Ocean Connectors was created by a diverse group of scientists, educators, and nonprofit leaders in 2007. These visionaries continue to be closely involved with all aspects of Ocean Connectors, from serving on the Advisory Board where they provide guidance and insights into program growth, to mentoring children and helping develop our classroom curricula. This grassroots community passion propels our mission forward.
Frances Kinney holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a Minor in Spanish from the University of California Santa Barbara and a Master’s Degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. Frances came to San Diego in 2007, where she founded Ocean Connectors. Within two years she was able to double the level of fundraising as well as the size and scope of the audience, and today Ocean Connectors reaches approximately 3,000 underserved youth annually under her leadership. Frances is a certified California Substitute School Teacher. Frances is also a certified Interpretive Guide, and she is certified in CPR, First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, and Open Water SCUBA. In 2017 Frances graduated from the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy’s Fundraising Certificate program at National University.
Danielle Tentschert completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2012, receiving a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Biology. She has traveled to Baja, Belize, and Africa to conduct conservation research. While living in Santa Cruz, Danielle worked for Long Marine Lab leading school programs and volunteered as a hatchery assistant at the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project. Upon returning to San Diego, Danielle worked as a volunteer for San Diego Zoo Global conducting behavioral research on orangutans and capuchin monkeys. She has worked as a dive coach, summer camp counselor, and nanny for over ten years. She is certified in CPR, First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, and Open Water SCUBA. Danielle started working with Ocean Connectors in 2015, where her main responsibilities include leading field trips, designing programs, and communicating with the public at outreach events.
Field & Office Coordinator
Anna Mar moved from Oregon to California in 2011 to obtain her undergraduate degree at Point Loma Nazarene University. In 2014, Anna completed an internship at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, where she helped teach courses in marine biology, snorkeling, and ocean conservation. Anna has always been passionate about reaching underprivileged communities and served a number of years as a teacher and youth mentor at The Salvation Army in Oregon and Colorado. She spent several summers in Thailand teaching English and building a school for refugee children. Anna was first introduced to Ocean Connectors in 2015 after receiving her B.A. in Biology with an emphasis in Marine Biology. She is a talented photographer and is responsible for photographing all program activities, including field trips and outreach events. She is certified in CPR, First Aid, and Open Water SCUBA, and is conversational in Japanese, Spanish, and American Sign Language.
Eco Tour Coordinator
Patrick Levin received a B.A. in Communications with a Minor in Political Science from the University of California San Diego in 2016. While attending UC San Diego, Patrick competed for the NCAA Men’s Golf Team and spent time volunteering with the Food Recovery Network on campus. He also worked for the UC San Diego Recreation Department as an Intramural Sports Assistant for three years. Patrick is an avid surfer, and has worked for Surf Diva, Inc. as a Surf Instructor and Head Camp Instructor since 2014. He holds a Lifeguarding and EMT certificate, and has worked as an EMT and volunteer firefighter in San Diego County. Patrick is also certified in CPR and First Aid. He is the newest addition to the Ocean Connectors team, joining us in 2018 to lead the Ocean Connectors Eco Tour program.
Monica Evelyn Ponce Jiménez
Knowledge Exchange Coordinator
Monica Evelyn Ponce Jiménez graduated from the University of Querétaro in 2011 with a degree in Biology, and since then she has worked with sea turtle conservation camps and environmental education programs throughout Mexico. She taught marine science at the University of Colima during 2013 to 2015, and later taught biology and health sciences at New Horizon high school in Querétaro. She was a professor of forensic entomology at the University of ISIMA in Querétaro from 2016 to 2017. She currently works as a biologist and field guide for the San Pancho Bird Observatory in the state of Nayarit, where she first became acquainted with Ocean Connectors. Monica started working with Ocean Connectors in 2015 and today she is leading the Ocean Connectors educational programs and knowledge exchange in Nayarit, Mexico.
Antonio Barbosa is Vice President of Community Development for Wells Fargo in San Diego. He provides oversight and direction on Community Reinvestment Act initiatives, in addition to building external relationships with nonprofit entities and local elected officials. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Antonio worked for the Mexican Government at the General Consulate of Mexico in San Diego, where he managed the Community Affairs Department. He contributes his leadership and advice to various organizations and serves on the City of San Diego Small Business Advisory Board, The California Foundations Fund, and the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. He served on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad for the President of Mexico (Felipe Calderon) during 2009-2011. Born in Mexico City, Antonio graduated from Iberoamericana University, Mexico, with a Law Degree before settling in San Diego. Antonio became involved with Ocean Connectors through the LEAD San Diego IMPACT program.
