Alumni Leadership Spotlight

Alumni make waves in ocean and coastal resource management

Melis Okter (MAEIP-OCRM 2016) Helps Create Interactive Climate Vulnerability Map for California

Melis Okter worked as a California Sea Grant Fellow for the California Coastal Commission in their Climate Change Department after graduation. She conducted an exhaustive review of  California’s coastal resources at risk to sea level rise, and drafted the final statewide report that includes county level data on climate change vulnerability, economic valuation studies,  and Local Coastal Program participation.  Now, a new interactive website and map visually communicates those findings in an easily accessible way.  Congratulations Melis!  Thanks for your part in actualizing this important planning tool! 


Heidi Williams (MAIEP-OCRM 2016) wins prestigious California Sea Grant Fellowship

Heidi Williams is a recent recipient of the highly competitive and prestigious NOAA California Sea Grant Fellowship.  She will be working working with the Delta Science Program in their Water Supply Adaptive Management and Communications Unit. The Delta Science Program works to convey and communicate scientific knowledge to stakeholders about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast.  Her project is to translate complex scientific information into a form readily understood by the non-scientist through tools such as seminars, symposia, and digital storytelling. She will also be working with their staff to continue the development of a water supply adaptive management framework for the Bay-Delta system.  Go Heidi!

Heather Benko (MBA-IEP 2015 with ocean focus) wins California Sea Grant Fellowship

The MIIS IEP program truly does seem to have a disproportionately high number of California Sea Grant Fellows--we are small but mighty!  Heather Benko recently was awarded CA Sea Grant fellowship with the California Department of Fish and Game working on a by-catch work group as well as a predator species forum in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.   She's promised more detail in coming months!  Congratulations Heather!

Melis Okter (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) publishes paper in Aquatic Conservation

melis-sylviaearle-squareMelis Okter (shown right with Sylvia Earle) has recently published a paper in the journal Aquatic Conservation.   The article, "Polar opposites? Marine conservation tools and experiences in the changing Arctic and Antarctic," describes the major efforts to establish marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Arctic and Antarctic and analyses the similarities and differences in marine protection initiatives in the Earth's polar regions.  Congratulations Melis!


Sara Pfeifer (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) is starting work as a Coastal Program Analyst with the California Coastal Commission

Sara.Pfeifer.530x445.CenterForTheBlueEconomy.SummerFellow.2014Sara graduated from MIIS in May of 2015 and worked through July of 2016 with the Center for the Blue Economy as a Research Associate and Data Analyst on non-market economic data.  The Center for the Blue Economy plans to develop a new approach bringing order and consistency to what is mostly an ad hoc body of literature, and Sara lent her talents to that effort.  Sara is now moving on to her position as Coastal Program Analyst with the California Coastal Commission.  She will collaborate with regional stakeholders and experts to manage coastal development consistent with the Coastal Act, creatively explore complex coastal resource issues, and provide for the balanced use of the coastal zone and protecting California's valuable resources for present and  future generations.   Congratulations Sara!

Nate Maynard (MAIEP-OCRM 2014) is now a researcher at the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research

Nate.Maynard.530x445.CenterForTheBlueEconomy.SummerFellow.2013Nate Maynard graduated in 2014 and worked for a time as a Fulbright Research Fellow at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Taiwan , and completed a study valuing Taiwan's first national marine park at $129 million. The study found that the reefs could be better protected by favoring sustainable tourism over fishing.  Several news outlets covered this story including the  Taipei Times,  the China Times, and Apple Daily.  His internship with the Ocean Recovery Aliance (ORA) enabled him to go to Columbia and work with the World Bank, and led to a side consulting job with ORA.  Most recently, Nate is working as a Consultant at the Center for the Green Economy, Chuna-Hua Institution for Economic Research, in Taipei, Taiwan.  "At the Center for the Green Economy I am continuing my Fulbright research on coral reef economics as well as helping to promote and research Taiwan's green product market,"  says Nate in a recent email.   We are very proud of the leadership Nate is providing for a sustainable Taiwan! 

