Meet Our Awesome People
James Evans is responsible for interpreting science to create, inform, and advance environmental policy in Southwest Florida. He has more than 22 years of experience working in South Florida ecosystems and expertise in water quality, environmental policy, marine biology, estuarine ecology, and environmental restoration.
Evans earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and M.S. in Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University. His graduate research focused on evaluating the influence of freshwater inflow from Estero Bay’s tributaries on the distribution and abundances of ichthyoplankton and gelatinous predators.
Prior to joining SCCF, Evans was the City of Sanibel Director of Natural Resources from 2012–2020. Among other achievements, he was the primary author of the Caloosahatchee Watershed Regional Water Management Issues white paper—a document outlining short-and long-term strategies to address the freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.
Evans is or has been a board or committee member for: South Florida Water Management District Water Resources Accountability and Collaboration Group; co-chair of the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership (CHNEP) Management Committee; South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Science Coordination Group; C-43 West Basin Reservoir Water Quality Treatment Component Feasibility Study Working Group; Lee County Coastal Advisory Council; and Southwest Florida Watershed Council.
Cheryl has more than 30 years experience working on development and marketing strategies for business and non-profit organizations. She is an honors graduate of Georgetown University. Upon graduation from Georgetown University Law Center, she joined the National Public Radio General Counsel's Office as an attorney. In addition to traditional legal duties, Cheryl worked directly with the board of directors on development issues facing a non-profit corporation. Her career evolved from the practice of law into the field of public relations and marketing.
In 1999, Cheryl began working with SCCF in a volunteer capacity. She was part of the leadership team that successfully undertook three land acquisition campaigns in two years. Now, as a consultant, she works closely with the SCCF board of trustees and staff to coordinate SCCF's Annual Fund Drive and capital campaigns. She also works with SCCF members on planned giving, leading to the growth of the Legacy Funds, SCCF's endowment program.
She and her husband, Marc, are full-time residents of Sanibel Island. Her prior board service has included the Community Foundation of Sanibel-Captiva, the South Florida National Parks Trust, and The Sanibel Captiva Trust Company.
Wendy was with Lee County Parks and Recreation for 11 years, working her way from one of the County’s community centers to the special events team, and finally ending up in the Fiscal Department. After spending 3 years in the Fiscal department, she left Parks and Recreation and joined SCCF in 2005 as an administrative assistant to the Business Manager, assisting her as well as handling the data entry in the fundraising database. When the Business Manager retired several months later, Wendy was promoted to Business Manager.
She attended Edison College (now Florida SouthWestern). Wendy and her family have been Southwest Florida residents for over 25 years.
After more than a decade as a writer and producer based on Sanibel, Barbara served as Executive Producer and Digital Media Director at WGCU, the regional PBS/NPR station for 11 years. At WGCU, she managed the launch of social media platforms and the station’s website. She also served as Executive Producer on more than 100 television productions, including “Water Woes,” a 2006 series tracking the historical influences on water quality issues in the region, as well as numerous award-winning historical documentaries, cultural and environmental productions.
While with WGCU, Barbara earned national recognition for her work on strategic digital planning and was selected by PBS to serve on the inaugural Digital Immersion Project in 2017. With a B.S. in International Studies from Miami University and a M.S.J. from the E.W Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, Barbara moved to Sanibel in 1993 after working as a journalist in Italy, Venezuela, and the British Virgin Islands. She has covered water quality and written environmental features as well as stories on SWFL history for many regional publications, including Times of the Islands/TOTI Media, Gulfshore Life magazine, Florida Weekly, the Santiva Chronicle, the Islander, the Island Sun, the Island Reporter, the Captiva Chronicle and the Captiva Current.
Her family first vacationed on Sanibel in 1975 and ever since she’s found the island to be her favorite outdoor refuge. Linstrom has a 17-year-old daughter, Caitlyn, who also enjoys hiking and swimming.
With a master’s in marine biology and a Juris Doctorate with a focus on ocean and coastal law from the University of Oregon, Matt DePaolis discovered SCCF while working as a Coastal Policy Analyst Fellow at the University of Florida’s Center for Coastal Solutions (CSS). He previously encountered the region’s coastal habitats while surveying ghost crabs on Sanibel and researching coral DNA as an intern at Mote Marine Lab.
