Our Ocean Advocates
J. Bruce Neill, Ph.D. (Doc Bruce), Co-Founder and Executive Director
Growing up in Miami, Bruce explored the diverse ecosystems of southern Florida and the Bahamas, and developed an appreciation for the ocean early on. This fascination eventually led him to study zoology at the University of Georgia, earn a Masters degree in coral reef biology and sea urchin behavior on Guam, and later complete a Ph.D. in conservation biology at Montana State University. Doc Bruce has held academic positions at colleges and field schools, as well as at elementary schools and the American Museum of Natural History. His true passion is teaching, and it is his hope that by sharing the wonders of the sea, he will be able to provide his students with a lifetime of discovery and ocean stewardship.
Evelyn Monroe Neill, Co-Founder
A biology groupie and the daughter of a science teacher, Evelyn spent years pursuing an interest in marine science before falling into a career in advertising. She has been a creative director for Nike, Microsoft, Coke, Visa and Glass Is Life among other brands and has overseen communications throughout the world – in Pakistan, India, Europe, and Latin America. Advertising itself is a lesson in the staggering power of communication. That power comes from the blending narratives of how we live our lives and what we incorporate into our stories. It is Evelyn's deep desire to make the ocean and ocean conservation a vital part of everyone's life story.
Together, Evelyn and her partner in life, Doc Bruce, have devoted themselves to creating a school where people can come to learn about the ocean. The rest of the story is what they will build with, they hope, your involvement.
Nicole Finnicum, M.S., Director of Education
Nicole began her journey as an all-around naturalist at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where she studied plant biology and ecology. Soon after, she obtained her master’s degree in environmental studies where she researched the impacts of urbanization on bird diversity in Edinburgh, Scotland. After studying abroad in Borneo, volunteering in St. Eustatius, and teaching in The Bahamas, she quickly found her niche in marine science education. Nicole is excited to continue her adventure with Sanibel Sea School and inspire young individuals to love and care for the ocean.
Chrissy Basturk, Director of Development
Chrissy has been a Sanibel resident for over 25 years, and her sons Metin, 16, and Peter, 13, have attended Sanibel Sea School since since early childhood. After a long career in retail management, she is feeling enthusiastic about this new opportunity. "I look forward to finding new ways to support this organization that I have been passionate about since the beginning," she said. "I am so thankful for the programs Sanibel Sea School has brought to our island community and want to see them continue for many more years." Chrissy will lead our Sustainability Campaign, oversee all fundraising efforts, and guide our retail operations.
Leah Biery, M.Sc., Director of Communications
Leah spent her childhood summers exploring Sanibel’s rich ecosystems with her father and a dip net. Later, she studied zoology and nonprofits at NC State University, and baboon behavior in Tanzania. After a stint as the lead educator at Sanibel Sea School, Leah moved to Vancouver, Canada to write a thesis on the shark fin trade, and earned a master’s degree in Fisheries Management from UBC. She then worked as a marine scientist for the nonprofit Oceana in Belize before returning to our organization. Leah’s passions include travel, learning, yoga, and making science accessible to the average citizen.
Kristin Hideg, Office Coordinator
Kristin grew up in Campbell, Ohio, and often traveled to Florida for family vacations. She attended Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, where she studied civil engineering with a focus on environmental engineering. She has always wanted to live in a warm climate, and last year her dream became a reality when she moved to Lee County. Kristin's hobbies include beach combing, crafting, reading, and baking.
Brooke Linn, Site Manager, Sundial Campus
Brooke grew up on a lake in Maple Grove, Minnesota where weekend trips to a cabin near the boundary waters were common and snowfall was plentiful. Her love for the ocean began with vacations to Sanibel spent shelling with her mom and canoeing through the wildlife refuge, still some of her favorite pastimes. Brooke attended Northern Michigan University and holds degrees in Zoology, Spanish, and Chemistry. During college, she studied Spanish abroad in Salamanca, Spain. Brooke is a certified Rescue diver working towards her Dive Master certification. She teaches SCUBA to high school students in the Cayman Islands each summer.
Spencer Richardson, Outdoor Educator and SUP Coordinator
Spencer grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and spent much of her free time volunteering at the Toledo Zoo, where she learned that the foundation of conservation is education. Her love of animals and passion for conservation led her to obtain a degree in Wildlife and Conservation Biology from Ohio University. After college, she worked in the education department of the Toledo Zoo and taught marine and terrestrial ecology at Forfar field station on Andros Island, Bahamas. Spencer has since fallen in love with the ocean and is excited to work for Sanibel Sea School in a capacity that combines all of her passions.
