Biodiversity without Borders: A Natural Pathway for Cooperation

  • 27 Oct 2020
  • 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
  • Zoom Webinar

Join Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Canadian Consul General Dr. Rachel McCormick, and Mexican Consul General Dr. Rubén Minutti as they kick off a two-part program on the importance of collaborating on environmental issues across borders.

An exciting surprise announcement will follow celebrating the Monarch butterfly – the potent symbol that links Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. – and San Antonio’s designation as a Monarch Champion City and participation in the CitiesWithNature Network.

City Representatives from Guadalajara, Montréal, and San Antonio discuss the importance of local policies to support biodiversity and access to nature. The session will highlight San Antonio’s role in the tri-national Mayor’s Monarch Pledge by the National Wildlife Federation.


Panelist Bios

Ron Nirenberg is the mayor of San Antonio, one of the nation’s fastest growing cities with the 7th largest population in the United States. Mayor Nirenberg was re-elected to a second term on June 8, 2019. He was first elected to represent District 8 on the San Antonio City Council in 2013. During his two terms, he championed smart city and regional planning, inclusive economic development, environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility and governmental accountability.

In an effort to combat the effects of global climate change, Mayor Nirenberg spearheaded a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which was adopted by the City Council in October 2019. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Nirenberg joined the Climate Mayors Steering Committee, a group of 24 mayors who will serve as a leading voice in efforts to further climate action in the more than 400 cities across the U.S. making up the Climate Mayors coalition. Mayor Nirenberg is the Chairman of Sister Cities International, a nonpartisan organization that connects cities across the globe through civic, educational and cultural exchanges. The City of San Antonio enjoys active and productive Sister City relationships with 11 cities worldwide and Mayor Nirenberg has been an active participant in establishing productive, people-to-people relationships through global community partnerships and volunteer action.

Rachel McCormick is currently the Consul General of Canada to the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

She was head of the Energy and Environment Section at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC from 2014 to 2019.

She joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2004. In Ottawa she worked in divisions responsible for sustainable development, energy, climate change and circumpolar affairs. She represented the Government of Canada in a range of international forums, including the Arctic Council, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the United Nations.

Previously, she held positions within the Canadian energy sector and at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economics for Land Use and Environmental Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Calgary.

Dr. Ruben Minutti has been the Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, Texas since January 2020, Ruben Minutti Zanatta has been in public service to Mexico for 20 years. Prior to his appointment, he held the positions of Magistrate on the Mexico City Administrative Tribunal (2003-2019) and Legal Advisor to the Mexico City Secretary of Government, José Agustin Ortiz Pinchetti (2001-2002). Previously he was in private practice in civil, administrative and constitutional litigation in Mexico, including as related to Chapter XIX NAFTA trade dispute matters.

In 2018 he was recognized as one of top attorneys and legal scholars by the Government of Mexico City.

He earned a law degree with honors from the Escuela Libre de Derecho with a thesis entitled Information as a Right. He also holds a Master in Comparative Law (LL.M) from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, and a Doctorate, with honors, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). His dissertation, Access to Public Information and Administrative Justice in Mexico was published by the UNAM Institute of Legal Investigation (2011).

Dr. Minutti Zanatta is a frequent speaker on matters related to constitutional and administrative law as well as access to justice and transparency. He is the author of more than 20 academic papers, published in 5 countries in various languages.

He has published a translation of the U.S. Constitution for Spanish speakers in Latin America (ed. Porrúa, México 2004).

Julia Murphy is the City of San Antonio’s Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer and is on the team implementing the City’s first climate action and adaptation plan, focused on energy efficiency, modern transportation, advancing the circular economy and promoting biodiversity and ecosystem services. She is currently helping to establish the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council on Climate Initiatives, a platform for area students to become civically involved in local climate policy considerations. Signature projects Julia has worked on include land conservation over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, implementing the first bike sharingsystem in Texas along the San Antonio River to connect the assets in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, establishing the Hardberger Park Conservancy and coordinating preservation and adaptive reuse of a historic farm on the banks of Cibolo Creek.  Previously, Julia was Executive Director of Green Spaces Alliance, a land trust that advances land and water conservation, community gardens and nature-based education.  She is using her professional experience in corporate retail and living and working abroad in Europe to inform local policy considerations around climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.  Julia serves on the board of the Texas Land Trust Council and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, Urban Sustainability Directors Network and Urban Land Institute.  She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Science in Community and Regional Planning degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Paulina Cervantes Flores is Head of Environmental Department of Guadalajara. She is a graduate of Environmental Engineering degree from ITESO in Guadalajara . She has degrees in Cost-Benefit Evaluation of Investment Projects, Laboratory of Economic and Social Studies by the Planning and Evaluation Department of Jalisco, Diploma in Senior Management from Tecnológico de Monterrey, in Female Leadership by Universidad Panamericana. She is the environmental director of Guadalajara; before that she served as Manager of Sustainability and Climate Change of the Metropolitan Institute of Planning and Management of the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara. She also worked as technical secretary of the Commission on Sustainability and Environment in the Jalisco State Congress; and environmental director of the Government of Tlajomulco.  She has extensive experience in development and coordination of strategic projects and public policies in environmental matters and also in the preparation and analysis of environmental impact studies.

