIA Staff



Director Karen Senhadji

Policy Division

David Downes, Assistant Director for Policy

David Downes leads the policy division in the Office of International Affairs.  He supports Departmental coordination on cross-cutting international policy issues such as trade and investment, biodiversity, and climate change. From 2000-2009, David was a Program Analyst in the Department's Office of Policy Analysis.  During that time he served as the Department's Senior Trade Advisor and assisted on other issues ranging from endangered species conservation to geospatial data management.

David is also an adjunct associate professor at the American University's Washington College of Law, and co-chair of the International Environmental Law Committee of the American Bar Association. Before commencing government service, he practiced law for nine years with a non-profit environmental organization and three years with a private law firm, both in Washington, D.C. He received his J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, and has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan.

Ryan Close, International Policy Analyst

Ryan Close develops policy on international conservation and development issues with particular focus on Canada and the Arctic.  Before joining DOI in 2009, he was a Presidential Management Fellow within the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a member of an interagency task force in the Horn of Africa, and was also detailed to a United Nations development mission in Timor-Leste.  Prior to his fellowship he worked with the Clinton Foundation providing HIV/AIDS relief in Lesotho.  Ryan also served as a U.S. Army officer for five years, during which time he deployed as a tank platoon leader for peacekeeping operations in Macedonia and Kosovo.  Ryan received his undergraduate degree from West Point, and earned graduate degrees in international relations and public policy from the University of Cambridge and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Darlene Smith, Administrative Assistant

Darlene Smith manages the administrative affairs for the Office.  As an Administrative Assistant for several senior officials at DOI, she is a master at coordination, communication, organization and public diplomacy.

Prior to joining DOI in 2005, she was the first- line supervisor of an administrative team at the National Institute of General Medicine at NIH. She also was the travel coordinator and key exhibitor for the Minority Grants Program there.

Ethan Taylor, International Policy Analyst

Ethan Taylor coordinates DOI activities relating to the Caribbean and Latin America, in particular Mexico. Before joining DOI's Office of International Affairs, he worked at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of International Conservation, where his responsibilities included grant-making and other international cooperation on conservation initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Ethan also previously worked with the Peace Corps as a recruiter and country desk officer for the Central America sub-region, helping to launch the Peace Corps program in Mexico.  Prior to federal service he worked with the World Wildlife Fund and taught as an adjunct professor at American University.  Ethan was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Panama.  He has a master's degree in environmental studies from the University of Oregon and a bachelor's degree in Spanish and environmental science from the University of Virginia. 


Technical Assistance Division: International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP)

Barbara Pitkin, Director

Since its inception in 1995, Barbara has been the Director of the Department of the Interior's International Technical Assistance Program.  Previously, she was a Senior Program Officer for the Africa Region with the Biodiversity Support Program (BSP), a consortium of World Wildlife Fund; The Nature Conservancy; and World Resources Institute.  Barbara has additionally worked for the World Bank in the Africa Region and with the USAID in Liberia, where she worked on agriculture and natural resources projects. She has also worked for the National Wildlife Federation, where she led an environmental education program, raising the awareness of domestic audiences about the relevance of international environmental issues. 

Barbara has authored a foundational book on training in Sub-Saharan Africa: Training Needs and Opportunities among Protected Area Managers in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa; helped draft Sub-Saharan Africa:  From Crisis to Sustainable Growth, a comprehensive long-term development strategy for Africa published by the World Bank; and co-authored "Searching for Food Security in Africa" in the International Monetary Fund's Finance and Development.

Barbara received her M.A. in International Affairs from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where she concentrated on International Economics and Social Change and Development, and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University, where she majored in Geological Sciences.  She conducted her geological field work in Iceland.  Barbara is proficient in Italian and has studied French and Spanish.

Cynthia Perera, Deputy Director

Cynthia Perera supports the overall management of ITAP, as well as leads technical assistance projects in Latin America and Asia. Cynthia initially joined DOI in 1992 with the National Park Service (NPS) as an Environmental Protection Specialist, working to bring NPS into compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.During this time, she was competitively selected for the 14-month-long "DOI Team Leadership Program," through which she completed temporary assignments with the World Wildlife Fund in Peru; the NPS Office of International Affairs in Central America; the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Division of International Conservation; and the USFWS Office of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Before her Federal service, Cynthia worked in the private sector as a Program Manager at Versar, Inc. (environmental consulting firm), during which she was recognized for consistently generating high profit margins.  Prior to the private sector, Cynthia served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala.

