Callie Veelenturf

Callie is a leading marine conservation biologist and voice for nature who inspires and influences high-impact conservation measures using collaborative scientific research initiatives. Callie has a special focus on marine turtles and ecosystems, and works to connect indigenous and marginalized communities with government agencies to propose and achieve paramount environmental protections and advancements in the global recognition of the intrinsic Rights of Nature.  

She also founded and leads the non-profit research and conservation organization, The Leatherback Project, where she has trained thousands of Panamanian Army and Navy soldiers in the recognition of illegal sea turtle products; identified new to science sea turtle nesting and foraging sites; and started the long-term monitoring program together with the Guna People of Armila, Panama in one of the largest nesting aggregation of leatherback turtles in the world. Her vision for conducting science for the purposes of conservation impact has led her work to be the basis for conservation proposals and laws in Panama including a new National Wildlife Refuge proposal; Law 287 recognizing Rights of Nature in Panama; and Article 29 of Law 371 that recognizes sea turtles as legal entities with specific rights.  

As a leader in the conversation on renewing society’s relationship with nature, she has spoken at the United Nations and associated conferences five times since 2019. Additional recognition of Callie’s impact is reflected in awards and appointments including 2024 Future For Nature Awardee, Sustainable Ocean Alliance 2023 Youth Ocean Leader; 2020 National Geographic Early Career Leader; Scientist with the United Nations Harmony with Nature Programme; Mission Blue Hope Spot Champion; Fellow and United Nations Youth Representative for The Explorers Club of New York City; and a United Nations Development Programme Ocean Innovator. In addition to her field and advocacy work Callie is also pursuing a PhD in Conservation Biology with the Marine Turtle Research Group at the University of Central Florida. To date she has mentored seven graduate and undergraduate students and serves on the advisory board for various international nature conservation organizations such as the Earth Law Center, Mare Nostrum, and Reserva: The Youth Land Trust. Since 2023, her work has been featured on the front page of the Washington Post, on CBS News, and Smithsonian Magazine.