Every member of Marine Conservation Institute’s staff and board possesses an exceptional set of skills and talents. Staff members have a wide range of expertise including marine science, policy work and fundraising. The organization’s board of directors has ultimate responsibility for conservation programs and compliance with all appropriate state and federal laws.
President: Lance Morgan
Executive Assistant: Madeleine Serkissian
Director of Policy & Legislation: Michael Gravitz
Director of Blue Parks & Senior Scientist: Sarah Hameed
Director of Finance & Administration: Joan Montgomery
Atlas of Marine Protection Program Manager: Russell Moffitt
Conservation Scientist: Beth Pike
Marine Biogeographer: Samuel Georgian
Conservation Analyst: Jessica Coulter
Senior Conservation Fellow: Sandra Brooke
Senior Research Fellow: Healy Hamilton
Research Fellow: Sara Maxwell
Science Intern: Nikki Harasta
Blue Parks Ambassador: Frederick Smith
Blue Parks Ambassador: Sebastian Nicholls
Blue Parks Intern: Megan Cotton
Blue Parks Intern: Genevieve Leonard
Senior Conservation Fellow - Dr. Sandra Brooke’s primary objective is to identify sensitive coral reefs and advocate for their protection from damaging human activities, especially bottom trawling, and to ensure adequate enforcement of regulations so that sensitive ecosystems are truly protected. After completing undergraduate and masters degrees in England, Sandra spent a few years working in mosquito control in the Cayman Islands, where she learned to dive and discovered marine ecosystems. She then obtained an M.A in Marine Biology from Virginia Institute of Marine Science and a Ph.D (2002) from the University of Southampton UK, where her research examined reproductive ecology of a deep water coral Oculina varicosa. Sandra's research efforts have focused on deep coral ecosystems in the Norwegian Fjords, Aleutian Islands, US South Atlantic Bight and Gulf of Mexico, and most recently the deepwater mid-Atlantic canyons. Since joining Marine Conservation Institute in 2008, she has worked to locate and win protection for deep-sea coral ecosystems in the southeastern US and conducted research on deep corals in the Gulf of Mexico for post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill damage assessment. She has also worked extensively on shallow coral reefs in the Caribbean and south Florida. She has courtesy research faculty position at the University of Oregon and serves on the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Coral Advisory Panel and holds the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council Conservation Seat.
Blue Parks Intern (Glen Ellen, CA) - Megan Cotton received a B.S. in Social and Environmental Geography from the University of Washington, and is currently a Coastal and Marine Management Master’s student through the University Centre of the Westfjords at the University of Akureyri, Iceland. Megan’s research focuses on community based Marine Protected Areas and the collaborative processes which lead to their successful implementation. Her academic interests include collaborative governance in marine conservation, stakeholder outreach, and stewardship. Megan grew up roaming wild in the mountains of Southern Oregon in what was to become EarthTeach Forest Park, and spending vacations camping at the Oregon coast. She splits her time between her garden in Sonoma county, southern Oregon forests and the coast of southern Spain. Megan enjoys camping, hiking, body boarding, reading and musical theater.
Conservation Analyst (Seattle, WA) - Jessica Coulter recently earned her Master of Environmental Management degree and a certificate in Geospatial Analysis from Duke University, where her research focused on utilizing sensory stimuli to mitigate elasmobranch and sea turtle by-catch in small-scale coastal fisheries. She also worked in the Duke Marine Geospatial Ecology lab where she focused on marine spatial planning in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Before that, she earned dual undergraduate degrees in Ecology and Economics from the University of Pittsburgh. Jessica’s prior work has primarily focused on sea turtle and avian research and conservation projects throughout coastal Florida. As a Conservation Analyst at Marine Conservation Institute, Jessica aims to contribute to the process of creating and sustaining protections for vital marine ecosystems by supporting both the Atlas of Marine Protection and Blue Parks programs.
Marine Biogeographer (Seattle, WA) - Dr. Samuel Georgian is a marine biogeographer at Marine Conservation Institute. Sam received his Ph.D. in Biology from Temple University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Before that, he received his B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Environmental Science from Hobart College. During graduate school, Sam studied the distribution and ecophysiology of deep-sea corals in the Gulf of Mexico and Norway. His current research interests are focused on predicting habitat suitability for marine organisms, modeling projections of sea level rise, and studying the wide-ranging effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems. When he’s not working, Sam enjoys hiking, climbing, and cycling.
Director of Policy & Legislation (Washington, DC) - Mike Gravitz leads development of Marine Conservation Institute’s advocacy positions on conservation and appropriations and works with Congress and the Administration to bring these into being. Prior to joining Marine Conservation Institute, Mike spent five years as a lobbyist for Environment America working on the issues of: marine fish conservation, expansion of marine sanctuaries, and opposition to offshore drilling. In 2006, he helped to pass the strengthened Magnuson-Stevens fishery conservation law. He worked to prevent the expansion of offshore drilling beyond the Gulf of Mexico when the offshore drilling moratorium ended in 2008. Mike spent twenty years in the private sector starting and leading two government software companies which specialized in government budgeting systems and workflow. While in the private sector, Mike was active on the board of Clean Water Action, a national organization advocating for clean water and community health with over one million members and supporters, and helped to found a local organization advocating for sensible re-development of downtown Silver Spring, MD. He holds a B.A. with honors in Anthropology from Yale University and a Master in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Mike grew up spending summers at the New Jersey shore where he developed, very early on, a love of the ocean, messing about in smelly marshes and honky-tonk boardwalks.