Cynthia received her M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech's School of Engineering and her B.S. in Zoology from Duke University.  Cynthia is a native Spanish speaker and lived overseas for over 10 years.

Tanya Ahmady, Travel Coordinator

Tanya Ahmady assists in planning travel for all of our projects. She is currently a student at the George Washington University majoring in International Business. She also speaks Spanish and is learning Portuguese.

Tricia C. Bickley, Project Manager

Tricia Bickley, a member of the Department of Interior's International Technical Assistance Program, is an international project manager with experience in the private, non-profit and government sectors. Tricia currently manages Sustainable Tourism, Civil Society and CITES projects in Morocco, an Environmental Law Enforcement project in the Philippines, biodiversity projects in Southeast Asia, and the global Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program. She has previously served as an international proposal coordinator for AECOM (formerly PADCO) on USAID and ADB funded programs and as a U.S. Peace Corps/Bulgaria Volunteer where she established and helped lead a municipal environment learning center and directed a girls leadership campTricia began her federal career with the National Parks Service's budget office where she developed annual budget recommendations for the Parks Planning, Infrastructure and Lands Division.  She has also worked as a geographic information systems specialist for Woolpert, a design, geospatial and infrastructure management firm

Ms. Bickley earned a Masters Certificate in Natural Resource Management at the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech in 2008; and received her B.A. in Geography with an emphasis on GIS mapping from the University of Denver in 2000. Tricia speaks Bulgarian and basic French.

Colleen Castle, Project Manager

Colleen Castle joined ITAP as an assistant for the Jordan Parks Project in 2010 and has since seen her portfolio broaden to include other tourism-development related projects in Georgia, Oman, and Morocco. She has also spearheaded ITAP's communications efforts. Prior to joining DOI Colleen worked as a production assistant at an NPR affiliate and interned with the U.S. House of Representatives and the Council on Foreign Relations. She currently serves as a Volunteer-in-Park at the National Mall. Colleen earned an M.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University in 2011 and received a B.A. in Political Science from McGill University in 2008, where she honed her French language abilities.

Angel Cordova, Student Trainee

Angel Cordova assists technical assistance projects in Latin America, the Caribbean and South America. Angel is pursuing a B.A. in International Affairs with a concentration in International Environmental Resources at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Angel speaks Spanish.

Elysha Iversen, Detailee

Elysha assists with projects in Tanzania, Georgia, Antigua and Afghanistan. She is is on loan from Grand Canyon National Park where she has experience as a Park Ranger and Backcountry Visitor Technician, with focuses on recreational backcountry and river usage, and emergency medicine. Previous to her work with the NPS, she was a Public Affairs Specialist and Recruiter for the Peace Corps. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, focusing on reforestation projects. As an undergraduate she co-authored an article written with the National Science Foundation entitledDietary Reconstruction of Mummies in the Atacama Desert, Chile. Elysha received her B.A. in Biology Cum Laude from Augustana College.  She speaks Kiswahili and is an avid musician.

Christina Kish, Project Manager

Christina Kish manages technical assistance projects in Central America, the Caribbean, and Tanzania, and in support of the Central American Wildlife Enforcement Network (CAWEN – ROAVIS in Spanish).

Christina previously worked with the U.S. Department of Justice for 8 years in counter-narcotics law enforcement, living in the U.S. and Bogotá, Colombia. She had numerous temporary duty assignments throughout Latin America.

Christina moved to Australia and worked with the Australian National Crime Authority on an Organized Crime Task Force group.

She returned to the U.S. and worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement's Intelligence Unit for 10 years, 5 of those as the Supervisor, supporting domestic and international wildlife investigations and inspection efforts. She provided training on a variety of wildlife enforcement topics at the USFWS National Conservation Training Center, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and international law enforcement gatherings.

