Meet Our Team
Dr. George Shillinger, Executive Director
George develops scientific partnerships and leverages data to set conservation priorities, build support in key constituencies and advance protections for turtles at sea.
George has worked in environmental conservation since 1986, including satellite-tracking pelagic species such as sea turtles, billfish, sharks and tuna. As a Great Turtle Race co-founder, he used satellite-tracking data to raise global awareness for critically endangered leatherbacks.
George has a PhD in Marine Biology and an MS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Stanford University, an MBA from the Yale University School of Management and a BA in the Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Sean Williamson, Project Scientist
Sean conducts research to improve the odds for leatherback hatchlings.
He has collaborated with Upwell scientists to prepare leatherback turtle hatchling dispersal field experiments at Pacuare Nature Reserve on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. His continuing work with Upwell focuses on building consensus among scientists on efforts to decrease East Pacific leatherback hatchling mortality.
Sean has a PhD in Biology on the ecophysiology of embryonic development in turtles and crocodiles from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Ashley Moranda, Development Officer
Ashley leads Upwell’s fundraising efforts with institutional and individual donors in order to support and advance the mission of protecting turtles at sea. She enjoys building relationships with those who are passionate about sea turtle conservation and helping them envision how their goals and Upwell's align.
Ashley’s current work draws on seven years of experience in non-profit fundraising, work as a television news producer, and a passion for marine conservation.
Ashley has a BA in Journalism and Communication and a minor in Business from the University of Oregon. She is also a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
Kayla Horner, Office Manager
Kayla manages administrative tasks and communications to support Upwell's sea turtle conservation programs.
Kayla's strong organizational skills are bolstered by her professional background in scientific and rescue diving, volunteer experience in marine animal husbandry and academic research on marine habitats around Monterey and the Channel Islands.
She has a BS in Marine Science from California State University, Monterey Bay and is also a certified scuba instructor, lifeguard and CPR/first aid and emergency oxygen provider.
Nicole Barbour, Research Associate
Nicole studies the migratory movements of sea turtles of different age classes to inform more effective, targeted conservation strategies.
Upwell’s “lost years” partnership with Dr. Helen Bailey at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has supported Nicole’s research tracking leatherback hatchlings in the Caribbean through different tide and wind states.
She has a BS in Biology from California State University, Monterey Bay and is currently a PhD Student at UMCES.
Hannah Degenford, Project Assistant
Hannah is working to develop a model that predicts the spatial distribution of Eastern Pacific leatherbacks throughout the year based on fisheries observations and environmental data. Working with fisheries managers, Upwell is using this model to reduce fisheries' interactions with leatherbacks in the region. Hannah began working on this project at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory with support from the Maryland Sea Grant.
Hannah has a BS in Mathematics and minor in Biology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Kajsa Williams, Science Writer
Kajsa summarizes current sea turtle research for use as website content and to facilitate understanding of important conservation issues.
Kajsa is currently a senior at Carmel High School aspiring to major in molecular biology in college.
Dr. Kristin Reed, Operations Director
Kristin builds program strategy and operational capacity to ensure organizational effectiveness, meet conservation objectives and sustain partnerships.
Kristin has conducted research with fishing communities on three continents. She directed the Human Rights Fellowship for the University of California and has consulted on pan-African humanitarian initiatives and campaigns to end illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia.
Kristin has a BS in Foreign Service and a certificate in African Studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy and Management from the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Heather Harris, Wildlife Veterinarian
Heather is a wildlife veterinarian and board-certified specialist in veterinary preventive medicine. She applies an integrative One Health approach to study marine wildlife as sentinels for ocean and human health at the land-sea interface.
Heather conducts sea turtle health assessments, investigates causes of mortality, evaluates toxin exposure, and documents human impacts to sea turtles worldwide. She provides veterinary expertise to local, national, and international partners on safe capture methods, field research techniques, mass stranding events, oil spill response, rehabilitation, and postmortem examinations.
Heather has a DVM in Veterinary Medicine and MPVM in Wildlife Disease Ecology from the University of California, Davis, and a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine.
Aimee Doyle, Project Coordinator
Aimee conducts primary research to improve hatchling dispersal models, advises on outreach strategies and creates tools to predict and prevent fisheries interactions with sea turtles.
Aimee's wider research portfolio has focused on the effects of large-scale ecosystem changes on populations of marine organisms. She was a Knauss Fellow with the NOAA NMFS Office of Science and Technology’s National Observer Program.
Aimee has a BS in Marine and Atmospheric Science from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida and an MS in Fisheries Science from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Stephanie Rousso, Mexico Coordinator
Stephanie develops community based sea turtle conservation models and trains citizen scientists to identify and record observations of turtles in marine environments.
As a wildlife biologist, Stephanie specializes in spatial ecology of migratory species. She coordinates Upwell’s research with partners in Northwest Mexico, including a study collecting epibionts (e.g., barnacles) from sea turtles to identify high-use habitats through stable isotope analysis.
Stephanie is a four-time Rufford Fellow and has a BS in Biology from California State University, Bakersfield and an MS in Marine Biology from the Center for Marine Science (CICIMAR) in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
Sarah Schmidt, Project Assistant
Sarah engages communities around Monterey Bay to build capacity for citizen science and awareness about Western Pacific leatherbacks. Her current work draws on previous field experience participating in long-term research on sea turtles at Playa Nancite, Costa Rica and building campaigns to increase recycling and reduce waste on her college campus.
Sarah has a BA in Environmental Studies from California State University, Monterey Bay.
Lauren Hackney, Marketing Coordinator
Lauren is currently part of the Upwell communications team and is working on website development. Her current work draws from previous field experience for 2 seasons in Las Baulas National Park in Costa Rica, in addition to time spent in Pacuare Nature Reserve where she served as the Education Coordinator. Her passion for conservation started at UC Irvine where she implemented a curbside composting program for nearby communities.
Lauren has a BA in International Studies from University of California at Irvine .