Our Team

The Core Team

The core team of Dam Removal Europe is made up of 7 persons working mostly from the Netherlands, in the northern city of Groningen. This group of driven, passionate people aim to celebrate the opening of a dam a day by 2030!

Pao Fernández Garrido

Dam Removal Europe Specialist

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

Creative Director World Fish Migration Foundation

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

Roxanne Diaz

Communications Manager

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
I had an experience with a rather territorial fish on a dive trip once. I was trying to get a photograph of this beautiful fish and it just wanted me out! And it was showing me this by constantly bumping into my camera and whizzing by my face. So I took the hint and left. But this led me to think…you know, fish can only do so much for themselves and it’s really up to us to help them keep and maintain their homes. And now I’m here, trying to keep the fishes from being evicted out of their natural habitat and spawning grounds.

Why is dam removal important to you?
Because who doesn’t like a beautiful, free-flowing river?? To me, dam removal is one of the easier solutions to reverse some of the damage we have caused to the earth and her blue veins. Let’s just remove the dam thing!

How do you hope to make a difference?
I hope to find and share the stories that will resonate with enough people, particularly children, to change our actions to include mother nature in our way of being and thinking.

roxanne@fishmigration.org

Iwan Hoving

Project Manager Dam Removal Europe

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
I like to start new things and while doing that I am sometimes challenged. Part of the adventure called life. As an entrepreneur I was building stuff for many years until recently. Now I am part of trying to take down stuff, concrete barriers, dams. Hopefully one day I will see dynamite at work.

Why is dam removal important to you?
Dam Removal is the most effective measure one can take opening up a river and let nature take its own course again. It is surprising how fast a new ecosystem evolves and everyone can thrive in and along a river. In the water, in the river basin and at the shores. It is fascinating to meet so many people that are involved in Dam Removal and to see how dedicated and motivated they are. I’m proud to be part of that.

How do you hope to make a difference?
I hope to help realize many openings of rivers. Make free flowing rivers. On top of that I like to raise awareness for our rivers and tell people what of an impact barriers have on the ecosystem. Also bringing the subject on the agenda of policy makers, so that Dam Removal is integrated and seen as it is: effective, cheap and quick. I can be very enthusiastic about the simple measure one can take to restore nature: just bring down obsolete barriers!

iwan@fishmigration.org
+31 6 24 92 26 51

Arjan Berkhyusen

Managing Director World Fish Migration Foundation

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 I could stare in the waters near to our house for hours. I was curious about the world of all the living creatures that I saw below the surface and dreaming away like that gave me a very nice, happy feeling. I think it is that feeling which is still driving me with dam removals – it feels really good to work on a better world for man and all these living creatures in water!
Why is dam removal important to you?
For me dam removal is very positive and hopeful. It shows that we as human beings can make a better world for man and nature.
How do you hope to make a difference?
My role is to ensure that all the passionate people in our team can excel. I like to keep an eye on the longer term strategy and ensure that we, as passionate people, keep focussed and creative.

arjan@fishmigration.org

Jeroen van Herk

Advisor Dam Removal Europe

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
I am a landscape ecologist working on the improvement of water and nature for 23 years now.
My last name “herk” means “brook or small river” in and old German language and there is a
brook called “De Herk” in Belgium. I really like to be near flowing rivers and brooks so I think
I am very much at the right place doing this work!

Why is dam removal important to you?
Dam removal is for me a very effective and visual measure to restore our free flowing rivers.

How do you hope to make a difference?
I have the ambition to make a different in this by getting this by creating a European movement
and getting this strongly on the policy agenda of water managers.

jeroen@oakconsultants.nl

Weronika Swatowska

Design & Content Marketeer Dam Removal Europe

What is a short, cool (interesting/exciting/weird) fact about you that helped lead you to where you are now?
When I was going to interview for the position my house started flooding which turned off my internet access and electricity 10 minutes before I had my skype call, I was interviewing from my phone while my dog and cat were jumping around me in a small room and firemen were walking around the house... But well after all I am here hoping to make a difference 😊

Why is dam removal important to you?
Rivers are a source of life and a beautiful force of nature and they should thrive.

How do you hope to make a difference?
With the opportunity I have now as a designer I hope I can make an impact and make a larger audience aware of the issues we face and with that make a better environment for fish and for us.

weronika@fishmigration.org

The Project Team

 

Dam Removal Europe is a partnership and close cooperation among six different NGO’s.

These partners are: the World Wildlife Fund (Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland), The Rivers Trust, The Nature Conservancy, European Rivers Network, Rewilding Europe and the World Fish Migration Foundation. By working together, we hope to restore as many rivers as possible 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

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

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!

Alistair Maltby

Operations Director, The Rivers Trust

Alistair has spent the last 20 years at the heart of what is probably the fastest growing river conservation movement in Europe. Devastated by the decline of our rivers, the founders of the rivers trust movement decided that campaigning was for others, and that what was missing was the doing. Direct action for rivers trusts has been about understanding what is causing the problems in our rivers, showing people that there are ways to fix them, and that there are alternative ways to manage our rivers that leave them fit for everyone to enjoy. The rivers trust movement has grown from just four community-led organisations in 2004, to now over 60 groups in England, Wales and Ireland. Last year, rivers trusts worked with 11,575 volunteers, planted 91,076 trees, addressed 736 sources of pollution, worked on 1151 farms, eased, passed or removed 68 dams, and restored 449 km of river. In one year.

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.