Dr. Rachel Graham

Founder and Executive Director

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Fascinated with the sea from the early days growing up in Tunisia, Rachel Graham was drawn to the fields of research, environment and development in Latin America, Africa and Micronesia.

For the past 30 years she has worked with both the private sector and institutions such as the United Nations, the University of York, the Smithsonian Institution and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

For over two decades Rachel has lived in Belize and worked with fishers and partners in several countries to identify threats, research needs and conservation opportunities for threatened marine wildlife and their critical habitats. As part of this work, Rachel has catalysed a range of megafauna research and conservation action worldwide and is an active member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and helped to found several National Shark Advisory Committees to better facilitate information sharing as well as management and policy reform for elasmobranchs.

In 2011, she won the Whitley Fund for Nature Gold Award for her work with sharks and communities.

In 2014, Rachel founded the international NGO MarAlliance to promote impactful and inclusive grassroots science and conservation of marine wildlife.

Rachel holds a BSc in Zoology from Oxford, an MSc from Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of York, UK. She is most proud of her two sons who balance their love of fishing with their desire to be marine scientists and conservationists.

Ivy Baremore, MSc

Technical Coordinator

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Ivy Baremore was recently accepted into the University of Exeter where she will pursue her PhD on the topic of deep-sea fisheries of the MesoAmerican Region. She graduated from Florida State University in 2001 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences, and then worked as a biological technician for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Panama City Laboratory for 3 years, where she was also field party chief of small boat operations for the Gulf of Mexico Shark Pupping and Nursery survey.

Following her Master’s Degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from University of Florida, in 2006 Ivy returned to NMFS in Panama City, Florida as a fishery observer coordinator, and later transitioned to the role of fishery biologist. Her research focused on commercial and recreational landings and life history biology of shark species in support of stock assessment.

She moved to Belize in 2013 and transitioned to the role of technical coordinator with MarAlliance. In 2019, Ivy started a part-time PhD with the University of Exeter and transferred to the Honduras team. She continues to help coordinate and implement research and data analyses and leads deepwater fisheries research in the MesoAmerican Region.

Jamal Andrewin-Bohn, MA

Country Coordinator, Belize

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Jamal’s journey into conservation began in his early teens, first when he joined the Green Iguana Conservation Club in his hometown of San Ignacio, Belize, then attending the Belize Zoo’s Conservation Camp every Summer during high school. These experiences nurtured a growing interest and respect for the natural world, which he later pursued at the college level, obtaining a BSc in Biology from the University of Belize.

Over the last ten years, Jamal has primarily worked at the Belize Zoo, directing the education department. He became part of the organization’s management team, and helping to execute a diverse array of conservation projects, as well as volunteering with and supporting other dynamic NGOs in Belize. He was able to channel his work into achieving a Master’s in Zoology from Miami University, with a central focus on community engagement and stakeholder empowerment. Despite his strong background in terrestrial conservation, Jamal has always had an affinity for the marine world. Noting the interconnectedness between land and sea ecosystems, his work in education and advocacy has often encompassed both.

Jamal is now thrilled to join the MarAlliance team, and contribute to dive deeper into marine conservation. He believes that connecting people to their natural heritage is a powerful way to instill pride, and turn that pride into conservation action in stakeholders on behalf of our precious marine resources.

As an avid birder for the past few years, Jamal will have his eyes on the sky as much as on the sea whenever he’s out in a boat with the team.

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Megan Chevis, MSc

Country Coordinator, Panama

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Megan received her BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2012 and her MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from the University of Exeter – Penryn in 2015. Her Master’s research project focused on the spatial ecology of hawksbill turtles in Belize under the guidance of Dr. Brendan Godley and Dr. Graham. Her previous work has focused on humpback whales off the Pacific coast of Panama and marine turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Costa Rica.

