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2018 Board Nominee Bios
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President-Elect Candidates

Kate Achilles

Kate AchillesKate Achilles is a fish and wildlife administrator at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center. She received her Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Delaware in 2004, and now oversees Federal research and program management activities related to marine mammals, sea turtles, and fish.

Over the past 15 years, Kate has also managed numerous education and outreach programs. She has created hands-on educational programs, outreach materials, and curricula in the ocean sciences for culturally diverse audiences of all ages and educational backgrounds. She also developed and helped administer a nationwide program providing public school teachers with free access to portable, self-contained science kits that are aligned with state and ocean literacy standards. Kate created and managed an intensive teacher-at-sea program and led dozens of teacher-training workshops. In addition to being a strong advocate for teachers, she worked directly with students to provide programs aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing careers in the ocean sciences. Additionally, she taught oceanography and chemistry at the undergraduate level, and published peer-reviewed research manuscripts and educational documents. Kate has been involved with NMEA for over a decade, and is dedicated to helping NMEA continue its mission of “making known the world of water, both fresh and salt.” She currently serves on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of NMEA, has been Chair of the NMEA Scholarship Committee since 2011, is an active member of the Southwest Marine/Aquatic Educator’s Association (SWMEA), and previously served on the Board of Directors of NMEA’s OCEANIA Chapter.

In her free time, Kate enjoys backpacking, gardening, and spending time with her family.

David Christopher

David ChristopherDavid Christopher is currently the Formal Education Manager at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, where he oversees the onsite school programs, offsite school programs, and teacher workshops.

David grew up crabbing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay and has always had a deep connection to water ever since. David holds a degree in Biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland where he focused on wetland ecology. After college, David briefly pursued a job in Environmental Compliance but soon fell in love with education while teaching sleepover programs for the Maryland Science Center. David went on to take an environmental education internship with Pickering Creek Audubon Center and had his first full time education position as the Wetlands Educator for Environmental Concern Inc. David came to the National Aquarium in 2000 as an Education Specialist with their Outreach Programs Team and has since been promoted to oversee most of the Aquarium’s formal education programming. In 2004, David received a Master’s in Education from Goucher College.

David has been a long time active member in both NMEA and MAMEA. He attended his first NMEA meeting in Charleston, SC, in 1999 and has missed only one since. He has served as the Secretary and President of the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association. He has also served as the MAMEA representative to the NMEA Board. In 2014, David was honored to serve as a 2104 NMEA Conference Co-Chair and achieved his dream of bringing the NMEA conference to his home state of Maryland. In 2015, David was elected by the NMEA membership as a Director. He also serves as the chair of the Bylaws Committee, and the Co-Chair of the Conference Committee.

Treasurer Candidate

Jackie Takacs

Jackie Takacs grew up the oldest of seven children on Long Island, NY, where she spent absolutely no time at the beach (seriously – who would take seven kids to the beach?). It wasn’t until she moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland in her senior year of high school that outdoor time became more about the environment and less about an athletic field. It was also about that time when her father suggested – after watching an MPT special – that she should become a “fish farmer” when she grew up.

As all girls of that age do – she ignored her father and went on to university to pursue a degree in education. That pursuit went down a different path a few years later after working at a restaurant with aquaculture ponds and summer interning with university extension faculty. Extension education – specifically in marine sciences and fisheries - became her passion (she thanks her dad).   She currently holds a bachelor of science degree in life sciences (emphasis Biology) and an master of science in marine, estuarine and environmental sciences from University of Maryland, College Park.

Professionally Jackie holds the position she coveted in her application to graduate school – to one day be a faculty member with the University of Maryland Extension (UME) Sea Grant Program. She has held that position now for 18 years and currently holds the title of watershed restoration specialist. In her position, Jackie works in cooperation with other UME extension agents, regional and departmental specialists, and various local, state and federal agencies in organizing, conducting, and evaluating programs in watershed management and restoration, watershed and environmental sciences education, and aquaculture within the southern Maryland region, the state of Maryland, and the mid-Atlantic Region.

