Our Team

The CAVU Team are all advocates for conservation and social justice issues and they bring with them the necessary experience and skillset to help us achieve our mission.


D+E museumB

David S. Smith

Founder, President, and Chief Pilot

David grew up in New York and Washington DC and graduated from Williams College with a degree in Political Science. He spent 7 years in Africa, with experience in 43 countries, working first with the Ford Foundation, and later as a bush pilot, and also as a photojournalist covering some of the continent’s messier conflicts. He returned to the United States and worked in the film industry. Since the early 1990s, David has devoted himself full time to work as a conservationist, and also serves as Chairman of the Board of the St. Catherines Island Foundation.

In 2004, David and his wife Jordan founded CAVU and moved to Costa Rica as a hub for operations throughout Latin America. While Jordan managed a growing staff and all financial matters and important strategic decisions, David produced and directed 14 community outreach films in 10 countries in 3 languages – a number of which are still in use in schools and broadcasting systems in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize, among others.

David also conducted hundreds of low-level aerial overflights, with both NGOs and multiple government agencies in Latin America, mapping the Meso-American Barrier Reef System, and documenting damaged watersheds and deforestation as far south as the Peruvian Amazon. David is a commercial/single/multi-engine/land/sea/glider/instrument rated pilot with over 4500 hours experience on three continents.

With the birth of two daughters and our return to a base in Santa Fe, New Mexico, CAVU is currently focused on critical issues here at home.

When not working, David enjoys time with his family and friends – hiking, camping, fishing…and skiing above all else.



Jordan Vaughan Smith

Founder and Executive Director

Jordan grew up in San Antonio, Texas. She graduated from the American University of Paris with a degree in International Economics. She then moved to Istanbul, Turkey, where she was employed by the brokerage firm FinansInvest, and conducted quantitative market analysis of the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

Following the collapse of the Turkish Lira in 2001, Jordan returned to the States and was working for Wells Fargo in New Mexico when she met her future husband. Jordan and David founded CAVU in 2004 and moved to Costa Rica as a hub for operations throughout Latin America. With the exception of a much-needed sabbatical after the birth of her second daughter, Jordan has served as CAVU’s Executive Director since its inception. She has managed a growing staff and all financial matters, as well as important creative and strategic decisions.

With our return to the United States and a home in Santa Fe, Jordan now serves as an active board member of Communities in Schools of Santa Fe. She directs funding from the Jordan and David Smith Fund at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, focusing on education, the environment and economic development. She also serves as a director of the St Catherines Island Foundation.

When she’s not busy with the various endeavors of work life Jordan enjoys skiing, yoga, cooking and camping. She loves languages, cultures, human relations and problem-solving.



Staci Stevens

Program Director

Staci has fifteen years’ experience organizing advocacy campaigns for nonprofit organizations at a state and national level with a specialization in strategic communications.

She began her career in Washington, D.C., where she worked for the National Environmental Trust and the Pew Charitable Trusts. She has coordinated a wide range of campaigns including: consumer, product-based campaigns, corporate campaigns, place preservation campaigns, and campaigns to defeat harmful policies and to advocate for passage of new environmental laws.

From 2009 – 2015 Staci was the lead strategic media and advocacy advisor for Audubon New Mexico, the state office of the National Audubon Society. She has organized winning communications efforts for Audubon and on behalf of nonprofit coalitions throughout the state.

She graduated magna cum laude from the College of Santa Fe where she studied Business Management and Conservation Studies. During college Staci worked on international conservation projects in Italy and Belize where she participated in baseline ecological surveying and development of ecotourism capacity in the countries.

Staci is a third generation New Mexican and, as the mother of two young girls, feels vested in the betterment of our communities. She enjoys reading, hiking, cooking and spends her free volunteering as a coach and as a communications advisor at her children’s schools and for her community homeowners’ association.



Brandon Basino

Media Director

Brandon has spent much of his career working directly with the species and ecosystems he now advocates for on the media side of environmental issues. After studying prescribed fire and invasive plants in the Florida Panhandle, and then salmonids out west, he realized he might be of more effective service to wildlife and wild lands as a representative rather than researcher.