As SCCF Environmental Policy Director, DePaolis brings his combined expertise in environmental law and marine biology to an organization that bases its policy and advocacy efforts on science. He leads SCCF’s Environmental Policy team, including Research & Policy Associate Leah Reidenbach, Hydrologic Modeler Paul Julian, Ph.D., Coastal Resilience Manager Carrie Schuman, Ph.D., and Policy Associate Holly Schwartz.
Prior to his role at CSS, DePaolis researched climate litigation and fisheries policy issues for the United Nations. While in Oregon, he served as a legal associate at the Wild Salmon Center, evaluating regulations to protect water quality in streams, and worked as a fellow at the Ocean and Coastal Law Center, recommending solutions to marine plastic pollution.
Jeff received a B.A. in Geography from the University of South Florida. Upon graduation, he lived on Andros Island, Bahamas for nearly two years where he worked as an environmental educator at Forfar Field Station. It was there that he developed his interest in the marine world and was trained as a SCUBA dive master. Jeff then moved to the Florida Keys where he began working on a charter fishing boat eventually earning a Coast Guard masters license. From the Keys Jeff moved to Seattle and then Ithaca, NY, where he continued operating boats and worked for a small craft brewery. Two winters out of Florida was all it took for him to find his way to Sanibel and SCCF. At the Marine Lab, Jeff's boating and diving skills are put to good use. Since late 2005, he has been studying the effects of large freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee by monitoring seagrass growth rates and the usable light they receive. Jeff has also been involved with the installation and servicing of the RECON sensors.
Ashley Graham is a native Floridian, who received her B.A. in Environmental Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. During her time at FGCU she interned with Rae Ann Wessel, who was the Natural Resource Policy Director at SCCF from 2006 to May of 2020. With Rae Ann, Ashley worked on reporting the weekly conditions of the Caloosahatchee, developing fact sheets, researching land use and GIS, creating data, attending policy conference calls and meetings, as well as participating in post legislative session bill/issue reviews and webinars. Ashley also volunteered with Amanda Bryant, the previous Sea Turtle Program Coordinator, digging up hatched nests and recording the contents of each nest.
At Florida Gulf Coast University Ashley worked with Gopher Tortoises using telemetry satellite tracking as well as, assessing population density in urban environments before working for SCCF.
Paul Julian, Ph.D., has worked on water-related research in Southwest Florida for more than 15 years. He has a B.S. in Biochemistry from Benedictine College, an M.S. in Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University, and a Ph.D. in Soil and Water Science from the University of Florida. From 2011 until he joined SCCF in March 2021, Paul worked as the Everglades Technical Lead for the Florida Department of Environment Protection. In that role, he gained deep understanding of the dynamic Greater Everglades Ecosystem by performing water quality compliance calculations, supporting federal and state restoration planning efforts, developing water quality nutrient models, and mining and analysis of environmental data.
In his new role as hydrologic modeler for SCCF and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Paul uses mechanistic and empirical models to synthesize environmental data and evaluate the effects of Everglades Restoration projects, Army Corps of Engineers water management operations, impacts of regional and local development, sea-level rise, and other drivers on the hydrologic, water quality, and ecological integrity of Southwest Florida’s watersheds, including but not limited to the Caloosahatchee and Lake Okeechobee.
Working under the direction of SCCF Environmental Policy Director James Evans and Marisa Carrozzo, Everglades and Water Policy Manager with the Conservancy, one of Paul’s initial projects is focused on the development of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM). Future projects will include C-43 West basin Reservoir and WQ treatment component, Picayune Strand Restoration Project, Total Maximum Daily Loads, and Basin Management Action Plans.
While Paul appreciates all aquatic ecosystems (estuary, lakes, river, etc.) his favorite are wetlands. When not evaluating and modeling hydrology and water quality conditions, Paul likes to spend his time outside either hiking, gardening, swimming, or SCUBA diving. Paul lives in a solar-powered house with his wife and adopted pets.
Paul’s research interests can be broadly categorized as aquatic biogeochemistry with a focus on processes that govern the composition and function of aquatic ecosystems. Other areas of interest include wetland and estuarine biogeochemistry, ecological stoichiometry, disturbance ecology, and sea-level rise to name a few.