Megan moved back to Panama in 2015, hoping to make a difference for the marine life and habitats there, which she has seen drastically change since she was a child. She has been leading MarAlliance projects throughout the country since then, conducting annual marine megafauna monitoring at several Caribbean sites, leading coastal fisheries projects, and conducting sawfish assessments. She also leads the education program, where she visits school classrooms in several provinces to educate young kids about the marine life of Panama and their threats and hopefully inspire them to become marine scientists and conservationists themselves.

Monika Szymurska, MSc

Development Coordinator

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Monika has spent the past twenty years working in the non-profit sector for organizations focusing on sustainable development, disarmament, social justice, and wildlife conservation. Most recently, she has implemented fundraising strategies for national and international organizations and is now very excited to join the MarAlliance team. She received her Bachelor’s in Environmental Science and Policy and Master’s in International Development and Social Change from Clark University in Worcester, MA. She lives in Inwood, NYC with her husband and daughter.

Sylvia Alexander

Development Coordinator

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Sylvia honed her writing, editing, and interpersonal skills at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) where, for more than a decade, she secured private foundation support for vitally important conservation projects in 60 countries. She is an avid birder and, in 2019, translated into English a comprehensive new Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Before retiring as a public interest attorney, she also wrote and edited a series of institution-building handbooks for local human rights groups around the world. And she once made a living as a freelance classical musician in New York City. She speaks and writes Spanish (which she learned in college and honed at WCS) and French (which she learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon). She enjoys reading, birding, baseball, and music.

Dr. Kevin Rhodes

Coordinator, Micronesia and Coastal Fisheries

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

Deyanira Alvarez

Communications Officer

Meera Sachani

Graphic Designer/Illustrator

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Anne-Marie McNeil

Program Administrator

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Anne-Marie grew up living by the sea in Jamaica.  It was here that her passion for the sea and marine life was born.  She became a dive instructor in the early 90s and shared her love for the sea, and care for the marine environment with divers.  She worked in dive operations management in Jamaica, Turks & Caicos, and then in Belize, where she founded and ran a top dive operation for 5 years in Placencia, Belize. Throughout, she supported environmental organizations’ efforts by setting standards for responsible dive operator practices and diver education.  She subsequently moved into senior hotel management roles at Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef Atolls. After helping to open and run a high-end resort in Placencia, Anne-Marie moved across the Caribbean to manage a similar property and team in St. Lucia. In 2020, she relocated to Brittany, France, where she now resides and works with MarAlliance

Helene Hesse

Finance Coordinator

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Helene is a semi-retired accountant from Canada, she graduated from University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. Growing up she was fascinated by Jacques Cousteau and soon realized that she had a passion for the ocean and diving. She first visited British Honduras, now Belize, in 1973 and finally moved permanently in 2007. She is now fulfilling her passion for diving and at the same time supports various organizations with her financial knowledge.

She started doing contract work for MarAlliance in 2015 and soon realized the value of the organization with respect to Marine Conservation. She is now dedicated to implementing procedures and processes in order to see the organization financially sound and ensure future growth.

BELIZE

Jamal Andrewin-Bohn, MA

Country Coordinator, Belize

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Jamal’s journey into conservation began in his early teens, first when he joined the Green Iguana Conservation Club in his hometown of San Ignacio, Belize, then attending the Belize Zoo’s Conservation Camp every Summer during high school. These experiences nurtured a growing interest and respect for the natural world, which he later pursued at the college level, obtaining a BSc in Biology from the University of Belize.

Over the last ten years, Jamal has primarily worked at the Belize Zoo, directing the education department. He became part of the organization’s management team, and helping to execute a diverse array of conservation projects, as well as volunteering with and supporting other dynamic NGOs in Belize. He was able to channel his work into achieving a Master’s in Zoology from Miami University, with a central focus on community engagement and stakeholder empowerment. Despite his strong background in terrestrial conservation, Jamal has always had an affinity for the marine world. Noting the interconnectedness between land and sea ecosystems, his work in education and advocacy has often encompassed both.

