BHI Conservancy Team
Kelly Armstrong Coastal Educator
Kelly was born and raised in the mountains of New Jersey. She grew up fascinated by anything with water and finally ended up deciding to pursue a BS in Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington after witnessing a sea turtle nest hatch. She has interned at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, Bald Head Island Conservancy, and volunteered with the Hawaii Island Hawksbill Sea Turtle Project. For two years after college she worked at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher in various departments where she learned her love of teaching people about conservation and wildlife around her. She is honored to be back at the Bald Head Island Conservancy and is so happy to call it home again.
Marissa Blackburn Senior Educator
Marissa was born in Maryland and spent her summers vacationing at the beach. Her love of the ocean inspired her to move to North Carolina so she could attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she earned her B.S. in Marine Biology. After graduation, she spent five years working as an Educator at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Marissa is a certified NC Environmental Educator and is passionate about sharing the outdoors with others through educational experiences. As a lifelong learner herself, she is currently working part-time towards earning her Master’s degree in Biology through Miami University. Outside of work, Marissa enjoys traveling, exploring nature, and spending time with her husband, Kevin, and their two cats and two dogs.
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.
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 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.
Paul Hillbrand Sea Turtle Program Coordinator
Originally from just outside Kansas City, Missouri Paul acquired an interest in the ocean during a fourth-grade literature arts project on Beluga whales. From then on, he has been exploring the marine and terrestrial environments. He received a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from Avila University in Kansas City, MO and his Master's Degree in Marine and Environmental Science from the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas. Throughout his career he has worked with a variety of sea turtle species - including Hawksbills, Loggerheads, and Greens - in various labs and sea turtle hospitals throughout Florida and St. Croix.
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 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.
Lara Noren Intern Coordinator
After interning with BHI Conservancy for the fall 2018 season, Lara is excited to return to Bald Head Island as the intern coordinator this summer! Originally from Minnesota, Lara moved to North Carolina to pursue a degree in Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). While attending UNCW, she fell in love with North Carolina’s beautiful coastline and Barrier Island Ecosystem. She is excited to share her passion for this region with others through facilitation of the internship program, assisting with BHIC’s conservation projects, and educating the public. When Lara is not working at the Conservancy, you can find her spending time at the beach, reading books, SCUBA diving, and listening to music.
Lauren Schaale Coastal Scientist
Lauren grew up in Cary, North Carolina and she has always been passionate about coastal wildlife conservation. In 2015, she graduated from University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in neuroscience. In 2019, she graduated from UNCW with a M.S. in Biology. Her thesis research focused on the effects of sand surface temperature on beach-nesting birds and how it influences their nest-site selection and nest success. During her undergraduate years, she volunteered at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher and interned at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island. After college, Lauren completed a variety of roles and internships including a role as a marine educator for Sea Turtle Camp, a conservation/education intern at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, and a mammal and bird intern at the Greensboro Science Center. In addition, she worked as an AmeriCorps Research member at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in 2016 and 2017. Her work focused on monitoring the beaches for sea turtle nesting activity. Outside of work, Lauren enjoys exploring the beach, birding, and reading.
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 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 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 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 Summer Interns
Abby Branstetter Education Intern
I grew up in the suburbs of Kalamazoo, MI surrounded by nothing but open fields and farm land. My passion for the environment and love for wildlife brought me to Michigan State University, where I am currently earning a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife and a B.S. in Natural Resources Education, with a minor in Environmental Studies and Sustainability. Last summer I interned in Environmental Education at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station and Bird Sanctuary on Gull Lake in Southwest Michigan. One of my bucket list goals is to travel to every National Park in the United States. In my spare time, I enjoy kayaking, reading, and hammocking. I am really looking forward to using my educational background in a new environment on Bald Head Island!
Adrianna Burrows Sea Turtle Intern
Adrianna was born and raised in Big Lake, Minnesota where she spent the summers fishing and swimming and the winters snowmobiling. She currently attends Bemidji State University and will graduate with a B.S. in Aquatic Biology later this fall. Growing up in Minnesota has taught Adrianna to appreciate nature and the aquatic ecosystems. While visiting the east coast the last few years, she fell in love with the ocean and decided to shift her focus from freshwater to marine biology and sea turtle conservation. In addition to fishing and snowmobiling, Adrianna enjoys reading, watching movies, and spending time with friends.
