Leadership & Staff
Jenn Eckerle, Executive Director
Jenn Eckerle is the Deputy Secretary for Oceans and Coastal Policy at the California Natural Resources Agency and Executive Director of the Ocean Protection Council (OPC). Jenn serves as a key advisor to the Governor and the Secretary for Natural Resources and directs policy, scientific research, and critical partnerships to increase protection of California’s coast and ocean. Jenn served as OPC’s Deputy Director from December 2016 to October 2022. Before joining OPC, Jenn spent eight years as an Ocean Policy Analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she conducted technical analysis and developed policy recommendations to advance ocean conservation. Prior to that, she was a Coastal Program Analyst for the California Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Jenn earned an M.S. in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Vermont.
Kaitlyn Kalua is the Deputy Director for OPC. As Deputy Director, Kaitlyn provides executive-level leadership and is responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programs, and procedures to advance OPC’s strategic priorities. Kaitlyn served as OPC’s Water Quality Program Manager from November 2021 to July 2023, where she led policy initiatives and programs to protect and improve coastal and marine water quality and served as staff lead on legislation. Kaitlyn came to OPC with experience in water quality regulation and policy, equitable water access, coastal adaptation planning, and federal ocean policy. Prior to joining OPC, Kaitlyn served as Policy Manager for the California Coastkeeper Alliance and previously as a 2017 Knauss Sea Grant fellow with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Kaitlyn received her J.D. and Environmental Law certificate from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
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Michael Esgro, Senior Biodiversity Program Manager & Tribal Liaison
Mike Esgro joined OPC in March 2018. As Senior Biodiversity Program Manager and Tribal Liaison, he leads efforts to advance OPC’s strategic priorities related to enhancing coastal and marine biodiversity, including implementing California’s 30×30 goal in coastal waters, protecting and restoring threatened ecosystems including kelp forests, adaptively managing California’s statewide network of marine protected areas (MPAs), and enhancing engagement with California Native American tribes. Mike earned a B.S. in Biology from UCLA and an M.S. in Applied Marine Science from CSU Monterey Bay. His graduate research focused on MPA monitoring and the role of “other effective conservation measures” in ocean conservation. Mike is an avid scuba diver and can usually be found underwater when not at work. Topside, he enjoys kayaking, cycling, and backpacking.
Justine Kimball, Senior Climate Change Program Manager
Justine joined OPC in March 2019. Her work involves leading the climate change program and focuses on sea-level rise adaptation, coastal resiliency, ocean acidification and other efforts concerning the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Prior to joining OPC, Justine spent five years in Washington, D.C. at NOAA’s Coral Program and as a Knauss Fellow at the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy. Justine earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University studying deep-sea corals in the Pacific Ocean and her B.A. in Biology with a minor in Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Justine enjoys farmers markets, baking, and all things ocean and wilderness.
Maria B. Rodriguez, OPC Wetlands Program Manager
Maria joined the OPC in August 2020. Maria will help lead OPC’s efforts related to coastal wetlands, watersheds, coastal and marine water quality, as well as equity and environmental justice. Her prior experience includes working as an Environmental Planning Analyst and a Senior GIS Analyst at environmental consulting firms in Southern and Northern California. Maria has worked on CEQA and NEPA documentation for infrastructure and environmentally-driven projects, including but not limited to habitat conservation and recreational projects. She has more than five years of experience using ArcGIS to focus on issues relating to urban planning, conservation, protection of natural resources, and environmental compliance. Maria holds a B.S. in Urban and Regional Planning from Cal Poly Pomona and is an active member of the American Planning Association, Association of Environmental Professionals, and Society for Conservation GIS. Maria enjoys bird watching, hiking, cycling, and spending time by the ocean. She loves LA Dodgers baseball, her two cats, and advocating for social justice.
Ella McDougall, Climate Change Program Manager
Ella joined OPC in May 2021 after completing a Sea Grant Fellowship with the Climate Ready Program at the State Coastal Conservancy. She is passionate about solving complex climate change and sea level rise problems, putting solutions on the ground, and ensuring an equitable future for all Californians. Ella is from Pennsylvania, holds a B.S. from the University of Delaware, and an M.A. from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, having served in northern Peru from 2015 to 2017, where she planted thousands of trees and coached girls soccer. Find Ella in Tahoe, riding skis or bikes, while her fiancé tries to keep up.
