OPC Leadership

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.

Contact: jenn.eckerle@resources.ca.gov

OPC Staff

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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. 

Contact: Michael.Esgro@resources.ca.gov

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.

Contact: justine.kimball@resources.ca.gov

Holly Shand, Administration and Finance Manager

Holly joined OPC in May 2018 to provide administration and finance management. Prior to bringing her skills to OPC, Holly worked for the Marine Region of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife processing grants and contracts. Holly has additional experience with the state’s new accounting system (FI$Cal) and with developing processes and procedures to increase workflow efficiency. Holly also has over a decade of analytical experience in serious injury claims and settlements. You can normally find Holly with her nose in a book. Her other interests include fishing, gardening, and baking her own bread.

Contact: holly.shand@resources.ca.gov

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.

Contact: maria.rodriguez@resources.ca.gov

Lindsay Bonito, Marine Protected Areas Program Manager

Lindsay joined the OPC team in September 2020. Her work will support the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Management Program by working alongside state and federal agencies, coastal communities and tribal governments to collate the best available science for management decisions. Prior to OPC, Lindsay spent the last ten years at Scripps Institution of Oceanography working as a coral reef ecologist surveying reefs across the Pacific and Caribbean, and as a fish biologist examining the spatial and temporal variability of anthropogenic toxins in marine finfish around the world. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Systems from UC San Diego and an M.S. from Scripps where she evaluated a federal experimental fishing program in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, NOAA, and CDFW. When she’s not behind her desk, Lindsay can be found backpacking, climbing, paddling, and trying not to pearl surfing.

Contact: lindsay.bonito@resources.ca.gov

Noah Ben-Aderet, Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Program Manager

Noah joined OPC in April 2021 to lead OPC’s efforts on sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.  He is passionate about fishing, aquaculture and working with communities and stakeholders to ensure that California’s commercial and recreational fisheries remain sustainable and viable into the future.  Prior to joining OPC, Noah was an NRC postdoctoral fellow with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center studying how environmental conditions affect larval rockfish growth and recruitment in the hopes of enhancing ecosystem-based management. Noah was a 2017 Knauss-Seagrant Legislative fellow in the U.S. Senate and earned his Ph.D. at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. His dissertation research focused on better understanding the behavior and biology of yellowtail in the Southern California Bight. In his free time, he loves any and all types of fishing, surfing, diving, cooking and being on the water with friends and family.

Contact: noah.ben-aderet@resources.ca.gov

Ella McDougallClimate 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.

Contact: ella.mcdougall@resources.ca.gov

Kaitlyn Kalua, Water Quality Program Manager

Kaitlyn joined OPC in November 2021. As Water Quality Program Manager, she is responsible for advancing OPC’s policy initiatives and programs to improve coastal and marine water quality. Kaitlyn comes 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. Kaitlyn loves exploring the mountains and coastline of California, and can often be found seeking out live music or in hiking boots with her partner and Pyrenees pup on weekends.

Contact: kaitlyn.kalua@resources.ca.gov

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.

Contact: sarah.stangle@resources.ca.gov

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.

Contact: stacy.hayden@resources.ca.gov

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.

Contact: yi-hui.wang@resources.ca.gov

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.

Contact: sreeja.gopal@resources.ca.gov

Megan WilliamsCoastal 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.

Contact: megan.williams@resources.ca.gov

Pike Spector

Pike SpectorBiodiversity 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.

Contact: pike.spector@resources.ca.gov

Elyse Goin, California Sea Grant Fellow

Elyse Goin joined Ocean Protection Council’s Marine Biodiversity Program in January as a 2022 California Sea Grant State Fellow. She recently completed her Masters of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. For her capstone project Elyse worked with coastal communities of her family’s home island of Trinidad and Tobago to assess their responses to climate change impacts. She combined traditional knowledge and science to reveal people’s risk perceptions of climate change impacts occurring along the coast. Prior to graduate school, Elyse worked as a science educator both on land and at sea at The Birch Aquarium and The Escondido Creek Conservancy. Elyse also holds a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from UC San Diego – Go Tritons! She is looking forward to advancing the State’s 30×30 goals and participating in the review of the network of Marine Protected Areas, all while pursuing inclusion of various community voices. Elyse enjoys exploring the great outdoors, taking Samba dance lessons, learning a new language and watching home DIY renovation shows.

Contact: elyse.goin@resources.ca.gov

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.