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We are a small team of visionaries, creators, and disruptors who want to re-shape the future of the environmental movement in North America and beyond. We believe that by applying the principles of behavioral science, conservationists can generate a quantum leap in environmental quality.


Executive Director

Nya co-founded Root Solutions with Rod Fujita in 2014 and has served as the nonprofit’s Executive Director since its inception. Nya’s conservation work has focused on the application of research in institutional design, sociology, economics, and other fields to create policies and design principles that facilitate rational environmental decision-making, namely in service of preserving the world’s oceans. Nya has created educational and outreach materials for the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society on the fragility of earth’s coral reef ecosystems. As a fisheries specialist at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), she provided sustainable fishery management expertise through workshops, trainings, and resource development.

During her five-year tenure at EDF, Nya met and worked closely with Rod Fujita. Together they led the introduction of decision science to their colleagues. Nya has co-authored two books published by EDF: Catch Share Design Manual, Volume 1: A Guide for Managers and Fishermen, and Catch Share Design Manual, Volume 2: Cooperative Catch Shares, as well as several scientific articles. Nya holds an M.A. from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University and a B.A. in Anthropology and in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley.

Science Director

Rod is a leader in the theory and practice of aligning incentives with good conservation outcomes, with a focus on improving the health of the world’s oceans. In 2000, he was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to work on emerging issues in ocean conservation. In addition to his role at Root Solutions, Rod is the Director of Research and Development at Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program where he has been working with fishing communities, regulators and business leaders around the world to improve fishery policies for more than 25 years. He has helped establish marine protected areas (MPAs) totaling more than 10,000 square miles and worked with partners to reduce the impacts of trawling off California’s coast with an innovative private buyout and transition to more sustainable types of fishing. In 2008, Rod co-founded the California Fisheries Fund, a revolving loan fund that supports fishermen and fishing businesses as they transition to more sustainable business practices.

Rod has served on numerous state, regional, federal and international advisory bodies concerned with fisheries and ocean conservation issues. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed scientific publications as well as many popular articles and the well-received book, Heal the Ocean. Rod’s interests in the workings of the human mind converged with his passion for conservation during discussions of the book Nudge by decision science pioneers Richard Thaler and Sunstein, which led him to co-found Root Solutions. His current research in the field of environmental decision science is aimed at increasing the effectiveness of conservation advocacy and policy making.

Assistant Director

Lauren comes to Root Solutions with experience in strategic communication, fundraising, and project and event coordination for non-profits, public agencies and higher education institutions. With a background in environmental policy and economics from UC San Diego, Lauren went back to school for her Master’s degree in Environmental Behavior, Education and Communication at the University of Michigan after seeing a very real need for greater evidence-informed decision-making, programming, and communication in the non-profit space.

After three (very cold) years in Michigan studying and teaching other students about behavior change for environmental stewardship, Lauren is now applying her skills and expertise at Root Solutions by helping non-profits, campuses, and other organizations use behavioral science to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their initiatives. While Lauren’s environmental topical interests are broad, she believes this lends itself perfectly to her role at Root Solutions, as expertise in human behavior and effective communication are needed across the issue and organizational spectrum.

Project Manager

With a unique background in international finance, development, and conservation, Emily arrives at Root Solutions convinced that behavior change is what’s needed at the crux of myriad issues faced by society today. Following her 4-year tenure in corporate lending & trade finance at a large global bank, Emily left the private sector—inspired to join the Peace Corps as an Economic Development Volunteer in Perú. Most recently, she enjoyed researching human-wildlife conflict in Rwanda, investigating potential interventions toward a more harmonious coexistence. Throughout her multicultural endeavors, Emily’s love of animals (and her pets!) has been unwavering—prompting her to explore ways to combine her professional background with a passion for championing the more humane treatment of animals through behavior design.

Emily has worked on a range of behavior design initiatives, including marine debris prevention and single-use plastic reduction. She is co-leading a project to determine transportation mode choice influencers to inform highway congestion reduction strategies. Human motivations and behaviors hold the key to rewriting current unsustainable narratives and accelerating social and environmental change.

Emily holds a B.S. in Business from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and an M.A. in International Policy & Development from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Project Manager

Christine comes to Root Solutions with a B.S. in Computer Science and minor in Human Biology from Stanford University, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.  She has over 15 years of experience in web development, UX design, and QA.  Her interest in human-centered design led her to shift into user research, where the focus is on understanding user’s needs, motivations, and behaviors to inform the process of developing effective solutions.  With increasing concern for the sustainability of our ecosystems (especially when thinking about her three adorable nieces), Christine became interested in exploring how design research and behavioral science principles could be applied to solving the climate crisis.

