Introducing Difference Maker Mentor: Leilani Duarte

Hello, my name is Leilani Rose Duarte, and I am a 2022-23 NRCA Difference Maker Mentor (DMM).


I’m a senior at UConn majoring in Natural Resources (NRE) with a concentration in Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation and minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). I intend on entering graduate school after I graduate to further expand my knowledge and skill set related to wildlife conservation and management, which is also the field I hope to enter when I start my career. I am especially interested in conservation biology and working directly with animals, particularly felids. I’ve also always wanted to get involved in wildlife rehabilitation and rescue, and further on in my career I hope to be able to work with conservation organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Society.

As a NRCA DMM, I’m hoping that the experience will further inspire my interest in environmental science as well as help me broaden my own skills and experiences in community outreach and implementing community-based environmental projects. I’ve always had a strong interest in wildlife conservation, but I’m more familiar with the research side of it. The skills I hope to gain as a DMM include intergenerational communication and organizational skills, teaching skills, and managing community outreach projects.

In addition to being a DMM, I’m also currently working as a lab assistant for EEB PhD candidate Grace Vaziri with her study on the thermal preferences of wood frogs from different populations around Connecticut. Previously, I’ve worked with Liz Clifton, an EEB doctoral student on her termite warfare study and with Eliza Grames, a Post-doctoral Scholar now at the University of Nevada, on the EntoGEM project.

In my free time, I like to sketch, play video games, and spend time with my lovely cat Calypso. I also love to travel. In the past, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, China and Japan, and more recently I’ve traveled to South Africa as part of the UConn study abroad course African Field Ecology. During the CAP field experience I was super excited to share my experiences in South Africa in particular, since cheetah conservation would be something I’d love to get involved with career-wise.

As a part of NRCA, I’m looking forward to helping my mentees develop their environmental action projects as well as seeing what the final projects look like in 10 months time.


NRCA’s Difference Maker Mentors (DMM) program are currently supported by a generous 5-year donation from the original private family foundation and from a grant (WAMS-2021-38503-34817) from the USDA Women & Minorities in STEM Fields.