Emma Tonge (MAIEP-OCRM 2016) has been hired by NOAA's Marine Debris Program

Emma.Tonge.530x445.CenterForTheBlueEconomy.SummerFellow2015Emma engaged in an International Professional Service Semester (IPSS), an immersive learning experience, integrating academic work with professional experience for her last semester at MIIS.  Her IPSS was with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) in San Francisco, CA, where she supported activities in the Office of Response and Restoration’s Marine Debris Division.  She completed a detailed analysis of the west coast trash policy and implementation (California, Oregon, and Washington), supported the Office of Response's action planning workshop, and compiled and mapped Pacific Northwest marine debris data, compiling existing best management practices for removal, and more.  Upon graduation in 2016, and has been hired by the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Marine Debris Division, where she will continue her role in a professional capacity. Go Emma!

Kelsey Richardson (MAEIP/OCRM Class of 2015) will present her research findings on marine debris to the United Nations

KelseyRichardson.530x445.CenterForTheBlueEconomy.SummerFellow2014Kelsey Richardson will present research on marine debris around fishing vessels at UN headquarters in New York for their marine debris meeting in June 2016.  "I'm really excited about the opportunity to share there, especially as the research/topic is relatively new, and I hope will inspire discussion surrounding the intersection of fisheries management and compliance, and marine debris," said Kelsey in an email.

Kelsey graduated in 2015, and went to Apia, Samoa, working for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.  She provided support to UNEP marine litter initiatives in the region, and assisted in the development of Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme as a Regional Node for UNEP's Global Partnership on Marine Litter.  Her work also included research toward and the creation of a report on the origins and impacts of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear in the region.  She also had the opportunity to get out of the office and travel a bit in the region through participation in community-based demonstration pilot projects in both Samoa and other countries in the region. 

Kelsey is planning on pursuing a PhD with the University of Tasmania. "The topic of the PhD will be a global examination of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), frequently known as 'ghost gear.'  Where it comes from (which fisheries in what parts of the world), in what amounts and types, where it ends up, impacts, and mitigation and prevention strategies," said Kelsey.

Learn More:

Sources, distribution and fate of marine debris

Can Reefs Survive Coral Bleaching?  Silvia Sanchez (MAIEP/OCRM Class of 2012) writes bilingual blog that is picked up by the New York Times

Silvia.Sanchez.530x445.CenterForTheBlueEconomy.SummerFellow.2011"Scientists in Australia recently announced that more than 90% of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef have experienced bleaching this year due to increased oceanic temperatures from climate change. This is the third mass bleaching event on record and possibly the worst yet — affecting one-third of the world’s corals. Other affected areas include Micronesia, as well as the Caribbean and Hawaii, both of which suffered major bleaching throughout their waters last summer." writes Silvia Sanchez in a recent WildAid blog, which was also picked up by the New York Times.

Read More: Can Reefs Survive Coral Bleaching?

Paddling for a Purpose: Alumna Alyssum Pohl Documents Mississippi River Water Quality on 2400-Mile Journey

Alyssum Pohl“I was looking for ways to demonstrate that the health of our oceans concerns all of us,” explains International Environmental Policy alumna Alyssum Pohl MAIEP ’12 on a call from her kayak in the middle of the Mississippi River. “Our rivers, streams, lakes—it’s all connected!”

Alyssum will be returning to campus to give a public talk about her adventure as a keynote speaker for Earthweek 2016.   Come hear her speak on Wednesday, April 20th, 6:00-7:30pm, McGowan Building, room 100

Learn more:

Earth Week events

Alyssum's Paddle On! Blog

MIIS News Room Article

Angelina Skowronski (MAEIP/MBA Class of 2015) hooks an Ocean Outcomes Fellowship

angelina_skowronskiAngelina Skowronski (MAEIP/MBA Class of 2015) accepted a Packard Environment Fellow position with Ocean Outcomes this summer through the Middlebury Institute's membership with the MBA Non Profit Connection--Congratulations Angelina!

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Marina Binsack (MAIEP 2015) at Friends of the San Francisco Estuary

Binsack.100Marina Binsack (MAIEP 2015) is now Communications Intern at Friends of the San Francisco Estuary--Congratulations Marina!