Dr. Eric Milbrandt began his career in marine science in N. California at Humboldt State University. His first course in Invertebrate Zoology at the Telonicher Marine Laboratory in Trinidad helped to inspire a career in marine science. He received an REU fellowship to study marine science using molecular tools at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Center for Great Lakes Research with Dr. Chuck Wimpee. The internship led to a directed senior undergraduate research project on rocky intertidal seaweeds under the direction of phycologist, Dr. Frank Shaughnessy.
Because of the positive experiences and valuable tools both in the lab and in the field, Dr. Milbrandt decided to pursue a graduate degree in marine science. He was accepted at the University of Oregon to study at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Charleston, OR. During his Ph.D., Eric received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to study the microbial ecology of the South Slough Estuary. While writing his dissertation, he was offered the position of Research Scientist at SCCF. He returned to OIMB to defend in the spring of 2003 and has been contributing to the SCCF ever since.
During his transition to Florida, Dr. Milbrandt established several permanent mangrove forest plots to study the effects of human activities on mangrove reproduction, recruitment and forest structure. He has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles on the recovery of mangroves after hurricane disturbance and the effect of sea level rise on black mangrove recruitment. He has also led several grant-supported efforts to restore the tidal hydrology to Clam Bayou, then to enhance and restore mangrove shorelines. Part of the effort was in collaboration with Drs. Loren Coen, Steve Geiger and others to build oyster reefs and conduct extensive mapping and monitoring.
At SCCF, Dr. Milbrandt has been instrumental in the establishment of RECON (River Estuary Coastal Observing Network) which is providing Real-time information to advance SCCF policies. This tool introduces the Marine Laboratory to difficult socio-economic challenges in the policy arena and helps support the collaborative meetings and influences of the Southwest Florida Stakeholders. RECON also enhances research at the lab including in numerous water quality studies around Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in cooperation with the USFWS in J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2011, Dr. Milbrandt was named the third SCCF Marine Laboratory Director. He serves as a reviewer of manuscripts for Estuaries and Coasts, Limnology and Oceanography, Botanica Marina, the Journal of Wetland Ecology and Management, and Hydrobiologia. He is a Graduate Faculty at Florida Gulf Coast University and an affiliate member of the Coastal Watershed Institute.
A turtle lover and bird nerd, Denise helps manage and further the SCCF brand through its social media channels, merchandise line, events, digital advertising, and content creation. She has over eight years of experience in social media, writing, digital marketing, and science communication, with past roles at The Ohio State University and The Columbus Dispatch.
Denise holds a B.A. in Journalism and a Master of Environment and Natural Resources from Ohio State, where her master’s paper focused on how lessons from sea turtle conservation can be applied to freshwater turtles and tortoises. She also volunteers as co-social media lead for Midwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
Both a logic and a creative, she is passionate about educating others about wildlife issues and SCCF’s work to preserve biodiversity in Southwest Florida for years to come.
After receiving a B.A. in Biology from the University of South Florida, Richard worked as a lab and field technician at Mote Marine Lab, the Rookery Bay Marine Lab, and Florida DER mainly doing water quality sampling and analyses. He received his M.S. from the Ecosystems Ecology division of the Environmental Engineering Sciences program at the University of Florida. For his master's thesis, he studied the effects of seagrass on sedimentation and constructed a simulation model of seagrass growth and its effect on currents and sedimentation. While at UF, Richard researched ecosystem effects of increased fresh water flow in Florida Bay. After graduating, he worked on a project showing effects of diverting fresh water flow on the Savanna River ecosystems. He then worked on a simulation model of the Chesapeake Bay as a Senior Faculty Research Assistant at the University of Maryland's Horn Point Environmental Lab. He received his Ph.D. from the Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Studies program at the University of Maryland, College Park, where his research was designed to increase the understanding of how water column nutrients affect seagrass health. After finishing his field and lab research, he started a postdoc with the Lake Okeechobee Research unit at the South Florida Water Management District, conducting microcosm research on the effects of submersed plants on nutrients and constructing a simulation model of submersed plant growth.
Research interests: Ecosystem role of seagrass beds, seagrass effects on water quality, sedimentation and nutrient cycling, sediment and water column effects on seagrass growth, correlation of seagrass bed size with ecosystem effects, effects of seagrass beds on water flow, enhancing nutrient removal ability of submersed plant beds.