Sarah Stangle, Administration and Finance Analyst
Sarah Stangle joined OPC in February 2022. She is the Administration and Finance Analyst responsible for providing analytical support for the OPC. Prior to her current role, Sarah worked for CAL FIRE as the finance analyst and emergency purchaser including purchasing on California’s second largest wildfire, the “Dixie” wildland fire. Sarah received a B.S. in Business Administration from CSU Monterey Bay. In Sarah’s free time she enjoys outdoor activities. Sarah’s passion is traveling the world and immersing herself in new cultures. Places she visited include Italy, Greece, and next on the list is Germany.
Stacy Hayden, Communications Manager
Stacy joined OPC in 2022 as the Communications Manager to lead OPC’s strategic communications and community engagement efforts. Stacy has almost two decades of experience as a communication entrepreneur and a communications specialist with the State. She is a certified UC California Naturalist and also holds naturalist certifications from NOAA focused on the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and great white sharks. Stacy has spent years volunteering as a National Park Service marine mammal docent in Point Reyes and has worked as a naturalist on great white shark diving boats and whale-watching trips. She earned a BS in Geography and a BA in Philosophy, summa cum laude, from Arizona State University in October 2019. Stacy enjoys kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and trail running – usually with multiple cameras on hand.
Yi-Hui Wang, Offshore Wind Program Manager
Yi-Hui joined OPC as an Offshore Wind Program Manager on June 1. Working in our Climate Change Program, Yi-Hui’s work supports the efforts related to offshore wind development off the coast of California. Prior to joining OPC, Yi-Hui was a researcher at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, assessing offshore wind resources and estimating potential effects of offshore wind development. She is from Taiwan and holds a BS in Atmospheric Sciences from the National Taiwan University. She got her Ph.D. in Earth System Science in the University of California, Irvine, and was a postdoctoral fellow in Jet Propulsion Laboratry. During her free time, she likes to read, camp, do photography, and play volleyball and badminton.
Sreeja Gopal, Coastal Habitats Program Manager
Sree joined OPC in September 2022 as the Coastal Habitats Program Manager. Prior to that, she earned an MAS degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where her graduate work focused on coastal management. Before that, Sree worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade as a scientist and a team leader after receiving her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from MIT. She enjoys spending time with her family, is an avid gardener and aquarist, and loves being in and around the ocean.
Megan Williams, Coastal Adaptation Program Manager
Megan joined OPC in February 2023 to help lead efforts to support local and regional jurisdictions build resilience to SLR through adaptation plans and projects. Megan was OPC’s 2022 Climate Change California Sea Grant Fellow. She earned her MS in Biology from CSU Northridge, where she studied the impacts of climate change on shifting community structure of both Caribbean and Pacific coral reefs. Prior to graduate school, Megan worked on the conservation and restoration of Florida Keys reefs. She also holds a BS in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami. In her free time, Megan loves to be outdoors at the beach, diving, hiking, or getting into a new artistic project.
Pike Spector, Biodiversity Program Manager
Pike Spector (he/him) joined the California Natural Resources Agency as the Ocean Protection Council’s Biodiversity Program Manager in May of 2023. In this position Pike will help lead efforts to support the state’s goals of understanding and protecting the vital aquatic ecosystems that support California’s unique and diverse marine communities. Pike is coming to OPC after working as a marine scientist for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington State, where he supported similar projects across the Olympic Peninsula. Prior to this position, Pike was a California Sea Grant Fellow with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and then a contractor for the sanctuary’s research team. As a marine scientist, Pike’s research has taken him across the Aleutian Archipelago and across the California coast down to Baja California. He earned a Master of Science from San Diego State University, and a BS from UC Santa Cruz. Outside of work you can find Pike surfing, rock climbing, hiking with his dog, playing banjo, and riding his motorcycle.
Abby Mohan, 30×30 Program Manager
Abby Mohan joined OPC in June of 2023 as a 30×30 Program Manager. She has recently worked for a climate change research firm on the intersections between coastal use, coastal policy, coastal science, and best practices in communicating these complex issues to the public both locally in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally. Abby has been active in the maritime community for 15 years and has served as the Chair of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council and as a maritime recreation representative. Moving forward, she will serve on the advisory council representing OPC. She has served on numerous working groups and projects advocating for the ocean. Abby holds a BA in Geography and a MS in Marine Science from San Francisco State University. Abby is also a 100-ton licensed Captain and enjoys being out on the water every chance she can get. When not working, you can find her out on the water on her sailboat or out at the beach with her bernedoodle puppy, Finn.