As a frequent visitor of New Mexico, this Floridian is happy to have traded in his “Protect the Panther” plates for turquoise tags. Brandon comes to us with experience at the state, federal and non-profit levels after serving most recently as spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Catch him off the clock in Abiquiu or up the Pecos.



Tony Hale

Editor: “Voces del Darien”, “Nuestras Aguas; Nuestra Vida”, “Agua…Mas Que un Tubo”, “Cockscomb: Jaguar Proud”

Tony Hale is a filmmaker who has focused primarily on documentary editing for over a decade. He first discovered a joy in editing as a kid, recording and playing with loops of his drum kit. Later, while pursuing his degree in Mathematics at Boston College and working at a Harvard University media lab, he found a similar passion in filmmaking, which culminated in three award-winning student films and a start to his career.

Drawn to a wide variety of fields and topics, Tony enjoys how documentary film provides an exciting exploration of ideas and the opportunity to tell a diversity of important stories. Many of the films he has edited focus on environmental themes, and CAVU has been at the center of that body of work. Some of his favorite CAVU projects have been about watersheds in Costa Rica, sea level rise in Florida, the Belize Barrier Reef, and the countless wonders of Panama’s Darién rainforest. Having frequently edited on location for CAVU, Tony has had the pleasure of working on the challenging and rewarding process of completing “field edits” for many of these projects, in which a polished first cut is completed and screened for the communities where the film was recorded at the end of production.

Outside of his work with CAVU, Tony edits and produces videos for organizations and artists in New York City, where he is currently based. Some of those credits include: Do The Math (350.org’s film about the numbers behind climate change); “Meena” (co-directed by Lucy Liu and based on the best-selling book Half the Sky); an Emmy-award winning special on The Dead Sea Scrolls; and a number of short documentaries on a diversity of subjects. His recent feature film, A Will for the Woods (for which he was also co-director), screened at dozens of film festivals around the world and received multiple awards, including two at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, before being publicly broadcast on WORLD Channel and PBS stations across the US.

When not editing, Tony enjoys cooking, hiking, and exploring cities.

Brian Wilson


Brian has worked as a film editor since the late ’90s, soon after graduating from Brown University with a degree in Comparative Literature and History. Passionate about wilderness and its preservation, as well as environmental justice and human and animal rights, Brian is particularly drawn to projects that bring awareness to these critical subjects.

Among his most significant works to date is the feature documentary he co-directed and co-edited over the course of four years, A Will for the Woods, which tells the story of a man with terminal lymphoma determined to receive a “green” burial and thereby help save a tract of local woods from being clear-cut. The film won nine awards on the festival circuit, aired on PBS stations throughout the US, and is currently being used worldwide to educate and inspire change.

Brian has been delighted to work with CAVU on their ever-expanding body of work. From creating standalone pieces for social media to doing research and editorial consulting for larger projects to subtitling films for wider accessibility, he is excited to be part of bringing these important works to audiences everywhere.

His additional editing work has included long-form TV biographical pieces, news and cultural reports, art pieces for gallery showings, and many environmental- and social-themed short documentaries.

Brian’s other interests include dance, music of all kinds, gardening with indigenous plants, holistic practices, language, architecture, and exploring the world. He is based in Brooklyn, New York.and understanding to many viewers.

Garrick Dutcher

Dutcher Film Productions
Cinematographer: “Agua Salvadora”; “Voces del Darien”; “Nuestras Aguas; Nuestra Vida”; “Agua…Mas Que un Tubo”; “Cockscomb: Jaguar Proud”

Garrick Dutcher joined CAVU in 2005 as a Cameraman for projects in El Salvador and Panama. An Idaho native, Garrick developed his love of nature, wildlife and the outdoors from his father, Primetime Emmy Award winning cinematographer, Jim Dutcher. Garrick worked on his father’s films about wolves, cougars and beavers for National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

Garrick attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, majoring in Environmental Studies. During his final year of undergraduate studies, Garrick attended Centro de Investigaciones en Medio Ambiente y Salud (CIMAS) in Quito, Ecuador. CIMAS is a non-profit academic and research organization that studies the effects of development on the health and environment of Latin America. For his thesis, Garrick produced a photo-documentary, Oil in the Amazon, which earned highest honors. It was during this project and his year in Ecuador that Garrick developed his compassion for the plight of the rural citizens of Latin America.

