A seriously dedicated team of staff and volunteers support the amazing work of our volunteers. These are the folks behind the scenes helping to develop, support and grow the Reef Check Australia network to support great outcomes for people and the reef.
Director of Programs & Partnerships (Tue-Thur)
Jenn has been working on environmental science, community engagement and science communication for more than a decade. Her professional experience encompasses training volunteers to talk about everything from armadillos to zebras at the Smithsonian's National Zoo; launching science communication strategies for the Miami Museum of Science; investigating effective approaches to conservation behaviour change for local marine issues in South Florida and developing and implementing marine citizen science programs in Australia. Jenn holds a Graduate Diploma in Marine Biology from James Cook University and a Masters of Science in Environmental Science from Florida International University.
Inspired by her first Indo-Pacific experience in Palau, Jenn moved to Australia to pursue a career that unites science and education to protect our oceans and has been involved with Reef Check Australia since 2008. She has successfully implemented the RCA subtropical rocky reef monitoring program in South East Queensland; seen the expansion of monitoring coverage to more than 40 new reef sites; managed of more than a million of project funds over the past five years; developed citizen science training and data resources; expanded new partnership networks; and helped to launch REEFSearch to expand public participation opportunities. Jenn is also on the management committee for the Australian Citizen Science Association.
Community Engagement Manager (Tue-Fri)
Jodi is a marine biologist, completing her degree, with honours in Marine Parasitology, at James Cook University in Townsville. She started diving and helping with reef surveys on the Great Barrier Reef, before following her passion to a variety of new and exciting places. She spent three years at Underwater World on the Sunshine Coast in between two nesting seasons tagging turtles on Lady Musgrave Island, before moving to Christmas Island where she studied a myriad of amazing animals, and returned to reef surveys once more. She has recently returned from completing her DM whilst in Tofo, Mozambique, studying whale sharks and turtles, and helping with a new reef check program for the Mozambican coastline as part of a research team for All Out Africa.
Jodi started with Reef Check Australia as a volunteer Project Officer in 2010 and came aboard as staff in 2012 through a coveted placement with the Vodafone World of Difference program. Since that time, Jodi has been instrumental in developing and delivering school education programs, expanding community outreach efforts, training volunteers and coordinating reef survey projects.
GBR Project Coordinator (Casual)
Originally from the South East Queensland, Gemma had a lifelong fascination with the ocean and learnt to dive at 16. After embarking on travels after school working as a photographer, she became a Dive master in Egypt and later an Instructor in the Dominican Republic. Combining dive instructing with underwater photography Gemma not only experienced living in other cultures, but was also fortunate enough to thoroughly explore different reef systems. Spending much time on and under the water Gemma saw first-hand some of the threats faced by marine organisms and coral reefs.
With desire to learn more and start a career in marine science and conservation she returned to Australia where she is currently studying Marine Biology at James Cook University. Gaining valuable experience Gemma has volunteered as a scientific diver with different research projects, participating in reef monitoring and in marine education. Joining the Reef Check team in 2015 Gemma hopes to help monitor and protect the Great Barrier Reef using citizen science, education and marine conservation.
Brisbane Project Coordinator (Tue & Fri)
Rory learned to dive while on a citizen science project in Tobago, conducting reef surveys shortly after a significant bleaching event. Despite the bleaching, the beauty of the reef and the lure of the underwater world was enough to drive Rory towards a career in marine conservation.
Since coming to Australia in 2014 Rory has conducted numerous expeditions to the Neptune Islands in South Australia, helping documentary makers, photographers and researchers record and study great white sharks. During his time in Australia he has assisted in tagging and data collection projects for white shark monitoring, and shark repellent studies. In 2017 Rory completed a Masters in Protected Area Management from James Cook University, which included a research project into shark repellents and shark management technologies.
In his work as marine biologist and diver Rory has participated in several expeditions to South America, the Arctic, and Antarctica to record the marine environment, and promote marine conservation.
Rory is incredibly proud to have joined Reef Check Australia, and to be part of a team working towards the protection of our reefs and marine environments.
Communications Coordinator (Tue & Wed)
Claire has a long history working in NGOs both in Australia and internationally. She specialises in communication and outreach, and promotes the importance of scientific understanding in order to bring about meaningful change.
Her ongoing work with the Animal Welfare Standards project at the University of Queensland has allowed her to develop a unique set of skills based around social science and communication. She is experienced in working with a variety of stakeholders and believes each individual has an important part to play in protecting our environment.