Jamal is now thrilled to join the MarAlliance team, and contribute to dive deeper into marine conservation. He believes that connecting people to their natural heritage is a powerful way to instill pride, and turn that pride into conservation action in stakeholders on behalf of our precious marine resources.

As an avid birder for the past few years, Jamal will have his eyes on the sky as much as on the sea whenever he’s out in a boat with the team.

Dan Castellanos

Fisher & Field Research Coordinator, Southern Belize

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Dan Castellanos began fishing with his father, a traditional Belizean fisher, when he was 12 years old. This transfer of passion and knowledge from father to son led to Dan’s interest in the marine environment. He pursued a future in small-scale commercial fishing, eventually earning a position as captain.

In addition to his many years of work as a fisherman, Dan decided to pursue work as a freelance guide. He guides people from all over the world to areas unique to Belize and Guatemala, leading fly fishing enthusiasts to healthy bonefish flats.

Dan began working with Dr. Graham in 1999 while she was studying whale sharks and spawning aggregations throughout Belize. He subsequently worked with her as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Sharks and Rays program for seven years, playing a major role in fishing, tagging, and captaining. In 2014, he took on the role of Lead Research Associate and Boat Captain for MarAlliance.

Dan is fascinated with marine megafauna research and it has afforded him countless opportunities to travel to other research sites, meet a variety of other researchers and undertake cutting edge research.

Hilmar Salazar

Fisher & Field Research Coordinator, Northern Belize

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Hilmar Salazar has been a commercial fisher for 20 years and is based in Sarteneja, Belize.

In addition to his work as a fisher, he has volunteered with a number of environmental organizations, including World Wildlife Fund, Wildtracks, and the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development.

As Community Field Coordinator, Hilmar’s work helps to foster grassroots support for large marine wildlife in multiple sectors. Hilmar is responsible for organizing and leading training initiatives for both community leaders, students and fishers. He trains fishermen on standardized monitoring methods for large marine wildlife both within and outside the MarAlliance team, throughout the countries of the MesoAmerican Reef.

Hilmar is very passionate about his work with sharks and hopes to ensure a promising future for his 14 year old son.

Nelson Ortega

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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For eight years now, coastal fisher Nelson Ortega joins MarAlliance as a captain during our work and trainings. Every year, he leaves his job as a fisher, to join us for a few weeks out at sea to take part in field work.

Throughout his life, Nelson has been a fisher and boat captain in Sarteneja, a village based in Corozal district on the northern coast of Belize’s mainland, and home to the country’s largest fishing community.

Nelson loves to widen his horizons. His eagerness to discover new things has allowed him to stay with MarAlliance as a captain and advisor in the field work.

Evan Cuevas

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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Evan Cuevas has been a commercial fisher for 10 years, based in Monkey River Village in the Toledo district of Belize.

As many fishers do, he began fishing with his father for fish, lobster and conch when he was 14 years old. Evan went on to study tourism and business in secondary school, however his passion for fishing and marine life brought him back to the sea, earning a living diving for lobster and conch.

Evan joined the MarAlliance team in 2016 as a research assistant studying sharks and rays. He participated in the annual monitoring of marine megafauna at Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef Atoll, where he assisted our researchers in the capture and tagging of sharks, running underwater visual surveys and setting and analyzing baited remote underwater videos.

Evan is increasingly involved in the education and outreach program, representing MarAlliance at TIDE Fish Fest in Punta Gorda, Belize. Evan is ecstatic knowing he’s contributing to the conservation marine megafauna and looks forward to an exciting future balancing his love of fishing with marine conservation.

