Elise Allély-Fermé

Director of Conservation Pronatura México.


Elise Allély-Fermé is the Director of Conservation at Pronatura México, a Mexican civil society organization with over 42 years of experience dedicated to nature conservation. With a specialization in integrated water management, Elise has amassed a decade of experience working across various domains of nature conservation, climate change mitigation, and integrated water management. 

Before assuming her role at Pronatura México, Elise contributed her expertise to the Australian Rivers Institute, where she participated in developing an ecological monitoring framework for conservation projects and Ramsar Sites in Australia. Additionally, she co-founded "Youth Engaged in Wetlands" (YEW), an international youth network fostering intergenerational cooperation within the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Through YEW, Elise documented youth participation in wetland conservation and worked towards institutionalizing their involvement in Ramsar Convention processes, culminating in the development of a youth resolution supported by the Australian and Costa Rican Governments and various civil society organizations. 

Elise's journey in environmental activism began with her tenure at the Ramsar Convention Secretariat in Switzerland, where she supported its implementation and updated information on Ramsar Sites in Europe. She also led environmental education programs in the Regional Natural Park of the Cotentin and Bessin Marshes in France. 

Elise holds a Bachelor of Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia (UK) and a Master of Integrated Water Management from Griffith University (Australia). Beyond her professional endeavors, she enjoys biking, exploring the Mexican mountains, and pursuing photography. A global citizen, Elise was born in France, raised in France, Mali, and Switzerland, pursued studies in the UK and Spain, and frequently visited family in the USA. 

Her passion for water conservation was ignited during her time in Mali, where she experienced first-hand the challenges of accessing clean water. This awareness grew further during her stay in Switzerland, where she became increasingly cognizant of disparities in water access and sanitation. Her academic pursuits in the UK delved into water use behaviors and water management in regions facing severe water stress, reflecting her commitment to promoting fair and sustainable water use. 

Elise's multifaceted journey and diverse experiences have uniquely shaped her perspective and expertise in conservation, making her a formidable force in the global environmental movement.

Questions and Answers

What personal experience has shaped or inspired your journey?

Ten years ago, fresh out of university, the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands offered me my first formal job as Assistant to the Regional Advisor for Europe. It was an eye-opening experience and a key stepping stone - it opened up a world to me that I did not know existed and yet became completely passionate about. Being part of the Secretariat, participating in the Ramsar COPs, the meetings of the Standing Committee, visiting Ramsar sites and wetlands, meeting and working with government authorities and NGOs, and meeting wetland allies gave me the space and confidence to grow and understand the Convention, wetlands and the social dynamics that are fundamentally associated to wetlands.

I don’t consider myself a wetland conservation or restoration expert, but I feel that I have the capacity to comprehend and admire the complexity of wetlands. For me, that complexity is their beauty - being part of the Secretariat helped me to understand that. I met amazing people who, by their passion for wetlands allowed me to grow mine. I am grateful for that opportunity.

Who is the influential figure who has inspired your actions, and what specifically about them has been motivating?

It is difficult to pinpoint a specific influential figure – I have had many in different moments of my life that have inspired me. In particular, I would say that it's what these people have in common that has inspired me to think independently and critically question things, and use my voice. My parents were the first people and they have been a constant support and sounding board for my ideas.

More recently, I would say that my Master’s thesis supervisor Dr. Samantha Capon at Griffith University really shifted my way of thinking about conservation and also gave me the confidence to aspire to even bigger dreams. In addition to the guidance that she gave me, I was inspired by the example that she set as an academic, an ecologist, a conservationist, a mother, and a kind and genuine woman. Sam invited me to join a group of women students while I was writing my thesis – all brilliant minds and people – some were working on their PhDs, others on their bachelor's or master’s thesis. It was a positive and constructive space based on the idea of supporting each other. All that helped me in particular to build my confidence.

In your conservation efforts for wetlands, what key challenges did you face and how has this experience fuelled your dedication to making a positive impact?

While working at the Secretariat, I came across several inspiring young people who were working directly on wetland conservation in their own countries. I was so impressed by the work that they were doing and found out they also were looking for deeper connections, they wanted to do more and make a positive impact. That is how we started Youth Engaged in Wetlands, as a way of connecting youth who wanted to make an impact and to define ways that we could constructively participate in the Convention. As youth of that network, I felt we had a greater and different sense of urgency for wetland conservation and climate action and it was important to have that voice heard. My understanding of how the Convention worked I think helped other young people understand the decision-making processes – it can be quite an intimidating space if you don’t know when to speak. 

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