Director of Project WILD
Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA)
Elena Takaki focuses on getting youth outdoors and connected with the environment in which they live. From encouraging youth to recognize the ecosystem values of urban environments to providing wilderness experiences, Elena believes it is important for young people to go beyond just understanding the world around them; they should have the opportunity to experience it through exploration, curiosity, and wonder.
Elena currently serves as a Director for Project WILD at the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), where she can combine her passion for the environment and her calling to education. She enjoys working with dedicated formal and non-formal educators across the country to make wildlife education an engaging endeavor, while also being scientifically accurate, and encouraging learning in the outdoors.
Before coming to AFWA, Elena worked at the North American Association for Environmental Education, focusing on developing online modules for professionals. During her time at National Geographic Society, she managed the Chesapeake Bay initiative, funded by a NOAA grant, that involved uploading student water quality data to an online platform and creating curriculum and professional development opportunities to incorporate its use in social studies and science classrooms.
While at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Elena was the lead staff for the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature and coordinated education and outreach efforts for the state agency. Throughout her career, she has developed numerous curricula and lessons that involve student data collection and using that data to make informed resource management decisions. Most recently, Elena worked with the Friends of the Smithsonian Zoo to develop a migratory bird tracking curriculum called, “Follow That Bird!”
Additionally, Elena has served as President of the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, where she is currently Emeritus and Chair of their Maryland Environmental Education Certification program. Elena has served as Adjunct Faculty for Towson University where she supervised Master’s Education Students during their internships in middle and high schools, and she has led several study abroad courses in Costa Rica for pre-service educators.
Elena is a graduate of University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources (BS), University of Michigan’s School of Education (MA) and Johns Hopkins University (MS). She is currently pursuing a certificate in E-Learning and Instructional Design through Oregon State University.
Elena lives along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, with her husband Ryan, where they enjoy kayaking and spoiling their dog.