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Speaker’s Bios

Speakers Bios


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Nancy Baron, COMPASS Outreach Director, is this year’s Benchley award winner for “Excellence in Media”. She has worked for many years connecting scientists with journalists and policymakers as Director of Science Outreach for COMPASS. A former National Parks biologist and journalist, Nancy has a unique perspective on the intersection of science, media, and policy. She leads communication training workshops around the world for academic scientists, graduate students and postdocs as well as government and NGO scientists. In the fall of 2010, Nancy completed a “how to” communications guidebook for scientists titled “Escape from the Ivory Tower,” which offers encouragement and practical advice for scientists who want to make their science matter.
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Erika Bergman is a 25-year-old ocean advocate with ExploreOcean. As a submersible pilot and licensed captain for OceanGate she completed dives off the coasts of Miami, Monterey, and the Puget Sound and worked directly with students on expeditions and in classrooms through ExploreOcean. These experiences have led her to develop a passion for the art of underwater storytelling and become an advocate for manned submersibles in exploration.
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Ana Blanco joined the SFIOFF in 2011 as the Executive Director and oversees the annual four day festival every March. Her passion for the ocean began with spending her childhood along the Pacific Coast while growing up in Lima, Peru. With more than ten years of non-profit management and event production, Ana has grown the SFIOFF to include the international traveling program and year-round special screenings. She is an experienced sailor and volunteers with the Bluewater Foundation, taking at-risk middle school and high school kids sailing on the San Francisco Bay.
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Gareth Burghes is a graduate of Stony Brook University majoring in marine science and theater arts – no one told him he couldn’t be Aquaman. To achieve this goal he seeks to combine his science background with the art of documentary filmmaking, bringing pertinent and current knowledge to the public (completing his debut film in fall 2012). Science is the art of discovery and understanding and Gareth will continue his trek to find the reasons why the world is and what we can do to protect it. Gareth is the founder of Lagomorph Films, a production company focused on science communication; you can find more information about him and his work at http://gburghes.wix.com/lagomorphfilms.
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Richard Charter is a Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation and has been working for over three decades to ensure continued protection for sensitive coastlines threatened by offshore oil and gas drilling. Richard coordinated the local government support that led to the creation of the Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, Channel Islands, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries, presently serves as Vice Chair of the Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary Advisory Council, and is also an appointee to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Methane Hydrates Advisory Committee. Richard is a resident of the Northern California coast, and spent much of his childhood in its tide pools and on its beaches.
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Lee Crockett is the director of U.S. Fisheries Campaigns for The Pew Charitable Trusts. In this capacity, he oversees the development and implementation of campaigns to end overfishing, improve the management of forage fish, and transition the U.S. to ecosystem-based fisheries management on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Prior to joining Pew he was the executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, a coalition of fishing and environmental interests solely dedicated to promoting the sustainable management of ocean fish, where he directed a successful campaign to renew and strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
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Steven A. Culbertson is President and CEO of YSA (Youth Service America), a global NGO that improves communities by increasing the number and the diversity of young people, ages 5-25, serving in substantive roles. For two years in a row, the Nonprofit Times named him to its list of “The 50 most powerful and influential leaders” in the sector, saying, “Culbertson has helped to position volunteering and young people as an issue and a national priority.” Steve was born in Bitburg, Germany and received a degree in English and French from Hamilton College. He lives in Washington, DC. You can follow him on Twitter @Culbs.
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Mia DeMezza is the Executive Vice President of EarthEcho International, an environmental nonprofit organization—founded by siblings Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau—committed to youth engagement, action, and leadership through education. Mia has long been invested in the work of non-profit organizational management. Prior to joining EarthEcho International, she oversaw professional development programs for arts organizations, most recently at Americans for the Arts and previously in the education department of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. Mia is a graduate of Northwestern University with degrees in Comparative Literary Studies and Italian.
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Chris Dorsett directs Ocean Conservancy’s efforts to protect and restore key large marine ecosystems in the United States including the Gulf of Mexico. Chris has worked on fishery policy issues for over a decade in the Gulf and Pacific and regional recovery efforts in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster since April 2010. Chris has a marine fisheries degree from Texas A&M University and J.D. from the University of Texas. He is based in Austin, Texas.
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Annalise Downey, a high school senior from Colorado, has participated in numerous expeditions with Teens4Oceans, traveling to the US Virgin Islands, Akumal (Mexico), the Florida Keys, Cooper Island (BVI), and Anacapa Island (Channel Islands National Park). She has been a part of the Teens4Oceans community for 4 years, bring the spirit of ocean stewardship to others in land-locked Colorado. Next year, she plans to attend college to study business administration, environmental studies, and environmental policy.