Mark received his B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Purdue University. As an engineer for private industry, including AT&T in Virginia, he worked to control and minimize pollutants in wastewater, stormwater runoff and hazardous waste from large manufacturing facilities. In 1992, he found much more satisfying employment at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) working with sea turtles, oysters, and estuarine fishes.
From VIMS he migrated to South Carolina where he worked with hard clams, leeches, and other interesting marine creatures. As luck had it he was then hired by the Marine Resources Research Institute, part of SCDNR where he participated in oyster reef research, headed their horseshoe crab program, and helped with water quality monitoring in the ACE-Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR). While in South Carolina, he received an M.S. in Environmental Science from the College of Charleston-Medical University of South Carolina’s joint graduate program. His thesis explored the secret life of horseshoe crabs in South Carolina, during which time he was a member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Horseshoe Crab Management Plan development team.
He moved to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FL DEP), where he monitored and analyzed southeastern Florida’s waters using biological, chemical, and physical indicators. His work also included taxonomy, data management, laboratory work, and resulting publications.
The U.S. Peace Corps captured Thompson in 2005, where he spent three years in a tropical Philippine paradise teaching Coastal Resource Management (CRM) at a small college and developing a CRM research program. He and his numerous student researchers did baseline assessments of coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove habitats as well as the state of local fisheries. The research included characterizing catch efficiencies of local gear types and implementing least-impact fishpond management techniques. He also developed a CRM resource center complete with water quality lab,habitat assessment equipment, eight computers with GIS and statistical software, all connected to the Internet.
Thompson enjoys learning about nature and sharing his knowledge with others, with special interests in estuarine ecology and the impact of water quality on biological communities. He dives (US EPA Research Diver Certification), kayaks, mountain bikes, and he lived aboard a 33-foot sloop for many years in SC and FL. He is an accomplished coastal navigator.
Leah is a native Floridian who grew up in Orlando and frequently visited beaches on the east and west coast of Florida including Sanibel Island. Enjoying the natural beauty of Florida’s coastal ecosystems inspired her to become a marine scientist. She completed her undergraduate graduate degree at the University of Central Florida and in 2013 she did an internship with the SCCF marine laboratory where she studied how fragmented algae responded to nutrient enrichment and monitored the relationship between seagrass and macroalgae around Sanibel Island.
After her internship at SCCF, Leah pursued her master’s degree at California State University, Northridge where she researched the effects of nutrient enrichment and ocean acidification on the macroalgal species Ulva. While in California, Leah became an active SCUBA diver and got her advanced open water and American Academy of Underwater Sciences diving certifications. Leah is interested in studying how climate change and nutrient enrichment affect the physiology and ecology of marine primary producers including macroalgae, microalgae, seagrass, and harmful algal species. As a research associate at the SCCF marine lab, she analyzes seawater samples for nutrients and supports research on harmful algal blooms, seagrass, and water quality.
A.J. received his B.S in Marine Biology from Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. While there he spent a semester studying abroad in Bermuda, at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Inc. He returned to Bermuda after graduation to work as an intern in the Benthic Ecology Research Programme laboratory. The primary research he conducted there was assessing the effect of Bermuda's marine protected areas on fish population dynamics. He also assisted with coral, seagrass, and algae research.
A.J. is an avid scuba diver and holds his research diver certification through the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. He is interested in all aspects of marine ecology with a special interest in fish population dynamics, fisheries enhancement, and protecting valuable marine habitats.
A.J.'s main area of focus at SCCF's Marine Lab is the RECON project. He has been responsible for the deployment, including the development of a custom mounting and retrieval system, of the RECON sensors. He is also responsible for the ongoing maintenance required to keep the network working, including data quality control.
Having earned a master’s in Public Administration from Florida State University, Holly worked for Lee County government for 21 years. For eleven of those years, she served as Assistant County Manager with responsibility for Public Safety, Transit, Community Development, Animal Services, Library, Human and Veteran's Services, Parks and Recreation, and Legislative Affairs. During her final year with the county, she served as Environmental Policy Management Director.
