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La Jolla, California |  info@waittinstitute.org |  (858) 551-4443

The Waitt Institute is based in La Jolla, California, with site managers and partners in Barbuda, Azores, Bermuda, Curaçao, Monsterrat and Vava'u, Tonga. Providing a wide variety of expertise, our team aims to restore fish populations and habitats and benefit coastal communities through partnerships with governments committed to developing and implementing comprehensive, science-based, community-driven solutions for sustainable ocean management.

Kathryn Mengerink, J.D. Ph.D. 

Executive Director

Dr. Kathryn Mengerink leads a team of ocean experts in developing and implementing marine spatial planning. She brings both her PhD in marine biology and law degree to bear in undertaking this effort. When not at the La Jolla office, you can typically find Kathryn at one of the Waitt Institute project sites around the world, either in a meeting or in the water. 


From 2006 -2016 Kathryn served as Director of the Ocean Program at the Environmental Law Institute. Under her leadership, the Ocean Program launched law and policy projects related to regional ocean management, coastal zoning, fisheries management and enforcement, aquaculture, ocean and coastal restoration, offshore energy development, marine protection, Alaska Natives rights and ocean management, environmental DNA, deep seabed mining and more. From 2007-2016, Kathryn served as a Lecturer Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she taught ocean law and policy and served as an advisor to the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. She holds a B.S. in Zoology (Texas A&M University), Ph.D. in Marine Biology from SIO (UC San Diego) and a J.D. with a certificate in Environmental Law from University of California, Berkeley.


Tamara Marshall, J.D.

Operations & Legal Director


Tamara Marshall was born and raised in San Diego, California. In her role as the Institute’s Operations Manager she focuses on finances, contracts, and generally keeping the organization running smoothly. She joined the Waitt team as an employee of the Avalon Capital Group in 2005.


Over the past 10 years, she has held numerous positions within the organization across the areas of human resources, administration, operations, finance, legal, and investments. She is an experienced professional accountant with a background in entrepreneurship and small business advising. Tamara has a Bachelor’s degree in accounting, and has completed her law degree at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Tamara aspires to use her law degree to make a difference in the world and to give back to the community.

Andy Estep

Science & Field Manager

As the Science and Field Manager of the Waitt Institute for the last five years, Andy has worked on developing and standardizing the Waitt Institute's scientific portfolio as well as coordinating a variety of efforts in the field. His work has pertained largely to conducting and managing science projects both on site and program-wide through the Blue Halo Initiative, the Blue Prosperity Coalition, and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Andy's projects provides data driven support for the marine spatial planning process at current and potential sites. This work has ranged from designing and leading expeditions to survey nearshore habitats like coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves as well as fisheries landing assessments to facilitating workshops for marine spatial planning and conducting geospatial analyses. 


Andy has a background in ecological monitoring, fisheries landings assessment, geospatial analysis, benthic habitat mapping, geology of coral reefs, and marine spatial planning. He has extensive experience creating portfolios of science based projects to support marine spatial planning and specifically the designation and placement of marine protected areas using standardized methodologies. 

Shayna Brody

Media & Communications Manager

Shayna manages communications across Waitt Institute project sites, the Waitt Foundation, and the Blue Prosperity Coalition. She develops communications strategies, creates content, manages websites & social media channels, and captures media as a staff photographer, videographer, and drone pilot. She brings expertise in marketing, branding, photography, videography, and graphic design. 

Shayna holds a Masters in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary biology and a minor in Media & Communications. She has a background in scientific research of marine mammal populations and behavior in South Africa, New Zealand, and California, as well as fish behavior and fire ecology in Rocky Mountain forest ecosystems. She has also worked at tech startup Lumi.com and in outreach and educational settings for many animal rescues, aquariums, and NGOs including The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Inland Ocean Coalition, Heal the Bay, Star Eco Station, and the Denver Aquarium.

Ute Zischka

Program Manager

Ute oversees programmatic work in the Caribbean, managing initiatives in Barbuda, Curaçao and Montserrat. Ute also oversees the Institute’s portfolio on socio-economics, sustainable financing, and blue economy. 

She has implemented ocean conservation and community development initiatives across the Caribbean and Pacific. She has experience in program development, management, communications, and evaluation. 