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Mike Dunmyer is the Executive Director of Ocean Champions. Before joining Ocean Champions, Mike created, developed and led strategy, finance, marketing and operations organizations as a Vice President in the Fortune 500 world. Mike has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and a BA in Economics from Washington and Lee University. Mike serves on the National Aquarium’s Board of Directors and Executive Board, and he chairs its Conservation Committee.
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Dr. Sylvia Earle is Ambassador for the World’s Ocean and Explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a leading American oceanographer. Among the more than 100 national and international honors she has received is the 2009 TED Prize for her proposal to establish a global network of marine protected areas. She calls these marine preserves “hope spots… to save and restore… the blue heart of the planet.”
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Juliet Eilperin is one of the The Washington Post‘s White House reporters, with a focus on energy and the environment. She has worked at the Post since 1998, serving first as its House of Representatives reporter for six years and then for nine years as its national environmental reporter. Ms. Eilperin has written two books: “Fight Club Partisanship: How Partisanship is poisoning the House of Representatives,” which Rowman & Littlefield published in 2006, and “Demon Fish: Travels Through the World With Sharks,” which Pantheon published in 2011.
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Sam Farr, a fifth-generation Californian, has represented California’s Central Coast since 1993 and is its longest serving member in Congress. Known for his passion for ocean issues, he has worked tirelessly to bolster the nation’s land and ocean resources. Farr has consistently fought for funding and development of ocean programs and has introduced countless pieces of ocean legislation, including the Oceans Conservation, Education, and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act, also known as “Oceans-21.” Many of this bill’s provisions were included in President Obama’s Executive Order that established the first National Ocean Policy. As an original co-chair of the bipartisan House Ocean Caucus, Farr also continuously works to educate Congressional Members about the issues facing our world’s oceans. Among his many honors he received the 2009 Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in Policy.
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Claudio Garzón is an LA-based artist and ocean advocate working to inspire students and the public to conserve our changing oceans. His plastic ocean debris sculptures offer a different way to represent and covey this global crisis. His work exemplifies not only visionary creativity, but exciting solution oriented design to encourage environmental awareness. Garzón believes artists are the storytellers needed to translate massive amounts of scientific data in ways that can be assimilated and acted upon by the public who are simply not getting the messages needed to be informed and engage the next generation.
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Dr. David E. Guggenheim is president of Ocean Doctor, Washington, DC. He is a marine scientist, conservation policy expert, ocean explorer, educator and filmmaker. He is now in his 13th year leading marine research and conservation in Cuba. An Explorers Club National Fellow, Guggenheim piloted the first manned submersible dive into the world’s largest underwater canyons in the Bering Sea. His documentary, Disaster at Nightingale, details the South Atlantic oil spill that killed thousands of penguins. He is a leading advocate for sustainable aquaculture. His 50 States Expedition brings ocean programs to schools, encouraging careers in science. Guggenheim is an acclaimed speaker and has been featured on 60 MINUTES, Good Morning America, CNN, NPR.  Previously, he was VP, Ocean Conservancy; President/CEO, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida; Co-Chair, Everglades Coalition.
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Marea Hatziolos is the senior coastal and marine specialist in the Environment Department of the World Bank. She has a degree in Biology from Wellesley College, and received her Ph.D. in Zoology from UC Berkeley, where she focused on tropical marine ecology. She did postdoctoral work at Yale University and the Instituto Tecnological de Monterrey in Mexico. She is the team leader for the Coastal and Water Team in the Environment Department and leads the Bank’s work on Integrated Coastal Management and climate change and coral reefs. She has lived and worked extensively in West Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean. She speaks several languages.
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David Helvarg is founder and Executive Director of Blue Frontier, an organization working for ocean and coastal conservation. An award-winning journalist, he has worked as a war correspondent in Northern Ireland and Central America, covered a range of issues from military science to the AIDS epidemic, and reported from every continent including Antarctica. He has written six books including Blue Frontier, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean and his latest, The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea. In addition to his long-time work in print, radio and television he is a licensed Private Investigator, body-surfer and scuba diver.
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Mark R. Holmes is a seasoned multimedia executive with more than 30 years of experience in the arts. He has been an illustrator, designer, art director, editor, photographer and musician for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He taught college and professional level courses for the Corcoran College of Art + Design, American University and the Poynter Institute. Mark art directed more than 100 stories for National Geographic magazine and launched NationalGeographic.com in 1996. He was the Editor in Chief for NationalGeographic.com, Ocean Conservancy magazine and the World Resources Report. In the course of his career he has received more than 400 awards.
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Jordan Howard is a 21-year-old year old thought leader at the intersection of sustainability, environmental education, and youth empowerment. Jordan understands that youth will are the solution to solving today’s environmental issues and has made it her mission to provide youth with the inspiration and tools to create the change in their schools, communities, cities, and countries by creating programs with organizations like 5 Gyres, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Alliance for Climate Education, Surfrider Foundation and many more.
