BHI Conservancy Team
Megan Arias Sea Turtle Program Coordinator
Megan was born and reared in Denver, NC and studied at Louisiana State University graduating with a degree in Natural Resource Ecology and Management. While studying at LSU, she gained most of her wildlife experiences with Blue Crabs and passerines. Post-graduation, she worked two field seasons with the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project igniting her love of turtle work. After spending several field seasons with passerines and small mammals, Megan is thrilled to be back with sea turtles and starting her first program coordinator position with the Conservancy. When she’s not working, Megan enjoys basking in the sun, dancing, and exploring all that the culinary world has to offer.
Will Benfield Coastal Specialist I
Will is a native of North Carolina and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and a minor in Geospatial Technologies. He completed a summer Education Internship with the Conservancy in 2015 where he utilized his skills and shared his love of the coast and all aspects of it with the program participants and island residents. In his free time, Will enjoys surfing, fishing, and nature in any setting.
Pam Cunningham Operations Specialist
Raised in Boston, Pam moved to North Carolina from Houston, Texas where she raised her two daughters, Shannon and Caitlin, and owned and operated two Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Stores, enabling her to fulfill her mission “to bring people and nature together” in an urban environment. She is very happy to live in beautiful and serene Brunswick County and to help to continue her mission on Bald Head Island with the Conservancy
Sharon Eisele Sales Associate • Turtle Central
Sharon grew up on the north New Jersey shore where she spent many happy hours in and near the ocean, volunteering to plant grasses to slow dune erosion, watching osprey nest every season, documenting oral histories of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and just enjoying all the different beaches. When her husband Don’s job took them to Greensboro, NC in 2002 she was dismayed to discover the beach was 250 miles away! They quickly made their way to the Brunswick County beaches, bought a weekend place and finally retired full-time to Southport in 2012. She began working part-time at Turtle Central Gift Shop in July 2015 as a Sales Associate. She enjoys working for a non-profit organization with such a worthy mission and is looking forward to participating in the many Conservancy programs and contributing to the success of the gift shop. She is a graduate of Monmouth University and Fairleigh Dickinson University with a B.S. in Education and an M.A. in Psychology/Organization Behavior and had a long career in Human Resources and Training & Development. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, cycling, yoga, golf and reading.
Amy Eldredge Coastal Educator
A native of Pennsylvania, Amy graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a double major in Animal Behavior and Studio Art. Her experience as a non-formal educator, with skills in wildlife management and research has led her to the role of Coastal Educator here at the BHIC. She hopes to utilize her skills and knowledge to promote environmental stewardship and to engage community involvement in conservation issues. In her free time she enjoys reading, photography and exploring outdoors. She is looking forward to sharing her passion for coastal ecology with the local community and visitors to the island.
Emily Hardin Temporary Coastal Specialist
Emily was born and raised in Richmond, VA. She attended the University of South Carolina where she studied Marine Science with an emphasis in Biological Oceanography and Coastal Resources Management. Emily was a sea turtle intern with the Conservancy during the summer of 2014, and returned to the Conservancy as the Sea Turtle Program Coordinator for 2015 season. After working for a while in sea turtle rehabilitation in Florida, Emily has returned yet again for another sea turtle season on BHI! When she isn’t at work, you can probably still find Emily on the beach! She loves swimming, reading, spending time with friends and family, and just being outdoors.
Charlotte Hundley Sales Associate • Turtle Central
Charlotte grew up in Richmond, VA where she and her husband, Dale, raised two children. She has always loved nature, animals and especially the ocean and discovered Bald Head Island in 1991. Every summer since, her family has visited the island for vacations. Her now grown children still love it there and will jump every chance they get to visit again. Seeing a turtle nest hatch 10 years ago was an amazing sight and started her love for turtles and all the other creatures that inhabit Bald Head. Charlotte and her husband recently moved to Southport and when asked “why Southport” her response was to be closer to Bald Head Island. She is very excited to work on the island and especially being a part of the BHI Conservancy that inspires the public to learn how to conserve and protect this special place. She looks forward to participating in the many programs offered by the Conservancy, and sharing these experiences with the visitors that come to Turtle Central. She is a graduate of Elon University with a B.A. in English and recently retired from a career in operations for an Investment Firm. In her spare time she enjoys gardening and traveling, and any type of exercise that gets her outdoors including hiking, bicycling and walking her two Goldendoodles.