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Abalone: the good, the bad, and the right choice

ryan-bigelowRyan Bigelow (MAIEP 2009), is the Seafood Watch Outreach Program Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Check out this NPR interview featuring Ryan speaking on abalone--how to make a responsible choice.

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New job for Vicky Bell

victoria_bellVicky Bell (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) is now the Outreach Coordinator at the Blue Frontier Campaign in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations Vicky!

Jordan Sanchez works with the California Coastal Commission to restore public access to Lunada Bay

JordanSurfing.IMG_1547.squaredJordan Sanchez (MAIEP-OCRM 2015, shown here catching a wave) is working with the California Coastal Commission and City of Palos Verdes Estates to enhance public access to one of SoCal’s best surf spots.

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Welcome Sara Pfeifer to the research staff of the Center for the Blue Economy!

sarah_pfeifferSara Pfeifer (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) is working with the Center for the Blue Economy as a Research Assistant on non-market economic data.

Welcome Sara!

Three 2015 Grads Land Prestigious NOAA Sea Grant Fellowships

NOAA Sea Grant Fellowships are highly competitive, involve an extensive application and a two-day interview process. With hundreds of applicants vying for a limited number of funded fellowships, it speaks highly of the Middlebury Institute that we typically have one of our graduates from the International Environmental Policy Studies program (IEP) selected each year, but to have three selected in a single year: that is extraordinary. “Three is a record, I believe, in one year,” said Edy Rhodes who has served as the Career and Academic Adviser for the IEP program for the past seven years. (We did not check the record officially beyond seven years). The students are:

jessica_martenJessica (Jess) Morten (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) joins the NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary office as the 2016 California Sea Grant Fellow. During her one-year assignment, she will be working within the Resource Protection department on reducing the threat of ship strikes on endangered whales and enhancing sanctuary enforcement.


marenfarnum2Maren Farnum (MAIEP-OCRM 2015), will be a California Sea Grant Fellow at the State Lands Commission in Sacramento. She will be working in the Environmental Planning and Management Division reviewing and drafting sea level rise policy for California's state-owned and granted tidelands and submerged lands.


Okter.200Melis Okter (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) will be a California Sea Grant Fellow at the California Coastal Commission in their Climate Change Department. She will be working on climate change vulnerability assessments, economic valuation studies of beaches, sea level rise assessments, and learning the coastal development permitting process.


Silvia Sanchez (MAIEP-OCRM 2012) lands position at WildAid as Marine Program Officer

silvia_sanchezSilvia Sanchez served as a CBE Summer Fellow working at WildAid in San Francisco, focused on researching and writing a publication on enforcement of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and planning a conference in February 2012, where the publication will be presented. When Silvia graduated in 2012, she began with Corporate and Foundation Relations Office for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. As of January 2016, she is back with WildAid as their Marine Program Officer. Congratulations Silvia!

Alan Lovewell (MAIEP 2010) wins $100,000 Chase Bank Grant for his Real Good Fish company

real-fishOn September 25th, alumnus Alan Lovewell MAIEP ’10 and his company Real Good Fish accepted a $100,000 check from Chase Bank after his company was one of 20 to beat out 30,000 other applicants to win a grant supporting their unique initiative aimed at providing healthy, popular lunches for public school students using local seafood. The $100,000 check Alan accepted from Chase Bank today from the highly competitive 2015 CHASE Mission Main Street Grant will help Real Good Fish expand this program further. “We feel incredibly lucky and grateful for being a recipient of the Chase Mission Main St. Grant,” says Alan. “This recognition means a lot to our business and our community." Read More (article courtesy of MIIS News Room)

Jordan Sanchez (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) lands great job with California Coastal Commission

DSC_0503On September 5th, Jordan wrote: "Last week I started a position with the California Coastal Commission as the District Enforcement Officer of the South Coast District which includes Los Angeles County and Orange County. I have gone through a rigorous interview process for three months but it all worked out and I’m super happy with my position." Looking at Jordan's duty statement, his work will be about 60% enforcement case processing (protecting our coast--go Jordan), 25% compliance monitoring, and 15% "other duties as assigned." Congratulations Jordan! Keep us posted!

