Erin Betley

Biodiversity Specialist and Programs Coordinator


Research Interests

Erin Betley is a Biodiversity Specialist and Programs Coordinator at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History.

After a childhood spent combing the beaches and woods of Massachusetts, Erin was inspired by a truly remarkable high school biology teacher to enter the life sciences. She graduated from Boston University in 2001 with a B.A. in Biology and initially pursued a career in molecular and cellular biology. A chance encounter with a billboard that stated “Learn What You Love” inspired some reflection on her true motivations, and after two fisheries internships with the Student Conservation Association involving Pacific salmon research in Alaska with the USDA Forest Service and in Oregon with the Bureau of Land Management, Erin found her true calling in ecology and conservation biology. She worked full-time managing a cell biology laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center while completing her Master’s degree in Conservation Biology at Columbia’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology. During her studies, she was fortunate to learn from another life changing mentor, Dr. Eleanor Sterling, and followed Dr. Sterling to the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum of Natural History.

As Biodiversity Specialist, she provides research, writing, and coordination support for various CBC projects. She is content research specialist for the AMNH traveling exhibitions Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture and Water: H2O=Life. She is author of numerous scholarly and educational materials on the topics of biocultural stewardship and conservation, evidence-informed conservation, human well-being, equity, stakeholder engagement, systems thinking, food, and water, including case studies for the CBC’s Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners and the AMNH Seminars on Science course Water: Environmental Science, a CODiE Award winner for Best Professional Development Solution from the Software & Information Industry Association. She serves as practitioner instructor for courses at Columbia on food, ecology, globalization, and health. Erin also coordinated the CBC’s sea turtle research and conservation project at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Central Pacific, where she conducted field research. Along with Dr. Sterling and colleagues at the CBC, Erin launched Untold Stories, organized by the Women in Natural Sciences chapter at the American Museum of Natural History, highlighting the stories of individuals from underrepresented groups whose contributions to exploration, discovery, and our understanding of our natural world have been largely unknown. Prior to coming to the CBC, she also served as Research and Expedition Coordinator for the No Water No Life nonprofit photodocumentary project in the Columbia River Basin.


Betley, E., A. Sigouin, P. Pascua, K.I. MacDonald, F. Arengo, Y. Aumeeruddy-Thomas,  S. Caillon, S.H. Cheng, M.E. Isaac, S. D. Jupiter, A. Mawyer, M. Mejia, A.C. Moore, D. Renard, L. Sébastien, N. Gazit, and E.J. Sterling. (2021) Assessing human well-being constructs with environmental and equity aspects: A review of the landscape. People and Nature 00:1-18. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10293

Sterling, E. J., A. Sigouin, E. Betley, J.Z. Cheek, J.N. Solomon, K. Landrigan, A.L.  Porzecanski, N. Bynum, B. Cadena, K.R. Clements, S.H. Cheng, R. Finchum, M. Geresy, A. Gomez, M. Groom, T.A.C. Loffeld, D. C. Miller, D. Rakotobe, M. Rao, R. Roberts, X.A. Shinbrot, E. Willigan, and M.S. Jones. (2021). The State of Capacity Development Evaluation in Conservation and Natural Resource Management. Oryx 1-12. DOI: 10.1017/S0030605321000570

Sterling, E.J.*, E. Betley,* S. Ahmed, S. Akabas, D. J. Clegg, S. Downs, B. Izumi, P. Koch, S.M. Kross, K. Spiller, L. Teron, and W.Valley. Centering Equity in Sustainable Food Systems Education. (2021) Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 5:737434. doi 10.3389/fsufs.2021.737434 *Sterling and Betley share first authorship.

Betley, E., E.J. Sterling, and A.L. Porzecanski. Co-Editors. 2021. Lessons in Conservation. American Museum of Natural History, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners. Systems Thinking Issue. Vol. 11 Available from: 

Valley, W., M. Anderson, E.J. Sterling, E. Betley, S. Akabas, N.T. Blackstone, P. Koch, C. Dring, J. Burke, and K. Spiller. 2020. Towards an Equity Competency Model for Sustainable Food Systems Education Programs. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. 8: 33.

Sterling, E.J., P. Pascua, A. Sigouin, L. Mandle, E. Betley, J. Aini, S. Albert, S. Caillon, J.E. Caselle, S.H. Cheng, J. Claudet, R. Dacks, E.S. Darling, C. Filardi; S. D. Jupiter, N. Gazit, A. Mawyer, M. Mejia, K. Morishige, W. Nainoca, J. Parks, J. Tanguay, T. Ticktin, R. Vave, V. Wase, S. Wongbusarakum, and J. McCarter. 2020. Sustainable Development, Multidimensional Well-being, and Creating a Space for Place. Sustainability Science 15: 1120-1147. doi: /10.1007/s11625-020-00822-w

Gray, S., E.J. Sterling, P. Aminpour, L. Goralnik, A. Singer, C. Wei, SS. Akabas, R.C. Jordan, P.J. Giabbanelli, J. Hodbod, E. Betley, and P. Norris.  Assessing (Social-Ecological) Systems Thinking by Evaluating Cognitive Maps. Sustainability 2019, 11, 5753. doi: 10/3390/su11205753

Betley, E., A. Sigouin, E.J. Sterling, F. Arengo, N. Gazit, and A.L. Porzecanski. 2018. Best

practices for stakeholder engagement in biodiversity programming. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Resource Guide. USAID Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and the Environment - Office of Forestry and Biodiversity. Washington, DC. 

