Meet our Staff and Board
Phillip Johnson, Executive Director
Phillip has been involved with Oregon Shores in one capacity or another for 25 years. He served on the board for 14 years, and during that period founded and directed the CoastWatch program, while playing other roles such as leading the board’s planning and development committee and editing the newsletter. He was also founding chair of the Oregon Conservation Network, a statewide consortium of environmental groups that began in 1995 continues to this day as a project of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Phillip moved to a staff role in 2005, taking on what had become a full-time job as CoastWatch director, and became executive director in 2009. In his earlier career he was a newspaper editor and reporter, and later a long-time freelance writer. He is never more content than when standing on a lonely headland, watching a storm roll in.
Jessica Jones, Volunteer Coordinator
Jessica (Jesse) Jones, a lifelong Oregonian (and nearly lifelong north coast resident), stepped into this CoastWatch role in late spring of 2019. In a career devoted to the watersheds of Oregon’s north coast, she has managed large and small habitat restoration projects, engaged countless property owners in land conservation, and worked alongside youth of all ages in the natural world. Notably, given that we are counting on her to help us organize CoastWatch efficiently, she spent four years as executive director of the North Coast Watershed Association, and earlier served as executive director for the Vernonia Community Learning Center. In 2015, Jesse started volunteering for Surfrider, leading their Blue Water Task Force to its new home at Seaside High School, where students now collect and process ocean water and post results Jesse is a naturalist and private guide for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, chair of the Surfrider Foundation North Coast chapter, and chair of the non-profit organization, Pelican Science, which she helped to found. She is also, not incidentally, a collage artist, poet, and bossa nova musician.
Fawn Custer, Citizen Science Trainer
Fawn’s vocation is education, and she has educated people of all ages in both formal and informal settings for more than 25 years. She spent eight years as CoastWatch's volunteer coordinator, before transitioning to a more tightly focused role on training CoastWatchers and citizen science participants. She taught for many years in the Lincoln School District, and continues to substitute on occasion; she teaches biology and chemistry, but her real specialty is marine science. Fawn spent 14 years as an educator at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, introducing everyone from children to seniors to the wonders of the marine world. While there she developed and implemented marine science and environmental science lab classes. She has also taught high school marine science on-line, developed an invasive species curriculum for educators and protocols for interpreters, and trained volunteer citizen scientists. A member of the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators (NAME), she has served that group as Oregon Director, President, and Treasurer. As a NAME leader, she began collaborating with CoastWatch on the annual Sharing the Coast Conference, which led to her coming over to the CoastWatch team. Fawn is a 20-year Seal Rock resident, a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, and loves traveling, camping, hiking, and learning anything related to the marine environment and sharing what she learns with others.
Michael Coe, Website Coordinator
During a long tenure as an Oregon Shores board member, Michael led the effort to develop and launch our new (as of November, 2016) website. While he stepped down from the board at the end of his second term, he continues to serve as our webmaster. He is a clinical and research psychologist with more than 20 years of experience in social and educational research, organizational consulting, program and project evaluation, and psychological and educational assessment. He has led research and evaluation studies for projects funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Education, and many state and local agencies and private philanthropic organizations, and served as an expert consultant to the US Environmental Protection Agency on the evaluation of public partnership programs for environmental results. Recent work includes an NSF-funded project that brought geology, geohazard, and emergency preparedness education to park and museum interpreters, emergency management personnel, and science teachers in coastal regions of Oregon, northern California, and Washington. He also brings his wide-ranging skills in project design and evaluation and grant-writing to Oregon Shores’ work, as he continues to assist in this area as well. A Portland resident since 1998, Michael is an active backpacker, photographer and sport fisherman.
McKenzie Purdom, Communications
McKenzie Purdom joined Oregon Shores’ Communication team to help the wildlife and wild coastal places that she deeply loves. McKenzie is passionate about connecting people to the Oregon coast. In college, she spent summer breaks leading kayak tours in Waldport for guests from around the world. After graduating with a B.A. in Sociology, she returned to the coast to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service where she became wild about seabirds and shorebirds. While an educator for the Hatfield Marine Science Center, she fell in love with giant Pacific octopuses. Sharks and plankton were added to her favorites list while working at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. She also loves photography, so it was very fitting that the King Tides Photo Project first sparked her interest in Oregon Shores. Apart from her work with Oregon Shores, McKenzie is the owner and lead teacher with Recess Outdoor Adventures.