As a recreational diver with a strong desire to protect the reef and marine environments for future generations, Claire is excited to be a part of Reef Check Australia and their citizen science program.Claire has a long history working in NGOs both in Australia and internationally. She specialises in communication and outreach, and promotes the importance of scientific understanding in order to bring about meaningful change.
Her ongoing work with the Animal Welfare Standards project at the University of Queensland has allowed her to develop a unique set of skills based around social science and communication. She is experienced in working with a variety of stakeholders and believes each individual has an important part to play in protecting our environment. As a recreational diver with a strong desire to protect the reef and marine environments for future generations, Claire is excited to be a part of Reef Check Australia and their citizen science program.
Dive Officer (Volunteer)
Jody is a PADI, DAN & SSI Dive Instructor with Commercial Scientific Diving experience. He holds a degree in Ecology and Environmental Science from the Queensland University of Technology, and presently works as a Boating and Diving Officer in Brisbane. Jody's work experience has included a wide range of marine research and conservation activities including whale, dolphin, dugong & shark monitoring projects in QLD and NT, reef fish surveys on the GBR, coral and seagrass monitoring projects within the GBR and sea water and marine sediment monitoring in the Arabian Gulf.
Jody spent over a decade supervising diving & boating activities and was the diving officer for the School of Marine Biology whilst employed at James Cook University, Townsville. It was here the Jody first became involved in ReefCheck Australia as a volunteer diver, carrying out surveys along the GBR. Jody moved to Brisbane in 2010 and became involved in the training of Scientific Divers at the University of Queensland and continued his involvement with RCA, carrying out surveys within the SEQ region. Jody is passionate about marine conservation and has a particular interest in coastal development and its impact on marine ecosystems.
Project Officer SE QLD (Volunteer)
Having grown up in New Caledonia, a small pacific island renowned for its lagoon and reefs, Nathan has always been passionate about the marine environment. He holds a bachelor of sciences with honours in biogeochemistry from Griffith University, and currently works as a Science Officer for the Department of Education. After graduating, he obtained his commercial diving licence and worked on a diverse range of marine science projects across Queensland, including shark migratory patterns, crustose coralline algae growth rate, corals trophodynamics, and sponge-microbe interactions.
Nathan joined Reef Check Australia in 2015. He has undertaken field activities, including SE QLD surveys, projects on Heron Island and reef habitat mapping in Moreton Bay and Great Sandy Strait. Nathan also helps to get the word out by participating in community engagement events across the region. Nathan enjoys sharing his passion with others and educating the community about the value of coral reefs and the crisis facing them.
Project Officer Ningaloo (Volunteer)
Gemma is a marine scientist with a focus on conservation and a passion for citizen science involvement. Hailing from a small coastal city in Western Australia, she learnt to dive and appreciate the ocean at a young age. She completed a degree in Marine Science from Murdoch University Western Australia in 2013. During this time she also became a team leader for a NGO, Reach Out Volunteers, leading expeditions in Koh Rong, Cambodia, making artificial reef pods, conducting community awareness and education programs on plastic pollution, beach clean ups and community assistance projects.
Having a history with NGOs both in Australia and internationally, she has gained a range of experiences in outreach, community involvement and scientific methodologies.
She currently resides in Exmouth and works within the Whale Shark Industry. She is a committee member of the Cape Conservationist Group, Exmouth and is working with Reef Check to help strengthen and widen the Ningaloo network. She is incredibly proud to be a part of the Reef Check Australia team, and is eager to see citizen science development within the Ningaloo region.
Reef Ambassador Officer (Volunteer)
Tania is a keen lover of all things marine (especially sharks!) After completing a Science degree with Honours at UQ, Tania spent 18 months travelling and volunteering in Central and South America. Here, she visited the Galapagos Islands and fell even more in love with the ocean (and Galapagos sea lions in particular!) Seeing conservation issues such as shark finning and illegal fishing present even in one of the world's most pristine National Parks, her commitment to marine conservation strengthened. After returning from travel, Tania worked as an Environmental Consultant and now plans on commencing a PhD next year. When not volunteering for Reef Check or making ends meet, she can usually be found diving or rock climbing.
Monica Silva Astorga
Communication Officer (Volunteer)
Monica always felt the need to cross The Andes Mountain range, and go out into the world to get to know other cultures. This affinity for travelling, led her to study journalism to follow her travel urge. She wasn't wrong, as when she finished university she studied in Barcelona, then continued her adventure in Italy.
