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Meet 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.

Ruben Rocha

Dam Removal Europe Project Manager

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
As a type 1 diabetic, I learned to be disciplined, organized, and very attentive to small details that could get me off track. This helped me excel in my academic and professional life. Sometimes it sounds weird, but I am who I am due to diabetes.

Why is dam removal important to you?
The impact of dams on ecosystems cannot be neglected, and the time to start the removal is now. Dams and other barriers are not permanent solutions to solve the problem related to water availability for different uses and to tackle water scarcity. Putting water in boxes (reservoirs) has a reverse effect, as it gives the idea of water availability, increasing the uses and reducing the real availability.

How do you hope to make a difference?
I have learned during my life that the big impacts are with the combination of many small ones. To help reconnect our rivers, I want to help people understand that every impact on nature will have an impact on us. On the other hand, every small effort they can do to revert the current situation will create a big wave of change.

Pao Fernández Garrido

Dam Removal Facilitator

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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

Beatrice Alducci

Digital Communications Officer

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
When I was 4 years old, I started to kayak with my father and that quickly became my way of connecting with nature. Kayaking is one of my biggest passions and I dedicated years of my life to it. By being a member of the Italian national team for several years and by regularly traveling to new rivers, kayaking helped me see our riverine ecosystems through a different lens.

Why is dam removal important to you?
As a kayaker, rivers are our favourite playground! Not only dams are extremely dangerous for kayakers but they also destroy rapids and entire ecosystems.

How do you hope to make a difference?
By sharing successful stories of dam removals, I hope that people will understand to what extent our rivers are endangered and that removing dams is part of the process of healing waterways.

Adela Baratech

Project Assistant

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
I am passionate about traveling and exploring new things! Over the past three years, I've lived in six different countries, gaining valuable experience in international environments and fostering diverse connections.

Why is dam removal important to you?
Dam removal is vitally important because it is about freeing our rivers, allowing nature to reclaim its course, and giving our communities the chance to thrive in a more sustainable and brighter future.

How do you hope to make a difference?
I firmly believe that driving environmental change hinges on river restoration, removing obstructive dams and ensuring unimpeded fish migration. This strategy is fundamental to promoting healthy aquatic ecosystems. My active participation in various projects underscores our shared dedication to Swimways improvement and river revitalization. With a global and united effort, this change can indeed become a reality.

Demar Bon

Graphic Designer & Website Management

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
A quick fact about me is that I work in creative chaos. I'm a person who learns the most by experimenting, making mistakes, and trying. This ability to learn from failures has shaped my approach to problem-solving, which I apply to my work with Dam Removal Europe.

Why is dam removal important to you?
I am committed to the mission of Dam Removal Europe. I get to be a part of this journey by creating visuals and other digital content that share this story with the world.

How do you hope to make a difference?
In my role, I aim to make a difference by effectively conveying the message of Dam Removal Europe to a wider audience. Through creative design, I hope to educate, inspire, and grab the attention of people about the importance of dam removal. By making the information appealing through our website and visual materials, I aim to increase support and awareness for the cause, contributing to the foundations success in restoring our rivers!

Isabelle Alten

Dam removal developer

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
My whole life I have been interested in looking and spending time around free flowing rivers. After seeing the movie about the Dambusters, all pieces from my life came together and I immediately felt the need to join the movement.

Why is dam removal important to you?
Over the past years I have come across many parts humans have influenced the natural behavior in our world. The fact that there are still so many (useless) dams located in our rivers makes me concerned, but also inspires me that our current generation has power to change that pattern.

How do you hope to make a difference?
The coming months I will work on a dam removal project in Latvia. There is already a movement going there, and I will do everything to keep that process running. My most important project will be the establishment of a feasibility study for two dams, which would bring back many of free-flowing kilometers and connect the waters with the sea. I hope to achieve this and see it as a starting point for my further actions.

The Dam Removal Europe coalition

Dam Removal Europe is a coalition of seven organisations: WWF, The Rivers Trust, The Nature Conservancy, the European Rivers Network, Rewilding Europe, Wetlands International, and the World Fish Migration Foundation.

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.

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.

Paul Brotherton

Freshwater Manager, Wetlands International

I am Wetland International Europe’s focal point seeking to accelerate the implementation of EU freshwater-related laws, restore and protect free-flowing rivers and upscale nature-based solutions for inland waters, in collaboration with our members, networks and partnerships in Europe.