Eduardo Ortega

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

Kurt Godfrey “Mambo”

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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Kurt Godfrey, known locally as Mambo, grew up in the beautiful fishing village of Placencia, Belize. Mambo is a third generation fisher and has been a fly fishing guide for more than 35 years. Always interested in exploring new opportunities and adventures, Mambo is also the Vice Chairman of the Placencia Seaweed Farmers Association. However, the deep waters have always called to him, and he recently began reducing his tour guiding in order to explore the deep-sea fishes in southern Belize. He fishes the deeper waters for fish filet to sell, but also out of outright curiosity and love for the sea. Mambo began working with MarAlliance in 2015, when he was the captain for our first deep-water sharks and fish research project in southern Belize. He was excited to be part of this novel research, as it suits his curious nature and his ideas for conservation of Belize’s natural resources.

Galileo Samos

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

Oscar Aguilar

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

Renee Lima

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

Evaristo Muschamp

Fisher & Field Associate, Belize

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Evaristo Muschamp has spent his entire life directly connected to the sea. He has 17 years of experience as a commercial fisherman.

Like many of the fishers in the MarAlliance team, Evaristo makes a living diving for lobster and conch in Belize. He is very passionate about this work, taking great pride in being a part of one of the oldest industries in the country. Evaristo finds his work a freeing and rewarding means of income, granting him access to beautiful, unique, and remote locations.

After many years of hearing about her work, Evaristo decided to join Dr. Rachel Graham in her effort to study local sharks and rays. He began working as a part of the shark survey in 2011, helping to catch and tag elasmobranchs along the Mesoamerican Reef. He likes getting to work with these wild animals while he learns more about their behaviors and biology through hands on research and has now traveled to Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras to work with large marine wildlife and train other fishers in long term monitoring methods.

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Clara Sabal

Research Officer

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Clara was born and raised in Dangriga Town but her love for the water was nurtured while spending weekends in the coastal village of Hopkins, with her family. Spending all those hours outdoors she gravitated towards science and research earning her Bachelor’s in Marine Biology from the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
Returning home from college Clara dived right in to the field, literally, by improving her dive certification to Divemaster and pursuing job opportunities that aligned with her interests of marine and environmental conservation.
Over the past two years she has worked with a number of NGO’s in Belize focused on data collection, teaching volunteers how to conduct surveys on the Belize Barrier reef, working in rural communities and participating in outreach.
Clara is working towards eventually earning her Master’s degree but first hoping to find her niche in the world of marine conservation with Maralliance as the new research officer.

MICRONESIA

Dr. Kevin Rhodes

Coordinator, Micronesia and Coastal Fisheries

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

Taylor Paul

Fisher & Field Associate, Micronesia

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

McKye Ioanis

Research Associate, Micronesia

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While a kid growing up 60 miles from the coast in southeast Texas, Kevin Rhodes was surrounded by deciduous forest, rivers and lakes, but every Sunday evening, he immersed himself in tropical marine life through the television show “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.” That fascination led him to attend the University of Texas at Austin where he dabbled in phycology, range ecology and freshwater fishes before heading to Moss Landing Marine Labs to work on Yellow Sea (China) demersal fishes.

He received his BS degree in Aquatic Biology in 1988 followed by a Masters in Marine Science (1995) from Cal State University at Hayward and doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in 2002. His first real chance at coral reef fish ecology began with a connection through a (The) Nature Conservancy article on the Southeast Asia-based live reef food fish trade written by Prof. Yvonne Sadovy de Micheson who would become his future mentor. This article also led Kevin to the Coral Triangle and surrounding environs where he has been focused ever since.

Today, as MarAlliance’s Coastal Fisheries Coordinator Kevin shares his knowledge and experience to empower local fishing communities to control their future and their resources

HONDURAS

Argelia Bustillo

Research Assistant, Honduras

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I was born and raised in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, surrounded by buildings, noise and many streets, but also surrounded by people who taught me to love and respect nature. When I had vacations at school, my mother always let me go to my cousin’s house in La Ceiba, we were always going to the beach in Trujillo and La Ceiba and we didn’t need anything but salt water to see us happy.