Maxim Larrivée is the director of the Montreal Insectarium | Space for Life and an associated researcher at the Institut de Recherche en Biologie Végétale de l'Université de Montréal. He specializes in the study of the impacts of natural and human-produced perturbations on the biodiversity of multiple arthropods, including spiders, beetles and butterflies. He cofounded eButterfly, a citizen science platform dedicated to monitoring butterfly biogeography across Central and North America. This platform was a stepping stone for the creation of Mission Monarch, a citizen science program run by the Space for Life Insectarium that is part of an international research and education effort aiming at saving the migratory populations of this endangered species. These are few of the many initiatives of the Space for Life museum complex that converge toward one essential concept : reconnecting citizens with nature through collective actions.

Shahrzad "Sherry" Dowlatshahi is Chief Diplomacy & Protocol Officer heading the City of San Antonio’s International Relations Office, a division of the Economic Development Department.  She advises, assists and supports San Antonio elected officials and executives on matters of international affairs, public diplomacy and diplomatic procedure and protocol; is responsible for coordinating official foreign travel of Mayor and Council as well as planning the program of visits for high-level foreign dignitaries, consular & diplomatic corps members working closely with Mayor and City Council.  Another important part of her work is public engagement with local community business, cultural, civic and higher education, diaspora and ethnic groups.  She works closely with other City of San Antonio departments to provide support on relevant international initiatives or projects.  She manages the San Antonio Sister Cities Program and works closely with Sister Cities International as well as community stakeholders on fostering and maintaining San Antonio’s official relationships.

Suzanne Scott began her career with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) in May 2000 and was appointed General Manager in September 2007. Scott is responsible to an elected Board of Directors, directs SARA’s programs and projects and manages the agency’s annual budget. She oversees and works with a talented staff including engineers, scientists, environmental managers, field crews and a host of other professionals to extend SARA’s environmental leadership, stewardship and expertise and to broaden appreciation for the San Antonio River and its ecosystem. Under Scott’s leadership, SARA has advanced its mission to inspire actions for healthy creeks and rivers within the San Antonio River Watershed by working closely with a multitude of governmental partners, citizen stakeholders and private sector contributors. 

Patrick Fitzgerald leads the National WildlifeFederation’s Community Wildlife programs and policy change efforts, including partnerships with nearly 800 cities, counties and communities though the Federations’ Community Wildlife Habitat and Mayors’ Monarch Pledge programs. Through these programs and others, NWF is committed to helping wildlife and communities thrive by increasing tree canopy, implementing green and natural infrastructure projects and promoting native plant gardening and landscaping. Patrick created the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge in 2015 and authored a guide title “Monarch Conservation in America’s Cities: A Solutions Guide for Municipal Leaders.”


Kale Roberts is a Senior Program Officer and the network coordinator for ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA, where he provides technical assistance to cities on greenhouse gas emission inventories, biodiversity, sustainable development and climate planning. Kale serves as a U.S. local government liaison to the United Nations. Before joining ICLEI, he worked with the United Nations Development Programme’s Climate Change Adaptation Team from the Bangkok Regional Hub and is a former editor of Mother Earth News, North America’s largest sustainable living magazine. Kale is a Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer and received an M.S. in Climate Science and Policy from the Bard Center for Environmental Policy and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Humboldt State University.

Frates Seeligson graduated from Duke University in 1992.  Upon returning to Texas he studied ranch and range management at Texas Christian University.  A fourth-generation rancher, he has managed agricultural operations across South Texas for over two decades, with a specific focus on native habitat management and restoration. In 2007, Frates joined the board of the San Antonio River Foundation.  Over these years he actively participated in the San Antonio River Improvements Project.  In 2016 Frates joined the staff of the River Foundation as Director of Confluence Park.  In this role he managed the fundraising, construction and programming of Confluence Park, a one of a kind educational venue for environmental education along the banks of the San Antonio River.  In July of 2019, Frates took over the Executive Director position for the River Foundation. To Frates, the San Antonio River is the cultural and environmental heart of the city, linking the entire city.  Its restoration serves as an inspiring example of the importance of preserving our native habitat.


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