Our Staff

Kristen Sarri

President and CEO

Allison Alexander

Vice President

Shannon Colbert

Policy and Conservation Director

Carol King

Director of Development

Chip Weiskotten

Director of Strategic Communications

Trevor Jones

Human Resources and Operations Manager

Laura Stone

Conservation Manager

Alexandra Puritz

Exploration Education Manager

Ian Nawalinski

Chapter Engagement Manager

Deanna Balistreri

Grants and Contracts Manager

Jamie Smith

Events Manager

Lynn Wisniewski

Accountant

Taylor Berry

Development and Operations Coordinator

Melanie Herrera

Communications Coordinator

Ben Charo

Policy Outreach Coordinator

Becca Alcenius

Executive Assistant

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Kristen Sarri

President and CEO

Kris joined the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation as President and CEO in October 2016. A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kris formed an early, life-long connection to environmental stewardship growing up surrounded by the Great Lakes. Her interest in marine conservation began when, at nine years old, Kris’ family moved to Australia and she spent endless hours exploring the life in tide pools. Kris’ lifelong passion is finding innovative ways to promote environmental stewardship through community engagement in conservation.

Kris’ career spans over 19 years working on ocean, land and climate policy. Kris most recently worked at the Department of the Interior, where she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget from 2014 to 2016. Prior to joining the Department of the Interior, Kris was the Associate Director for Legislative Affairs for the Office of Management and Budget. She also served as Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic Planning for the US Department of Commerce, acting as the Secretary’s principal advisor on the ocean, fisheries, climate, and energy issues, and as a policy liaison for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kris also spent eight years in the US Senate where she was on the Professional Staff of the Senate Commerce Committee with responsibility for the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee; she was Senior Policy Advisor of the Office of Senator Jack Reed; and the Legislative Director of the Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition.

Kris received a B.A. in Biology from Washington University, St. Louis and an M.S. and M.P.H. from the University of Michigan. She is an avid SCUBA diver.

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Allison Alexander

Vice President

Allison Alexander joined the Foundation in 2007 and works to ensure the Foundation maintains its values and fulfills its mission. She is the primary liaison for the Foundation’s federal financial assistance awards, and provides oversight of externally funded grant programs. She has more than fifteen years of experience in fundraising, public relations, and non-profit management.

A native of coastal Georgia, Allison received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia in Athens.

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Shannon Colbert

Policy and Conservation Director

Shannon Colbert has an interdisciplinary background with experience in policy, conservation, and economics. Prior to joining the Foundation in November 2013 as the Policy and Conservation Manager, Shannon served as a Communications Specialist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) focusing on the agency’s efforts to assess injuries to natural resources and to restore the environment following oil spills, hazardous waste releases, and ship groundings. She has also worked in a U.S. Congressional Office, the California Natural Resources Agency, Georgia Sea Grant, and the non-profit organization, San Diego Coastkeeper. Shannon received her Master’s degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of California, San Diego and her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Economics and Management from the University of Georgia

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Carol King

Director of Development

Carol King joined the Foundation in June, 2017 as Director of Development. Carol oversees all aspects of the Foundation’s development program, including corporate philanthropy and individual giving, and is focused on growing the organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission and strategic goals. Prior to joining the Foundation, Carol served as the Director of Community Philanthropy at the Humane Rescue Alliance, Washington D.C.’s premier animal sheltering and welfare organization, where she managed annual and bequest giving, donor relationships, and grants. A passionate advocate for the role that donors can play in creating opportunity and improving our world, Carol recently became SCUBA certified, and is looking forward to exploring more of our blue planet.

Carol is an alumnus of American University, a native of Connecticut, and enjoys hiking and exploring in her off-time with her rescue Pitbull, Teddy Tyler Roosevelt.

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Chip Weiskotten

Director of Strategic Communications

Plans, develop and implement communication strategies to promote and support the Foundation’s work in traditional and new media.

Leads brand messaging development and management; development and execution of strategic communications plans to inform, educate, activate, and inspire key audiences, which include the press, existing and potential funders, partners, government leaders, our Board of Trustees, and employees; vendor management; and budget management.

Serves as a spokesperson and advocate for the organization, engaging the public and media in
functions that underscore and advance the value of Foundation and national marine
sanctuaries in the eyes of constituents.

Manages the Foundation’s digital communications platforms, including the website and social
media.

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Trevor Jones

Human Resources and Operations Manager

Trevor joined the Foundation in March of 2018 as the Human Resources Manager. He is responsible for the recruiting and onboarding of new employees, coordinating benefits administration, and developing and maintaining a positive employee relations program for all staff located in Silver Spring and at field sites. Trevor joins us from the Human Resource departments of Target and JCPenney, and most recently opened and sold his own business, a Nestle Toll House Cookie Franchise in Silver Spring, MD. Trevor has as passion for oceans and Great Lakes from growing up in both San Diego, CA and Green Bay, WI.

He has a BBA in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater.

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Laura Stone

Conservation Manager

Laura Stone grew up in Scottsdale, AZ where although living in the desert, first fell in love with the ocean through documentaries and summer camps in the Florida Keys. Laura earned her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. Laura studied a semester in Turks and Caicos a part of the School or Field Studies program. After college, she ventured down to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to work in the Fisheries Ecology Lab. She began graduate school in 2015 receiving a Master’s in Marine Science with a thesis determining discard mortality rates of Greater Amberjack using biotelemetry methods. Laura accepted a position as the Program and Grants Coordinator with local non-profit organization, Mobile Baykeeper, an organization that protects the Mobile Bay Watershed and coastal communities. Laura is excited to bring her knowledge and skills to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation as the Conservation Manager.