Since childhood I wanted to study something out of the ordinary and related to the environment and thus leave a little grain of sand in this world. The most accurate career was Biology, and it was until my first classes of the career that I ended up falling in love with the fishes and the diversity that there was. That´s when I knew that I would be in touch with the sea for the rest of my life.

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Exson Alejandro Flores

Fisher & Field Associate, Honduras

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Exson was born in the community of Jutiapa in the department of Atlantida in the North Coast of Honduras. At the age of five, he and his family moved to the small fishing community of East End in Cayos Cochinos, a small archipelago a few kilometers from the Caribbean coast. Exson began fishing at the age of seven with his friends in the community, making fishing gear with whatever they found.

Today, Exson is a community leader in East End and is part of the community council in charge of the welfare of his people. Exson has a depth of experience working with marine biologists and has participated in several studies assessing the connectivity of parrotfish in the MesoAmerican Reef region as well as the reproduction of sea cucumbers in Cayos Cochinos. Exson joined MarAlliance in 2015 and is responsible for conducting Marine Megafauna monitoring and during this process training other artisanal fishers from the region. He is a devoted father and very passionate about marine conservation and vocal about the welfare of coastal communities, especially his beloved East End.

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Martha Medrano

Student Intern

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Born in Jesús de Otoro in the department of Intibucá in Honduras, her passion for nature started as a  young girl, when her parents took her with them to the coffee plantations, where she admired all the natural wonders around her as she explored and discovered new things. She loved nature TV shows, even as a child, especially those about the ocean life, as she watched she would dream of seeing the ocean and discovering amazing wildlife.

After graduating with a minor in Primary School Education, she began her studies on Biology in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras. She came upon MarAlliance during her senior year as she was carrying out a project on a shark and ray fishing characterization project in the artisanal fishery of the Gulf of Fonseca where the MAR team advised her and provided her with materials that helped Martha complete her work.

Martha is currently undergoing an internship with our team in Honduras, where she is learning about the study and conservation of marine megafauna. 

Mario David

Fisher & Field Associate, Honduras

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Mario nació en la ciudad de La Ceiba, en el departamento de Atlántida, sin embargo, tuvo que mudarse a Cayos Cochinos, a la edad de nueve años con su familia. En su adolescencia, Mario pescaba con su padre y decidió seguir sus pasos, convirtiéndose en pescador. En su lugar de residencia, trabaja como pescador, y también en el ámbito turístico, como guía y realizando tours de pesca y snorkel para los visitantes. Mario ha colaborado con MarAlliance por cuatro años, trabajando alrededor de toda Honduras con palangre científico, posicionamiento de cámaras subacuáticas, y transectos acuáticos.

Orlando Mejía

Fisher & Field Associate, Honduras

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Orlando was born in Jutiapa, Atlantida, Honduras. He acquired his love for fishing thanks to his relatives, since he was a child he was interested in fishing, so once they gave him the confidence to let him go out to the river, he would venture out to observe what he found in those waters. His destiny made him end up on the island of Roatan, forming a family and working with fishing. Orlando is one of our partner fisher in Honduras, helping to monitor sharks, rays and economically important fish in the Roatan area, of the Bay Islands. 

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Jaime Martínez

Fisher & Field Associate, Honduras

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Jaime was born and raised in Punta Gorda, a Garifuna community located in Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras. His interest in fishing was born as a child, since this was the source of income in his municipality, so his life revolved around it; he was also interested in the conservation of marine fauna, since he is aware of the importance of this resource. Besides been working for 19 years as a fisher, he also works as a tourist boatman on the island. Jaime collaborates with the marine mega-fauna monitoring in Roatan. 

PANAMA

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Megan Chevis, MSc

Country Coordinator, Panama

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Megan received her BSc in Environmental Science from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2012 and her MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation from the University of Exeter – Penryn in 2015. Her Master’s research project focused on the spatial ecology of hawksbill turtles in Belize under the guidance of Dr. Brendan Godley and Dr. Graham. Her previous work has focused on humpback whales off the Pacific coast of Panama and marine turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and Costa Rica.