At Root Solutions, Christine has redesigned and developed a new mobile-responsive website and is working on a range of projects related to behavioral change, including paper use reduction, marine debris prevention, and single-occupancy vehicle usage reduction.  She believes that with a true understanding of human behavior and good design, we can help people take actions and make choices that are good for our environment (and not for consumption and convenience).

Senior Research Associate

Ashleigh comes to Root Solutions with a background in Psychology and Economics from UC Berkeley. Throughout her career, she has been continuously drawn to the behavioral sciences, and she is now excited to be participating in behaviorally-rooted change campaigns at Root Solutions.  She is particularly interested in the conservation of California’s ecosystems, as she spent her childhood summers exploring the beautiful state while camping with her family.  She believes that the insights from the behavioral sciences are essential to creating change – even the most well-intentioned campaign can meet its downfall if it is not understood and accepted by the people with whom it interacts.

Ashleigh is planning to pursue a Master’s in Public Policy, so she can build a career on creating behaviorally-driven policies and campaigns for a wide range of social issues.

Senior Research Associate, Projects & Behavioral Design

Nicole Hilaire, PhD, is a research psychologist specializing in social motivation, behavior change, and quantitative research methods. Nicole holds a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she received interdisciplinary training in Social Psychology, Health Psychology, and Public Health, and a Master’s degree from Illinois State University where she had a dual-focus in Developmental and Quantitative Psychology. Her deep understanding of social psychology and health behavior change theories (many of which form the basis of environmental behavior change) serves as a strong foundation for her work as a Senior Research Associate at Root Solutions.

Since starting with us, Nicole has co-authored several chapters in our forthcoming book, Making Shift Happen: Designing for Successful Environmental Behavior Change, including a primer on Research Methods, the ‘Uncover’ portion of the design process, and the ‘Habits’ building block. Nicole guides our work on transportation behavior, designing research and recommendations for shifting people out of their cars and toward shared and active modes of transportation. She is currently the project lead for CCTA’s Innovate 680 project, where she works closely with senior stakeholders and manages a team of researchers. She is also responsible for creating knowledge databases and overseeing business development within the transportation sector. Nicole is deeply grateful for the opportunity to meld her passions for human behavior, research, and the environment at Root Solutions to promote behavior change for good.


Senior Research Associate

Willow graduated in June of 2012 from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB where she double specialized in Coastal Marine Resource Management and Economics and Politics of the Environment. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle, and she grew up in New Mexico. Since graduating from Bren, Willow has held a variety of positions working on different aspects of international environmental policy and management. She began her career as a consultant working on supply chain analysis for EcoAnalytics, and then completed an internship with the Catch Shares Design Center at Environmental Defense Fund. From that position she transitioned onto the Oceans Program Research and Development team, working under Dr. Fujita. As a member of the R&D Team she assisted with multiple projects geared towards improving management of data-limited fisheries around the world. Willow has long been interested in understanding the drivers of the large and small decisions that people make, both alone and as a larger society, that impact conservation and natural resource use. She is excited to work towards broadening this understanding with Root Solutions.

Senior Research Associate

During three years working at Root Solutions, Pauline helped develop Root Solutions’ “Behavioral Building Blocks” framework. She is currently co-authoring Designing for Environmental Action: A Practitioner’s Guide to Human Centered Conservation Design (release to be in 2019). Prior to her work at Root Solutions, Pauline worked in communications and research on behalf of both government and nonprofits. Pauline graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Public Policy. Pauline is currently earning her Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.

Senior Scientist

Susan Schneider holds degrees in environmental and mechanical engineering (MS, Brown University), and did an energy efficiency project for US Steel.  After a stint in the Peace Corps, she obtained a PhD in psychology (University of Kansas), specializing in reinforcement learning principles, and had an academic career.  Her expertise includes delay discounting, reinforcement schedules, and incentive systems.  Schneider’s award-winning book for the public, The Science of Consequences, covers learning principles, their biological context, and their many applications, including sustainability.  The book earned coverage in top journal Nature and led to an international book tour.  A lifelong environmental activist, Schneider now mainly gives talks about the climate crisis.  She co-founded and co-chairs her local Climate Action Coalition, which has vehicle idling and tree planting successes, and conducts education and advocacy.  Schneider is a Visiting Scholar at the University of the Pacific.

Behavior Change Specialist - Agriculture and Ecosystems

Ted worked with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory (now Bird Conservancy of the Rockies) where he managed a program called “Prairie Partners” that provided technical support for habitat projects, outreach and education to ranchers and farmers in the Great Plains. While at the Bird Observatory, he also served as the U.S. representative for a team of scientists who developed a Tri-National North American Grasslands Conservation Strategy for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Ted is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University.