Naro-Maciel, E., F. Arengo, P. Galante, E. Vintinner, K. Holmes, G. Balazs, and E.J. Sterling. 2018.  Marine protected areas and migratory species: Residency of green turtles at Palmyra Atoll, Central Pacific. Endangered Species Research Vol. 37 p.165-182, 2018.

Sterling, E.J., E. Betley, A. Sigouin, A. Gomez*, A. Toomey*, G. Cullman*, C. Malone*, A. Pekor, F. Arengo, M. Blair*, C. Filardi, K. Landrigan, and A.L. Porzecanski. 2017. Assessing the evidence for stakeholder engagement in biodiversity conservation. Biological Conservation. May 2017. Vol. 209: 159-171.    DOI:

McCarter, J., E.J. Sterling, S. Jupiter, G. Cullman, S. Albert, M. Basi, E. Betley, D. Boseto, E.S. Bulehite, R. Haroni, P. Holland, N. Horning, A. Hughes, N. Jino, C. Malone, S. Mauli, B. Pae, R. Papae, F. Rence, O. Revo, E. Taqala, M. Taqu, H. Woltz, and C. Filardi. 2018.  Biocultural approaches to developing well-being indicators in Solomon Islands. Ecology and Society. 23(1):32.

Sterling, E.J., C. Filardi, A. Toomey, A. Sigouin, E. Betley, N. Gazit, J. Newell, S. Albert, D. Alvira,  N. Bergamini,  M.E. Blair, D. Boseto, K. Burrows, N. Bynum, S. Caillon, J.E. Caselle, J. Claudet, G. Cullman, R. Dacks, P.B. Eyzaguirre, S. Gray, J. Herrera, P. Kenilorea, K. Kinney,  N. Kurashima, S. Macey, C. Malone, S. Mauli, J. McCarter, H. McMillen, P. Pascua, P. Pikacha, A.L. Porzecanski, P. de Robert, M. Salpeteur, M. Sirikolo, M.H. Stege, K. Stege, T. Ticktin, R. Vave, A. Wali, P. West, K.B. Winter, and S.D. Jupiter. 2017. Biocultural approaches to well-being and sustainability indicators across scales. Nature Ecology & Evolution. DOI:

Sterling, E.J., T. Ticktin, K. Morgan, G. Cullman, D. Alvira, P. Andrade, N. Bergamini, E. Betley, K. Burrows, S. Caillon, J. Claudet, R. Dacks, P. Eyzaguirre, C. Filardi, N. Gazit, C. Giardina, S. Jupiter, K. Kinney, J. McCarter, M. Mejia, K. Morishige, J. Newell, L. Noori, J. Parks, P. Pascua, A. Ravikumar, J. Tanguay, A. Sigouin, T. Stege, M. Stege, and A. Wali. 2017. Culturally Grounded Indicators of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. Environment and Society: Advances in Research. Special issue on Measurement and Metrics. 8(1): 63-95.   

Betley, E. and E. Sterling. 2016. Exhibiting the Food System at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Food and Museums. Edited by N. Levent and I. Mihalache. London: Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 149-158.

Sterling, E.J. and E. Betley. 2016. Food and Water Exhibitions: a Lens on Climate Change. Curating the Future: Museums, Communities, and Climate Change, Part II: Vibrant Matter. Edited by J. Newell, L. Robin, and K. Wehner.  Routledge Environmental Humanities. Chapter 13, pp 105-114.

Betley, E.C. 2014. How the West was Watered: A Case Study of the Colorado River. Lessons in Conservation Issue IV. Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History. Available from

Naro-Maciel, E., S.J. Gaughran, N.F. Putman, G. Amato, F. Arengo, P.H. Dutton, K.W.  

McFadden, E.C. Vintinner, and E.J. Sterling. 2014. Predicting connectivity of green

turtles at Palmyra Atoll, Central Pacific: A focus on mtDNA and dispersal modeling. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 11(93): 20130888.

Sterling, E.J. and E. Betley. 2013. Working With Farmers and Nature. Science Chronicles, November 2013, pp 3-5. Available from:

Sterling, E.J. and E. Betley. 2013. Listening to the Bee: Learning from Nature How to Grow Food . Science for Nature and People, November 2013. Available from:

Sterling, E.J., K. McFadden, K. Holmes, E. Vintinner, F. Arengo, and E. Naro-Maciel. 2013. Ecology and Conservation of Marine Turtles in a Foraging Ground in the Central Pacific. Chelonian Conservation Biology 12(1): 2-16.

Luxton, G.W.G., E.R Gomes, E.S. Folker, E. Vintinner, and G.G. Gundersen. 2010. Linear Arrays of Nuclear Envelope Proteins Harness Retrograde Actin Flow for Nuclear Movement. Science 329(5994): 956-959.

Bynum, N., E.J. Sterling, B. Weeks, K. Roosenburg, A. Gomez, E. Vintinner, F. Arengo, R. Pearson, and M. Domroese. 2009.  Emerging topics in the study of life on Earth: systems approaches to biological and cultural diversity. Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal 2(1): 38-55.

Pretty, J. B. Adams, F. Berkes, S. Athayde, N. Dudley, E. Hunn, L. Maffi, K. Milton, D. Rapport, P. Robbins, E.J. Sterling, S. Stolton, A. Tsing, E. Vintinner and S. Pilgrim. 2009. The Intersections of Biological Diversity and Cultural Diversity: Towards Integration. Conservation and Society 7(2): 100-112.