Poul Lindegaard Assistant Director
Poul was born and raised in Denmark and graduated from the Danish Technical University with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering. He is married to Dee from England and have two kids, Sebastian, 20, and Louise, 19, who were both born in the US. Poul worked for a Danish biotech company for approx. 25 years, primarily heading up technical organizations with responsibility for North America. He has been coming to BHI for more than 10 years, been a property owner and a life member of the Conservancy for approx. 5 years and have been a board member and volunteering in various capacities for the Conservancy for the last year. When he is not at the Conservancy, you will likely find him at the golf course or on the beach swimming and fishing!
Brooke Milligan Coastal Scientist
Brooke was born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA. She graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minors in Integrated Science and Technology and Studio Art. After completing her undergraduate degree she participated in internships with Mote Marine Lab, University of Southern Mississippi’s Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Lab and NC State University. Brooke then attended Columbia University where she completed a Master of Arts in Conservation Biology. In 2013, she relocated to coastal North Carolina where she currently lives with her husband and two kids. Her free time is spent with her family exploring the outdoors, riding bikes, playing at the beach, gardening and grilling out in the backyard. Brooke is excited to put her skills to use at BHI Conservancy and work toward fostering community-based barrier island conservation, education and preservation.
Carol O'Donnell Sales Associate • Turtle Central
Carol O’Donnell has been with Turtle Central Gift Shop for nearly 3 years now. She is our retail specialist as she grew up working in her mom’s children’s boutique, and enjoyed a career with a home interiors company. She is a vibrant, customer service oriented salesperson and enjoys interacting with our members and customers. She has two sons and two gorgeous grandchildren who she loves to dote on. She is married to Tod and enjoys walking her dog, reading and volunteering at the Southport Visitors center.
G. Christopher Shank Executive Director
Chris was born in Maryland but has had a love for the North Carolina coast since he was a young kid. His family has been vacationing along Brunswick County beaches for more than 40 years and he also lived in Wilmington for a decade. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Sciences from UNC Chapel Hill. He conducted his Ph.D. research on the Cape Fear River system with scientists in the UNCW Chemistry Department, and also worked for several years for the Lower Cape Fear River Program at the UNCW Center for Marine Science. Before joining the Conservancy, he was a faculty member in the Department of Marine Science at the University of Texas at Austin for 10 years where he ran a coastal research lab and taught numerous courses on marine conservation and coastal ecology. Chris also has considerable public education and outreach experience and is always excited to share his love for and knowledge of the awe-inspiring habitats and species of Bald Head Island.
Caroline Shepherd Chief Financial Officer
Caroline Shepherd joined the Conservancy in 2008 as Financial Manager. She feels this is the perfect opportunity to share her love of nature while using her professional skills to further our important mission in the effective stewardship of barrier island environments. After serving in the Charlotte area as a CPA in CFO positions for a variety of industries, she became an island girl to enjoy the benefits of sunny coastal living full time. She enjoys any free time spent on or near the water, walking, fishing, preparing the catch of the day for good friends, and reading.
Pam W. Smith Retail Manager • Turtle Central
Born in Elizabeth City, NC on the Pasquotank River, Pam was raised to love and respect the water and its inhabitants. Living near the Outer Banks of NC she spent many summers on the Northeastern North Carolina barrier islands including Hatteras and Ocracoke. She graduated with a degree in Textile and Apparel Management with a business concentration from NCSU in Raleigh, NC. She initially worked as a materials utilization engineer within the textile manufacturing industry in Durham, NC before following her dream of owning her own business. She ran and operated a Bridal and Formal wear shop for 10 years before moving to the Wilmington, NC area. Pam first travelled to Bald Head Island in ’99 while on a “Lighthouses of NC” tour. She fell in love with the island and was thrilled with the opportunity to work at Turtle Central marrying her love of Coastal NC with retail. Pam enjoys reading just about anything she can get her hands on, dancing and traveling with friends and family.
