Audubon Appoints Marketing and Strategy Leaders to National Board

New Directors bring experience in culture-building, corporate strategy, fundraising, and engagement in Latin America and the U.S.

NEW YORK (October 31, 2022) – The National Audubon Society celebrates two recent additions to its National Board of Directors: Bernardo Vargas-Gibsone, former CEO of ISA Group in Latin America, and Shelly Cihan, founder of Rooted Rock Marketing. The new National Board Directors will work to support Audubon’s mission to protect birds and the places they need.

“Audubon is focused on tackling the biggest challenges facing birds and our planet across the hemisphere, and the newest Directors on the National Board will significantly contribute to these efforts,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gray, CEO of the National Audubon Society. “Birds tell us that the climate and biodiversity crises are urgent challenges to our mission. Bernardo and Shelly are dynamic and accomplished leaders that will help govern Audubon as the organization increases its impact and hemispheric reach.”

“The National Board continues to grow stronger with industry experts from the U.S. and Latin America,” said Susan Bell, National Audubon Society Board Chair. “Their business expertise and commitment to Audubon’s mission make them exciting and important partners in our work bringing people together to protect birds and the places they need – both on the local and hemispheric level.”

Bernardo Vargas-Gibsone, of Bogotá, Colombia, is a distinguished CEO and experienced advisor in the areas of leadership, culture building and corporate strategy. Currently he is a Managing Director at the Digital Bridge Group acting as Senior Advisor and Chairman for Latin America. Between 2015 and 2022, Bernardo was the CEO of ISA Group, a leading multi-latin corporation focusing on Electric Power Transmission, Information and Communication Technology and Road Concessions. Founded in 1967, ISA operates through companies in 7 countries in Latin America and is industry leader in Colombia, Peru, Chile and Brazil. During his ISA years, he also served as initiator and chief sponsor of the Conexion Jaguar project to foster environmental preservation and protect the Latin-American jaguar.  Previously he worked many years in investment banking as founding partner at Nogal Asesorias Financieras an advisory boutique in Colombia and as Head of Colombia for ING and Barings Securities, specializing in local and cross-border fund raising and M&A. He started his professional career at the Banco de la Republica, Colombia’s central bank, where he helped manage the county’s international reserves portfolio and was an analyst in the Board of Monetary Advisors. He was given the Colombia Business Leader of the Year award in 2017 (Premios Portafolio) and was repeatedly recognized by Institutional Investor magazine as one of the top CEOs in Latin America. Along his career he has acted as Chairman and Board member in over ten companies and business associations in Latin America. Also actively involved in academic activities with Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil and non-profit organizations including the Nature Conservancy, the Medellin Philharmonic Orchestra and Best Buddies Colombia. Bernardo obtained an MBA from Columbia University and an Economics BA and MS from Universidad de los Andes, in Bogotá, Colombia.

“Audubon’s hemispheric approach to bird conservation presents new opportunities for partnerships and growth,” said Bernardo Vargas-Gibsone. “I look forward to bringing my corporate strategy, culture-building, and financial planning expertise to the National Board at this innovative time for the organization.”

Shelly Cihan, of Saranac Lake, NY, is the founder of Rooted Rock Marketing, a full-service marketing agency located in the Adirondack village of Saranac Lake, NY. She has a passion for the environment and actively volunteers for several charitable environmental organizations. Over the years these have included Northern NY Audubon, the Audubon Council of NYS, National Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, the Ausable River Association, Adopt a Highway program, Adirondack All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, All About Lakes, and Adirondack Wilderness Advocates. For the past 7 years, Shelly has served on the board of Northern NY Audubon in the roles of President, Vice President, and the fundraising chair. She uses her unique marketing background to reach potential members through creative fundraising endeavors. Her initiatives have included protecting the endangered NYS Spruce Grouse population through the launch of Spruce Tip IPA at a brewery popular with local hunters within miles of known nesting grounds, bird-themed trivia nights, and initiating Birds, Brews and Beauty an annual gathering. Shelly also serves on the board of the Audubon Council of NY which is dedicated to bringing the local Audubon chapters across NYS together for networking and collaboration. During her time on this board, she founded the boards Birds of a Feather program. This informal digital monthly gathering allows chapters from across the state to deepen their knowledge while further amplifying the mission of Audubon. Over the past year, Shelly has led discussions on topics such as leading effective board meetings, how to engage younger members, how to amplify your mission through marketing, board succession and planning for the future, and running successful annual appeal campaigns. Shelly graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences from Paul Smith’s College. She lives her very energetic dog Nico and her partner Brendan who is the Senior Research Scientist for Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute.

“When I first began engaging with my local Audubon chapter, I had no idea how much of an impact it would have,” said Shelly Cihan. “My passion for birds and the environment has been fueled by Audubon for many years. I am grateful for this opportunity and very excited to use my knowledge and background to help spark others to get involved, whether it be in their own backyards or on a more national level."  

About Audubon 
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety. 
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