Mohammad Towheedul Islam (MAIEP 2012) receives prestigious Australian Government Endeavor Scholarship, begins PhD program

Mohammad Towheedul Islam 3 (2)On September 3rd, Mohammad wrote: "I am writing to let you know that recently, I have been awarded an Endeavour Scholarship, an Australian Govt.’s flagship scholarship scheme, for pursuing PhD. I have started my doctoral program at the Australian National University this August. My work focuses on climate change and migration. I did some research work on the same issue under Prof. Zarsky’s supervision at MIIS." Congratulations Mohammad! See his ANU Profile for more information.

Frank Reynolds (MAIEP-OCRM 2012) sets world record for relay swim across Monterey Bay

Frank.Team=400&maxw=667On Sunday, August 23rd at 3AM, Frank Reynolds and his brother Paul and three others: Thomas Dietrich, Joe Schertler (Reynolds' cousin), and Michael Sharf set out to swim across the 25 mile mouth of the Monterey Bay, both to raise funds and awareness of Lewy Body Dementia, a progressive brain disorder, and to attempt a new world record. Frank and Paul's grandfather, Frank Sr. was a highly accomplished marathon swimmer who died of the disease. Not only did the team honor his memory, but they set a new world record, completing the crossing in 10 hours, 20 minutes. Check out this fabulous article in the Monterey Herald, as well as the one in the Santa Cruz Sentinel written pre-completion. We look forward to welcoming Frank as a speaker in our Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Lecture Series on September 22nd, discussing his work as Director of Programs and Development for Friends of the Sea Otter.

Matt Shipley (MAIEP-OCRM 2015) and his innovative company Both Co. aquaponics get a mention in the Monterey County Weekly

Shipley.croppedMatt Shipley, recent CBE Summer Fellow and co-founder of Both Co., is innovating a sustainable way to produce food and fish. Located in Del Rey Oaks, CA, Both Co. was built through the tireless efforts of Shipley, and co-founders James Galvin and William Suh. The team had help (and survived some near disasters) from MIIS student volunteers in setting up the facility. Both Company was founded in 2014 to address the global crisis of food scarcity by using aquaponics technology to grow food locally using 80 to 90 percent less water than soil-based agriculture, while simultaneously producing pure and sustainable fish with that same water. Furthermore, their method of food production consumes far less fossil fuel than current farming methods require. Both Co. seeks to revolutionize the way Americans eat, ushering in a new era of environmentally sustainable agriculture globally. Ten percent of Both Co. revenues will be allocated to improve agricultural sustainability in communities of endemic thirst and/or hunger. Local residents and the MIIS community are invited to partake in community grow cooperatives, evenings of sustainable meals and great conversations (proceeds go to local food banks), and they hope to establish a Community Supported Agrigulture or CSA license by 2016. The Monterey County Weekly did a fabulous article on them, featuring a 16-photo slide show.

Adam Fullerton (MAIEP-OCRM 2013) co-authors article in Marine Policy

adam_fullerton2"The status of marine and coastal ecosystem-based management (EBM) among the network of U.S. federal programs," summarizes the status of EBM approaches for federal programs under the agencies of the National Ocean Council. Using social network analysis techniques, including network visualization, cohesion measures, and similarities among programs in different topic areas (e.g., type of audience, partners, training, EBM best management practices and principles) different programs were explored. Results highlight substantial differences in perceived and effective performances across programs. Congratulations on your publication Adam!

Linda Childs Hothem (BAPS 1985) Wins Distinguished Alumni Award

5.28.15.Scorse.Hothem“An honor like this connects you in a different way to the Institute,” shares Linda Childs Hothem BAPS ’85 (shown with Dr. Jason Scorse in photo at left) , who was honored with the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award as part of the Spring Commencement ceremony. She goes on to explain that your affiliation begins as a student, and continues as you return to give back. She comments on how this recognition further solidifies the relationship, saying “It truly is a great honor.” The CEO of Pacific American Group, a successful commercial property management company, Hothem is an active member of leadership councils for both of her alma maters, the Middlebury Institute and the University of San Francisco. Her concerns for ocean conservation led Linda and her husband, Dr. Giuseppe Esposito, to offer their support to the Center for the Blue Economy at MIIS.