On her return to Chile, she worked in corporate communications, where for 15 years, she worked with foreign companies as a communication consultant oversaw teams developing communication strategies, always empowering others.
But she knew that something was missing. After seeing a documentary called Before the Flood, Monica felt inspired to rethink climate change, realising that she needed to work and communicate to raise awareness for climate change.
So, when life gave her another opportunity to expand her vision of the world moving to Australia, one of the reasons to choose Queensland was to live near The Great Barrier Reef to dive. The first time she went there, she realised she needs to do something to help the reef health to survive. Finding Reef Check was a unique opportunity to immerse herself in the world of corals and make a difference.
Graphic Designer (Volunteer)
Michelle Triana is a "design-a-holic" who lives and breathes design. Her role is to communicate thoughts, ideas and feelings into digital expressions- no easy task! She started her career in Colombia in 2004 when she started helping local music bands promote themselves both locally and abroad. In 2007 Michelle moved to Australia to follow her dream of becoming a designer and currently works as a volunteer for Reef Check Australia assisting in the area of design. She is the force behind many of our awesome infographics!
Board of Directors
The fundamental role and duty of directors of a charitable organisation is to ensure the objectives of the company, as set out in the constitution, are pursued. Our volunteer Board of Directors helps to set the objectives and overall direction of the company, including monitoring performance indicators across all areas of company business.
Board Director and Secretary
Fiona Austin is a leading Brisbane safety and regulatory lawyer. She has extensive industry experience across onshore and offshore workplaces around Australia and has worked as in-house counsel in the energy sector. Fiona is employed as special counsel with a global law firm and was listed by Best Lawyers® in Australia 2016 for safety and health law. Fiona also lectures as a sessional academic within the faculty of health at Queensland University of Technology. Outside of work Fiona is a mother of two and enjoys kayaking.
Joe is an award-winning communications and advocacy specialist who has worked in more than 20 countries worldwide. He has raised over A$250 million for non-profit organisations in areas including international development, the environment and Australian Indigenous health and education. Joe has also worked as a journalist, covering events such as the Sydney 2000 Olympics and reporting for one of Australia's biggest newspapers. He helped write the Oscar nominated short film Miracle Fish and designed and produced a charity advertising campaign that was named the world's best by the International Fundraising Congress. He is based in Sydney.
Richard Coleman BA, MOHS, MAICD, is CEO of The Interchange a digital culture change consultancy based in Melbourne. Richard has had a 30 year career in corporate OHS and Environment roles. Most recently he was General Manager HSE for Asciano. His expertise is in risk management, digital technology, epidemiology and organisational change.
Board Director and Treasurer
Pete has been diving for more than 30 years and been involved with reef conservation since 1992, when he first went on expedition with UK based Coral Cay Conservation. Since then he has been involved with projects in Belize, Honduras, Fiji, Indonesia and The Philippines. He was Chairman of Coral Cay Conservation from 2005 to 2011.
Pete holds a BSc (Hons) in Banking & International Finance from the Cass Business School in London and is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Following a career in finance in the City of London Pete left the UK in 1996 to travel the world for a decade. Since 1999 he has been a PADI Professional and is currently a PADI Master Instructor. He has written five PADI Distinctive Specialities on Coral ID and Reef Surveying. Pete arrived in Australia in 2006 and immediately became involved with RCA; first as a surveyor and later as an instructor. In 2011 Pete stood in as Acting Managing Director of RCA for four months to facilitate the transition of HQ to Brisbane. He runs a business consultancy partnership with wife Ruth in Mission Beach and remains an active RCA instructor.
Elissa Keenan is a corporate and public affairs leader with more than 20 years' experience in private, not-for-profit and government organisations. She has extensive experience in business transformation and change management, government lobbying, communications, sponsorship, media and crisis management. Elissa has held a number of key senior and executive roles managing corporate affairs activities.
Elissa has passion for the tourism and aviation industries. She has been Chair of the Queensland Tourism Awards Judging Panel (2012-2014), as well as member of the Australian Tourism Awards Judging Panel and the Outback Queensland Tourism Awards Judging Panel. She is a mentor with the Australian Airports Association national program to support young aviation professionals in the industry.
In her current role at Airservices Australia, she has worked in senior leadership positions across the business in Corporate and industry Affairs portfolios. Elissa has previously worked as the General Manager Corporate Affairs for Queensland Airports Limited (QAL), Executive Manager Marketplace Strategy for the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) and was the Public Affairs Manager for Surf Life Saving Queensland for almost ten years.
