Our Team

The Core Team

The Dam Removal Europe coalition is coordinated by the World Fish Migration Foundation which delivers the core team. This group of passionate people have the mission to make dam removal a viable tool for local river practitioners. We aim to celebrate the opening of 5 dams a day by 2030!

Pao Fernández Garrido

Dam Removal Europe Manager

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
I had the great opportunity to train on dam removal in US East Coast and I learned why they take dam removal so seriously and why their policy is so efficient. So, right after my question was: what is the situation in Europe? Unbelievably, there was no information at all about the situation of European rivers and all their barriers. This could not be true, something needed to be done!

Why is dam removal important to you?
Rivers are literally the veins of our ecosystems, of our home. Dams act as a block in your circulatory system. The best way to recover a healthy river (and avoid dam failures) is to remove these “blocks” when possible.

How do you hope to make a difference?
Through the compilation of the existing knowledge around the world and sharing it, I hope to facilitate the best information to policy makers, river managers, journalist and citizens, to help them improve their legislation and decision making on their rivers.

pao@fishmigration.org

Herman Wanningen

Dam Removal Europe Founder and Developer

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?

I got my inspiration to start Dam Removal Europe when I visited the USA from 2011 and visited the Elwha river dam removal project in the USA. It was so overwhelming that I thought: ‘we need something similar in Europe too'

Why is dam removal important to you?

It’s a viable measure to really make a difference for rivers and fish. The river becomes free-flowing and alive again! And I love free-flowing rivers!

How do you hope to make a difference?

By inspiring others, connecting, bring people together and that we all stand up and get activated to show that it’s possible to remove old and obsolete barriers and to start seeing dam removal as a viable option.

herman@fishmigration.org

Bas Deelman

Art Director Dam Removal Europe

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?

As a kid I build massive Lego structures which could be considered dams in some cases. I was good at building them but even better at breaking. Did this ``hunger`` for breaking things get me to Dam Removal Europe? Probably not, but who knows...

Why is dam removal important to you?
There is power in a free flowing river, power that sustains life below and above the surface. I see them as veins of the world and it is a shame to clog them with dams.

How do you hope to make a difference?

By bringing this subject more to the wider audience and not just the select group that is working so very hard to remove dams in rivers. By creating unexpected experiences and informative designs we can achieve this.

Sam Boireaud

Graphic Designer and Website Manager

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
When I was a kid my favorite video game was Zoo Tycoon and luckily for me, my parents would take me to zoos and nature reserves as often as we could, so I learned about conservation and the importance of harmony between humans and nature very early in my life. This led me to study biology and zoology and eventually aquatic ecosystem. Add that to the fact that I have been drawing since the age of 3 and you start to understand how fulfilling it is to be able to work as an artist for the protection of rivers and the environment.

Why is dam removal important to you?
The vast majority of dam structures in the world and especially in Europe are useless weirs and such that were built a long time ago for reason now irrelevant today. They prevent fish and other lifeforms to pass freely and stop sediments in their track. A free flowing river is healthier, attracts more biodiversity and can be exploited in many durable ways by us. We need to let nature express itself and flow alongside it if we are to build a better society.

How do you hope to make a difference?
I am a graphic artist and communicator, I hope to be making many visuals, banners, comics and illustrations that will reach and touch people in places where they wouldn't have time to read or listen to another types of media.
I believe that this will give me the experience and the tools required to build an audience and a platform that can even inspire decision makers and make our future, as humans, easier.

Foivos Alexandros Mouchlianitis

Database manager

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
It’s all about fish! As a fish biologist, specialized on diadromous fish, I have seen firsthand the results of river fragmentation on fish populations, their physiology and their biology, both in my home country as well as halfway across the world!

Why is dam removal important to you?
Have you ever come across this analogy: “Rivers are the veins of our planet and dams are blocking its circulatory system”? Well, I did a few years back, and it’s so accurate! Thus, I decided to do my part to keep our planet healthy.

How do you hope to make a difference?
Creating the first, as accurate as possible, database on dam removals in Europe will be the initial step and analyzing the data will be the second. The dissemination of the results will hopefully assist policy makers to improve the current legislations and the way they consider river management. At the same time, sharing this information with the public and showcasing unique dam removals will hopefully cause the barrier removal movement throughout Europe to boom!

Neža Posnjak

Network Coordinator

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
Go with the flow! I've been following rivers and their stories for almost 10 years. Protecting last pristine, untamed rivers and restoring those we have damaged, the red line was clear - free flowing river are the ultimate goal. We need to bring our rivers back to life.

Why is dam removal important to you?
Dam removal an exciting approach to river restoration. Removing the barrier and giving nature space and time to put things in order. Natural order. Much too often we just want to ``manage`` nature, we should first and for most - observe and learn.

How do you hope to make a difference?
Bringing people together, make network of practitioners, experts, authorities and NGOs stronger, more connected and lauder. For rivers, fish and communities that depend on them.

Fränk Peiffer

Consultant

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?

I only really discovered my love for nature in the past few years, and one of the best things about it for me is seeing and hearing a roaring river. And when I then found out about the awful state of rivers in Europe, I reached out to DRE to offer my help.