Megan moved back to Panama in 2015, hoping to make a difference for the marine life and habitats there, which she has seen drastically change since she was a child. She has been leading MarAlliance projects throughout the country since then, conducting annual marine megafauna monitoring at several Caribbean sites, leading coastal fisheries projects, and conducting sawfish assessments. She also leads the education program, where she visits school classrooms in several provinces to educate young kids about the marine life of Panama and their threats and hopefully inspire them to become marine scientists and conservationists themselves.

Arcadio Castillo, MSc

Community Officer, Panama

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Arcadio Castillo Díaz was born on the 22nd of Gwiblonii (Month of October) in the city of Columbus, and is Guna. His childhood was spent in the forests and sea of the Guna Yala archipelago.

In the 1980s he conducted his university studies at the Technological Institute of Higher Studies of the Fisheries Industry and Economy of Astrajan, in the former Soviet Union-Russia, obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Ichthyology and Fish Culture and a Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences,

He worked as a scientific assistant at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s (STRI) Marine Research Station from 1993 to July 2019. He currently advises the Guna General Congress (CGG) on coastal-marine resources. In 2004 he organized and was a founding member of the Center for Environmental and Human Development (CENDAH). In 2018, he was chosen as the Coordinator of the Alliance of Small Scale Indigenous Fishermen of Central America.

Currently he supports the Project ‘Monitoring the Marine Megafauna and LionFish in the Guna Yala Comarca’, in conjunction with MarAlliance and the Center for Environmental and Human Development (CENDAH), in the Guna Yala Comarca, Panama.

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Leyson Navarro Lopez, BSc

Research Officer, Panama

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Leyson, originally from the Guna Yala Comarca on Panama’s Caribbean coast, was born and raised in the small community of Playón Chico, surrounded by the sea. His childhood in and around the water is what lead him to study Marine Biology and Limnology at the University of Panama, where he is in his final year. Leyson is passionate about marine ecosystems and is eager to learn more and participate in projects with MarAlliance for the conservation of marine fauna. He is currently working with MarAlliance on lionfish and marine megafauna projects in the Narganá region of Guna Yala, and will be completing his undergraduate research project using Baited Remote Underwater Videos and underwater visual census to develop the first baseline study of sharks, rays, and other big fish in the region.

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Ana Batista, BSc

Research Officer, Panama

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Ana is currently leading the data collection of sharks, rays, and other big fish landed in artisanal fisheries at multiple sites along the Pacific coast of Panama. Originally from the Los Santos province on the Pacific coast of Panama, her undergraduate thesis project focused on developing baselines of sea turtle nesting sites with the NGO Tortugas Pedasi. During her internship with MarAlliance, she was assisting with fisheries-dependent work in the Azuero peninsula, as well as with megafauna monitoring and education activities.

She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science at the University of Panama, where she will continue studying marine biology. Her thesis work with MarAlliance will focus on elasmobranchs on the Pacific coast of Panama.

carlos

Carlos Pitterson

Fisher & Field Associate, Panama

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Carlos is a traditional artisanal fisher from the Bocas del Toro islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Born and raised on Isla Colón, he has been fishing in the waters around the archipelago all of his life. He has been a critical part of our megafauna monitoring work in Bocas since 2016 as a captain as well as assisting with data collection and logistical aspects of the project. He says his work with MarAlliance has given him a different perspective and appreciation of the marine life around Bocas, something which he is eager to pass on to his children.

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Mervyn Archibald

Fisher & Field Associate, Panama

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Mervyn Archibald is a traditional artisanal fisher from Carenero Island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago on Panama’s Caribbean coast. He has been working with MarAlliance conducting baseline monitoring on marine megafauna in Bocas since 2016.

