Wild Animal Initiative Board of Directors names Michelle Graham Executive Director
After a thorough search process and thoughtful consideration, the Board of Directors has selected Michelle Graham as the next Executive Director of Wild Animal Initiative. “The hiring committee was deeply impressed by Michelle's exceptional research experience, dedication to our mission, strategic vision, and leadership ability,” said Emily Hatch, president of Wild Animal Initiative’s board. Michelle succeeds our founding Executive Director, Abraham Rowe, who will be stepping back from his leadership role into an advisory position.
Michelle was previously a researcher at Wild Animal Initiative, and in that capacity she worked on research prioritization, and developed a framework for classifying animal welfare interventions. She graduated with a degree in physics and philosophy at the University of Oxford, and is currently working towards a PhD in Engineering Mechanics at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation concerns the movement behaviors of jumping and gliding snakes. Her work with wild snakes, along with her long-standing commitment to animal welfare and interest in effective altruism, have made her a strong advocate for wild animal welfare. In addition to her work with snakes, Michelle has worked with animals in shelter, veterinary, farm, and zoo environments.
Michelle is uniquely suited to take on this position of leadership in the wild animal welfare community. In addition to her academic credentials, she has been a thought leader in this space over the last year. She has contributed to the organization’s strategic plan and research agenda, and has been spearheading our work on academic field building. Her leadership in the organization has been essential as we’ve moved toward goals of incorporating welfare outcomes into conservation frameworks, and developed new relationships with scientists around the country.
This year has been one of monumental progress for Wild Animal Initiative. We’ve continued working on several longer-term projects, and submitted or sponsored the submission to journals of our first two articles—a review of the effects of predation on marine mammals, and an article modeling how welfare might relate to age-specific mortality. We also hosted the second Wild Animal Welfare Summit in Berkeley, California, and made progress on our efforts to understand the relative painfulness of different insecticides, to apply concepts from conservation to predict wild welfare outcomes, and to build the academic field of welfare biology.
Over the last six months, using the experience Michelle and our other research staff have brought to the organization, we’ve completely rethought our approach to academic field building and outreach for welfare biology. We’ve updated our research goals and strategy as we incorporate the expertise of our expanding team. We are excited to have an Executive Director with a vision for guiding the organization forward.