Mike Thomasen Campus Manager
Mike was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up on Long Island, NY. He has a lovely wife, three beautiful children, and five precious grandchildren. Mike first came to BHI in August 2003 joining the Transportation Department as a ferry mate. Prior to 2003, he worked for 30 years in Marine Transportation for an oil company in the north east.
Amber Walters Communications Specialist
Born in West Virginia and raised in Pennsylvania, Amber spent her summers vacationing with her family in nearby Oak Island, NC. She received her B.A. in Communications Studies with a concentration in Public Relations from California University of PA. Her love of nature and the North Carolina coast, in combination with her creative skills, led her to working at the Conservancy in 2015. She enjoys spending her free time with her family, friends, dogs and cat, as well as anything that involves being outdoors/on the beach.
2017 Spring Interns
Emily Goetz Conservation/Education Intern
Emily grew up outside of Harrisburg, PA, and studied Conservation Biology and Geology at Middlebury College in Vermont. While she loves working outside in any capacity, she especially enjoys wildlife field research and spending time on the coast. Emily looks forward to exploring the Island this spring and learning more about the area’s ecology from Conservancy employees and BHI residents.
Michael Yuhas Conservation/Education Intern
My name is Michael Yuhas; most people call me Mike these days. I’m from Virginia and I spent much of my childhood in coastal North Carolina as well. I love playing pretty much any sport, playing/listening to music, backpacking out in the wilderness, and/or just chilling with friends around a bonfire. I went to James Madison University and majored in geographic science with a focus in environmental conservation. I have always loved hiking, camping, and exploring, and that passion for the outdoors lead me to work at a summer camp in the mountains in Virginia, as well as a conservation focused non-profit in Seattle. Now that I’ve gotten a taste for working in the field I can’t get enough, and I can’t wait to bring that passion and experience to Bald Head Island. I am really looking forward to studying and protecting the local wildlife, and getting to meet new folks who share my passion for all things natural.
2017 Summer Interns
Mary Birrer Education Intern
Mary was born and raised in New Jersey. She recently graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources and is very excited to put it to use as an Education Intern at BHIC. She has loved the ocean since before she could walk, and loves using her passion for the natural world to inspire and connect people to the world around them. In her free time Mary enjoys reading, birding, identifying plants and spending time with her family. She is looking forward to exploring the Bald Head Island this summer and learning about North Carolina's unique coastal ecosystem.
Belle Cifu Special Project Intern
Belle was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. She is now a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, studying Anthropology and Bioethics. Belle has always had a strong passion for animals and nature, so her studies are focused on humans’ relationship to animals and the environment. At UVA, she helped found the Animal Justice Advocates and volunteers for a few farm animal sanctuaries. In her free time, she likes to stroll through the farmer’s market, read as much as she can, spend time with friends and family, watch movies and plays, and hang out with animals. Belle has been visiting Bald Head Island since she was 5 years old and is thrilled for her dream of becoming an intern to finally come true. She is looking forward to meeting everyone at the BHIC and is anticipating a fabulous summer filled with many Luna Pops, sunsets (we’ll see about sunrises), helping the BHIC to expand their mission, and deepening her connection to her favorite island.