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Asher Jay is a Creative Conservationist and Founder of The United Flotsam of Garbagea, Sea Speak Sphere and Blue Beyond Borders. Her passion for all things wild imbues her with the motivation to produce concise, relatable mixed-media artworks that empower the people who encounter them. Her images are rich in educational content yet conceptual in execution and advance conservation initiatives across the world. Art serves as her primary medium for activism. She creates because it is the oldest form of communication, and she uses post-consumer waste, the ubiquitous raw material of the 21st century, to narrate the stories of the Anthropocene. www.asherjay.com
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Gordon King is Subtidal Division Manager for Taylor Shellfish based in Shelton, Washington. He designed and installed Black Pearl culture long lines in Fiji and developed Taylor Shellfish’s Mussel Division based on hatchery seed. Previously, he managed a Chinook salmon farm in Stewart Island, New Zealand for Regal Salmon, Ltd. From 1981-1985 he was a mussel farm manager in Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand. He has a BS in Botany and Zoology from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.
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Clay Maitland is the Founding Chairman of the North American Marine Environment Protection Association, which was founded five years ago to promote the commitment of private industry, working with regulators and other stakeholders in support of a common cause: cleaner seas, rivers and lakes, and protection of the marine biosphere. NAMEPA’s members come from the shipping, academic and other sectors in Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. Mr. Maitland has been a maritime lawyer since 1969, and is a managing partner in International Registries, LLC, which administers the ship registry of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
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Debbie Mans has been Baykeeper and Executive Director since April 2008. Prior to joining NY/NJ Baykeeper, Debbie was the Environmental and Energy Policy Advisor for NJ Governor Jon S. Corzine. Debbie is a graduate of The University of Michigan and holds a J.D. from Vermont Law School. She is the Chair of the New Jersey League of Conservation and a board member of New jersey Future.
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Courtney Mattison is an artist and ocean advocate working to inspire policy makers and the public to conserve our changing seas. With a BA in marine biology and sculpture from Skidmore and an MA in environmental studies from Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design, Mattison has worked in and studied marine conservation ecology and ceramic sculpture simultaneously for over ten years. Her debut large-scale ceramic sculptural installation – Our Changing Seas: A coral reef story – is currently on display at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in downtown Washington, DC. More at: www.courtneymattison.com.
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Vice Admiral Peter V. Neffenger is the U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations, responsible for establishing and providing operational strategy, policy, guidance and resources as needed to meet national priorities for Coast Guard missions, programs and services. A native of Elyria, Ohio, Vice Admiral Neffenger was commissioned in 1982 at Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, VA, and has had a diverse career of operational and staff assignments in emergency response, commercial maritime industry oversight and general maritime law enforcement. He has earned three Master’s degrees and received numerous awards, including recognition by the Department of Homeland Security for his leadership during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
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Chris Palmer is a professor, speaker, author, and an environmental and wildlife film producer who has led the production of more than 300 hours of original programming for prime time television and the giant screen (IMAX) film industry. Chris is currently president of the One World One Ocean Foundation, which is a global media initiative to save the oceans. In 2004, he joined American University’s full-time faculty as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence at the School of Communication. There he founded, and currently directs, the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, whose mission is to strengthen the global constituency for conservation. His book, Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom, is now in its second printing and being made into a film for public television.
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Sean Russell is the director of the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, a youth-driven marine debris prevention and ocean conservation program. Sean also coordinates the annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, an event designed to give young people the knowledge and skills needed to create and implement their own ocean conservation projects. Sean, a biology major at the University of Florida, plans to pursue a career combining science education and conservation.
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Rudy Sanchez is an Economics/Mathematics major at Bucknell University. He is a Posse Scholar and a past recipient of the Peter Benchley Youth Activist award. He works on various sustainability projects regarding wind energy, and educational awareness through the local tutoring program near his school. Follow Rudy’s blogs on VolunTeen Nation or his twitter account: @UberRadRudy.
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Cynthia (Cyn) M. Sarthou has been Executive Director of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana since 1995. The GRN is a diverse network committed to uniting and empowering people to protect and restore the resources of the Gulf Region. The GRN works to coordinate among and build the capacity of the grassroots groups across the Gulf, and pursues regional campaigns on priority issues that include: (1) monitoring and advocacy in the aftermath of the BP Oil Disaster; (2) water pollution, most particularly nitrogen pollution causing the Dead Zone; and (3) increasing resilience of coastal communities through application of a multiple coastal lines of defense approach.