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Alexandra Puritz

Exploration Education Manager

Alexandra joined the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in 2020 as the Exploration Education Program Manager. She serves as the primary liaison between the Foundation and the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, managing completion of education projects with multiple partners in ocean exploration. Previously, Alexandra worked as a Program Associate at The Ocean Foundation, where she helped coordinate the International Ocean Acidification Initiative. Alexandra received her Master’s degree in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami and her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and International Relations from Connecticut College. She is passionate about marine conservation and stakeholder engagement.

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Ian Nawalinski

Chapter Engagement Manager

Ian joined the foundation in 2020 as the Chapter Engagement Manager. He is responsible for assisting chapters in enhancing local activities including promoting best practices related to foundation policies, chapter governance, development, and communications. Ian grew up in Philadelphia but spent his summers tracking hurricane swells and chasing waves throughout the Atlantic. His love for the ocean eventually brought him to Oahu where he studied journalism at the University of Hawaii before graduating from West Chester University with a degree in Communications and a minor in Geographic Information Systems. Prior to joining the foundation, Ian organized state-level campaigns in support of marijuana legalization during the 2016 election and worked closely with defense lawyers advocating for criminal justice reform. Ian brings extensive non-profit experience with a diverse background in development, event planning, communications, and public relations.

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Deanna Balistreri

Grants and Contracts Manager

Deanna joined the Foundation in March of 2019 as the Grants and Contracts Manager. She is responsible for managing the application, review, award, and report tracking and analysis for the Foundation-funded grants and contracts. Deanna joins us from a USAID implementing partner in developmental agriculture. Deanna grew up next to the Monterey Bay and has a deep passion for marine conservation.

She has a MPA from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and her BA from the University of California, Merced.

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Jamie Smith

Events Manager

Jamie Smith started with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in March 2020 as the Events Manager. In this role, Jamie will be managing logistics and planning of Capitol Hill Ocean Week, the Ocean Awards Gala, DC Ocean Week and assisting with the Blue Beacon Series. Prior to joining the foundation, Jamie has managed events and volunteers for the Aga Khan Foundation and the Salvation Army. Throughout her time in the events field, she has worked on fun interactive events like Djing with Biz Markie, Paint & Sip Classes, Fashion shows, weddings and fundraising dinners.

Jamie graduated from Towson University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications.

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Lynn Wisniewski

Accountant

Lynn Wisniewski has over 30 years of accounting and related experience. Prior to joining the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Lynn worked for a variety of industries including construction, marketing, technology, and government. Lynn grew up in the Washington DC area and is thrilled to be working for a company with a mission that she can be proud of.

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Taylor Berry

Development and Operations Coordinator

Taylor Berry joined the Foundation in September 2018 as the Development and Operations Coordinator. Taylor is responsible for processing all incoming donations, representing the foundation at workplace giving campaigns and providing fundraising support to sanctuary sites and Foundation chapters.

Before joining the Foundation, Taylor lived in the Dominican Republic, where she designed and implemented a mangrove restoration project and engaged local communities in ocean conservation. Upon returning to the United States, she worked as a land use paralegal and received her master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.  Taylor is passionate about ocean conservation and using fundraising and development to connect people to their environment.

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Melanie Herrera

Communications Coordinator

Melanie Herrera is the Foundation’s communications coordinator.  She plays a key role in executing the Foundation’s messaging and outreach, with an emphasis on social media and digital presence.  Previously, she was executive assistant to the Foundation’s President and CEO, Kris Sarri. Melanie came to the Foundation with a background in scientific research focused on the conservation of fisheries in South Carolina. Melanie has a strong passion for marine conservation and graduated with a B.S in environmental science and policy with a concentration on marine and coastal management.

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Ben Charo

Policy Outreach Coordinator

Ben Charo joined the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in 2020. As Policy Outreach Coordinator, he is responsible for planning, developing and implementing Capitol Hill Ocean’s Week, the nation’s premier marine and Great Lakes public policy conference, as well as its associated Blue Beacon Series. Ben also supports the Policy and Conservation Director.
Ben grew up in Northwest DC and became passionate about marine conservation when he was in high school after attending a tropical ecology program on Eleuthera Island, Bahamas. As an undergraduate at Swarthmore, Ben studied Biology and graduated in 2018. Soon after, he left the U.S. to travel under the auspices of a year-long Watson Fellowship, which he spent studying the effects of coral reef decline on coastal communities in Australia, Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, and Belize. Though he misses diving, Ben is happy to be working in his hometown and enjoys exploring marine conservation issues within a national (vs. international) context. When he’s not in the office, you’ll likely find Ben running in Rock Creek Park, taking photos, or playing chess.
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Becca Alcenius

Executive Assistant

Becca Alcenius is the executive assistant to the Foundation’s President and CEO, Kris Sarri. In this role, she assists the President with the general operations of the Foundation and serves as a liaison to the Board of Trustees. Becca has experience both in the political and non-profit spheres, having worked in several legislative offices and organizations such as the North American Marine Environment Protection Association and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Becca cultivated her passion for marine conservation during her undergraduate studies at George Washington University, where she majored in International Affairs, concentrating in International Environmental Studies. In her free time, Becca likes to bake, craft, and hang out with her dog, Scuba.