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Yaily Nadir Castillo, BSc

Education and Outreach Officer

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Yaily is from the Guna Yala region, Panama, she holds a degree in Sanitation and Environment, from the Technological University of Panama. From a young age, she aroused interest in how environmental conservation and science issues have a positive impact on youth and children.  

Since 2010, Yaily is an active member of the NGO CENDAH (Center for Human Environmental Development), where she is in charge of Environmental Education.  Since 2019, she is an active volunteer for MarAlliance, where she conducts educational workshops on climate change, solid waste and mangroves, at the Guna Yala region schools and to fishers. She has had the experience of working at the Smithsonian as an assistant in investigations and monitoring of mangroves and seawater quality.

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Hayro Cunampio

Community Officer

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Hayro Cunampio Tocamo, is from the Nazaret community in Darien Panama. From an early age, he was passionate about wildlife conservation. Educator by profession, in environmental education issues, student of the last phase of  business management; Hayro is president of Darién Expedition, tour operator and tourism guide, also works in the elaboration of environmental projects, community and organizational development in the Emberá Wounaan Comarca.

With MarAlliance, he assists the sawfish project on the Darien coast, carrying out surveys, captures, measurements and socioeconomic actions in the communities involved.

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Yarixa Torres

Education and Outreach Officer

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Originally from the Guna Yala region on the Caribbean coast, Yarixa was born and raised in Panama. She is currently in her fourth year of a Bachelor’s in Preschool Education at the University of Panama. Since her youth she began to travel to the Guna Yala region, and from there her love for the environment and marine ecosystems began, as well as a love for children and pursuing a career in education. Since 2019 she has volunteered with MarAlliance, conducting educational workshops with elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as fishers, in Guna Yala.

coming-soon

Julie Berry

Research Associate

coming-soon

Armando Godoy

Fisher & Research Associate

coming-soon

Liliana Diaz

Community Officer

CABO VERDE

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Zé Luís Monteiro

Fisher & Field Associate, Cabo Verde

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Zé Luís is originally from Praia Baixo on the Island of Santiago though has lived in Boavista for the last 15 years. He comes from a family of fishers (with 19 brothers and sisters to the same parents!). He is the captain of a 6m artisanal fishing boat-come-research vessel ‘Stephanie’ and probably the happiest fisher in Cabo Verde! He navigates the sea around Boavista second to none and is never fazed even in adverse conditions.

Over the last few years, he has become a pioneer in shark conservation in Cabo Verde and increasingly involved in educating children. He is fascinated by the gentleness of the whale shark. His favourite fish is the yellowfin tuna. He is the proud father of two little girls and a massive FC Porto fan.

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Francesco Garzon, MSc

Research Officer, Cabo Verde

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Francesco graduated with an MSci in Conservation Biology and Ecology from the University of Exeter in 2018. Although he had always had a passion for animals, it was during his time at university that Francesco truly fell in love with the marine megafauna. He was fortunate to be able to conduct his undergraduate project on his favorite animal (the manta ray) under the guidance of Dr. Lucy Hawkes, Dr. Matthew Witt and Dr. Rachel Graham. He also conducted his master’s project under their supervision, studying the nurse shark population of Belize.

Through these projects he came to know MarAlliance and identified with their vision. Francesco is now a research associate for MarAlliance and his work is primarily focused on using mathematical modeling to describe the spatial ecology of megaplanktivores, as well as of other elasmobranch species.

Francesco aims to broaden the knowledge of sharks and rays through scientific research and create information that can be used for the management and conservation of these species.

USA & Canada

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Simon Gulak, MSc

Research Associate, USA

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Simon Gulak received his Bachelor’s Degree in Oceanography with Marine Biology from the University of Southampton, England, in 2001. He went on to work as a fishery observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Panama City Laboratory and Southeast Fisheries Science Centre (SEFSC) Miami Laboratory for five years.