Katrina Dutton Sea Turtle Intern
Katrina was born in Beaufort, South Carolina and raised in Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawai’i, but has lived in a few other states like upstate New York and North Carolina. She is currently living in Melbourne, Florida with her mother, father, and three dogs. She recently graduated from the Florida Institute of Technology studying Biological Oceanography. She volunteered for numerous marine science camps via her department and gained experience by being involved with the Marine Resources Council doing conservation environmental education for the Indian River Lagoon. Her love for sea turtles has stemmed over the course of many years especially when she lived in Hawai’i as a young girl. In her free time, you can catch Katrina hanging out on the beach and exploring, hiking, watching surfing competitions, and spending time with her family and walking her dogs. Katrina is excited to be involved with the sea turtle program at BHI and gain hands on experience with sea turtles.
Ali Fourqurean Education Intern
Ali is a marine biology major at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is from Greensboro, North Carolina. She spends a lot time taking care of fish and volunteer scuba diving at the Fort Fisher Aquarium. She is looking forward to learning how the conservancy center promotes its conservation message in its' educational programs. She wants to be a marine life educator when she graduates.
Caroline Freinberg Education Intern
From Maplewood, New Jersey, Caroline is a rising Junior at Columbia College majoring in Environmental Biology. After spending many summers and part of high school in Maine, Caroline developed a love of environmental science and field work. Through working as an assistant teacher and camp counselor, she also became passionate about education. Caroline is excited to combine these two passions in her position as Education Intern this summer. Additionally, Caroline enjoys hiking, swimming, and spending time with her family and her two dogs.
Cece Frisinger Sea Turtle Intern
Cece Frisinger was born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado. This May she graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and two minors in Leadership Studies and Business. For the past two summers, Cece worked at Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Longmont, Colorado. During her semester studying abroad in Australia, Cece spent an afternoon at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center. These two experiences sparked Cece’s passion for protecting wildlife. In her free time, Cece enjoys skiing, hiking, and painting. She is very excited to be by the ocean again for the summer and cannot wait to be part of the sea turtle intern team.
Madison Gaither Education Intern
Having recently graduated from Asbury University, Madison is pursing a career where she can use her degree of a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Minor in Adventure Leadership. This spring she used her degree at Pine Mountain Settlement School as a lead teacher. She hopes to use her passion for experiential education to facilitate participants in the different conservancy programs this summer. Madison has other passions including running, the outdoors, and music. She is excited for this opportunity where she can use her passions to inspire others to leave a positive impact.
Gretchen Goeke Dee Conservation Intern
From a young age, being surrounded by nothing but developments cemented the value of the natural world to me and started me on the path to eventually majoring in Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. Aside from being outdoors, I like to sketch, dance, go birding, and find new music. Now entering into my fourth and final year with Tech, I've gained invaluable skills and look forward to spending my summer serving in such a unique environment with others who share the same values and dedication.
Kyle Houser Education Intern
Kyle was born in central Pennsylvania and currently attends Penn State University. He is a fifth-year senior pursing a bachelor’s degree in biology, a master’s degree in education, and ultimately a career in teaching. In his spare time, Kyle enjoys running, reading, growing vegetables, and spending time with friends and family. Experiences in teaching and work on an organic farm have piqued his interest in environmental education so he is looking forward to spending his summer on Bald Head Island. He is excited to work with other interns and visitors in learning about the island’s environment and the animals that inhabit it.
Rachel Innocenzi Education Intern
I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. I am currently finishing up my junior year at Penn State University majoring in environmental resource management and minoring in biology. I have spent past years volunteering as a camp counselor and I’m excited to focus on environmental education this summer. Some of my favorite activities include spending time with friends and family, hiking, camping, and traveling to new places. I cannot wait to join the BHIC team and explore everything the island has to offer.
Katelyn Kammer Education Intern
Katie was born and raised in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She is currently a junior at the University of Minnesota- Duluth studying Public Health Education and Promotion. Katie runs competitively for the university’s cross country and track & field teams. She is also a barista at Caribou Coffee. Katie’s love for teaching and helping others had begun by spending summers as a nanny and working as a direct care provider at a group home. She continues to work with children as a volunteer at her local church’s childcare center. Katie has a strong passion for the environment and all that inhabits it. When she is not slinging lattes at the coffee shop she’s hiking, skiing, fishing, and exploring the great outdoors. Katie is looking forward to educating others and promoting conservation during her internship at BHIC.
