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. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, dogs and cat, as well as anything that involves being outdoors/on the beach.
2017 Deer Team & Spring Interns
Ryan Conner Deer Intern
My Name is Ryan Conner. I am from Denver, Pennsylvania, and I recently graduated from Penn State with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science with a minor in Forest Ecosystems. My first field season I monitored nest success of sage grouse in Wyoming and this past summer I helped observer the habitat choices of golden-winged warbler fledglings. In my free time I enjoy volunteer bird banding, hunting, running, and hanging out with friends. I am really excited to get the chance to work to manage the deer population and experience life on an island.
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.
Randi Lesagonicz Conservation Technician
Randi was born and raised in Reading, PA. She graduated for the University of Montana in May 2014, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Biology with an emphasis on aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. After completing her degree, Randi worked at the National Genomics Center for Fish and Wildlife Conservation, the US Forest Service on a carnivore monitoring project, and WEST, Inc. performing casualty surveys at wind farms. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, hiking, camping, birding, and travelling. Randi is excited to live in a new environment and combine her passions of research and conservation.
Natalie Monnier Conservation/Education 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. She is very passionate about environmental education and is looking forward to this spring at BHIC. Natalie is excited for the opportunity to teach the community about the environment and the animals who live there.
Matt Nelson Deer Intern
Matt was born in New Bern, North Carolina but spent the majority of his life in the upstate of South Carolina. Growing up he spent a lot of time hunting with his family and exploring the Appalachian Mountains, cementing his love for wildlife and the outdoors. Matt recently graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and a minor in Creative Writing. He has had the opportunity to conduct research on bats and spent the summer of 2015 working and conducting research on a ranch in Montana. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, and being outdoors.
Micah Walker Conservation Technician
A proud Delawarean, Micah was born and raised in Wilmington Delaware and knew from an early age that he wanted to work with wildlife. As a child Micah and his family vacationed by backpacking and canoe camping throughout many great North American wilderness areas and national parks; these experiences cemented his love of the woods and all the creatures that inhabit it. Micah earned a BS degree in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Delaware. Since graduation, Micah has worked several seasonal wildlife jobs in places such as: Olympic National Park, Superior National Forest, and Ouachita National Forest, and has managed and studied a variety of animals such as American black bears, gray wolves, white-tailed deer, coyotes, Rocky Mountain elk, and mountain goats. In his free time, Micah enjoys nature photography, swimming, birding, and fishing. Micah is excited about working in the unique island ecosystem that is Bald Head Island.
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.