Jessica Dubman Sea Turtle Intern
Jess grew up in New York, however she was born in Charlotte, NC. After working a semester in Disney, Jess became found of animal kingdom, which sparked her college career in BT in Wildlife Management. Since starting school, she has worked in Glacier National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, and the Grand Tetons National Park, where she has been able to explore such diverse ecosystems. She is passionate about wildlife and the conservation/preservation of different species and their habitats. In her free time, Jess can be found hiking, drawing or taking a nap. Jess is very excited to be able to intern with BHIC and spend her summer studying sea turtles!
Brandon Epperson Sea Turtle Intern
Brandon grew up in the small town of Plattsmouth in Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha and received his B.A. in Biology with a minor in Environmental Sciences. During his time in school he enjoyed being a research assistant studying bats and how white-nose syndrome affected their populations. Brandon is very excited to be an intern on Bald Head Island and be able to work with the sea turtles on the island this summer.
Kristen Garvey Retail Intern
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Kristen has been spending summers at BHI since she was young. Five years ago, her family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. This led Kristen to study Communications at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In her free time, Kristen likes to spend time with family, friends, and her dog, Ginger. She is very excited to spend the whole summer at Bald Head working alongside the Conservancy staff, which makes the rest of her family very jealous.
Sydney Goldstein Education Intern
Sydney was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and she grew up coming to Bald Head with family and friends. Earning her B.S. in Elementary Education from Appalachian State University, Sydney fell in love with teaching science. She tutored college students in biology classes trying to share her amazement and passion for the way our world works. As a teacher, Sydney has a passion for helping people understand things, while also realizing their own potential. She has been teaching fifth grade in Ashe County, NC (the opposite corner of the state from BHI) while getting her M.A. at App State this school year. While she has fallen in love with the mountains during her time in Boone, she is a beach girl at heart and excited to return to her “happy place.” As the education intern, Sydney is ecstatic to find a job that combines all of her loves: sea turtles, the environment, Bald Head, and teaching! You can catch her reading, cheering on the Carolina Panthers, singing or laughing loudly, or spending time with her friends and family.
Cameron Good Education Intern
Cameron grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, before attending college at the University of South Carolina where she obtained her B.S. in Environmental Science. While there, she worked in a research lab for three years that culminated in a thesis project on the biogeography of barnacle recruitment in the UK. She also worked in the Student Success Center as a Peer Consultant, and served as President of the ballroom dance club for 2 years. She hopes to continue her education through obtaining a Master's in Science Education beginning this fall, and would love to eventually have a career working in informal education or potentially conducting education research.
Nancy Goodes Development Intern
Nancy is a North Carolina native who recently graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Public Policy and a minor in Sustainability. She is taking a gap year before starting law school with a concentration in public interest and environmental law. After working on development for Environment America and Carolina for the Kids, she wants to further her experience with non-profit fundraising as a Development Intern. She is excited to take it relatively easy on the island before law school, and hopes to put her Scuba certification to good use.
Caylie Harris Education Intern
Caylie was born and raised near Houston, Texas. She graduated from Texas A&M University with her BS in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences. She interned for Sea Center Texas, a marine hatchery, as their educational program intern. Her love of wildlife began at home with catching gulf coast toads and saving turtles from the road with her mom. That passion grew even more when she started volunteering with different environmental outreach organizations like Sea Center Texas, Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, Brazoria Wildlife Rescue, and Ruby reptiles. If she's not sharing her passion for wildlife with others, then you can find her taking nature walks, reading a book, cooking, or spending time with loved ones.
Grace Lackmann Education Intern
Grace was born and raised in North Carolina and is currently studying Environmental Sciences at NC State University. After discovering her passion for science outreach and communication, she added a focal area in environmental communication-- leading her here to be an education intern with BHIC! Grace loves working with kids and families, field education, and talking with people about environmental science. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, spending time with family and friends, going to concerts, and playing with her cat, Margot!