Christina earned a B.A. with the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas in Austin, concentrating in Latin American studies, warming the bench in intramural soccer, and competing with the U.T. fencing team. She has volunteered on a wide range of social issues, including homelessness, refugees, and at-risk children. Christina speaks Spanish.

Thomas LeMense, Management Analyst

Thomas LeMense manages the ITAP Budget. He joined DOI in 2009 as an intern with ITAP and converted to his current position upon graduating with a B.A. in Economics from The George Washington University in May 2012.

Jean Parcher, Project Manager

Jean Parcher, who is on long term detial from USGS, currently manages ITAP's Land Cover for Climate (LC4Climate) project.  LC4Climate aims to enhance the capacity of developing country partners to improve techniques to generate and/or update existing land cover information using satellite imagery.  Currently the project is focused on the geographical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia.  Jean's previous experience includes representing the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as the International Coordinator for the Land Remote Sensing program, managing the U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Health Initiative, and interfacing with the Federal, State, and local Geospatial communities as the USGS Federal Geospatial liaison and the Texas State liaison.  In addition to Jean's duties with the LC4Climate project, Jean is the Vice President of the US National Section of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History (PAIGH), which is a specialized organization of the Organization of American States.  Her work with PAIGH rekindles her connection to Latin America, where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer with the BriBri Indians in Costa Rica. Jean has a Master of Arts Degree in Geography from the University of Texas.

Jason T. Riley, Project Manager

Jason Riley manages technical assistance projects in Latin America. He joined DOI as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2008, and completed a rotation in the National Park Service Budget Office.  Jason previously worked as a legislative aide in the California State Legislature, program coordinator for the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and as a research intern for the San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research.  Jason has lived in Latin America and Southeast Asia, installing clean water systems and rehabilitating illegally-traded wildlife at a non-profit wildlife refuge.

Jason earned his M.A. in International Affairs at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San Diego in 2008, focusing on Latin America, and received his BA from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2002. Jason speaks Spanish.

Marc Weitzel, Senior Advisor and Senior Project Manager

Marc Weitzel manages DOI-ITAP technical assistance programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East, and serves as the overall DOI-ITAP point of contact for activities in Asia.  Marc has served as DOI-ITAP Senior Advisor and project manager since 1995.  He also served with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) from 1984 through 2010 as Project Leader for the Hopper Mt. National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) and the California Condor Recovery Program, California (1991-2010); as Acting Project Leader for the Southern California Coastal NWRC (1995-96); as Refuge Manager for Tijuana Slough NWR, California (1987-91); and as Refuge/Station Manager for the Vieques Island/Roosevelt Roads Field Stations/Caribbean Islands NWRC, Puerto Rico, (1984-87). While at the Hopper Mt NWRC, he also led USFWS condor recovery program coordination efforts with Mexico, initiated an exchange program for Latin American protected area managers, and served on USFWS committees that reviewed U.S. and international proposals soliciting Wildlife Without Border-Mexico and Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act funding. He also functioned as a US Delegate at numerous annual meetings of the Canada/Mexico/U.S. Trilateral Committee of Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management.  Marc was on the Organizing Committee for the 7th World Ranger Congress held in Tanzania in 2012.

Marc has been a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas since 1993, served as a USFWS liaison with region-wide protected areas training programs based in  Mexico and Costa Rica, and led or served on DOI-ITAP, USFWS, and United Nations Environment Program assessment or technical assistance details to Jamaica, Jordan, Venezuela, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, South Africa, Ecuador, Republic of Georgia, Maldives, Mozambique, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Thailand, Mexico, and Vietnam.  Additionally, Marc served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in natural resources management in Colombia (field biology) and Papua New Guinea (protected areas/wildlife and coastal fisheries). Marc graduated in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University, and he spent his summer school breaks working for the State of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.   He speaks Spanish.

Levi White, Project Manager

Levi White manages technical assistance projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. He joined DOI as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2008, and completed a rotation in the Bureau of Land Management as a Strategic Planner.  Prior to Federal service, Levi worked as a Program Assistant with the Center for Global Studies, Research Assistant with the Appalachian Institute, and worked for Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees International Union (UNITE-HERE). Levi co-authored an article in the International Encyclopedia of Civil Society.