Kelli Pennington, Instagram
Kelli Pennington serves as our Instagram editor and assists with communications in other ways. Based in Portland, she is a photographer, educator, and curator of gallery shows. Kelli teaches photography at the high school and college level, with lessons rooted in the belief that as we frame a photograph, we can frame the relationship we have to our existence. An avid traveler and observer, Kelli has been making photographs since 1996. She was born and raised in Charles County, Maryland, and earned her MFA from Syracuse University in 2010. An Oregonian since 2005, she now divides her time between Portland and Pacific City.
Anuradha Sawkar, Coastal Law Project Attorney
While not a member of Oregon Shores’ staff, Anu is the attorney we work with most often as part of our Coastal Law Project, a partnership with the Crag Law Center. Anu is Crag’s Coastal Law Project Legal Fellow. Anu was born in Poughkeepsie, New York but grew up in Portland. She graduated from Whitman College with a B.A. in Politics with a minor in Economics, and earned her J.D. with a concentration in Advocacy from Cornell Law School. She joined Crag Law Center’s staff in January, 2019, and immediately plunged in to representing Oregon Shores on a wide range of issues, notably in the many regulatory processes involved in our opposition to the proposed Jordan Cove LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal on Coos Bay’s North Spit. Through this partnership, Anu works to preserve public access to Oregon’s beaches and conserve Oregon’s priceless coastal ecosystems. Outside of work, Anu enjoys running, hiking, yoga, reading, and writing longhand.
Jean Caroline, Key Volunteer
Although a volunteer rather than a paid staff member, Jean Caroline plays a number of important roles on the Oregon Shores team. She helps to edit and post material on the website, serves as CoastWatch reports coordinator, and assists with mailing lists and other records. She is always ready to take on special projects. Jean, now a Florence resident, has lived in the Oregon coastal region since 1973. She raised her family on a homestead within the Siuslaw National Forest, and once her children were on their own, began volunteering with the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, eventually being hired as part of the ODNRA staff. While there, she did everything from meeting the public and providing information to handling accounting and inventory to issuing permits. In retirement, she occupies herself with a wide range of interests: gardening, crafting stained glass, knitting, photography and writing (she has published a children’s novel, her father’s memoirs which she edited, and a book of letters about her adventures and challenges while living in the forest). Busy as she is in so many ways, she always finds time to pitch in to help Oregon Shores.
Allison Asbjornsen, President
A veteran of the Oregon Shores board, Allison served as board president for more than a decade before taking a break and returning as current Co-President. Like so many coastal residents, she has pieced together a varied career. Descended from generations of Oregon loggers (her grandfather helped to log portions of what is now the Van Duzer Corridor), Allison grew up in Portland, convinced her parents to let her leave high school and take a Norwegian freighter to Japan for a summer, and upon her return enrolled in art school and launched a lifelong vocation as a painter. She taught art at Portland State University and in community colleges, established a B&B in her home in Netarts, and took up shiatsu, becoming a practicing therapist and teacher at the Oregon School of Massage. She now splits her time between painting on the coast and running her Relax the Back franchise outlet in Tualatin. Her love of the coast led to an interest in its natural history, and she was drawn to Oregon Shores by an article about the coast’s threatened ecosystems written by Phillip Johnson, then an Oregon Shores board member and now our executive director.
Al Solomon, Vice-President
Al Solomon has re-joined the Oregon Shores board after a four-year hiatus, having served two earlier terms. Dr. Solomon is retired from a career as a plant ecologist and paeloecologist who studied the terrestrial global carbon cycle. He retired as the U.S. Forest Service’s National Program Leader for Global Change Research, in which role he coordinated research within the Forest Service and between his agency and other federal and state programs. Before coming to the Forest Service in 2006, he held staff positions with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. A decade ago, Al and wife Jean Adamson returned to the Oregon Coast, to the house on Cape Arago where they have lived (when not in Washington, D.C.) since 1994. He is active as an amateur radio operator involved in emergency communications, in community organizations, and in educating the public about climate change.
