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Kathryn Mengerink, J.D., Ph.D., Executive Director

Dr. Kathryn Mengerink is Executive Director at the Waitt Institute. From 2006 -2016 Dr. Mengerink served as Director of the Ocean Program at the Environmental Law Institute. Under her leadership, the Ocean Program launched law and policy projects related to regional ocean management, coastal zoning, fisheries management and enforcement, aquaculture, ocean and coastal restoration, offshore energy development, marine protection, Alaska Natives rights and ocean management, environmental DNA, deep seabed mining and more. In addition, Dr. Mengerink is a Lecturer Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she teaches ocean law and policy and serves as an advisor to the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. She holds a B.S. in Zoology (Texas A&M University), Ph.D. in Marine Biology from SIO (UC San Diego) and a J.D. with a certificate of specialization in environmental law (UC Berkeley).



Tamara Marshall, J.D., Operations and Legal Director

Tamara Marshall was born and raised in San Diego, California. In her role as the Institute’s Operations Manager she focuses on finances, contracts, and generally keeping the organization running smoothly. She joined the Waitt team as an employee of the Avalon Capital Group 2005. Over the past 10 years, she has held numerous positions within the organization across the areas of human resources, administration, operations, finance, legal, and investments. She is an experienced professional accountant with a background in entrepreneurship and small business advising. Tamara has a Bachelor’s degree in accounting, and has completed her law degree at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Tamara aspires to use her law degree to make a difference in the world, and to give back to the community.

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Andy Estep, Science and Field Manager

Andy Estep is marine biologist with a background in marine geology, and a particular interest in comparing modern reefs with early Holocene analogs. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Geology from Oberlin College and a graduate certificate in GIS from Pennsylvania State University. He has been involved in fieldwork in South Florida, the US Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Western Australia, and now Barbuda. Prior to working with the Waitt Institute, Estep worked for the South Florida/Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network conducting long-term marine monitoring and benthic mapping in South Florida and the US Virgin Islands. Completing over 1000 scientific dives, he has expertise in Caribbean benthic and fish identification, collecting underwater photo and video data, and data management. Estep is happiest in the field collecting data and collaborating with members of the communities in which he works. He has a passion for life outdoors and living simply and sustainably.



Ute Zischka, Program Manager

Ute Zischka has implemented conservation and community development initiatives across the Pacific and is experienced in communications, project management and program evaluation. Ute worked as a Consultant and Project Coordinator for the Fiji-based Pacific Blue Foundation to help develop marine protected areas and promote community-based resource management. Prior to moving to the United States, Ute spent three years at the University of Queensland/Australia, where she ran education programs at the Centre for Marine Studies, managed the day-to-day activities of the World Bank-funded Coral Reef Targeted Research Program, and worked in a small team that developed the Global Change Institute in the areas of healthy oceans, food systems, clean energy and sustainable water. Ute holds an undergraduate degree in communications from LMU Munich and a Masters in International Environmental Policy from the UCSD’s School of Policy and Strategy. Ute speaks English, German, Spanish and French.

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Robin Ramdeen, Site Manager: Barbuda and Monserrat

Born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago, Robin Ramdeen has focused her career on supporting non-profit organizations doing marine conservation and environmental advocacy in the Caribbean islands. She holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and a Masters in Marine and Coastal Resource Management from the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Robin found her passion for sustainable fisheries when working with queen conch fishers and vendors in Tobago. She then went on to become a research assistant for Dr. Daniel Pauly and the Sea Around Us project of the UBC Fisheries Centre, where she played a vital role in documenting illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries catches in various Caribbean islands. Through this and her work with conservation groups such as Papa Bois Conservation and Sustainable Grenadines she has established a wide network in and a deep knowledge of Caribbean fisheries management. Now, contracted as Site Manager for Blue Halo Initiative in both Montserrat and Barbuda, she focuses on providing the Waitt Institute’s ocean management toolkit to the communities and governments and on executing program strategy. She is based on Montserrat.