Levi received his M.A. in International Relations and Comparative Politics Summa Cum Laude from George Mason University and his B.A. in History Summa Cum Laude from Wheeling Jesuit University.  Levi is training in Kiswahili.


DOI-ITAP In-Country Coordinators

Fátima Haydee Vanegas, Regional Coordinator for Central America and the Dominican Republic

Located in Managua, Nicaragua, Fátima assists with the management of technical assistance in Central America and the Dominic Republic. Fatima is a conservation management professional who was previously the head of the CITES Management Authority of Nicaragua. She also has worked in strategic planning and program management at the Nicaragua Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources. Fátima received her degree in Ecology and Natural Resources at the Universidad Centroamericana  in Nicaragua  and a Masters in Management, Access and Conservation of Species in Trade, University of Andalucia, Spain.

Rana Ali Hussein Al-Safadi, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Located in Amman, Jordan, Rana assists with the management of technical assistance in Jordan.  Rana is an artist and cultural program coordinator by profession who previously worked as a cultural correspondent for Rome's Associazione Culturale Babelmed and as a Cultural Program Assistant at the American Embassy in Amman. She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English Literature from The University of Jordan.

Paata Shanshiashvili, Republic of Georgia

Located in Tbilisi, Paata Shanshiashvili assists with the management of DOI's technical assistance projects in Georgia.  Paata is Landscape Architect and Ecologist by profession who has previously worked as the Coordinator for the World Wide Fund's Conservation Program (Georgia); Director of the Protected Areas Development Project for the World Bank/GEF (Georgia); and as a Senior Technical Specialist in the Georgian Government's Office of Landscape Planning.  In 1996, Paata authored Georgia's framework legislation for the establishment of protected areas. Paata received his degree in landscape architecture from the Georgian Technical University in 1981.

Ma. Ronely D. Bisquera-Sheen, Republic of the Philippines

Located in Quezon City Philippiines, Ronely assists with the management of DOI's technical assistance project in the Philippines. Ronely is a legal practitioner focusing on environmental laws. She has previously held the position of Lawyer III in the Office of the Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs, and Attached Agencies of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Legal Consultant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs of the Department of Agrarian Reform; Court Attorney VI in the Office of Supreme Court Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing; and as the Executive Director of Tanggol Kalikasan, Inc. She received her Bachelor's degree in English Language and Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines.

Rodrigo Botero Garcia, Andean Amazon

Located in Bogotá (Colombia), Rodrigo assists with DOI´s technical assistance projects in the Andean Amazon countries (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia). He has previously held the position of Director of Protected Areas in the Amazon and Orinoco regions in Colombia during from 2000 to 2010. He also has also supported DOI´s efforts in Guatemala through the Maya Biosphere project during from 2004 to 2010.  During these years, he worked focusing his efforts in the relationship between conservation, sustainable development and conflict resolution. He was the Director of Terrapreta, an NGO which worked on sustainable development and conservation issues. He received his degree from the National University and his Master's of Science in Sustainable Development from the Javeriana University of Colombia.



Passport Services Division

Corinthia Stewart, Passport Office Manager

Corinthia Stewart is the manager of DOI's Passport Office, which services 8+ agencies within DOI (all Regions included). Prior to her position she was an International Affairs Specialist for DOI's Bureau of Reclamation and is accomplished in coordinating and hosting international delegations, passports and visas, strategic planning, ethics, and procurement. Ms. Stewart is a graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Tiffany Cephas, Passport Specialist

Tiffany Cephas assists in managing the DOI Passport Office.  She joined DOI in 2000, as a Mail Clerk for the Mail Management Office under the National Business Center.  In 2001,  she became Secretary for the Mail Management Office.   She was certified in 2011 and now works as a Passport Specialist for DOI where she processes requests  for official passports and visas for DOI employees. 

Tiffany has a  Human Resource Certificate from the University of Virginia and the Executive Mail Center Manager's Program.  She is a certified Urine Specimen Collector for HHS & DOT Collections for Drug & Alcohol Testing. In 2007, she was NBC's Administrative Employee of the Year.