Why is dam removal important to you?

With an estimated 10% of river barriers obsolete in Europe, it is an easy and economical way to restore river ecosystems and bring back healthy fish populations. This, in turn, will make these ecosystems more resilient and enjoyable, and thus contribute long-term to a more sustainable and beautiful continent.

How do you hope to make a difference?

I hope to raise awareness about this issue among people; and they almost always immediately understand and approve of the straightforward logic behind dam removal. As I am able to talk to a lot of people in their native language, I try to reach their hearts and connect to them in a way that makes them excited about this and ready to scale dam removal throughout Europe.

Maria Inês Conceição

Communications Advisor

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
Freedom is probably my favourite word. For that reason, I never stay for too long in the same place, literally and metaphorically. I got to know the concept of free-flowing rivers before moving to The Netherlands, but it was only when I moved here that I saw water like never before. Then, the opportunity to join the Dam Removal Network came up and I thought “why not?”. I may not be super keen on rivers, but I sure know a thing or two about communications. So I decided to take up the challenge and help rivers across the world run a bit more freely… like me!

Why is dam removal important to you?
Rivers are the veins of our planet and should run freely. If - one of - the solutions is “as simple” as demolishing some obsolete dams, what are we waiting for? Let’s gear up and free that river!

How do you hope to make a difference?
By communicating the amazing stories of river heroes around the world and inspiring some more!

The Project Team

 

Dam Removal Europe is a partnership and close cooperation among seven different organizations.

These partners are: the World Wildlife Fund (Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland), The Rivers Trust, The Nature Conservancy, European Rivers Network, Rewilding Europe, Wetlands International, and the World Fish Migration Foundation. By working together, we want to mainstream dam removal and restore free flowing rivers across the European continent.

Wouter Helmer

Co-founder of Stroming Ltd., ARK Nature and Rewilding Europe

Co-founder of Stroming Ltd., ARK Nature and Rewilding Europe. All my life involved in river restoration and rewilding of floodplains. The socio-economic context is very important for me; always looking for nature-based solutions for problems in water management, climate adaptation, mining activities, drinking water-issues etc. The new nature areas should be accessible for public to enjoy, experience and reconnect with wildlife. It’s essential to show these new ideas on nature based economies and natural processes shaping the river landscapes in pilot areas. That’s what we did and are still doing. First along the Rhine and Meuse in the Netherlands, now – with Rewilding Europe - also along European rivers, from the Coa Valley in Portugal to the Rane river in Lapland, from the Oder in Germany/Poland to the Danube Delta.
Dam Removal is one of the most effective ways to restore rivers and a strong symbol for rewilding in connection with restructuring hydropower, decreasing flood risks and developing rivers that are rich in fish and other life. I’m representing Rewilding Europe in the Dam Removal project team.

Ruedi Boesiger

Head of Freshwater Program at WWF Switzerland.

Ruedi has several years of project management and leadership experience in the environmental and social field, in Switzerland and Central America. His diverse experiences in public relations include management of campaigns, organization of media conferences, writing press releases. Ruedi comes to the DRE team with an interdisciplinary training in environmental sciences and communication: Master of Environmental Sciences and Master of History and German Literature. He currently serves and the Head of Freshwater Program at WWF Switzerland.

Misha Nesterenko

Team Leader, Rewilding Europe Ukraine

My name is Misha Nesterenko. I have more than 10 years of work experience in conservation, restoration of wetlands and community development. Yet, I have a good experience in mobilizing stakeholders, conflict resolution and building partnerships to do practical actions. I strongly believe that conservation should stand strongly on real impact on the ground and “act locally but thinking globally” is one of my guiding principles. I do understand the great value of wilderness and cultures in our part of Europe and I would be happy to put my efforts to rewild our rivers and bring back their natural and cultural values.

Sampsa Vilhunen

Director, WWF Finland

My name is Sampsa Vilhunen. Fly-fishing and rivers are my number one passion. For me it has never been satisfying just to see the river from the bank, but I need to get inside the element, to wade deep in its currents, to feel the round rocks below my feet and to meet the local inhabitants – the fish.

Passion for fishing that was given to me at home as a small kid, later drove me into studying aquatic science as well, all the way to PhD. I did my doctoral thesis, of course, on fish behavior 😊

For more than a decade I have been leading the marine and freshwater conservation at the WWF Finland. I love my work in general, and particularly the fact that the work of my team is so concrete, really making a difference on the field removing migration obstacles from our running waters, as well as successfully advocating changes in the legislation that improve the status of endangered migratory fish species. For dam removal, our biggest innovation was Patagonia’s Damnation movie, and later we helped in producing a film of the destructive history of hydro power development in Finland as well.

The work on dam removals in Europe is still in the beginning although there are already great results to be seen. The challenge is immense, but so are also the opportunities! We can widely bring back the aquatic environment that was once lost all across Europe because of unsustainable human development. Today the science is telling us that in order for human kind to save itself, half the planet should be set aside for wildlife.