Anh Diep, 30×30 Program Manager
Anh joined OPC in June 2023. As 30×30 Program Manager, Anh leads OPC’s community/stakeholder and tribal engagement strategic priorities to help advance California’s 30×30 goal in coastal waters. Anh also manages OPC’s Tribal Small Grants Program as part of the Tribal Nature-Based Solutions (TNBS) Grant Program. Prior to joining OPC, Anh was a California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Science Policy fellow at the California Natural Resources Agency, working on 30×30, with the Biodiversity and Habitat Team, and on the TNBS program with Tribal Affairs. Anh earned their PhD from UCM in Quantitative and Systems Biology, studying immune responses to Valley fever with the Hoyer Lab. Anh identifies as a queer, first-generation scholar and immigrant. Outside of work, you can find them reading in a cozy café, hosting elaborate dinner parties for friends/family, or thrifting another mug they don’t have any space for.
Staci Lewis, Marine Protected Areas Program Manager
Staci Lewis joined the OPC in December 2023. She will lead OPC’s effort related to California’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) Network. To this position, Staci brings twenty years of experience in ocean policy, coral reef ecology, MPAs, and human dimensions of ocean sustainability. She received her doctorate from Stanford University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program for Environment and Resources and a Master’s in Environmental Science and Public Policy from George Mason University. She comes to the OPC from Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions where she led projects on large-scale MPAs and digital platforms that empower small-scale fishers. Prior to her Stanford tenure, Staci spent nearly a decade in Washington, D.C. working in various ocean policy positions. Before D.C., she served as a Fulbright Fellow in Barbados focusing on coral reef health and as the research lead for MPA monitoring projects in the Florida Keys (USA), Flower Garden Banks (USA), and Bocas Del Toro (Panama). Staci loves camping, hiking, cooking, and gardening with her family.
Christine Sur, Water Quality Program Manager
Christine (she/her) joined OPC in January 2024 to lead OPC’s work to protect and improve coastal and marine water quality. Previously, she spent five years working on federal environmental policy and legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives as a policy advisor to Congressman Jared Huffman and as a Knauss fellow at the House Committee on Natural Resources. She has also worked internationally, including as a Fulbright researcher studying coastal ecosystems in Indonesia and as the oceans and fisheries policy lead with the non-profit Rare. Christine earned her M.S. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis, and her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Southern California.
Ben Dorfman, California Sea Grant Fellow
Ben Dorfman joined OPC in February as the 2023 California Sea Grant State Fellow in the Climate Change Program. Ben was born and raised in Santa Cruz, CA, where he fell in love with the ocean and the outdoors. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2019. He then worked with California State Parks for a few years before going back to school to get a master’s degree in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey (MIIS). His research at MIIS focused on coastal resilience, climate change adaptations, and the blue economy throughout the west coast of the U.S. and Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). He is currently based out of San Francisco with his fiancé and two cats.
Katie Cieri, California Sea Grant Fellow
Katie Cieri joined the Ocean Protection Council’s Marine Biodiversity Program in March as a 2023 California Sea Grant State Fellow. Katie is primarily involved in supporting efforts related to marine protected areas and the 30×30 initiative. Prior to joining OPC, Katie completed her Master’s in Marine Science at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. For her Master’s thesis she assessed the composition and distribution of fish assemblages in Cap de Creus Natural Park, a marine protected area on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. She was involved in many projects designed to assess nearshore fish populations and monitor marine protected areas including the Monitoring & Evaluation of Mid-Depth Rocky Reef Ecosystems Project, the Benthic Observation System Survey (BOSS), and the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program (CCFRP). Katie also holds a B.S. in Biology from the University of Virginia. She is passionate about outreach and inclusion, and she continues to explore avenues to make marine science more accessible. In her free time, she enjoys kayaking, scuba diving, hiking, and adventures with her husband and dog.
Conner Smith, California Sea Grant State Fellow
Conner comes to OPC from the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, where his research focused on fisheries, MPAs, and environmental justice, with a focus on indigenous community engagement and tribal co-management. Most recently, Conner has been working on exploring the nexus between MPAs and climate change in California. As a Sea Grant Fellow with OPC’s Biodiversity Program, Conner will support priorities related to MPA management, tribal engagement, and kelp restoration.