Petaluma’s Point Blue hires new CEO

Mani Oliva, a former federal official, plans to focus on climate change for the environmental nonprofit.|

Mani Oliva has battled against climate change from inside the federal government. He now brings the fight to the private sector, joining Petaluma’s Point Blue Conservation Science as the nonprofit’s new CEO.

“Conservation and climate change are what I feel passionate about,” said Oliva, who recent worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I’m excited to take the next step in this field.”

Oliva, 51, has an extensive background shaping environmental policy. At the USDA, he was acting director of the Foreign Agriculture Service, where he oversaw $100 million worth of projects aimed at increasing agricultural capacity. He has also worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Conservation International, and as chief of compliance and enforcement for air quality for the city of Washington D.C.

While he has worked with several administrations in Washington, Oliva said his decision to leave government was not due to the current administration’s inaction on climate change. President Trump has signaled an intention to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris climate change treaty.

Instead, Oliva said he welcomed a chance to step outside the Beltway and take on a new challenge with the 54-year-old nonprofit.

“There is a lot of important works still being done (in government),” he said. “I’m not leaving frustrated. I’m not being driven away from government, but I’m going towards Point Blue.”

He said Point Blue is on the cutting edge of climate change research, and he is looking forward to leading the effort to reduce what he said is a “threat multiplier.”

One of Petaluma’s largest nonprofits, Point Blue has a $14 million annual budget and more than 160 scientists working on conservation issues from their headquarters next to Shollengberger Park, field stations in Bolinas and the Farallon Islands and around the state. Programs include studying sea level rise, monitoring marine ecosystems and working with farmers and ranchers to implement conservation programs.

Its STRAW program has trained hundreds of Petaluma students to restore local watersheds.

Most recently, the organization was led by former CEO Ellie Cohen, who announced that she was leaving in 2018 after 20 years.

Point Blue’s current Board Chair, Megan Colwell, said in a statement that Oliva rose to the top in a rigorous nationwide search.

“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Mani to Point Blue,” she said. “We had the privilege of speaking with many talented leaders during our search. However, Mani stood out as a truly exceptional candidate and we were thrilled when he accepted our offer.”

Oliva grew up in Texas and Washington D.C. He has a degree in engineering from the University of Maryland. He is currently living in Washington with his wife. The couple plans to move to the area soon, and his first day at Point Blue is April 29.

“I’m incredibly excited to join Point Blue as its next CEO,” he said. “The organization’s dedication to conservation science and addressing the urgent climate challenges we face couldn’t be a better match for my skills and experience, as well as my own personal dedication to these issues. I’m inspired by the incredible array of partners Point Blue has developed over the past 50 years, and I look forward to working with all of them alongside the organization’s fantastic staff.”

(Contact Matt Brown at

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