Rylie MacDonald Sea Turtle Intern
I'm from Cleveland, Ohio and I'm a third year Natural Resource Management student specializing in Fisheries and Wildlife at Ohio State. Last summer I worked as an Environmental Education Intern with the University of Maine's Extension program, where I taught marine science and watershed ecology to middle school-age children. I had the opportunity to do an Aquarium Internship with the Columbus Zoo during my fall semester at OSU and I loved working with all the fish, sharks and marine macroinvertebrates! The Columbus Zoo is a leading partner of the SECORE International and Rising Tide Conservation programs and it was awesome seeing the strides the zoo is making towards marine conservation! I even got to help with target training the zebra sharks during my internship. I have been a Research Assistant in the Aquatic Physiological Ecology Lab at Ohio State for several years now and I'm looking forward to beginning my own Research With Distinction Project analyzing the effects of turbidity on mate choice of African cichlids when I return in the fall. In my free time you can find me hiking with my two Australian Shepherds, trying new restaurants, and spending time outdoors. I would love to try paddle boarding in the ocean this summer instead of on Lake Erie, and can't wait to spend the summer with sea turtles!
Juliana Ofalt Conservation Intern
Jules grew up in a small town north of Philadelphia, but has always felt at home in nature and on the water. Childhood trips to her family lake house and farm in the Poconos, as well as annual trips to the Outer Banks fostered her love and captivation with wildlife, especially in aquatic ecosystems. Jules graduated from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in the Spring of 2019 with a BS in Environmental Biology and a minor in Applied Statistics. She is ecstatic to start her post college life on Bald Head Island. In college, Jules spent a summer working with sport fish in the Thousand Islands, and competed on a competitive lumberjacking team. In her free time she loves to fish, swim, scrapbook, and play lacrosse.
Kennedy Perry Sea Turtle Intern
Ken grew up in the Texas panhandle, and received a B.S. in Biology at the University of Texas at Austin in spring 2019. Ken is a naturalist at heart, becoming an avid birdwatcher and herper during their time at UT. They have experience working with natural history collections and wildlife, insect macro photography, science communication, and non-profit conservation work. They are passionate about biodiversity preservation and habitat restoration, and hope to pursue a career in conservation or wildlife biology. In their free time, Ken enjoys hiking, gardening, activism work, photography, and painting.
Megan Reed Sea Turtle Intern
Megan was born and raised in Ohio, but has always had a passion for marine biology and conservation. This passion led her to pursue a degree in Biological Sciences at Wright State University, and she just received a B.S. this year. Her love of the oceans inspired her to become a NAUI certified Divemaster and to intern at Newport Aquarium as a diver during her undergraduate career. Megan spent 3 years working in a biogeochemistry lab, studying the effects of harmful algal blooms on lakes around the world. During this time, she also taught middle school students about the importance of wetlands. Megan enjoys traveling, hiking, reading, and spending as much of her time as she can outdoors!
Allison Schumacher Conservation Intern
Alli was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. She graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Zoology and minor in Statistics. She transferred to NC State after a year at DePaul University where she studied Digital Cinema. Alli’s research interests include the effects of climate change and other human impacts on various species of animals. She is also passionate about utilizing her video production skills to communicate scientific research to the public. In her free time, you can find her exploring nature with camera in hand.
Sarah Tolve Education Intern
Born and raised in a small town in South Florida, Sarah spent her free time outdoors exploring with her siblings. She received a B.S. in Liberal Arts and Sciences with a concentration in Marine Biology from Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College in May 2019. Her love of the ocean and coastal ecosystems led her to volunteer at various non-profits in South Florida, which ignited her passion for environmental education. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and friends, practicing photography, drawing, and being outdoors.
Bridget Williams Communications Intern
Bridget grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina with her parents, younger brother and dog, Buddy. She is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Studies and Journalism with a focus on interactive multimedia. She enjoys leading student adventures through UNC’s campus recreation department and serving as the program's basecamp manager. She believes that effective communication between scientists and the public is crucial to the success of conservation and environmental movements. Bridget grew up visiting the North Carolina coast, and is thrilled to be living on Bald Head for the summer. Beyond her schoolwork, Bridget enjoys swimming, kayaking, and sailing.