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Mr. Eric Schwaab is the Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Conservation and Management.  In this role, he drives policy and program direction for NOAA’s stewardship responsibilities, including ocean resource management, coastal management, and protected resources.
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Dr. Lisa Suatoni is a senior scientist in the oceans program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. There she focuses on ocean acidification and sustainable fisheries management. Lisa has a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale University and a master’s degree in environmental policy from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Her scientific research focused on speciation and molecular evolution. However, she now specializes on the intersection of science and policy as it applies to ocean conservation.
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Mike Tidwell is founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. Under Tidwell’s leadership, CCAN has helped pass landmark offshore wind power legislation in Maryland; blocked coal and oil development plans in Virginia; and worked with groups nationwide to push for a fair and effective carbon cap bill on Capitol Hill. Tidwell is also an author and filmmaker whose books include The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Race to Save America’s Coastal Cities. Tidwell’s most recent documentary film – “We Are All Smith Islanders” – vividly depicts the dangers of global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. Tidwell has received numerous awards for his advocacy work, including the Audubon Naturalist Society’s prestigious “Conservation Award.”
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Jim Toomey has been writing and drawing the daily comic strip Sherman’s Lagoon, which is syndicated to over 250 newspapers in North America and in six languages around the world for the past 18 years. Sherman’s Lagoon combines two of his life-long passions: art and the sea. In addition to drawing his comic strip, Jim is active in marine conservation, and has been recognized by many organizations, such as NOAA, NPR, Harvard University, TED, and Discovery Channel for raising public awareness of the oceans in a humorous way.
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Urban Assembly New York Harbor School: Mahmoud Tamer, Berlin Babin-Tardieu, Eloisa Oropeza, Ileana Leon, Julian Perez, and Alexey Gavino are 11th and 12th grade students at Urban Assembly New York Harbor School, a maritime career and technical education public high school located on Governors Island in New York City. The mission of Harbor School is to prepare students for success in college and careers through an interdisciplinary curriculum in marine science, technology, policy, economics, and ethics of environmental restoration. Tamer, Babin-Tardieu, Oropeza, Leon, Perez, and Gavino are also members of Harbor school’s environmental leadership and political outreach team, known as Harbor Corps, which carries out hands-on local projects to restore the heath of our oceans, estuaries, and coastal communities. They are honored to attend Blue Vision Summit 2013 and advance the global mission of maritime environmental restoration with policymakers in Washington DC.
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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and a sailor and scuba diver. He has been active in addressing global climate change and its threat to ocean and coastal ecosystems. He is also a member of the Budget Committee; the Judiciary Committee; the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; and the Special Committee on Aging.
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David Wilmot, Ph.D., President and Co-Founder of Ocean Champions, brings over twenty five years of experience in ocean science, environmental policy, non-profit governance and fundraising, and political advocacy to Ocean Champions. Ocean Champions, a 501(c)(4) organization, with a connected political action committee (Ocean Champions PAC), and Ocean Champions Voter Fund (a 527 political organization), is the first national organization of its kind focused solely on oceans and ocean wildlife. Ocean Champions goal is to create a political environment where protecting and restoring the oceans is a National priority. Ocean Champions has helped to elect 71 pro-ocean champions to Congress, 50 of which are currently in session. In 2012, 43 of Ocean Champions’ 46 endorsements were elected (93% winning).
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Wyland, marine life artist and conservationist, has developed an international reputation for his commitment to marine life conservation, most notably through his monumental marine life murals. Spanning thousands of square feet, these massive works of art expose more than one billion people each year to the thrilling diversity and beauty of life that exists below the surface of our ocean planet. This multi-faceted artist works in multiple mediums, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, Japanese ink paintings, bronze sculptures, fine art photography, and mixed media. Dedicated to saving our water resources through art and education, his non-profit Wyland Foundation seeks to further that end. Perhaps most importantly, the Wyland Foundation, in partnership with the United States Forest Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is actively engaged in alerting millions of students around the world to become caring, informed stewards of our oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands. He recently appeared in the one-hour show for Discovery “Wyland: A Brush With Giants” and currently hosts “Wyland’s Art Studio” art instructional series for PBS stations around the country.
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Cindy Zipf is Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, a successful coalition builder, forming the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest, most effective voice for the ocean and leader in forming national coalitions with groups throughout the country. She is a proven campaigner to protect the ocean as evidenced by the precedent setting closure of eight major ocean dumpsites in the mid-Atlantic. Cindy led efforts that resulted in the passage of important landmark federal and state legislation, including the end of the nation’s ocean incineration and dumping industries, and successful campaign to designate the nation’s first Ocean Remediation Site. She is a pioneer in ocean pollution research initiatives, such as dredge material dumping alternatives, wastewater discharge, offshore energy facilities, and non-point source pollution.
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