Jamaal recently received his PhD from the Urban Studies and Planning Department at Portland State University, and now works as a Research Associate with the state's Department of Human Services. He brings with him a passion for planning and for environmental justice, and also some highly relevant technical skills (such as GIS mapping). He received his earlier degrees from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His dissertation work explores an emerging set of industrial land protection policies and their effects on local labor markets. Jamaal is principally interested in the intersections of land use, economic development and social inequality. Beyond his academic work, he served on the Emerging Leaders Board of the Oregon Environmental Council where he assisted OEC with the diversity and equity sections of their strategic plan and sat on their program committee to advise on certain matters on policy. (A big thanks to OEC, who sent Jamaal our way when he had completed that program.) He is passionate about his belief that all environmental organizations, as they move forward into the 21st century, should embrace environmental justice as a core issue to better understand a more expansive view of the costs of pollution, and extend conservation work to include populations traditionally ignored.
Leslie Morehead, Treasurer
Leslie is a consultant providing financial management services for small businesses. She has been a private business owner, a consultant in information systems design and analysis, and a business software analyst in both the high technology sector and the banking industry. Leslie began her career in Portland, having graduated from Reed College with a master’s degree in teaching, taught physics and chemistry at Jefferson High School, and earned a doctorate in systems science from Portland State. Since then, she has traveled and worked abroad extensively, consulting and teaching business management courses in Eastern Europe and Russia as these countries emerged from Soviet rule. Returned to Oregon, Leslie is a member of the City Club of Portland’s Board of Governors. She and her husband own a condo in Astoria, and she serves as treasurer for her Homeowners’ Association. In addition to keeping watch over the Columbia estuary for Oregon Shores, she serves on the board of the Astoria Music Festival.
Larry is a marine ecologist, scuba diver, naturalist, and community conservation activist in Coos County. He engages in applied research, adaptive management and monitoring, and teaching. Currently a research associate at the University of Oregon’s marine station, the Oregon Institute of Biology in Charleston, Dr. Basch has worked in coastal and marine environments from the tropics to the poles and from intertidal rocky shores to the deep sea -- throughout the U.S. west coast, the Pacific basin and islands, Central and South America, Europe, and from Alaska to Antarctica. He has the distinction of having spent, cumulatively, close to a full year working underwater in the course of his career, studying temperate-boreal kelp forests, coral reefs, polar, and other subtidal ecological communities worldwide. He has his PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Christie DeMoll is known widely to those who love the central coast as the long-time proprietor of Ocean Haven, a nature-friendly lodging south of Yachats. During her two decades as a coastal business owner, she was also a prominent advocate for whales, marine conservation, water quality protection, and good land use planning. Among other concerns, she has been active in volunteer activities devoted to the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve and in Surfrider’s Blue Water Task Force, as well as with CoastWatch and Oregon Shores. Since her retirement in 2018, she has been involved as a naturalist and wildlife spotter on private nature expeditions. She had an earlier career doing social work in Texas and later Oregon, specializing in the policy and practice of dealing with people with mental health or development disabilities within the criminal justice system. She now divides her time between Yachats and Eugene.
Newly elected to the board in 2018, Ed is an earth scientist, educator, and activist with a Ph.D. in Oceanography (from Texas A&M) and a B.S. in Geology. Research interests span from paleoclimate studies using deep marine fossils to the study of nearshore sediment transport. Ed was a research scientist in the oil and gas industry for over 20 years and taught geology at the University of Houston and the University of St. Thomas in Houston for eight years. Presently, he is adjunct faculty at Clatsop Community College where he has taught geology and oceanography since 2015. Prior to moving to Oregon, while a geologic consultant based in Pennsylvania, he served as president of the Philadelphia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He is an avid surfer, mountain hiker, snowboarder, and swimmer.