Jackie was lured into MAMEA (Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association) by that smooth talker Adam Frederick – who not only convinced her to join but to step into the treasurer position. A position she has held for ten years now. As part of MAMEA, Jackie has helped organized two annual conferences and is part of the chapters’ finance and grants committees. In 2014 Jackie coordinated the finances and registration for the NMEA annual conference held in Annapolis, Md. Jackie absolutely cherishes MAMEA and the people that make up the chapter and is very honored to have been asked to run for treasurer of NMEA (and no – she will not be leaving her MAMEA post anytime soon).


Board of Directors Candidates

Jenny East

For over 10 years Jenny East has enjoyed the opportunity to connect students and public audiences to the wonders of water and marine science. From a fascination with tidepools in the Pacific Northwest she went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science in biology with a focus in marine science from Western Washington University. After several seasons as a Beach Naturalist with the Seattle Aquarium, she found her interest in environmental education and improving the way we communicate science to the public.

Jenny has worked as an outdoor school educator in Washington and California, including Camp Sea Lab in Monterey Bay. She had the chance to work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as an educator during their sleepover events and volunteer with Team OCEAN, a program with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Jenny's career as an educator has also included the tall-ship Adventuress, and serving as a naturalist on whale-watching trips in Washington and southeast Alaska. After completing her Master of Science in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University, Jenny accepted a position with Oregon Sea Grant working with recreational boaters and anglers to prevent pollution in the state’s waterways. She has been active with NMEA for the past 4 years, serving as the chair of the Education Research committee for three of those years. She is a member of her local chapter NAME and is helping to plan their 2018 conference in Portland, Oregon.

Amy Heemsoth

Amy Heemsoth’s love for the ocean and marine life started at a young age. Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, her exposure to the ocean was limited to family vacations on the Florida coast, but her curiosity and innate love of nature eventually blossomed into a passionate calling – a career in marine biology.

She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at Spring Hill College, a liberal arts school, in Mobile, Alabama. Later, Amy attended Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, obtaining a Master’s degree in Marine Biology. There she had conducted her research thesis on the diet composition of swordfish in the Florida Straits. The local sword fishermen nicknamed her “Guts Girl.”

Over the course of Amy’s career, she found her passion for marine biology intertwining with a newfound love for educating both children and adults. With over 15 years of teaching experience, she was a high school math and science teacher, a community college adjunct professor, an instructor at Seacamp and MarineLab, and an Education and Outreach Coordinator at Florida International University. Amy also has experience educating the general public while working on snorkel/dive vessels that toured the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This combination of formal and informal education experiences has led to Amy’s current position as the Director of Education for the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (LOF), located in Annapolis, Maryland.

At LOF, Amy’s work has taken her to the Bahamas, Fiji, Jamaica, Tonga, and Solomon Islands, where she partners with local schools and communities to educate them about the natural environment and the importance of their marine ecosystems. She established the Mangrove Education and Restoration Programs in the Bahamas and Jamaica, which provides students and teachers the opportunity to participate in STEAM and project-based learning throughout the school year. Back in the office, she created an innovative e-learning platform to host LOF’s award-winning Coral Reef Ecology Curriculum, which she also developed and oversaw. Amy also provides credited professional develop workshops to introduce middle and high school teachers to the curriculum. Between projects, she works to enhance the Foundation’s community engagement through additional education and outreach programs. “My true passion lies in getting students out of the classroom and into the natural environment,” Amy says. “I believe that active participation creates awareness and helps to impart a lasting conservation ethic.”

In 2014, Amy was on the planning committee for the NMEA Annual Conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Since 2015, she has served on the NMEA Youth Engagement Committee, where she has enjoyed giving youth a space to come together to connect, learn, and participate in marine conservation awareness. Amy’s lifelong commitment to educating about the ocean is aligned with the goals and core values of NMEA and its members. She is honored to be considered for a position on the NMEA Board of Directors.