Johnny Rader, Lead Marine Science Educator, Sanibel Campus
Johnny grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and often traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where his love for the ocean began. He attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, studying plant biology and wildlife conservation biology. After finishing school, he rediscovered his passion for the ocean while teaching marine science at a field station on Andros Island in the Bahamas, which is bordered by some of the world's most beautiful coral reefs. He is a certified Divemaster who believes that everyone has something to teach and something to learn, and that education is the most important tool for inspiring young people to love and protect our oceans.
Carley Todd, Marine Science Educator
Carley grew up on Long Island, NY. She spent most of her summers at the beach, where she developed a passion for the ocean and the critters that inhabit it. She earned a bachelor's degree in Biology from Salisbury University and has worked as a Marine Science Educator at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute Seacamp on Big Pine Key, FL. Her hobbies include reading, playing volleyball, and spending time outdoors.
Metin Basturk, Aquarium Technician
A Sanibel native, Metin has been a camper at Sanibel Sea School since our very first year of summer camp, and has developed a love for the ocean after many years spent exploring it. He maintains the many aquariums at our Sanibel Flagship campus, works as a Counselor in Training during camp programs, and assists with sand dollar research each month.
Ben Biery, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) Coordinator
Ben grew up on a lake in North Carolina, and inherited a love for the outdoors from his parents, which was strengthened by hiking and camping trips as a Boy Scout. During family vacations to Sanibel, he became an avid angler, always eager to see what was on the end of his line. From this hobby emerged an interest in fish biology and a passion to conserve and learn about the ocean and its inhabitants. Ben has a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation Biology from NC State University and has worked as an aquarist at the New England Aquarium. He also works as a fishing guide.
Interested in job or volunteer opportunities with us?
Board of Trustees
Mark Summit, President
Born in California, Mark has been immersed in the sea since boyhood. He received an Aquatic Biology degree from U.C. Santa Barbara and became an aquarist, commercial diver, and ship captain, before teaching scuba, sailing, and science. He has spent most of his professional life working in and founding outdoor marine science programs. Along with his wife, Cara, Mark teaches science at Canterbury School. In 2010, they relocated from their live-aboard sailboat to Sanibel where their two young children will soon tromp through the island’s ecosystems as Sanibel Sea School campers. Mark is certain that, somehow, all his life experiences will further Sanibel Sea School’s mission.
Mark Marinello, Vice President
Mark Marinello is a longtime Sanibel resident who got his start in Naperville, Illinois. He served as president and founding principal of Metro Resource Investments, Inc. and was a founding shareholder of Penchant Consulting, Inc. For over 20 years he has been a commercial real estate investor and a principal in a Southwest Florida multi-chain restaurant. As a father of two, Mark devotes time to several charitable organizations in addition to the Sanibel Sea School. These include the Children’s Hospital of SW Florida, the American Cancer Society, the Canterbury School and The Sanibel School.
Jody O'Konski, Secretary
Jody O'Konski graduated Harvard College with an AB in English. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in France for a year. After completing a Master's Degree in Public Administration at San Diego State University, she obtained her J.D. from the University of San Diego in 1986, and practiced employment and healthcare law in California, before moving to Florida in 1991 with her husband, Dr. Mark O'Konski. After becoming a member of the Florida Bar, she continued to practice law, and to conduct mediations. Her son, Sam O'Konski, discovered the Sanibel Sea School, first as a camper, and later as a counselor in training. Having discovered the perfect blend of unconditional love, ocean conservation, challenging water activities, and lasting friendships, he continues to volunteer at the Sea School during the summer. Jody was greatly moved by her son's experience at the Sanibel Sea School, and was thrilled to be invited to play a role in its future growth and sustainability. She became a member of the Board of Trustees in 2012, and was recently named Secretary.
Charles Massie, Finance Committee Chair
Chuck holds a BS in Pharmacy from University of Oklahoma and has studied accounting at the University of South Florida. He began his career as the owner and operator of several pharmacies, while simultaneously building a software company specializing in medical accounting and records management and launching mailing and printing companies to support his growing business needs. After selling these companies, he further pursued his interest in accounting to found Massie & Reilly, CPAs, PLLC in Fort Myers. He is an Enrolled Agent (EA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), and Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Chuck has also owned a yacht dealership and is a licensed pilot and captain.
Mike Arnheiter, Member
Michael Majored in Economics at the College of William and Mary. He is the Founder of Exit Strategies Group, LLC and has been in the financial services field since 1987. He has been a New York Life agent since 1995 where he has made Chairman’s Council for 17 consecutive years and Chairman’s Cabinet the last seven years. Michael is a member of the NYLPAC Steering Committee, Nautilus Plus, Eagle Strategies, LLC, Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, Million Dollar Round Table, and National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. Mike, Julie, and their two children, Jack and Maxine, split their time between Sanibel, FL and Boston, MA. Jack and Maxine attended their first summer camp in 2007. From this time, Michael developed a passion for the school, Bruce and Evelyn, and the great experience Sanibel Sea School provides for all campers, big and small.
