BHI Conservancy Team

Melissa Blackmon Director of Development

Melissa grew up in Northern Maryland, before heading to Virginia to study Speech/Communications at Mary Washington College.  She remained in the area for four years, working as a on air reporter for Adelphia Communications and local feature TV host.  She moved to New York City to work behind the scenes in broadcasting, as the head of Media Relations for a production company.  While remaining with the company for 15 years, Melissa and her husband resided in Boston and Northern Virginia, before settling outside of Raleigh.  Melissa began working in fundraising as the Development Associate for Donate Life NC, promoting organ donation.    Melissa's love of Bald Head Island began several years ago on a family vacation.  Melissa is married to Brent and has three very active children, Max, Jack, and Sofie.  Outside of work, Melissa enjoys reading, yoga, and spending time with her family.

Pam Cunningham, Operations Specialist

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

Beth Darrow Senior Scientist

Beth grew up in Northern Virginia, vacationing with her family in Delaware and Cape Cod as a child, where she participated in naturalist programs and developed a passion for coastal ecology. She holds a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Virginia, an M.S. in Marine Science from the College of William and Mary, and a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the University of South Alabama. Beth has lived in Wilmington since 2014, and taught classes and led research projects in UNCW’s Department of Biology and Marine Biology for four years. Her research specialty is estuarine ecology; specifically, using bivalves such as oysters and clams as indicators of land-use change. She is interested in water quality, marsh ecology, and exploring how humans can sustainably fit into the coastal environment. When she is not at BHIC she can also be found at her sons’ baseball games or Cub Scout events, or gardening, kayaking, or cycling. Beth is looking forward to further developing the Conservancy’s research program, and strengthening relationships with scientific collaborators in the Cape Fear region and beyond.

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.

Emily Goetz

Emily Goetz Coastal Scientist


Emily grew up outside of Harrisburg, PA, and studied conservation biology at Middlebury College in Vermont. While she loves working outside in any capacity, she especially enjoys coastal ecology and wildlife field research. Emily started at the Conservancy as an intern in the spring of 2017 and stayed on as an AmeriCorps member through the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. As the Coastal Scientist, she is excited to manage the Sea Turtle Protection Program and assist with the wide array of conservation projects that the Conservancy facilitates. In her free time, she enjoys being in or near any body of water, ideally an ocean.

Poul Lindegaard, Director of Operations

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, 23, and Louise, 21, 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 15 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!

Hannah Newcombe Assistant Retail Manager  •  Turtle Central

Hannah was born and raised in Gastonia, North Carolina.  She  recently graduated with a degree in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing with a minor in Journalism from NCSU. Working at the BHI Conservancy is a dream come true for Hannah as it combines her love of turtles, fashion, and Bald Head Island.  Hannah and her family have been vacationing on the island since she was a baby.  In her free time, Hannah loves traveling, shopping, and spending time with her yellow lab, Audrey Hepburn (and any other furry creature).

Carol O'Donnell, Sales Clerk

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.

Pam W. Smith, Assistant Manager

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.

Pam W. Smith, Assistant Manager

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.

Darice Voigt Finance Manager

Darice was born in Indiana but has lived all over the United States in places like New Jersey, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, and Arizona with her most recent relocation to the South Carolina/North Carolina area. Having lived in the desert states for a number of years, her love of the ocean is what brought her to the coast, while her love of nature and sea turtles is what brought her to the Conservancy. She worked as the Controller for a growing company in Arizona and South Carolina for nearly 10 years, before joining our Team.  She is an avid traveler and loves to explore different places in the world and has been to Thailand, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, just to name a few. In her free time, she can be found near the water doing things like kayaking or parasailing but she also loves anything adventurous. 

Micah Walker White-Tailed Deer Associate Researcher

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 has returned to the deer project this year as a graduate student at North Carolina State University. He is pursuing a master’s degree studying the immunocontraceptive project here on the Bald Head Island.

Amber Walters, Communications Specialist

Amber Walters Marketing & Communications Manager


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.

Emilee Winter

Emilee Winter AmeriCorps Community Outreach & Stewardship Coordinator  

Emilee grew up outside of Raleigh and studied Environmental Science at UNC Wilmington. She loves environmental education and getting people of all ages to get outside and enjoy the world around them. Last year, she served as an AmeriCorps member near Asheville with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Continuing with AmeriCorps as the Community Outreach and Stewardship Coordinator, she is excited to get the community involved with the island and the surrounding environment. When she is not volunteering, she loves scuba diving, kayaking and reading. She cannot wait to use her experience creating lessons and activities for volunteers to make Bald Head Island an even more inviting place for everyone to explore.

2019 Spring Interns

Siddharth Motwani Conservation/Education Intern 

Siddharth was born and raised in the New York City area. He graduated from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry last year with a BS in Conservation Biology and minors in Water Resources and Marine Science. He found his love for marine conservation in The Bronx of all places, spending almost every afternoon in Pelham Bay Park exploring tidal wetlands. He focused his undergraduate studies on marine/island biology, and this is the third island he has lived on while working in conservation. If he's not on the beach, he's probably cooking something spicy, playing his bass, or watching basketball (big Syracuse Basketball and New York Knicks fan).

2019 Deer Team

Tsali Franklin Conservation Technician 

Tsali was born and raised near Nashville, Tennessee. Tsali is a sportswoman who enjoys the outdoors for its many opportunities to hunt, hike, adventure, and explore. Tsali earned a BS degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, from Tennessee Tech University. Tsali has worked with a variety of different animals such as black bears, rocky mountain elk, white-tailed deer, and wild hogs. Her hobbies include rock climbing, trail running, kayaking, swimming, barrel racing, penny boarding, and playing tennis. She loves the ocean and the sun. In her pursuit of chasing the sun and working with wildlife, she has found herself working for the Conservancy here on Bald Head Island.

Brandi Strand Conservation Technician 

Brandi was born and raised in a small rural town in Minnesota an hour North of St. Paul near the Wisconsin border where her main source of income as a child came from trapping gophers and raking pine cones from the yard. She graduated from Benedictine College in Kansas with a BS degree in biology with a focus in wildlife biology. Growing up, Brandi was inspired to pursue a career in wildlife ecology/management through her family's strong hunting traditions. She has worked multiple different seasonal jobs including for two state parks, the Tick Project at the Cary Institute in New York, and is now part of the Deer Team here at the conservancy. Brandi's hobbies include attempting to become a member of the 50 states club, recruiting her little brothers to star in movies she produces, anything outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.  

Kristina Washer Deer Capture Intern 

Kristina grew up in Bedford, Massachusetts where she spent the majority of her childhood outdoors searching for bugs and small animals with her brothers and cousins. She studied molecular biology at College of the Holy Cross with the intention of attending veterinary school after to take care of the animals she loves so much. She spent her college summers interning at veterinary clinics, and became particularly interested in working with wildlife after working at multiple wildlife clinics.  Her interest in field work started at her field-based study abroad program in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Since then, she has pursued her interests in both wildlife and field research by working seasonal research jobs in Mauritius and Kansas, where she will return this summer. She is looking forward to seeing how her interests in wildlife, field research, and veterinary medicine will all intersect with the Bald Head Island Conservancy’s Deer Management Project. Kristina loves to read, scuba dive, hike, camp, take road trips, and FaceTime her friends and family.