Nate Maynard (MAIEP-OCRM 2014) makes news by estimating the total economic value of Taiwan’s first marine park.

Maynard.200 Nate Maynard is working as a Fulbright Research Fellow at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium, Taiwan and recently completed a study valuing Taiwan's first national marine park at $129 million. The study found that the reefs could be better protected by favoring sustainable tourism over fishing. Several news outlets covered this story including the Taipei Times, (English) and the China Times and Apple Daily (Chinese). When Nate was a Summer Fellow at CBE in 2013, he worked with the Ocean Recovery Alliance (ORA) in Hong Kong to compare trash reduction methods in waterways and analyze their economic benefit. "Reflecting back on all the opportunities form MIIS and the CBE," says Nate. "The CBE opened a lot of doors for me that I didn’t even realize existed before." His internship with ORA enabled him to go to Columbia and work with the World Bank, and led to a side consulting job with ORA that continues to this day. We are very proud of the leadership Nate is providing for a sustainable Taiwan.

Amanda Leinberger (MAEIP-OCRM 2014) is awarded the NOAA Coastal Management Fellowship, Puerto Rico

amanda_leinberger.CommunityMeetingNOAA Coastal Management Fellowships are not easy to come by. The competitive applicant pool and week-long interview process can be daunting, but Amanda Leinberger was up to the challenge, and the CBE congratulates her on being granted the prestigious award. The Coastal Management Fellowship program provides on-the-job education and training opportunities in coastal resource management and policy for postgraduate students. The program matches postgraduate students with state coastal zone programs to work on projects proposed by the state and selected by the fellowship sponsor, the NOAA Coastal Services Center. This two-year Fellowship offers a competitive salary, medical benefits, and travel and relocation expense reimbursement. Amanda will be heading to Puerto Rico to work with the Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program on creating a decision support tool (a webpage or mobile app) that regional leaders can use as they consider adaptation strategies. In addition, she will be helping to draft the Puerto Rico State of the Climate Report.

Erich Pacheco (MAIEP-OCRM 2013) is promoted to Senior Manager of the Ocean Health Index

PachecoErich Pacheco is now Senior Manager for the Ocean Health Index (OHI) at Conservation International. The OHI is the first assessment tool that scientifically compares and combines key elements from all dimensions of the ocean’s health – biological, physical, economic and social. Through ten human goals, the Index provides leaders with the portfolio of information they need to promote a more sustainable human-ocean ecosystem. The Index sets a standard of measurement to continually inform decision-making to positively impact ocean health and human well-being, supporting effective ocean management throughout the world, from China to Colombia, from New Caledonia to Brazil.

Julie Rosenbach (MAIEP 2000) hired as South Portland's first full-time Sustainability Manager

Julie.Rosenbach"Julie Rosenbach beat out a field of 135 applicants from 28 states and five countries to land the job, which will put her in charge of city efforts to reduce energy consumption and implement so-called “green” technologies." says reporter Duke Harrington of the South-Portland (ME) Cape-Elizabeth Sentry. We are so proud of our graduates taking on leadership roles across the country.

Anna Cummings (MAIEP 2002) 5 Gyres study featured in Washington Post: 5 Trillion pieces of plastics in the ocean

AnnaCummins.200"A major new study of the world's oceans has reached a shocking conclusion: Thanks to humans, there are now over 5 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing more than 250,000 tons, floating in water around the world," says journalist Chris Mooney in a recent Washington Post story. Anna Cummins, IEP grad (2002) is the Executive Director and co-founder of 5 Gyres. In 2008, Anna completed a month long, 4,000-mile research expedition studying plastic debris in the North Pacific Gyre. Following the journey, Anna and Dr. Marcus Eriksen launched JUNKraft, completed a cycling/speaking trip from Vancouver to Mexico, and married along the way. The journey inspired the launch of 5 Gyres, to eliminate plastic pollution in the world’s oceans through research, education, and community engagement.