Prior to joining the Waitt Institute, Ute managed the World Bank-funded Coral Reef Targeted Research Program and worked in a small team to develop the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in the areas of healthy oceans, food systems, clean energy and sustainable water. Ute also worked as a Consultant and Project Coordinator for the Fiji-based Pacific Blue Foundation to help develop marine protected areas and promote community-based resource management.


Ute holds an undergraduate degree in communications from LMU Munich, and a Masters in International Environmental Policy from the UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy with Certificate in Quantitative Policy Analysis. 

Vanessa Dick

Program Manager

Vanessa joined the Waitt Institute in 2019 as a Program Manager. Vanessa manages programatic work in the Atlantic, including the "Blue Azores" Program. Vanessa also supports the Institute's policy and regulatory initiatives. Prior to joining the Waitt Institute, Vanessa has worked for more than 8 years in conservation. She holds an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, a Juris Doctor degree from University of Cincinnati College of Law, and a Master of Laws from Lewis and Clark Law School in Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, and Energy Law.


Siân Morgan

Program Manager, Fisheries & Markets Lead


Sian will oversee programmatic work with Waitt Institute's newest partnering nation states. Sian oversees the Institute's engagements with fisheries and market-based mechanisms and has over a decade of practitioner experience working to reform fisheries and aquaculture systems in 20+ national jurisdictions. Prior to joining the Institute, Sian led the Seafood group at SCS Global Services, served on the Aquaculture Stewardship Council Technical Advisory group and the Marine Stewardship Council Stakeholder Council, helped Fair Trade USA to design their Capture Fisheries Standard and built SeaChoice, as a national sustainable seafood program for Canada. She has also provided consulting to philanthropic funders, WWF and CITES, among others. Sian holds a B.Sc Hon from the University of British Columbia and a PhD in fisheries and ecology from McGill University, where she worked on small-scale demersal fisheries in Asia.

Michael Dessner

Director of Special Projects

Michael oversees Waitt Institute expedition work conducted aboard M/y Plan b, assists with communications and other special projects. He has participated in Waitt Expeditions in the North and South Pacific, North Atlantic, Caribbean and the Arctic. 

Dessner grew up in Decorah, IA, attended the University of Iowa and served in the US Army from 1984-88. After many years working around the ocean, including stints in the Florida Keys and over a decade working Alaskan commercial fisheries, he joined the Waitt Institute in 2005. 


Joe Lepore

Special Projects Coordinator &

Dive Safety Officer

Joseph serves as the Waitt Institute’s Dive Safety Officer and oversees all deck operations during missions of discovery. He grew up in Ronkonkoma, New York where he joined the US Navy in 1986. He served his country with distinction and honor for twenty years before retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer and Master Diver in 2006, after which he joined the Waitt Institute team. 


He completed the Navy’s schools for 2nd Class Diver and 1st Class Diver, as well as the schools for Salvage, Construction and Demolition Diving. During his service, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, 6 Meritorious Service Medals, 4 Navy Commendation Medals and 4 Navy Achievement Medals. In his spare time he enjoys boating, fishing and diving. He currently resides in North Carolina with his wife and two children.

Laura Schwebel

Blue Prosperity Fellow

Laura Schwebel joined the Waitt Institute in 2019 as their Blue Prosperity Fellow. Her work currently focuses on developing a comprehensive guiding document for all steps of the Waitt Institute and Waitt Foundation process, as well as supporting programmatic work. She was previously a researcher in the Genetics, Aquaculture, and Physiology group at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and a California Sea Grant State Fellow at the Unified Port of San Diego supporting several environmental conservation, blue economy, and mitigation banking projects. She earned a BS in Marketing Communication: Advertising and Public Relations from Emerson College and an MS in Marine Science from the University of San Diego where her research on the physiology of California Yellowtail in aquaculture resulted in two publications.

Canon Purdy

Communications Fellow

As Communications Fellow, Canon focuses on graphic design, press relations, web development, and copy editing for the Waitt Institute. She works closely with site managers and partners to develop communication strategies and tools for diverse projects. Canon also brings experience in global sustainable seafood and aquaculture development and has worked closely with both the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification standards. Her Masters research explored the relationship between media and marine mammals, and she is well-versed in marine mammal ecology and wildlife conflict resolution. With experience in international education and Bay Area marketing, Canon has a strong understanding of communication methods for diverse audiences and the importance of creating solutions for both environmental and human communities.   