Halina Malinowski Sea Turtle Intern
As a child, Halina Malinowski spent several summers vacationing on Bald Head Island. Here she encountered her first sea turtle which sparked her interest in conservation biology. She pursued this passion at Boston University where she graduated with a degree in Biology specializing in Ecology and Conservation. During her time at BU, Halina conducted a senior thesis focused on creating a silica budget for Asian elephants. Post graduation, Halina worked as an elephant husbandry intern at Riddle’s elephant and wildlife sanctuary. Soon after she accepted an internship with the Philadelphia zoo participating in animal care and environmental education; which solidified Halina’s desire to work hands on with animals in the conservation field. Following her time in Philadelphia, Halina moved back to Boston where she worked with the New England Aquarium as a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation intern. In the future, Halina hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Conservation Biology and conduct research focused on the ecological importance of endangered species.
Natalie Monnier Sea Turtle Intern
Natalie was born in Ohio and was raised in southern Virginia. She grew up enjoying summers at Apple Valley Lake with her family. Natalie recently graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, concentrated in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. Her sophomore year she worked as a Special Activities Intern for the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher helping out as a summer camp counselor. This was where she fell in love with marine life and education. Natalie enjoys traveling and hiking with her friends and family.
Austin Peek Sea Turtle Intern
My name is Austin Peek and I will be attending my senior year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. My major is Natural Resources Conservation with a concentration in Fisheries Ecology and Management. I am also currently pursuing a certificate in Coastal and Marine Sciences. I enjoy cooking, snorkeling, and Netflix originals and am most excited about working up close with sea turtles this summer.
Maria Perrett Communications Intern
Originally from the northwestern Pennsylvanian hills of the Appalachian mountains, Maria has always loved athletics, traveling, and spending time outdoors. She recently completed a Bachelors of Science degree in 3.5 years with honors in Sport Management and a concentration in Recreation at Sterling College in Kansas. During the summer of 2015, She traveled to Cairo, Egypt to assist Syrian and Sudanese refugees. Maria also ran the marketing department and led interactive ecology programs for the Hatteras Island Ocean Center during the summer of 2016. She is excited to be the Conservancy’s communication intern for the summer and once again live on a N.C. barrier island. In her free time, you will find Maria beach combing, reading, doing pyrography, and always down for a new adventure.
Erin Shilling Conservation Intern
My name is Erin Shilling and this May I will be graduating from the University of Texas in Austin. Originally from Dallas, Texas, I am majoring in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavioral Biology and I am working to complete a certificate in Environment and Sustainability as well. I focus on aquatic systems within my studies at UT, which are by far my favorite to study and work in. I hope to have a career in research in the future, and the field work I have done has been the highlight of my research experiences with UT. I love the outdoors, working with animals, reading, and learning.
Rachel Tucci Education Intern
Rachel was born in Virginia, lived in West Virginia for part of her childhood, and then spent the rest of her life in Colorado. Growing up, she got to experience the beaches and forests of the East coast along with the mountains and wildlife of the Rockies, which was a big motivator for her to go into the field of conservation. Rachel is currently a senior at Colorado State University and will be graduating with a degree in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. When not in school, Rachel spends time researching genetic regulation mechanisms in an on-campus lab, volunteering at a wolf sanctuary, and sketching and painting to relax. She is most excited to spend time exploring new ecosystems and for the opportunity to pass on her love of nature and wildlife to everybody in the Bald Head Island community.
Emily Wagner Retail Intern
Emily was born and raised in Batavia, NY. She is currently a student at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY studying Accounting and Accounting Information Systems. Emily is part of the American Marketing Association and Circle K International on her campus. She enjoys skiing in the winter months and traveling with her family over the summer. Emily is excited for the opportunity to spend her summer in Bald Head Island working hands on with a non-profit organization.