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. 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.
Aimee Hoover, 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, Project 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 and habitat conservation for biodiversity. She is the founder of ProFaunaBaja and co-founder of Alianza Keloni A.C., a Mexican nonprofit dedicated to sea turtle conservation.
Stephanie has a BS in Biology from California State University, Bakersfield and is currently enrolled in an MS-PhD program at the Center for Marine Science (CICIMAR) in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
Sarah Johnson, Office Manager
Kajsa Williams, Science Writer
Upwell's Founding Story
We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded by Dr. George Shillinger and Dr. Kristin Reed. George brings decades of experience in marine research and conservation, with a specific emphasis on the movement ecology of leatherback turtles and other highly migratory species, derived from electronic tagging studies and remotely sensed environmental datasets. As a socio-ecologist, Kristin brings complementary experience working with fishing communities around the world on resource rights and environmental change.
George and Kristin began working together with the founders of Las Baulas National Park to protect the last mass nesting beach for leatherbacks on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. However, despite the extraordinary efforts of community members, park officials and scientists working to support Las Baulas National Park, the numbers of East Pacific leatherbacks returning to nest at the Park continue to decrease. (Whereas researchers recorded 1504 leatherbacks nesting in Las Baulas National Park during the 1988-1989 season, they recorded only 22 in the 2015-2016 nesting season.) Researchers working on nesting beaches around the world report similar declines among hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and other sea turtle species.
Protecting nesting beaches is not enough when endangered turtle populations face deadly threats at sea.
George saw an opportunity to use his expertise in tagging and tracking sea turtles at sea to arrest the decline in East Pacific leatherbacks and other critically endangered populations of sea turtles. He knew that with enough data (including where sea turtles go at different life history stages and how oceanographic conditions like sea surface temperatures correlate with food availability) scientific models could predict the abundance and distribution of turtles at sea. Kristin found fishermen wanted to reduce bycatch and knew that scientists could learn much more about turtle movements from people spending most of their time on the water.
George and Kristin saw an opportunity to transform sea turtle conservation by engaging new constituencies in data collection and improving access to predictive and real-time data on turtle movements. They founded Upwell as a collaborative organization committed to generating and mobilizing scientific data to protect endangered turtles at sea.