Dana DiCarlo, Member
Dana was born in Baltimore (where she now lives), but grew up in Hackettstown, NJ, where M&Ms are made and the air smells of chocolate and roasting peanuts. She majored in Economics and minored in Cognitive Science at Smith College, and attended Cornell Law School. Dana practiced environmental insurance litigation with Anderson, Kill, Olick and Oshinsky from 1991 to 1999, when she repositioned herself as the attorney recruiter for the same firm until she retired in 2004. In addition to Sanibel Sea School, Dana is involved with the Port Discovery Children's Museum and House of Ruth Domestic Abuse Shelter. She sings at local nursing homes with the Larks Acapella Group, from the Baltimore Junior League. Dana is a mother of three - Eve, Jesse, and Campbell.
Jennifer McMillen, Member
Jennifer grew up in Indiana and has been visiting SW Florida ever since her grandparents relocated here 46 years ago. She holds two Bachelor's degrees in Public Relations and Speech Communications from Albion College and a Masters in Merchandise Marketing from FIDM. Jennifer and her daughter, Jesse, moved to the area in 1998 and have been enjoying the beaches here ever since. Jesse began attending Sanibel Sea School in 2006 as a camper, and has held CIT and Counselor positions every summer since 2010. Now, Jennifer’s 6 year old niece, Isabelle, attends Sea School as a camper, continuing the family tradition. Jennifer joined our Board in 2014. She also works at Mark Loren Jewelry Designs and likes to spend her free time in Colorado and Montana hiking and being outdoors with her family.
Roseanne Giordani, Member
Nik Khakee, Member
Nik Khakee is a Managing Director at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services LLC and is responsible for credit risk analysis of financial institutions and investment funds. Nik received his Master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale University’s School of Management in May 1996 and his Bachelor of Arts from New York University in 1992, where he graduated with honors. Nik has been coming to Sanibel since 1977, first with his parents (who now reside on Sanibel), and now with his wife, Elissa, and sons, Jivan and Suraj. Sanibel Sea School fills a void Nik experienced as a young visitor to Sanibel. Nik was aware of the importance of the nature and ecology of Sanibel but wished for ways to learn more and supplement walks, paddles, and bike rides. Nik is delighted to serve as a board member to support Sanibel Sea School’s efforts to help fill that void and advance broader understanding of the importance of ocean conservation.
Jodi Rienzo, Member
Jodi Schwartzel-Rienzo is a Florida native who grew up in Fort Myers and spent her summers on Sanibel Island. After attending Ringling College of Art & Design, she entered the world of advertising working for Wolf Atlanta and Ogilvy Los Angeles. Wanting to return to Florida, Jodi took a new career path as a Financial Adviser with UBS Financial Services. She is currently undertaking her most challenging and rewarding career yet, raising three amazing Sanibel Sea School campers. Jodi and her children fell in love with Sanibel Sea School when they walked through the door. She loves being involved in an amazing camp and organization that challenges kids (and adults) to step outside of our comfort zone and learn about the sand under our feet and the ocean we love to splash in through hands-on experiences.
Chip Roach, Member
Chip graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1966 and is now retired from his lifelong career as a Realtor in the Philadelphia market, during which he helped grow the real estate firm started by his father and uncle from 30 to over 4,000 employees. In addition to Sanibel Sea School, Chip serves as a board member for the Captiva Chapel by the Sea, The Charitable Foundation of the Islands, and Fox & Roach Charities. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Nancy, and together they have three children and five grandchildren.
John Grey, Member
Jenna Sullivan, Member
Jenna worked as an educator at Sanibel Sea School for three years prior to beginning graduate studies at Oregon State University, where she is pursuing her Ph.D. in marine ecology while studying the impacts of climate change on near-shore ecosystems, with a focus on sea stars. She has also taught high school on Wotje Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and currently serves as the assistant to Dr. Jane Lubchenco in her role as the State Department-appointed Science Envoy for the Ocean. Jenna strongly believes in the ocean's power to change people's lives, and as a board member hopes to draw upon her personal experience as an educator and her intricate understanding of marine ecosystems to help direct a more sustainable and productive future for Sanibel Sea School.
Evelyn Monroe Neill, Member and Founder
J. Bruce Neill, Ph.D., Ex-Officio Member, Executive Director, and Founder
Jerimiah Brown, Illustrator
Born in the small town of Monroe, Michigan, Jerimiah grew up camping, hiking and fishing around the Great Lakes. Having attended college at the University of Michigan, Jerimiah obtained a Bachelors degree in Scientific Illustration. He has always had a desire to live and work near the ocean. Last year, that dream became a reality when a move to Pacifica, California became possible. He hopes his illustrations will inspire others to preserve what beautiful life the ocean holds.