Holly joined SCCF in Jan. 2017 to bring her extensive experience within government to the advocacy side of policy issues. As an Environmental Policy Associate, she focuses on legislative and growth management issues that include Eden Oak, Dark Skies, and the M-CORES Toll Roads. Holly grew up in Southwest Florida and now lives in Alva with her husband John and their assorted pets.
Jenny's love of nature and plants began during her childhood in the foothills and farmlands of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Carrying that fondness forward, she earned a B.S. in Biology with a double major in Theatre from Mary Washington College and a graduate degree in Public Garden Management from Cornell University.
As the Native Landscapes and Adult Education Director, she has had an opportunity to blend many of her passions, including conservation, horticulture, and education. Prior to joining SCCF in 2005, Jenny had experience in a variety of non-profits, ranging from botanical gardens in Washington state and Washington D.C., as well as environmental education organizations in Florida and the Bahamas.
Jenny also serves as the President-Elect of the Florida Association of Native Nurseries; is a member of the Coccoloba chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, and serves on the Lee County Roadway Landscape Advisory Committee & the Lee County Extension Service Horticultural Advisory Board. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and seeing live music with her husband, Jeff, and son, Cassidy.
Sierra grew up with a deep appreciation for the environment, cultured by her family’s love for the outdoors. She studied Marine Biology and Geology at the University of South Florida to better understand Florida’s geological origin and the unique marine ecosystems found here. While obtaining her bachelor’s, Sierra was involved with programs that researched sea turtle nesting and migration, coastal wetland environments, and coral reef ecosystems.
In her free time, Sierra enjoys just about every outdoor activity. In college, she worked as an outdoor recreation trip leader; running kayaking, hiking, SCUBA diving, and rock-climbing trips throughout the country and abroad. After graduating, Sierra worked in a fisheries lab in Mississippi, where she was part of a lab that studied the ecology of Gulf sharks and fishes. Sierra joined SCCF in October 2020 as a research assistant. Her primary roles include servicing the RECON water quality monitoring sensors and supporting various other projects conducted at the Marine Lab.
Starting at a young age, Becca fell in love with nature thanks to the exposure from her parents love of hiking, fishing, and many other outdoor activities. Becca graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana in May of 2009. Shortly after, Becca got an internship at the Native Landscapes and Garden Center. After falling in love with the local flora and fauna she got the opportunity to be hired on full time as the Native Plant Nursery Assistant in 2010. Since then, Becca heads up our Landscapes for Wildlife Housecall/Consultation Program as well as doing small scale design work, installation, and maintenance. She loves the chance to educate the public about the benefits of planting native plants and then being able to transform yards to a more wildlife friendly landscape.
Muffet has always been an avid naturalist and artist. Born and raised in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, she majored in Modern Dance at the University of Wisconsin. After graduation she taught dance in Arkansas. In the late 1970s, Muffet and her family arrived on Sanibel where she continued to teach dance and yoga. Wanting to know more about the island’s unique environment, she turned to the Native Landscapes & Garden Center where she is happy to be involved with native plants, wildlife and ecology.
A true Florida Native, Sue was born and raised in Central Florida. She received a degree in Business Science Information Technology and worked for several Fortune 500 companies as well as Governmental agencies. After visiting Sanibel for over 20 years, Sue finally moved full time to Sanibel in 2014. Her appreciation and love of the outdoors and native plants led her to volunteer at the SCCF Native Landscapes & Garden Center where she was later hired. Sue enjoys helping others learn more about our Island plant and wildlife communities and the role native plants hold in that delicate balance between our living space and the world around us.
Several high school courses initially sparked Emily's interest in landscape design and plant ecology. She graduated from Clemson University in 2013 with a B.S. in Environmental and Natural Resource Management complemented by a minor in Horticulture. Throughout college she worked at the South Carolina Botanical Garden where she had the opportunity to learn about the native habitats and plant communities of SC. During her time there, she gained experience in garden installation and maintenance as well. She began her internship at the SCCF Native Plant Nursery in the summer of 2014 and was hired the following summer to help maintain the grounds at the Bailey Homestead.
Carrie assists the communities of Sanibel and Captiva in achieving coastal resilience as they plan for future stressors of climate change including warming temperatures, sea level rise, and increased precipitation and storm intensity. This position is funded by the Captiva Erosion Prevention District.
