Juan Carlos Avila was born in Quito, Ecuador. He spent part of his elementary schooling in the province of Cotopaxi, an area in the Ecuadorian Andes ringed by volcanoes. In 1989, his family moved to the Galápagos and settled in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the second largest island in this archipelago. It was here that Juan Carlos finished high school and gained his deep love for nature. In high school, he began helping non-governmental organizations associated with Japanese and American high schools to organize fund-raising campaigns to clean the public beaches on Santa Cruz. Oceanic oil spills have damaged the unique plants and animals of the Galápagos, and Juan Carlos helped spearhead efforts to protect the islands' complex ecosystem. It was through these efforts that he become a naturalist and rescue diver for the Galápagos National Park. He studied physics and mathematics for two years, and today he studies environmental sciences. Throughout 2018, Juan Carlos is acting as a National Geographic Year of the Bird Ambassador.