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Endirah Palm, Site Manager: Curaçao

Endirah Palm has worked in the areas of environmental protection and technology area since 1993, offering environmental consulting, project coordination and change management services to public and private clients.   Endirah organized and coordinated several clean-up and awareness campaigns in cooperation with other local organizations, and worked with Curaçao’s  first waste glass recycling company, Curexglass Ltd. She also consulted on several projects focused illegal waste water dumping in Curaçao, and represented several international manufactures of waste processing technologies from Europe, USA and Latin America. In her role as Site Manager for Blue Halo Curacao, Endirah serves the on-the-ground liaison for the Blue Halo Initiative, working closely with government officials and stakeholders in Curaçao.

Endirah has a college degree in Practical Study of Social Work from Princenoord College in Breda/ Netherlands, and obtained a Bachelor Certificate in Management and Organization from the University of Curaçao. Endirah is fluent in English, Dutch, Spanish, Papiamento, and speaks moderate Portuguese. She lives and works in Curaçao, and practice Yoga, likes swimming and beach activities and walking in nature.

Shayna Brody, Media and Communications Associate

Shayna aims to communicate conservation messages through visual media and is a photographer, graphic designer, and videographer. While in the Masters of Advanced studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, she became a drone pilot and made a short documentary. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and a minor in media. She has a background in scientific research of marine mammal populations and behavior in South Africa, New Zealand, and California, as well as fish behavior and fire ecology in Rocky Mountain forest ecosystems. She has also worked in an outreach and educational setting for many animal rescues, aquariums, and NGOs including The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Inland Ocean Coalition, Heal the Bay, Star Eco Station, and the Denver Aquarium.


Jacob A. James, Senior Advisor

Jacob A. James is Managing Director of the Waitt Foundation, where he creates and manages novel approaches to philanthropy and public-private partnerships around the world.  His varied areas of expertise include public affairs, philanthropy, ocean conservation, science and exploration, organizational development, sustainable economic development, and civic engagement. Joining the enterprise through Avalon Capital Group in 2009 as policy advisor and executive assistant to Waitt Foundation Chairman and Gateway, Inc. co-founder Mr. Ted Waitt, Jacob has served as the primary public liaison for Mr. Waitt’s global companies, staff, public policy, and philanthropic activities since that time.  Jacob manages a portfolio of relationships including over two dozen governments, and major non-profit and multi-lateral institutions ranging from the National Geographic Society and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, to the international work of the Clinton Foundation and the UN High Commission on Small Island Developing Sates (SIDS). Today, Jacob is a member of the Waitt Foundation & Institute Boards of Directors, having stewarded the business and strategic planning processes for the successful 2013 re-launch of the Waitt Institute. Drawing from his extensive public affairs experience in the U.S. and abroad, Jacob’s approach to philanthropy and public policy is rooted in pragmatism and results.  Previously, Jacob staffed Congresswoman Susan A. Davis (2006-2009), working both in-district in his home town of San Diego, and in Washington, DC on Capitol Hill.  Prior to the Congresswoman, he worked for the full service public affairs firm The San Diego Group, and volunteered on the front lines of several political campaigns. Jacob holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Point Loma Nazarene University and a master’s degree in government from Georgetown University.  He has also earned a certificate in organizational development from the Center on Creative Leadership, and a certificate in fundraising management from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at the Indiana University–Purdue University. On behalf of the Waitt Foundation, Jacob serves on the boards of The San Diego Foundation and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust.  In Winter 2015, Jacob was named Acting Managing Director of the Waitt Institute, resuming the role of Senior Advisor in 2017.  In this role, he focuses on Government Relations and Diplomacy.


Mark Dickey

Mark Dickey, General Counsel

Mark Dickey joined Avalon Capital Group, Inc., the Waitt Foundation, and Waitt Institute as General counsel in the fall of 2012. Mr. Dickey has more than 20 years of legal experience, including 14 years in private practice. Before joining, he served as General Counsel of Phoenix Solar US, a designer and builder of large-scale PV solar projects, and as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of VeraSun Energy, a leading producer and marketer of ethanol and distillers grains. Previously, he was Vice President, Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Secretary at Gateway, Inc., a world-wide leader in the PC industry. Prior to Gateway, Inc., Mr. Dickey was in private practice in North Carolina and Oklahoma, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, private placements of equity and debt securities, tax planning, financing and commercial transactions, licensing and joint ventures. Mr. Dickey earned his law degree from the University of Oklahoma, his Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University, and his bachelor’s degree in finance from Oklahoma State University.