I have spent the past two decades at the intersection of conservation science, policy and communications in the US, EU and globally. Rivers run through my experiences – including the Hudson, Niger and Rhine. Before working at the global and European levels for Wetlands International, I spent more than a decade in Washington, DC as the Legislative Director for environmental champion and member of the US House of Representatives Maurice Hinchey and the Research Director at the League of Conservation Voters. I also have significant field experiences researching wetland-dependent species, from the Everglades in the US to the Bolivian Amazon, and for more than 15 years as a volunteer for the Delaware Bay Shorebird Monitoring Program in the US.

Joshua Royte

Landscape ecologist and senior scientist, The Nature Conservancy Maine

Joshua Royte is a landscape ecologist and senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy in Maine. Joshua brings the science of large, forested landscapes and river networks to planning strategies, monitoring impacts, and identifying priorities for conservation and restoration. His work includes facilitating a diversity of partnerships involved with planning and implementing conservation actions at scales ranging from broad ecoregions to specific sites.

Joshua has led the work to restore river connectivity in Maine, opening some of the region's best habitat to native fish and other wildlife. His expertise also helps guide and promote river restoration globally as part of the World Fish Migration Foundation’s steering committee and as an advisor to the European Union’s AMBER and MERLIN Projects. A large portion of Joshua’s time is dedicated to helping TNC’s Europe Program develop their programs to protect and restore rivers, with an emphasis on the western Balkans in South East Europe.

He is co-author of numerous peer-reviewed papers and an co-author of the book From Sea to Source 2.0, describing why fish migrate, the impact of stream barriers, examples and techniques on how to fix them, and how to build greater awareness in society.

Joshua has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bard College and a masters from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Julia Boverhoff

Freshwater Policy Associate, The Nature Conservancy Europe

Julia Boverhoff is Freshwater Policy Associate at The Nature Conservancy Europe. In her role, she supports TNC’s Freshwater work as well as the policy actions that are intersecting with TNC’s work on the ground. She focusses on aspects of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the Nature Restoration Law, but also on topics related to the broader topics around Freshwater, such as the EU Green Deal at large, energy, climate adaptation and resilience both in the European as well as in the global context. She promotes the establishment of policy measures that help enable dam removal on the ground.

Passionate about working on the development and implementation of Freshwater related policies in Europe and beyond. Excited to see how the newly adopted Nature Restoration Law can lead to 25.000 km of Free-Flowing Rivers in Europe.

Prior to joining the Nature Conservancy in 2022, she was a Blue Book Trainee at the European Commission, in the Cabinet of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans.
Julia holds a double masters in Environmental Law (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Civil Law (Leiden University).

Barry Bendall

Operations Director - The Rivers Trust

My name is Barry Bendall and my professional background is as a fisheries scientist studying the migratory behaviour of fish with a particular focus on the impacts of barriers. For me, it has always been very apparent that physical barriers are one of the major factors impacting fish populations but also the functioning and resilience of wider river ecosystems.

Understanding the problems is one thing, but it is vital that we use this knowledge to deliver action. I joined The Rivers Trust more than a decade ago to support the work of grass roots organisations restoring river catchments throughout the UK & Ireland. Since then, local Rivers Trusts and partners have delivered hundreds of dam removal projects, opening up thousands of kilometres of habitat, restoring natural processes and improving biodiversity.

However, despite all this work and the benefits provided, mainstreaming dam removal projects is still a major challenge with many legislative, financial, institutional, and social barriers preventing the scaling up of action. There are many thousands of barriers across the UK and Ireland and the problem is the same across most of Europe and the world.

Scaling up dam removal activity to the levels required to reverse decades of decline requires collaboration and coordination at local, national, and international scales. It is this that motivates me and my involvement with the Dam Removal Europe coalition.

Kerry Brink

WWF Netherlands

Removing dams is one of the most effective ways to restore rivers to their natural functioning for the benefit of nature and people. Following the announcement of the EU biodiversity Strategy and impending Nature Restoration Law to connect 25,000km of rivers, there is a growing need to coordinate, advise and drive dam removal projects across Europe. Under the Living European Rivers initiative, I coordinate and engage with WWF offices and partners across Europe on dam removal topics.
Currently my focus is on scaling up of dam removal in South Eastern Europe: a biodiversity hotspot with massive dam removal potential. Under the 1.27 million Euro DRE project, funded by Open Rivers Programme and lead by World Fish Migration Foundation, we are able to implement activities that will create suitable enbling conditions for dam removal. With these enabling conditions we aim to build the DR movement in the region, initiate policy change and develop a pipeline of 100 dams to be removed.

Dam Busters

Dam busters contribute to Dam Removal Europe’s mission by finding dams that can be removed, conducting studies and promoting the dam removal movement.

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.

Join the team or become a dam buster

Do you want to join the movement to restore free-flowing rivers?

Contact us