Above: Termite, Watercolor by Josh Allen

Creature Conserve is an all-volunteer group that includes a Board of Directors led by founder Lucy Spelman and a group of scientific and artistic advisors.

Board of Directors: Abby Adams (Secretary), Cameron Little, Chloe Bulpin, Melissa Torres (Treasurer), Nick Jainschigg (Vice Chair), Nicole Merola (Clerk), Traer Scott, Lucy Spelman (Chair), and Sarah Sun

Artistic Advisors: Peter Green, Emily Poole, Emily Schnall, Susan Tascent, and Rae Whiteley

Scientific Advisors: Ilze Berzins, PhD, DVM, MPH, Stephanie Maryeski, MD, and Naomi Kirschenbaum, DVM, MPH

About our Founder: In her TEDx talk, Dr. Lucy - as many call her - describes how her work as a zoo and wildlife veterinarian led her to seek new ways to engage people in conservation by connecting art and science. Click here to view her talk. As Board Chair and Executive Director (volunteer), Lucy is both fundraiser and organizer for CC programs. She also teaches or co-teaches CC workshops.

Over the course of her 25-year career, Dr. Spelman has treated animals of all kinds, from cockroaches to giant pandas. She has lived in Rwanda, where she managed the veterinary team responsible for the world’s only mountain gorillas, has served as Director of the Smithsonian National Zoo, and is a published author. She has a been a participant in a long-running program to conserve giant otters in Guyana, South America (since 1996.)  In addition to scientific articles, she contributed the title story and edited 23 others in “The Rhino with Glue on Shoes” (Random House, 2008) and wrote the text for the popular “National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia” (2012.)

Dr. Spelman has been exploring the intersection of art, science, and one-health medicine since returning from Rwanda in 2009. She has taught biology at RISD since 2010 and has developed eight new courses, including two study abroad courses (South Africa and Guyana.) She continues to practice veterinary medicine at Ocean State Veterinary Specialists. 

Living With Giant Otters, Colored Markers by Derek Miranda

Living With Giant Otters, Colored Markers by Derek Miranda

Two of Dr. Spelman's former patients in Rwanda - mother and baby mountain gorilla.

Two of Dr. Spelman's former patients in Rwanda - mother and baby mountain gorilla.

More from Dr. Lucy:

I am trained in zoological medicine, which means I am a veterinarian for all creatures. As much as I love my job, it has also brought me great sadness. It is heart-breaking to watch my patients disappear, to see the mass extinction of species happening right in front of me, despite my efforts and those of many others. Over the course of my 30-year career, even the once common African lion is now in trouble. There is no medicine for extinction.

And yet I have worked with all kinds of people all over the world who dedicate their lives to saving species. This is the good news: we know what to do. The bad news is we are not doing enough. The reasons are many and nearly all have to do with how conservation is perceived. Some think of it as a science, a job done by scientists. To others it is set of rules that pertain to someone else in some far off place. Most do not consider it a priority. If they did everyone trying to help animals in trouble would have plenty of support and funding. The reality is that conservation is a problem-solving process that requires collaboration and participation; it is a solution to a problem caused by humanity. We are all responsible and we need to work together to make change.

Science can provide the guidelines for how to save rare species and live in balance with urban wildlife. But we need understanding and motivation to follow them. I believe the way to do this is to reconnect art and science to make saving species more inclusive, enjoyable, meaningful, and relevant. Now is the time to work together to study, celebrate, and protect species. Only we can save wildlife.