In 2007, Simon joined the NMFS Panama City Laboratory fishery observer office as an assistant coordinator and started a part-time MSc of Zoology at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland. He completed the MSc in 2012 with the thesis entitled “Phylogenetics and phylogeography of the bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas (Valenciennes, 1839)”. In the interim, he was promoted from assistant observer coordinator to lead fishery observer coordinator for two observer programs at SEFSC.

Simon has co-authored five peer-reviewed publications and is the lead author on one regarding the hooking mortality in two species of hammerhead sharks. As an observer coordinator, Simon has trained observers in Liberia, Gabon, Oregon, Florida, and Texas. He has been involved in several shark stock assessments, providing data series documents and also manages satellite tagging data of elasmobranchs.

In 2015, Simon formed the consultancy company, Sea Leucas LLC, with which he hopes to support MarAlliance’s mission in Central America.

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Sam Owen

Technology Development Associate, Canada

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The first time Sam plunged into the chilly waters off Victoria, Canada he was fascinated by the lives of the creatures living beneath the waves, only reluctantly returning to the surface. A trip to Ecuador cemented his love of marine megafauna and, after completing a BSc in Ecology he was determined to participate in research and conservation.

A natural tinkerer Sam has been disassembling and fixing things since he was a small child, a skill that has proven useful to MarAlliance. Sam initially joined MarAlliance for a 6 month media/research internship in 2015 where he helped with research, outreach and fieldwork. Since then, Sam has been an important part of the development of our Deep Baited Remote Underwater Video systems and durable inexpensive field computers, and improvements to our equipment. His latest project is an inexpensive Conductivity Depth Recorder and Temperature Depth Recorders that will greatly expand our environmental data collection capabilities.

When he isn’t working for MarAlliance, Sam is a Live Animal Technician at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton, Canada.


In Memoriam


Zeddy Seymour, MSc

Former Coordinator, Cabo Verde

Zeddy graduated with a BA in Hispanic and Latin American studies in 2010, and he spent a year living in the northeast of Brazil. The following year he moved to Mozambique in order to gain field experience working in Niassa National Reserve and Gorongosa National Park. In 2012 he graduated with Distinction in the MSc. In Conservation Biology from the University of Exeter during which he was fortunate to study elasmobranchs with Dr. Rachel Graham in Belize.

He had experience in managing projects for ZSL in Europe and African as well as on the ground in Cabo Verde during his time in turtle conservation. He had diverse knowledge of Latin America and Africa both conducting research and working at a community level. He spoke Portuguese, Spanish and Caboverdean Kriol.

Zeddy was a coordinator for MarAlliance in Cabo Verde where he conducted baseline studies and long-term monitoring for elasmobranchs. He managed an array of projects with a focus on spatial ecology and reproduction of migratory species. He aimed to provide information that could be used to improve protective area management and safeguard threatened species. He was equally, focused on building strong community links with traditional fishers and local students that could enable future conservation. He was increasingly aiming to communicate science at a government level and change common misperceptions surrounding sharks and rays.




Former and Current Students

Melanie Ortega
Hannah Martin
Emily Roebuck
Ben Radford
Lorna Browne
Cynthia Xiu
Georgie Blow
Roxane Borruat
Megan Chevis
Francesco Garzon
Dr. Adrian Gleiss
Linnea Joandi
Kim Lees
Julie Lewis
James Lewis
Lois Moriel
Coihmne O’Brian Moran
Kate Philpott
Dr. Kylie Scales
Zeddy Seymour
Sophie Thompson
Alexandra Guzman
Ramiro Solis
Alexandra de Leon
Rodnyel Arosemena
Ricardo Arauz
Rebeca Castellanos
Anyie Gonzalez
Yumi Ortiz
Yari Torres
Yaily Castillo
Melany Hernandez




Volunteers

Mayra Salazar
Emiliana Tupper
Maya Levy
Perry Fennel
Grace Horberry
Emma Janke
Maria Khoslova
Thomas Meyer
Sam Owen
Cameron Rhodes
Amanda Resterer