Graham, our youngest board member, has a deep personal interest in conservation biology, and has concentrated his early career on developing knowledge and experience related to this field. He is currently the REEF (Restoring Ecosystems and Educating Future Conservation Leaders) Education Coordinator with the Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council (in northern Lincoln County), responsible both for designing and leading educational programs for students and teachers, and for conducting habitat restoration activities within the council’s territory. Prior to that he served as a conservation technician for the Forest Park Conservancy in Portland, and as a volunteer in the Wilderness Resource Office in Olympic National Park, immediately after graduating from the University of Puget Sound. Graham is also an accomplished artist—painting his images on surfboards, among other media—and enthusiastically explores the natural world as a surfer, skier, backpacker and cyclist.
A retired professor of neurobiology and behavior, Paul Sherman provides both biological expertise and representation for the south coast to the Oregon Shores board. Paul was an undergraduate at Stanford, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at U.C. Berkeley. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1981, was awarded tenure in 1985, and was promoted to full professor in 1991. He retired in 2013 and is a professor emeritus. During his academic career, Dr. Sherman studied birds, insects, and mammals (especially naked mole-rats) and taught courses and seminars in Behavioral Ecology, Animal Behavior, and Darwinian Medicine. His research contributed to scientific understanding in five general areas: altruism and nepotism, kin recognition, eusociality, conservation, and evolutionary medicine (especially the adaptive significance of morning sickness, allergies, spice use, and lactose intolerance). He has published or edited 7 books and 195 papers and book chapters. In 2005 he was appointed a Weiss Presidential Fellow in recognition of “effective, inspiring, and distinguished teaching.” He was a Sigma Xi National Lecturer in 2004-06, and was elected a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society in 2004. Paul now lives atop Cape Sebastian, six miles south of Gold Beach. He enjoys kayaking the south coast rivers, hiking and "biologizing" in the forests, walking the beaches, fly fishing, skiing, sailing, tending a bounteous vegetable garden and greenhouse, and playing low-stakes poker.
Ron apportions his time among academia, wildfire management, nonprofit management, and communications. He first encountered the Oregon coast when he moved to Bandon in 1994 to teach journalism at Southwestern Oregon Community College for 10 years. The next eight years were spent with one foot in Bandon and one in Vermont, as a professor at Green Mountain College, an innovative institution that was named the "Greenest School" in the Sierra Club's “Greenest Colleges” competition for 2010. At the college, he worked actively in community media projects that include launching of a Farmer's Market newspaper with Rutland Area Farm and Food Link and writing of and production support for “Historical Audio Walking and Driving Tours” with the Poultney Historical Society. Starting in the fall of 2012, he was able to transition to online and hybrid field-based courses, allowing him to re-establish himself in Bandon (and join the Oregon Shores board) while continuing to teach. But Ron also has a second career during the summers, in wildfire management. He began as a fire lookout in Patagonia, Arizona and continued with seasonal positions in Saguaro National Park, where he served as fire effects monitor and lead of a backcountry fire crew. Since 1992, his fire seasons have been based out of Grand Teton National Park, where he supports Teton Interagency Fire as a fire monitor, incident commander, and fire analyst. As a board member for the International Association of Wildland Fire, he helped to launch wildfireworld.org, a community-media website supporting the launch of a Global Wildfire Awareness Week. Since 2011, much of his writing and editing has focused on Wildfire Magazine, for which he chairs the Editorial Board. His expertise in fire management has led him around the globe as a consultant and student of the effects of climate change. But he always returns to the Oregon coast and Bandon’s gorse-strewn shoreline.
Noah finished law school at Lewis and Clark in 2004 and has since worked on a number of environmental and land use issues. The list includes pro bono work for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge to oppose the application of Measure 37 (which suspended land use regulations for long-time owners) in the Columbia River Gorge, and more than five years working under Oregon Shores board member Steve Schell (of the Black Helterline law firm) on land use development and conservation matters, as well as extensive work on Superfund compliance in the Portland Harbor Superfund site. He has also represented clients on renewable energy projects including rooftop solar and wind farms. In addition, Noah has an engineering background, with a B.A. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and has been a project manager for engineering firms. He is currently a senior account manager for SICK, Inc., managing sales and projects in the areas of aerospace, semiconductor, and biomedical manufacturing. Noah is also active in various types of outdoor recreation, especially surfing (he is a member of the Association of Surfing Lawyers!), and has strong ties to the outdoor recreation community. Due to his love of surfing he has a very close relationship with the Oregon Coast and spends as much time there as possible.