The Ocean Foundation
Ben Scheelk manages The Ocean Foundation’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program and other internal programs related to protected areas, high seas governance, sustainable tourism, and blue carbon restoration and financing. Ben’s work involves general operations, financial management, new business development, contractor management, stakeholder engagement, program evaluation, and client marketing. Ben joined The Ocean Foundation after working as the project manager and executive assistant for Alexandra Cousteau at Blue Legacy International, one of The Ocean Foundation’s now fledged projects. Ben holds a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from The George Washington University where he is currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Administration. He graduated from Northern Michigan University with a B.A. in Earth Science and International Studies with Honors. Ben serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors for Chesapeake Commons, a 501(c)(3) that empowers Chesapeake Bay restoration stakeholders with access to high quality digital services and open tool kits.
Industrial Environmental Association
As Executive Director of the Industrial Environmental Association, Jack Monger represents approximately 55 regional manufacturing companies with over 50,000 employees. Prior to joining the Industrial Environmental Association, Jack worked as a lobbyist and government and public relations professional in San Diego for over 20 years. Jack’s clients included companies in the fields of healthcare, real estate, airport and maritime operations, travel and tourism, and the U. S. Navy. Jack is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served on active duty for six years. He has held positions such as Staff Representative for the San Diego City Council, Executive Director of the Hall of Champions Sports Museum, and Vice President of Business and Community Relations for The Corky McMillin Companies. Jack is past-President of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and serves on the Board of the San Diego Port Tenants Association.
NOAA Fisheries Service
Dr. Jeffrey Seminoff is Leader of the Marine Turtle Ecology & Assessment Program and Director of the Stable Isotope Laboratory at the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. Since 1992 Jeff has been involved in ecological research and conservation of sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 2000, and was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research at the University of Florida from 2000 to 2002. He is Past-President of the International Sea Turtle Society and hosted the 31st International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation in San Diego. He is Editor of the book Sea Turtles of the Eastern Pacific (University of Arizona Press) and authored the most recent green sea turtle status assessments for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Jeff has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications and his research has been featured on the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, PBS, and National Geographic.
Jenny Kramer, a Founding Partner at Fisheye Research, is a leader in market research with 15 years of experience. Jenny received a B.A. from Indiana University and a Master’s Degree in Evaluation and Organization Behavior from Claremont Graduate University, however shortly after graduating found her passions were more aligned within market research. Prior to founding Fisheye Research, Jenny had extensive supplier side experience, having previously worked at Lieberman Research Worldwide and Murphy Research, as well as deep client side experience from a management role in Consumer Insights at Sony Electronics. Jenny’s experience spans across several industries, including Consumer Electronics, CPG, Retail, Health & Fitness, Auto and Food & Beverage. An ambitious story-teller, Jenny strives to dig deeper into learnings to ensure the whole story is told. She has a keen understanding of the internal playing’s in organizations and how research is best consumed. Jenny is passionate about working closely with clients and building deep relationships in order to inform more strategic projects and actionable insights.
Underpressure Diving & Nature Photography
As owner of Underpressure Diving & Nature Photography, Jonathan Lavan is a citizen scientist and wildlife expert and has been SCUBA diving for thirty years and taking photographs both above and below the waterline for the past decade. As an underwater and topside photographer, he has been a teacher, speaker, author, and research associate for many different well-known and little-known environmental organizations. Jonathan leads diving, photography, and naturalist trips all over the world. He shares his images freely and they can be seen in a wide variety of venues throughout the country. Jonathan completed his undergraduate studies at Syracuse University, where he received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree in Performance, which has served him well while teaching, lecturing, and delivering impassioned speeches about why wild places and their inhabitants are so important and why we should care for our planet. Jonathan and his wife own an organic pet supply store in San Diego that also provides grooming services in association with a pet rescue nonprofit organization, which is another of Jonathan’s passions.
National School District
Kathy Melanese is currently the Principal at Rancho de la Nación School in the National School District in National City, California. She received a B.A. in Psychology and Bilingual Teaching Credential from the University of California San Diego, as well as a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning. Kathy started her career in National School District as a bilingual teacher and taught for 13 years working primarily with elementary grade levels and bilingual students. She continued her career in education at the Education Studies Department at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) where she taught student teaching candidates about English Learners and Bilingual Education and supervised student teachers. During that time, Kathy also served as the Director of the California Reading and Literature Project at UCSD, an organization that provides professional development to teachers in the areas of literacy development and supporting English learners. Kathy has been a Resource Teacher and Assistant Principal in National School District and is co-author of the series Supporting English Language Learners in Math Class, K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.