Carrie holds a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of New Hampshire, a master’s in Marine Science and Technology from the University of Massachusetts, and a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Ecology with a focus on Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida.
Her interdisciplinary background includes independent and collaborative research in science education and the natural and social sciences. In addition, Carrie has taught across grades K-12, at the university level, and with adult learners. She honed her science communications skills during a summer fellowship at the San Luis Obispo Tribune in California.
She counts among her unique scientific experiences working as an assistant curator caring for hundreds of strains of algae and participating in a right whale ecology cruise in the North Atlantic. Some of Carrie’s earliest memories are of scraping her knees while clambering over rocks with her twin brother on the New England seashore as they explored tidepools. She has translated that deep connection with the coast into a career focused on marine science.
Carrie enjoys spending time outdoors and creative pursuits, such as sewing, crocheting, taking dance classes, and singing at open mics.
Chris grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, IL. He had a strong interest in nature at a very young age, especially with amphibians and reptiles. His passion for all things slimy and scaled led him to the Chicago Herpetological Society where he was mentored by numerous knowledgeable members and visiting scientists. Chris has two Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in Zoology and Computer Science from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU) and a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).
He began working at SCCF in 2002 and is the Director of the Wildlife Habitat Management Program and staff herpetologist. As land manager, he oversees SCCF's nearly 2000 acres of conservation land with the help of his field technicians. Prescribed burns, exotic plant removal, native tree planting, and other habitat restoration techniques are used to maintain functioning ecosystems on the islands. Chris is also the IT Manager for the Foundation.
Chris's current Sanibel wildlife projects are the SCCF Pine Island Sound Eastern Indigo Snake Project, the SCCF Diamondback Terrapin Project, and the SCCF Florida Box Turtle Project. Chris is also a coauthor on a new book (2014); "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida: A Natural History". He maintains an educational website on map turtles and is involved with several projects along the Gulf Coast with these riverine turtles. He is a member of the Turtle Survival Alliance, the IUCN/SCC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, a board member of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust, and an active member of the local herp society (Calusa Herpetological Society).
Victor Young grew up in Southwest Florida. At a young age he began assisting biologists from various organizations with wildlife surveys. Victor's passion for the outdoors and nature eventually brought him to SCCF where he started as an intern in the summer of 2005 in the Wildlife Habitat Management Program. Victor was hired as a full time Field Technician in summer 2006. Shortly after joining the SCCF team, he left for boot camp in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed in a reserve port security unit as a boat engineer and later as a small boat Coxswain. Victor utilizes his mechanical training he received in the Coast Guard to help maintain and fix equipment and vehicles. He also conducts fire line maintenance, treatment of invasive exotic vegetation, assists with prescribed fires, and conducts various other tasks at SCCF.
Dustin was born in Honolulu Hawaii in 1989. At a young age, he developed a passion for wildlife seeing his first panther up close at the age of 6, growing up on Alligator Alley in the Everglades where his father worked for J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge as a wildlife habitat and maintenance manager. Dustin went to school in Fort Lauderdale at Maritime Professional Training where he learned the skills to engineer on large vessels. Dustin started working with SCCF in March 2017. Working alongside Victor Young, utilizing the skills he received through various training, Dustin fixes and maintains the working order of the vehicles and equipment, exotics species removal, and maintains the fire lines on all SCCF properties.
After receiving a B.S from Virginia Tech in Biology, Kelly worked as a research technician in a Virginia Tech lab investigating how animals use the magnetic field to orient and navigate. Her strong interest in international conservation took her to South Africa to study baboons at Wildcliff Nature Reserve and then to Costa Rica to volunteer with a sea turtle nesting program.
Kelly started working for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Marine Turtle Conservation Program in 2007, where she helped manage all aspects of sea turtle conservation in South Carolina. One of the main components of the program involved coordinating over 30 projects (1,000+ volunteers) in the statewide sea turtle nest protection and stranding network. While working at the SCDNR she completed her Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy. Her thesis focused on using barnacle growth as an indicator of the onset and duration of Debilitated Turtle Syndrome in loggerhead sea turtles.