Join us in bringing back nature and wildlife to Europe!

Roberto Epple

Founder Chairman of the European Rivers Network ERN

Rivers have been my passion since childhood. So, nothing was more logical than to turn my passion into a professional activity. For decades, I have initiated and coordinated long-term river basin-related campaigns to save the Danube, Ebro, Guadalquivir, Loire, Elbe, and Rhine in partnership with international NGOs, in particular, the WWF international.

I mainly use my experience and expertise as a river expert and communicator to create an efficient interface between politics, science and civil society.

As a result of a 10-year campaign, ``Living Loire`` for the preservation of the wild River Loire, I was able to play a key role in the realization of the first Europe-wide removals of large dams.

To promote international cooperation among NGOs, I founded the European Rivers Network (ERN), which today is linked to many stakeholders in the 50 most important river basins on the European continent.

Dam Busters

 

Our volunteers that help DRE partnership to find dams that can be removed, conduct studies and promote dam removal through the Dam Removal movement and social media.

Rene Aalderink

Volunteer Dam Removal Europe

My name is Rene Aalderink, from my early childhoode I spent a lot of time along the Berkel river, fishing, observing, becoming one with nature around me.

After my study environmantal chemistry I worked for some years in ecotoxicologie, I became aware how fragile ecosystems can be, what an impact small amounts of toxcicants can have. Now I am a labtechnician specialized in medicine and pesticide analyses in surface water at water researche laboratory Aqualysis in Zwolle. The quality of surfacewater is monitored off 5 regional water authoritys in the Netherlands, important for the aquatic ecology, the research contributes to the Europeen water-framework directive.

I was very lucky to join the WFMF at some projects abroad. In Sweden I was fascinated by salmon leaping out of the water of the Ätran River. The fish can swim up due to the construction of fish passages, beautiful. I think I can imagine how desperate fish can be if they want to spawn upstream but are not able to reach this point, all of them craving for a dam, smelling their partners, driven by the urge of sex. I was inspired by incredibly enthusiastic people who wanted to make the world a better place for the environment of fish with fish passages and free flowing rivers.

It is unbelievable what the WFMF has achieved so far, for example the organization of the World Fish Migration Day around the world. In a few years this has grown into a gigantic event with hundreds of locations. I am therefore grateful that I can participate as a volunteer at the foundation, in order to make people more aware of the importance of fish migration.

Donne Mathijssen

GIS specialist/volunteer

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?

Growing up in the leading global region on high-tech facilities I considered nature as something that should never be taken for granted. At the same time I spent most of my younger days in or near water bodies, and I still do. My enthusiasm and passion for aquatic ecosystems and their inhabitants, especially fish, is something I want to share with the larger community.

Why is dam removal important to you?

Rivers are the blood supply for our ‘lungs of the earth’, forests. Hence, rivers form the basis for terrestrial life while at the same time being the infrastructure for aquatic migration routes for fish species to fulfil their life cycle. Roadblocks on these migration routes prevent these cycli to be fulfilled with far-reaching ecological consequences.

How do you hope to make a difference?

Aside from the story of the life-sustaining capabilities of rivers I want to strengthen the argument for dam removals with data visualizations. Make sure the larger audience is aware of the spatial scale of rivers that are affected by (obsolete) dams. In combination with ecological analysis this may enable us to pick out priority dam removal candidates that will allow for the recovery of dynamic river ecosystems.

Niccolò Sala

Communication Volunteer

What is a short/cool/ interesting/exciting/weird fact about you that helped lead you where you are now?

My passion for water is rooted to my childhood, to the Tagliamento river in northern Italy where I used to go to my grandparents for the summer holidays. Back in the days, I thought it was just a river, now I know it’s a very special one, the king of the Alps, one of the last of its kind! I remember the joy of swimming in pure clear water, playing with the stones and run around that huge riverbed. I believe that the purity of that place helped me to value nature and shaped who I am and what I do!

Why is dam removal important to you?
A river by definition flows. At the moment this fundamental characteristic is prevented by a barrier every kilometre of river in Europe. I think the removal of these structures is the only possible way to really give a chance to our river systems to thrive again.

How do you hope to make a difference?
I was really keen about becoming a research scientist, but now I realise that the problem we have is not getting more knowledge, but find ways to bridge the available one to the people out there. I hope to amplify the link between river management and the public, between dam removal and policy makers. I believe communication is the tool that has the power to unite these worlds to really make a difference!

Ruben van Treeck

Advisor Dam Removal Europe

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?

One day on a conference my PI pointed me to the foundation’s founder Herman and suggested I should talk to him. I knew the foundation but I didn’t know him, so I went over, introduced myself and told him I’d like to work for him. Which is basically how I ended up here. I find that pretty cool.

Why is dam removal important to you?

I know how important free-flowing rivers are for a healthy ecosystem, but exclusively working as a scientist didn’t do it for me in the long run – I needed to get more active in communicating our knowledge to the people and showcase the amazing work people are doing for our rivers all over Europe.

How do you hope to make a difference?

Bring in fish-ecological expertise and creativity and a hopefully useful go-to attitude.