ABout Project Conservation



Our Mission

Project Conservation’s mission is to conserve the world’s ecosystems and wildlife by supporting ongoing conservation research. Through the production of scientific media publications, Project Conservation seeks to spread public awareness and promote environmental education worldwide.

Vision for the Future

We seek to bridge the gap between scientific publications and the general public. As we share this earth and rely on natural resources to sustain our well being; we believe it is important for the general public to be aware of published work, receive accurate information and also to highlight researchers working hard to conserve ecosystems worldwide. We seek to inspire you through media publications to become involved with the world around you and strive to support conservation.

We believe by showing the importance of conservation in an honest and palatable way we can work to spread awareness and make a step forward for conservation.

Goal and Strategies

Project Conservation’s goal is to spread awareness through publications and work on human dimension conservation research. We propose to raise funds for Masters and Doctorate level research as well as sponsor established biologists.  Additionally, our goal is to travel to research locations and film educational short films and documentaries, highlighting ecological research.  These films will be used to educate on a local and international scale, and present scientific material in a palatable fashion to educate the general public.  Possible funds received from media publications will cycle back into our organization to cover expenses, promote our nonprofit and support additional research. We intend to raise funds not only through media publications, but also through charitable donations, online donations, and local fundraising.

How we got started

During our time at the University of Minnesota (U of M) in the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Department, Sam, Paul and Emily assisted and conducted research on acidity and the affects on jellyfish; human-wildlife conflict in and around Chitwan National Park; and tiger conservation in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. While working and studying at the U of M Paul, Sam and Emily all noticed that although most of our problems stem from human related activities most published papers are only available in elite, expensive journals and filled with jargon and stats. This alarming issue inhibits conservation biology to move forward, and without bridging this gap how can we make a change? Watching wildlife documentaries and TV series we often find uninformative and dishonest information. Oftentimes the gap falls between the filmmaker and the scientist. Understanding these challenges, we wanted to change the game, bringing informative information to the public and also encompass not only the simple biology of an animal, but the importance of ecosystem services, show the hard work researchers are doing and how we rely on natural resources and ecosystems to survive.

Through these media publications not only do we strive to inform the public, but also facilitate fundraising for ongoing conservation work that is already established around the world. Instead of being a top-down organization and going into an area with our own set of goals we collaborate to spread awareness, raise attention and make a change on conservation issues we face today.


Emily Erhart

Currently I am working on my MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University. With my background working under J.L. David Smith and alongside other world renowned big cat biologists in both Thailand and Nepal, I have learned about the complex issues regarding tiger conservation, have conducted months of field work and have worked alongside Samantha, assisting her on studies regarding human-wildlife conflict.

Working to address pervasive and complex issues alongside a variety of interest groups in Nepal and Thailand formed the basis of my appreciation of communication and constructive dialogue in addressing the varying perspectives to local communities and different stakeholders.

Currently I am working to produce a film about tiger conservation in Nepal in hopes to raise awareness, and explore the complexities of conserving this magnificent species.

Overall, I am extremely passionate about working with local communities, public outreach, conservation and understanding how humans and wildlife can coexist.


Samantha Helle

I am classically trained wildlife-biologist with an interest in human-dimensions of wildlife conservation. I received my B.S. from the University of Minnesota in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation biology. Additionally, I have served as an AmeriCorps volunteer and environmental educator, teaching people of all ages and from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.

I have research experience working closely with Dr. J.L. David Smith and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) in Nepal performing independent research on human/wildlife conflict in rural communities around Chitwan National Park. Specifically, I explored how these communities managed and perceived tigers in areas of high conflict by conducting interviews and holding focus groups with villagers. It was during this research experience that I became interested in how gender plays a role in forest sustainability practices and wildlife conservation.

Currently, I have been accepted as a Masters Student at the University of Minnesota's Natural Resource Science and Management program. I intend to expand upon my previous human-dimensions research, by working with women in communities that are highly impacted by tiger depredation around Chitwan National Park (Nepal).

I have a deep desire to serve my community and promote scientific understanding a way that is both palatable to the general public and also serves our global ecosystem. I am passionate about promoting gender equity and the inclusion of underrepresented groups in natural resource management. I believe that solving the world’s conservation challenges will require the action and support of an informed and committed group of stakeholders that are not inhibited by factors such as socioeconomics or gender.

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dave smith

For my entire career, I have focused on tiger research that addresses tiger conservation. Research topics include tiger behavior, ecology, movements and the genetic and demographic aspects of tiger metapopulation dynamics. I collaborate with spatial modelers, conservation geneticists and statisticians and use individual based modeling to better understand tiger behavior in response to geophysical, ecological and human factors.

My research is guided by a strong belief that conservation requires local participation and to that end, I have advised primarily Asian graduate students from tiger range countries or students interested in working in Asia. I also work closely with local communities to restore ecological services in landscapes where tigers live. In these efforts I work closely with government wildlife and forestry departments.

A primary field tool for this research is using satellite GPS collars. My field colleagues include both academics and field technicians working in Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China, and, in working in the field with these colleagues, I have been fortunate to spend many months every year living in the forests of Asia. At this stage in my career my goal is to build the capacity of Asians to lead Asian conservation activities.


Recent publications

Luo, S.J., Y. Zhang, W.E. Johnson, L. Miao, P. Martelli, A. Antunes, J.L.D. Smith, S.J. O’Brien. 2014. Sympatric Asian felid phylogeography reveals a major Indochinese-Sundaic divergence. Molecular Ecology 23: 2072-2092.

Simcharoen, A., T. Savini, G.Gale, E. Roche, V. Chaimchome, and J.L.D. Smith. 2014. Ecological factors that influence sambar (Rusa unicolor) distribution and abundance in western Thailand: implications for tiger conservation. Raffles 62: 100-106.

Simcharoen, A., S. Simcharoen, S. Duangchantrasiri, S. Pakpien, G. Gale, T. Savini, J.L.D. Smith. 2014. Female tiger home range size and prey abundance: important management metrics. Oryx.