Garrick further trained at the International Film and Video Workshops in Rockport, Maine and the High Def Expo Workshops in Chicago.
Garrick lives with his wife Kirstin, and their 2 small children in Ketchum, Idaho and enjoys mountaineering, skiing, mountain biking, fly-fishing, bird watching, gardening, and exploring different cultures and environments in South East Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

Dave Sherwood

Researcher and writer

Researcher and writer Dave Sherwood is an award-winning environmental journalist and photographer based in Maine.
Dave is a regular contributor to The New York Times, National Geographic News, The Miami Herald, The Weather Channel, Audubon Magazine and The Christian Science Monitor, among others.

Over the past several years, he has covered such issues as the fate of Costa Rica’s most remote wildlife refuges, the decline of tropical fisheries in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the increasing pressures of the pet trade on endangered species.

Dave developed his passion for the environment and outdoors as a child, fishing, hunting, hiking and birding in his native New England, where he has worked as a canoe camping guide, saltwater fly fishing charter boat captain and outdoor writer for one of Maine’s leading newspapers.
To see more of Dave’s work, visit his website at www.wildfilephoto.com.

Alex Cavaletti

Volunteer Pilot and Costa Rica Program Consultant

Born in Milano, Italy, Alex grew up in South Africa, Saudi Arabia and attended boarding school at Winchester College in England.
Alex began flying extensively in Costa Rica with his close friend Greg Gund and has piloted his own aircfraft since 2002.
He learned about CAVU through his love for the environment, specifically the Osa Peninsula, after a meeting with Manuel Ramirez of Conservation Internatonal.
Alex holds a commercial pilot rating and has resided in Costa Rica for 20 years and is an integral part of CAVU’S team, flying missions in Costa Rica, Belize and Panama.

Kai Benson

Cameraman/ Cinematographer: “Voces del Darien”; “Nuestras Aguas; Nuestra Vida”; “Agua…Mas Que un Tubo”.

Raised in South Africa on a British Passport and a mother from Finland, but making his home Peru, Kai brings a special spice to the look and feel of CAVU’s wildlife and aerial photography. He was taught to hold a camera by the great underwater cinematogrpher, Rick Rosenthal, and venture with same into waters arounds the world. However, in Peru, you can find Kai practicing his art at the most difficult locations – under enormous breaks, where he captures the worlds best surfers in action. Rugged, adventursome and always hungry for more, Kai also carries with him a passion for conservation of our world – particularly the world’s oceans.
Kai’s skills with a camera are second to none, and every image captured for CAVU is a jewel.

Sean Davis

Photographer, photographercostarica.com

Sean Davis is an American professional photographer currently living in Costa Rica. Sean has donated innumerable long days to CAVU, designing and building highly technical equipment for our aerial photographic missions, creating complex maps – and taking stunning oblique photographs almost as an aside.

J Patrick Cudahy


J Patrick Cudahy is an aerial photographer and pilot, dividing his time between the southern coasts of Costa Rica and California.He was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Ketchum, Idaho, and earned a degree in California. With camera and trained eye, he is dedicated to helping people make smart decisions about our natural world. Lately, he can often be found in the slipstream at or below 3000 feet with a camera sticking out of the window.

Bernal Arce Benavides

Flight Services

Bernal was born in San Carlos, one of Costa Rica’s most impressive rural areas in terms of landscape and biodiversity. When he was 13, he went to live in San José, where he learned auto body repair and painting in some of the city’s best shops. In the San José of ’79, Bernal sang disco fever top hits in a perfect English he did not yet understand. That’s how he began to learn a language he now speaks like a native.

In the 1980’s he moved to Tobías Bolaños Airport and started his company, Aircraft Finishes, which keeps Bernal busy doing what he does best. When David met Bernal he knew immediately no one could give CAVU better flight services.
Apart from his work Bernal loves soccer, tending his garden and  raising his five children.

Our Support Team

The CAVU Team enjoys tremendous support and partnerships with the following:

Carol Aubin
Trails Edge

Robert and Renee Innis
Rinse Design

Nancy Vaughan and Christi Williams
Armstrong, Vaughan & Associates