Director of Blue Parks & Senior Scientist (Glen Ellen, CA) - Sarah is thrilled to use her expertise in marine ecology, conservation management, public policy and education to facilitate international and dynamic solutions to the problems facing marine biodiversity. She sees her charge as ensuring that salient science plays a guiding role in efforts to protect marine wildlife and support the economies that rely on ocean ecosystem services. Sarah grew up exploring the tide pools and coral reefs of Maui. She earned her Ph.D. in Marine Ecology with a certificate in Conservation Management at the University of California, Davis, where her research focused on population connectivity along an open coast – a significant knowledge gap for marine protected area design and management. Prior to earning her doctoral degree, she earned an A.B. in Public Policy and an M.A. in Teaching from Brown University. She serves on the Advisory Council for Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and is a Switzer Environmental Fellow. In her free time, Sarah loves surfing and building sand castles with her family.
Senior Research Fellow - Dr. Healy Hamilton is a biodiversity scientist with a diverse range of research interests in global change, evolution, conservation, and informal science education. Current marine research projects include the application of comparative DNA sequence analysis to the taxonomy, evolution, and conservation of seahorses and pipefish. Another group of projects focuses on modeling climate change impacts to species and landscapes to support climate adaptation planning. Healy received her masters degree from Yale University's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. For both degrees she conducted extensive field research. Healy is a former U.S. Fulbright Fellow and a Switzer Foundation Environmental Leadership Grantee.
Science Intern (Seattle, WA) - Nikki Harasta recently earned her B.S. in Physiology with a minor in Chemistry from Seattle Pacific University. Raised in Ventura, California, her love and respect for marine life started from a young age. She grew up in a family of surfers, outrigger canoers, and beach volleyball players. Along with these activities, she enjoys playing soccer, dogs, and spending time outdoors. Throughout her undergraduate studies of medical and human-related biology, she encountered the pressing environmental issues that humans and non-humans imminently face, inspiring a passion to oppose anthropogenic destruction. Following graduation, she is taking time to explore that passion by joining Marine Conservation Institute. She is excited to broaden her understanding of current issues on a political scale and contribute to ocean protection.
Blue Parks Intern (Glen Ellen, CA) - Genevieve Leonard recently earned her a Bachelor of Science in Aquatic Biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Growing up in Salinas, CA, she was never far from the beach and often visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which inspired an interest in the ocean and its diverse ecosystems. During her time at UCSB, she interned with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, working on intertidal and subtidal projects that contributed to the long term monitoring of coastal ecosystems along the Santa Barbara coast. She also spent time in Ostional, Costa Rica, over the summer of 2018, working with the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, gathering data on nesting sea turtles and learning about how local management is working toward recovering endangered sea turtle species. She enjoys traveling, playing volleyball, and hiking. Genevieve is hoping to pursue a Master’s degree in marine conservation and policy.
Research Fellow - Dr. Sara Maxwell’s work at Marine Conservation Institute as a Postdoctoral Fellow is focused on the management of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and issues surrounding marine spatial planning in the US. Dr. Maxwell attended University of Florida where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. She then spent four years as a Conservation Scientist with Marine Conservation Institute. Sara returns to Marine Conservation Institute after recently completing her doctoral work in Ocean Sciences at the University of California Santa Cruz. Her dissertation research involved the effectiveness of marine protected areas for top predators along both the US West Coast and the coast of Central West Africa. Sara worked with the Census of Marine Life’s Tagging of Pacific Pelagics project, focusing on conservation gaps on the US West Coast and the use of the National Marine Sanctuaries by marine mammals and seabirds. Additionally, she conducted a project deploying satellite transmitters on endangered sea turtles to determine how MPAs can better protect them in Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
Atlas of Marine Protection Program Manager (Seattle, WA) - Russell Moffitt graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology. Prior to coming to Marine Conservation Institute, he worked in Hawaii with the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, conducting oceanographic and ecological research at coral reef ecosystems across the Pacific, including places where Marine Conservation Institute works to protect such as the Pacific Remote Island Areas and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Russell has also conducted reef biodiversity assessments with the Census of Marine Life (CoML) Census of Coral Reefs project and has recently been developing and deploying a standardized method to assess cryptic biodiversity on reefs worldwide using advanced molecular techniques. Russell is particularly interested in the interactions between marine biological communities and their physical environments and how those processes are affected by climate change. At Marine Conservation Institute, Russell works on identifying biological hot spots on the high seas and other areas in need of protection, and works as a member of our team in analyzing geospatial data, particularly on issues related to marine spatial planning.