Michael Lawlor joined Mitchell International in 2017 as Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships, where he serves as a key strategist and is involved in the pursuit and development of key partnerships. Michael began his career with Progressive, running claims operations in Connecticut before leading Progressive’s re-entry into California in 1997. After 14 years at Progressive, Michael moved on to The Hartford, assuming a role as leader of the Auto and GL lines for claims. Quality, customer service, and work environment metrics were all delivered to new benchmarks under his leadership. Michael spent three years as the Strategy & Practices lead for Auto and Property, owning the claims model and managing vendor relationships. Michael holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Connecticut and an M.B.A. with a triple major (Finance, Management, and Marketing). He currently resides in Connecticut with his wife and family, but is anxious to return to San Diego in the future.
SeaWorld San Diego
As Assistant Curator of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld San Diego, Mike Price is responsible for the care and husbandry of the entire fish, invertebrate, shark, and sea turtle collections. He oversees a staff of 36 and eight different exhibits, including Explorer’s Reef, Turtle Reef, Manta, and Shark Encounter. Mike began his SeaWorld career in 1994 as an Aquarist. From 1998 to 2010 he worked with polar bears, beluga whales, walruses, and seals at the Wild Arctic attraction. In 2010 he was promoted to Supervisor in Zoological Operations, and in 2012 assumed his current role. Prior to working at SeaWorld, Mike worked at the Marine Mammal Center where he was part of the marine mammal rehabilitation team. He is a primary responder for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, has done field work with Polar Bears International, and is a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Mike has Bachelor’s Degrees in Marine Biology and Psychology from California State University, Long Beach.
Ocean Literacy Specialist
Roberta Dean is Co-Founder of the MARE Program at the University of California Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science and Co-Author of MARE’s K-8 marine science curriculum in nine volumes. As former Coordinator of the MARE Center at Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Roberta worked to connect the Scripps research community and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration with schools in San Diego, and continues to consult with state and regional school districts. Roberta is former Developer and Director of Project Ocean and Executive Director of the Sonoma Sea School, and has served as an interpretive naturalist for Oceanic Expeditions, offering field courses for teachers in Belize, the Bahamas, and Mexico. As an Ocean Literacy Specialist, she works to integrate Ocean Literacy Principles into the K-12 curriculum, as well as lead environmental literacy and stewardship efforts. Roberta earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies with a Minor in Marine Science from Sonoma State University. She holds a K-12 Multiple Subject teaching credential, as well as Early Childhood, Severely Handicapped, Learning Handicapped, and Resource Specialist credentials. In 2015 Roberta was awarded the National Marine Educators Association’s Marine Education Award, and she is currently earning her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a STEM focus from St. Catherine University in Minnesota.
Sarah Abrenica earned a B.A. in Business Management Economics from the University of California Santa Cruz. While pursuing her degree she took part in the school’s mock trial team, tutored peers through the University tutoring program, and volunteered with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Sarah currently works as the Event and Media Coordinator for Sand Cloud, an e-commerce business with a mission to save marine life. Sarah leads the video production team, manages social media, and builds and oversees relationships with various nonprofit organizations. In 2018 Sarah travelled to Maui where she produced a video to raise money for the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. Sarah regularly organizes community events and beach cleanups in collaboration with local nonprofits, such as Ocean Connectors, San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider San Diego, and Route USA. She has led environmental protests, including MCing a climate change rally hosted by SD 350+, and has represented Sand Cloud at congressional meetings, where she lobbied against offshore oil drilling. Sarah is a San Diego native, a black belt in Taekwondo, and is taking classes to become a certified welder.
Captain Tony Baca is a 747 Pilot for Atlas Air based in Anchorage, Alaska, which allows him to travel around the world on a monthly basis. Prior to working for Atlas, Tony held various flying jobs from corporate aviation to being a bush pilot in Alaska. Tony received an Associate Degree in Aviation Technology from Carl Sandburg College in Illinois and is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s Degree from Embry-Riddle University online. He is a Veteran of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. It was during his time in the Navy while stationed aboard the USS Kansas City AOR-3 that Tony found his love for the sea. During his time in the U.S. Navy, Tony realized the environmental devastation that man can cause and made a promise to get involved with ocean conservation. Tony is an avid SCUBA diver and sailor living aboard his Catalina 470 in San Diego Harbor.
Unified Port of San Diego
Zach Birmingham is a Senior Environmental Specialist with the Unified Port of San Diego’s Energy Team. He started with the Port in 2011 as an Intern, and has worked with the Port’s Commissioners and Executive Leadership Group providing research and professional staffing support related to maritime, environmental, and international trade topics. He obtained his B.A. in Global Studies and Maritime Affairs from California State University, Maritime Academy, and a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from IR/PS at the University of California San Diego. He began his career as a sailor, and currently holds a near coastal, one hundred ton, commercial master’s license. He has served on vessels throughout the Pacific, Oceania, the Middle East, and Latin America. Zach became involved with Ocean Connectors through the LEAD San Diego IMPACT program.
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