Lindsay Patterson

Lindsay Patterson is the Environmental Education Specialist with the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC), where she has worked since 2010. She graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences in 2008. Prior to joining CCPRC, Lindsay was a naturalist for St. Christopher’s Barrier Island Environmental Education program in 2009.

Additionally, Lindsay is a South Carolina Master Naturalist, a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation, and is on the steering committee for the Palmetto Environmental Education Certification program in South Carolina.

Lindsay has served on the South Carolina Marine Educators Association’s Board of Directors since 2014 and is currently serving as the Past President. Lindsay also served as a co-chair for the National Marine Educators Association 2017 Annual Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

She is passionate about environmental education and relishes in the opportunity to impact many young lives.


Sean Russell

Sean Russell has dedicated his professional career to empowering young people with the tools and motivation they need to become involved in leadership initiatives. Sean is the founder and director of the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, an annual event held at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL which is also modeled in cities across the United States in partnership with conservation organizations. Through this program, Sean works to empower young people with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to address ocean conservation issues in their local communities.

After graduating from the University of Florida in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Sean has worked with a diverse set of organizations to elevate the roll of youth leadership in the fields of marine science, education, and conservation. Currently Sean serves as the Manager for the EarthEcho Water Challenge, a program designed to connect people around the world to their local waterways through water quality monitoring and equip them with the tools to take action to protect their water resources. Sean also works with SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment on initiatives designed to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders, including coordinating the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Youth Advisory Council. Sean is a former member of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors of Youth Service America and the Florida 4-H Foundation. He has also served in roles with Mote Marine Lab and Georgia Sea Grant.

Sean has been a member of the National Marine Educators Association since 2013. During this time, he has worked to elevate NMEA as a resource for students and young professionals, working with NMEA’s most recent strategic planning effort to identify youth engagement as a key focus area for the organization. Sean has served on the Board of Directors since 2015 and is currently serving on the NMEA Executive Committee. In this role Sean has established and co-chairs NMEA’s first Youth Engagement committee which has developed a variety of opportunities to connect students to the organization, most notably through the creation of the annual NMEA Youth Conference. This one day event provides high school and college age youth the opportunity to explore the field of marine science education, gain access to mentors, and receive support for their personal conservation work. Sean looks forward to continued opportunities to position NMEA as a leading resource for young professionals interested in this field.

Sean is a recipient of the Brower Youth Award, Peter Benchley Ocean Award, and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Blue Dolphin Award for his conservation work. In his spare time Sean enjoys hiking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, traveling, and photography. Learn more about his work at and follow him @seandrussell.  

Lisa Tossey

Lisa Tossey currently teaches introductory undergraduate courses and oversees community outreach efforts as the project specialist for the Environmental Studies Department at Salisbury University, which is part of the University System of Maryland.
She previously served as the social media community manager and editor for NMEA for several years and supported University of Delaware’s College of Earth Ocean, and Environment and Delaware Sea Grant College Program’s digital communication and outreach efforts, producing engaging social media content, educational videos, story maps, and virtual reality experiences. She is currently completing doctoral work at University of Delaware, where she is focusing on using educational technology in science outreach.
Lisa has worked as an informal educator and communicator for over 16 years in higher education, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations. She believes that engaging, effective communication is vital to connecting others to the importance of our one world ocean and in raising public awareness of its value to each and every one of us.

She completed her undergraduate work in biology and chemistry at Salisbury University and has a master's degree in multiplatform journalism from the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She lives in Berlin, Md., with her husband, two rescue dogs, and one very large horse, and spends her free time hiking, beachcombing, and kayaking. She also runs an art gallery and studio, Wooden Octopus, which is a family art cooperative. You can find Lisa on Twitter at the handle @tossey, as well as on Instagram as @ltossey.

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