Lexie Bell, Executive Director, plans and directs the program’s work, and collaborates with many partner organizations to further the mission of protecting and restoring Morro Bay. Lexie first came to the Central Coast as a graduate student at the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and has been on the Estuary Program team since 2010. In addition to her Master’s degree, Lexie has a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami. Previously, Lexie worked as a marine science educator, scientific diver in the Caribbean, and coastal watershed researcher. Lexie loves paddling the bay and exploring the varied landscapes of the Central Coast with her family.
Ann Kitajima serves as the Estuary Program’s Assistant Director. Her responsibilities include grant writing and grant management, strategic planning, and administrative functions. Formerly the Monitoring Program Manager for the organization, she continues to provide support in monitoring planning and protocol development.
Cynthia Milhem is the Office Manager for the Estuary Program. She serves as our bookkeeper, receptionist, administrative assistant, and general paper-chaser for the rest of the staff. She is the voice on the phone and face at the front desk during daily operating hours and lends a second set of hands to other staff members when and where needed. She works in tandem with and under the direction of the Executive and Assistant Directors, as well as the Board of Directors, to ensure that the administrative conditions for awarded Grants are met and required files are in order.
Carolyn Geraghty, Restoration Projects Manager, develops and oversees watershed and estuarine restoration projects and conservation efforts. Prior to joining the Estuary Program, Carolyn was an Environmental Scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute supporting research of river and estuarine environments. Before that, she worked as the Restoration Director for the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust and oversaw implementation of stream restoration projects. She has also worked on a variety of aquatic ecology and water quality monitoring studies with The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, and USGS. Carolyn received a master’s in Environmental Planning at UC Berkeley focusing on watershed science. Her research evaluated stream restoration projects to inform restoration practices and planning in Oregon’s Klamath Basin. She also holds a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Aquinas College, MI.
Karissa Willits is our Monitoring Coordinator. Karissa coordinates implementation of monitoring projects, communicates information on health of the bay, and serves as a liaison and trainer to our many Volunteer Monitoring Program volunteers. Karissa received a Marine Biology degree from U.C. Santa Cruz. Since graduating, she has worked on a variety of monitoring and restoration projects across the California coast, including two terms as an AmeriCorps Watershed Steward Project member with the San Luis Obispo Steelhead Initiative.
Shane Bennett is our Monitoring Coordinator. Shane is a graduate of Cal Poly, with a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection, and concentration in Watershed Management and Hydrology. His experiences include working for the County of San Luis Obispo’s Water Resources Division and Cal Poly Facilities Management. Shane enjoys all outdoor adventures, and is proud to live and work on California’s central coast.
Matt McKechnie is our Monitoring Field Technician. Matt recently graduated from CalPoly with a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection, a concentration in Marine Science, and minor in Indigenous Studies in Natural Resources and the Environment. When Matt isn’t working for the Estuary Program, he also works with the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program as a fisheries observer out of Morro Bay and Port San Luis.
Rachel Pass serves as the Morro Bay National Estuary Program’s Communications and Outreach Coordinator. She works with community members, partners, and other stakeholders to raise awareness of the Estuary Program’s mission, and to encourage participation in restoration and preservation efforts. Rachel brings a background in writing, publishing, and teaching to her role. She enjoys almost any outdoor activity, and can often be found watching wildlife on the bay or hiking along the coast.
Catie Michel is our Communications and Outreach Intern. Catie assists our Communications and Outreach Coordinator with work on the Estuary Program’s website, written publications, and Nature Center. She also helps with fieldwork from time to time. She enjoys exploring the many beautiful places of California. Catie is a recent graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. There, she earned a B.S. in Animal Science with a concentration in Wildlife Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies.
Morro Bay National Estuary Program brings together citizens, local governments, non-profits, agencies, and landowners to protect and restore the Morro Bay estuary.
Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.