Canon graduated with a BA in Japanese and earned a Masters of Advanced Studies from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She has lived abroad in Japan in a coastal town and has a deep appreciation for the relationship between communities and the ocean, including how those communities recover after natural disasters. An avid photographer, her hobbies also include almost everything the water has to offer, such as surfing, diving, marine mammal rescue, and ice hockey. 

Jennifer Aadnes

Administrative Assistant

Jennifer has enjoyed building a career in administrative support by working across a range of industries, including the nonprofit sector, over the past 20 years. As she gained experience, she realized her professional fulfillment lies in contributing to the overall success of the team and the organization. She has built and maintains a focus on providing reliable support to her colleagues and excellent customer service to partners. 


At the Waitt Institute, Jennifer is thrilled to combine her personal passion for living an environmentally conscious, low impact lifestyle with her day to day work.  

Josh Sherer

Chief Financial Officer

Josh joined Avalon Capital Group in 2017 as the Chief Financial Officer. He provides leadership, direction and management of the finance and accounting team at both the Waitt Foundation and the Waitt Institute. As CFO, Josh also oversees the financial forecasting and budgeting process, providing strategic recommendations to the CEO, president and members of the management team. Additional responsibilities include overseeing preparation of all financial reporting along with tax planning and compliance. 


Josh's background includes 19 years of combined public and private accounting experience.  Prior to joining Avalon Capital, he was the Chief Financial Officer for a global clothing manufacturer with operations primarily in North and Central America. Josh has a Masters of Business Administration, a license in Chartered Global Management Accounting, and his Certified Public Accountant license in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.


Karen Stone

Key Partner, Vava'u, Tonga

As Founder and Executive Director of VEPA (Vava'u Environmental Protection Association) and key partner for Vava'u Ocean Initiative, she focuses on working with the communities and government to create Special Management Areas and Marine Spatial Plans across Tonga. She has been living in Vava'u for 12 years.

Endirah Palm

Site Manager, Curaçao

As Site Manager for Curaçao, she focuses on providing the Waitt Institute’s ocean management toolkit to the communities and governments and on executing program strategy. 

Endirah Palm has worked in the areas of environmental protection and technology area since 1993, offering environmental consulting, project coordination and change management services to public and private clients. Endirah organized and coordinated several clean-up and awareness campaigns in cooperation with other local organizations, and worked with Curaçao’s first waste glass recycling company, Curexglass Ltd. She also consulted on several projects focused on illegal wastewater dumping in Curaçao, and represented several international manufacturers of waste processing technologies from Europe, USA and Latin America. In her role as Site Manager for Blue Halo Curacao, Endirah serves as the on-the-ground liaison for the Blue Halo Initiative, working closely with government officials and stakeholders in Curaçao.

Endirah has a college degree in Practical Study of Social Work from Princenoord College in Breda/ Netherlands, and obtained a Bachelor Certificate in Management and Organization from the University of Curaçao. Endirah is fluent in English, Dutch, Spanish, Papiamento, and speaks moderate Portuguese. She lives and works in Curaçao, and likes practicing yoga, swimming and beach activities, and walking in nature.

Robin Ramdeen

Site Manager, Barbuda & Montserrat


As Site Manager for Montserrat and Antigua & Barbuda, she focuses on providing the Waitt Institute's ocean management toolkit to the communities and governments and on executing program strategy. She is based on Antigua but visits Montserrat weekly.

Born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago, Robin Ramdeen has focused her career on supporting non-profit organizations doing marine conservation and environmental advocacy in the Caribbean islands. She holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and a Masters in Marine and Coastal Resource Management from the University of the West Indies in Barbados. 


Robin found her passion for sustainable fisheries when working with queen conch fishers and vendors in Tobago. She then went on to become a research assistant for Dr. Daniel Pauly and the Sea Around Us project of the UBC Fisheries Centre, where she played a vital role in documenting illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries catches in various Caribbean islands. Through this and her work with conservation groups such as Papa Bois Conservation and Sustainable Grenadines she has established a wide network in and a deep knowledge of Caribbean fisheries management. Now, contracted as Site Manager for Blue Halo Initiative in both Montserrat and Barbuda, she focuses on providing the Waitt Institute’s ocean management toolkit to the communities and governments and on executing program strategy. 

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