In the spring of 2013, Kelly joined a team of scientists on Long Island to characterize the response of endangered piping plovers to habitats created by Hurricane Sandy. Kelly accepted her current position as coordinator of the SCCF Sea Turtle Program in December of 2013.
Mike grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and got his B.S. in wildlife biology at Southeast Missouri State University. Since then, he's worked on a state park stewardship crew, as an educator at the St. Louis Zoo, with sea turtles in Costa Rica, helped start a candle business, delivered sandwiches at Jimmy Johns, worked with box turtles, spotted turtles, and red-head woodpeckers in Michigan, and tracked king cobras in Thailand.
Mike started with SCCF in 2019 as a night time sea turtle intern before switching over to working on Florida box turtles. He has a master’s in conservation biology from the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg, where his thesis focused on box turtles. Now a full-time Wildlife Biologist, Mike oversees the wildlife field work in SCCF's Wildlife and Habitat Management Department. He's a big fan of pickles and hockey.
Aaron, a Houston, Texas native, began his wildlife career after falling in love with birds during his last year of college. He graduated from Texas State University with a B.S. in wildlife biology in 2019. After graduating, Aaron began falling in love specifically with shorebirds and seabirds while assisting with reddish egret surveys at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas. In 2021, Aaron came to SCCF as the shorebird intern to assist with the shorebird nesting season, monthly shorebird surveys, re-sighting migratory birds in the winter, and various other duties. Aaron then spent six months in south Texas working at multiple ranches trapping small mammals and performing point count and productivity surveys for birds, to see how their populations are affected by prescribed burns. While in Texas, he accepted the job offer to return to SCCF as the shorebird technician. Aaron is excited to be back on Sanibel and can’t wait to experience more shorebird nesting seasons.
Audrey is originally from coastal Connecticut. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a B.S. in wildlife conservation biology and management in 2006. For several years she worked a variety of seasonal jobs across the U.S. including the monitoring of various shorebird species throughout New England, controlling invasive plants by non-chemical means in California, and assessing habitat for Canada Lynx in Wyoming.In 2010 she began working with Virginia Tech on a project assessing the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on wintering Piping Plovers in coastal Louisiana and Texas. This project led to 2 more years of monitoring, banding, and re-sighting Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and Snowy Plovers in South Dakota and Nebraska for Virginia Tech. In 2013 she joined the staff at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in North Dakota. She split her time there between two projects. She spent fall and spring assessing migratory stopover habitat used by Whooping Cranes along the central flyway from the Canadian border down to Oklahoma. She spent summers monitoring, banding, and re-sighting nesting Piping Plovers and Least Terns on the Missouri River system and in the Alkali Lakes region of North Dakota and Montana.
Jack grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. After graduating with a B.S. in Biological Science, he traveled south to pursue interests in the field of Marine Conservation. In 2016, as a research assistant in Costa Rica, Jack spent the nesting season working with Olive Ridley's for an NGO devoted to the conservation and research of sea turtles. In 2017, as technician with the Georgia DNR, he worked with loggerheads on Ossabaw Island. Jack joined SCCF as a technician in the sea turtle program for the 2018 and 2019 nesting seasons. He started his current position as biologist in February 2020.
Shannon grew up moving from place to place every two or three years – the one thing that remained constant was the deep connection she felt to the ocean, and she decided early on to pursue a career that would allow her to research, conserve, and protect it. She went on to obtain a degree in marine biology from the University of Miami, and a master's of professional science in Marine Conservation at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Shannon found her true calling in marine science education and outreach while working in the education department at Miami Seaquarium, and believes that education is the key to a better future for our seas. She is excited to continue pursuing her passion for marine science education at Sanibel Sea School.
As a child, Christina enjoyed exploring the shores of Maryland, Delaware, and the Chesapeake Bay. She attended York College of Pennsylvania, where she studied criminal justice and sociology, then worked for the family courts in the Philadelphia area for 16 years. Christina recently relocated to Sanibel with her husband and daughter to escape the northern winters and be closer to family, and is excited for her daughter to grow up by the ocean. At Sanibel Sea School, she is learning to love the ocean even more.