Director of Finance & Administration (Seattle, WA) - Joan Montgomery received her Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from Thiel College in Greenville PA. She spent a semester in Liberia, West Africa, as an international student. As an undergraduate, Joan focused on the field of nonprofit accounting as her career choice. Upon graduation, Joan worked for Greenpeace, combining accounting and direct actions for the environment. Subsequently she worked for several non-profits, including NIRS (Nuclear Information and Resource Service) and two Seattle-based organizations serving the homeless. Since joining Marine Conservation Institute, Joan has returned to her environmental roots and her interest in protecting our oceans. She enjoys her weekends spent hiking along Pacific Northwest beaches with her dogs.
President (Glen Ellen, CA) - Dr. Lance Morgan is a marine biologist who came to Marine Conservation Institute in 2000, becoming President in 2012. Born in Connecticut and growing up as a son of a US Navy nuclear submarine captain, Lance learned about and became deeply committed to conserving our living oceans while living in California, Hawaii and Washington. Lance received his Master’s in Marine Science from San Francisco State University. His doctoral research explored factors influencing recruitment of marine invertebrates, for which he received his PhD in Ecology from the University of California-Davis (1997). His research interests range from zoology to conservation science and he has studied taxa as diverse as deep sea corals, rockfishes, seabirds and marine mammals. He led the identification of Marine Priority Conservation Areas from Baja California to the Bering Sea for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (2005). He has explored the ocean as a SCUBA diver, aquanaut and submersible pilot, participating in DeepWorker surveys of deep-sea corals in British Columbia waters. Having played a significant role in the designation of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, Lance traveled to the remote Johnston Atoll to help establish the first field camp at this new marine protected area. He is currently Chairman of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, a member of the steering committee of the High Seas Alliance, the conservation representative to the Cordell Bank Sanctuary Advisory Council, a member of the Hope Spot science council and holds a research faculty appointment at Bodega Marine Laboratory. As president of Marine Conservation Institute he oversees their largest initiatives, Blue Parks and the Atlas of Marine Protection - MPAtlas.org.
Blue Parks Ambassador (Glen Ellen, CA) - Sebastian Nicholls currently works as a Management Consulting Analyst at Accenture, where he enjoys thinking about the role new technologies can play in creating a better future. Colombian by birth, he has lived in 7 countries and is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Arabic. He graduated Cum Laude from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in 2016 with a degree in Science, Technology, and International Affairs focused on Energy and the Environment, and has had a love for the ocean since he first saw penguins when he was 4. He believes restoring marine ecosystems and mitigating climate change are the critical challenges of our time, and both are crucial for a prosperous future. Sebastian is a contributor to the Huffington Post and was also a founding member of the Sustainable Oceans Alliance, where he planned conferences featuring world leaders, mentored youth to create impact projects, and developed a vision to empower youth to create a sustainable future. He serves on the Board of Directors of the International Ocean Film Festival and California EV nonprofit Charge Across Town.
Conservation Scientist (Seattle, WA) - Beth Pike received her undergraduate degree from Long Island University/Southampton in Biology and earned her Master's in Coastal Environmental Management at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment where her thesis work tied the movements of critically endangered right whales and the tidal movement of their prey in the Bay of Fundy. She also earned a certificate of geospatial analysis from the Duke Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab. Beth has worked as a naturalist, mate and captain throughout Alaska, British Columbia, the South Pacific, Mexico, and Hawaii and spent years conducting research on right whales in the North Atlantic and humpback whales in the North Pacific. Since joining the Marine Conservation Institute in 2011, Beth has supported many facets of the organization. Currently her work is focused on the outreach, communication and data management for our online atlas of marine protected areas at www.MPAtlas.org.
Executive Assistant (Glen Ellen, CA) - Madeleine Serkissian received her B.A. in Global Communications, Environmental Science, and International Law from The American University of Paris, France. Being a dual citizen, she gained the ability to communicate fluently in both French and English on multiple levels. Because of her location and language abilities, Madeleine was involved in different global campaigns based in Paris, surrounding human rights, and environmental issues during her undergraduate career. Upon returning to the United States with her degree, she worked for the county of Marin, in substance use prevention and environmental sustainability. Her sense of wonder was inspired through having lived halftime on the coast of France, and halftime on the coast of California, both with prolific waters, and diverse nature and ecosystems. Due to these dual foundations, Madeleine has been able to develop an understanding and appreciation for the need to preserve our waters, eventually becoming her greatest concern.
Blue Parks Ambassador - Frederick earned Master’s degrees in Environmental Studies at The University of Montana (2003) and MBA from UC Davis Graduate School of Management (2012). He worked in wildlife conservation in between his degrees, culminating in his role as the Executive Director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. During that time, he was a designated Regional Stakeholder Group member for the CA Marine Life Protection Act, where he collaborated with commercial and recreational fisherman, abalone divers and land mangers to develop a marine protected area network for the north central California coast. He is embarking on a trip around the world in 2018 to blog, write, film and podcast about climate change and its effects on our marine ecosystems, with a specific focus on coral reefs and marine protected areas. He is excited to visit two of our recent Blue Parks award sites during his travels and will share with us what he discovers.