Kealy grew up in Iowa and spent her childhood vacationing in Florida, where she fell in love with the ocean. As a young girl, her career aspirations ranged from dolphin trainer to marine biologist. Eventually, Kealy attended the University of Tampa, where she studied environmental and marine science. After her studies, she worked for The Audubon Society, monitoring and protecting nesting shorebirds on beaches in Florida and Massachusetts. Environmental education is very important to Kealy, and she is thrilled to share her ocean knowledge and enthusiasm with others at Sanibel Sea School. Kealy also leads paddles and community events for Ocean Tribe Paddlers, an affiliated organization for those who share her love of paddling. Kealy took the reins as Conservation Initiative Coordinator in October 2020 and serves as the liaison between SCCF and the Coastal Watch Advisory Committee to plan and execute conservation initiatives on Sanibel and Captiva. Kealy brings her passion for our coastlines, conservation, and public outreach to this position and is excited to work with the community on a deeper level.
Brianna grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and spent her childhood traveling around the United States enjoying the beauty and wonder of America's National Parks. As she grew up she recognized her passion for the outside world and decided that she wanted to become an environmental educator.
To make this possible, Brianna attended Kent State University in Ohio where she studied Environmental and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Management. Over the years, she has worked as an interpreter at the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, a park ranger in Wyoming, a conservation educator in Disney's Animal Kingdom, and even a camp counselor here at Sanibel Sea School.
During her time as a counselor, she fell in love with the wonders of Sanibel Island. Brianna is excited to be a part of the Sanibel Sea School family and looks forward to sharing her love of the ocean and conservation with everyone who visits.
Dana was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Marine Science and a minor in Studio Art. Dana fell in love with the ocean at a very young age after snorkeling for the first time in the Caribbean. She loves to combine her passions for ocean conservation with her love for painting ocean creatures—especially cephalopods.
During her studies, Dana has interned at the Riverbanks Aquarium and volunteered as a feed diver in the main tank. After graduation, Dana worked for a non-profit as an environmental educator teaching elementary school children about South Carolina’s coastal ecosystems. She was also able to help with the loggerhead sea turtle restoration project on Cape Romain.
Dana discovered her love for Florida’s marine ecosystems after interning as a marine science educator with the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation. Dana is thrilled to be working with Sanibel Sea School to continue to inspire everyone to love the ocean and learn how to conserve our delicate ecosystems.
Joey grew up in Mahtomedi, Minnesota where he acquired his love for the environment and adventure through the Boy Scouts of America. His love for the environment continued, as time went on, into his college years at University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point where he eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Resource Management and Youth Programming and Camp Management.
He went on to work at various camps, facilitating team building and teaching Environmental Education in all areas of the United States. In Wisconsin, he worked at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station as an educator. In Maine and New Hampshire as well as Connecticut, he taught Environmental Education at Nature's Classroom.
In California, while traveling on a vegetable oil converted 1978 Greyhound bus, he volunteered, planting fruit tree orchards at schools and educating students about the importance of plants and an edible landscape. Finally, he moved to Sanibel a few years ago to continue his love for the island and the environment. The past couple of years he held the position of Segway Tour Guide at Segway Tours of Sanibel. Joey is ecstatic to be working at Sanibel Sea School and learning more about the island he loves.
Kimberly was born and raised in Western Michigan and spent many summer days exploring the shores of Lake Michigan. Though having varied interests growing up, she discovered her passion for the ocean and environmental education when she moved to Florida and volunteered at an environmental center along the Atlantic.
Later, she left for Tennessee to intern as an interpretive park ranger at The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Returning to Michigan, she worked as a zoo guide and camp educator at her local zoo while finishing her bachelor's of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.
Kimberly is excited to be back in Florida sharing the excitement of ocean discovery, through environmental education, as part of the Sanibel Sea School Team!
Annie hails from Orlando where she was never too far from a source of water whether it be a lake or ocean. She grew up snorkeling and fishing; finding creatures and learning more about them. Every little thing that swam, jumped, or crawled fascinated her. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in her dream field of marine biology from Rollins College and minored in German. Throughout her college career, she had many valuable learning experiences both locally and abroad. Annie traveled to Costa Rica and learned about the positive influences of ecotourism. In the summer of 2022, she had the wonderful opportunity to work as a camp counselor at the Sanibel Sea School where her love for the ocean deepened. She looks forward to building more connections within the Sanibel community and cannot wait to help create a positive relationship between students and marine life.