Dr Karen Vella is an urban and regional planner with over 20 years' experience in sustainability and natural resource management policy and research. Dr Vella has worked closely with Natural Resource Management Groups, the Queensland and Australian governments, peak bodies, conservation groups, and industry to improve frameworks for implementing and evaluating progress towards sustainability. Her research considers the interplay between complex governance (decision making) and environmental outcomes. A key aim of her work is to improve adaptive decision making in the Reef.
Dr Vella is a first-generation Australian with a mixed Maltese and Irish family heritage. Her passion for the environment and environmental conservation began early in life growing up on a sugar cane farm in far North Queensland. Dr Vella holds a Bachelor of Regional and Town Planning (with Hons) and a PhD in Sustainability Governance from the University of Queensland. Dr Vella is a member of the Planning Institute of Australia.
The purpose of the volunteer Science Committee is to provide scientific advice and capacity to enable Reef Check Australia to deliver best-practice citizen science outcomes. This may include: reviewing and facilitating the interpretation and application of Reef Check Australia data, providing advice on matters of scientific interest, supporting research and management linkages and enabling effective science communication approaches.
Nicholas Baker is an environmental professional and Principal Environmental Consultant for Wild Environmental Consultants, who are strong advocates of science for management and positive impact projects.
He is a Certified Environmental Practitioner which is the industry standard for environmental professionals and the Vice-President of the North Queensland Division of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand.
Nicholas previously worked for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and has extensive experience in coastal and marine ecology and management, including impact assessment of dredging, aquaculture, and coastal development projects in the Great Barrier Reef region. He has served on several technical reference groups and management advisory committees and has managed a number of high profile and complex major projects.
Dr Terry Done
Dr Terry Done is an internationally renowned marine biologist and coral reef researcher who made his first foray into coral reef studies on a part time basis in 1970 while a PhD student in Zoology at a small university in New South Wales, Australia.
In 1975 he obtained a post-doctoral fellowship in coral reef ecology at James Cook University. Then in 1980, he joined the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) where he progressed through the ranks of Research Scientist until his retirement in 2007. He has been an advisor to governments in Australia, US and Indonesia on coral reef science and management and he has written over 60 scientific papers and book chapters, with a focus on coral reefs. The scope of his work and interests also includes the geological history of coral reefs, the processes of reef growth, effects of fishing and pollution and the effects of global climate change. He is now an AIMS Research Associate and an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, positions that allow him to continue his studies and impart the benefit of his knowledge and experience to undergraduate and graduate students.
Jos Hill founded Reef Check Australia in 2001 and served as Managing Director until 2009. Jos is an experienced marine ecologist and conservation practitioner. She has worked on many projects in the Asia-Pacific and Caribbean region to build local reef monitoring and management capacity. She has also worked on a variety of market-based marine conservation initiatives focused on financing sustainable fisheries, rights-based fishery management design and sustainable ocean aquaculture.
Jos is also a two-time Packard Environment Fellow, a Kinship Conservation Fellow and a PERC Enviropreneur. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Biology from the University of Leeds in the UK, a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management from James Cook University, Australia and an MBA in Sustainable Business from Presidio Graduate School, USA.
Jos is now Associate Program Director at the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), based in Oakland, California. Jos leads CORAL's HawaiÊ»i programs, which are focused on mitigating stormwater and wastewater pollution, and she advises on livelihood and conservation finance projects in Indonesia and Honduras.
Dr Emma Kennedy
Emma Kennedy is an early-career research scientist specialising in coral reef ecology. She currently holds a position as a Research Fellow at the Global Change Institute (UQ), where she coordinates the "50 reefs" initiative, a project aiming to use the best available science to prioritise protection efforts on those coral reefs that are least vulnerable to climate change and with a capacity to repopulate degraded reefs over time.
Before moving to Queensland she completed a PhD in coral reef ecology at the University of Exeter, where she modelled the future collapse of Caribbean reef ecosystems. Emma has diverse research interests: as well as expertise in climate change impacts on reef functioning, she has worked on bioerosion (measuring how fast reef is broken down by sponges and urchins), coralline algae (investigating calcification as a resilience indicator), Symbiodinium (employing molecular techniques to explore coral-symbiont biogeography), and reef bioacoustics (listening to the noise produced by reefs to understand reef condition).
Emma is a passionate advocate for volunteer-driven science and has spent five summers helping train volunteers in coral ID and in underwater survey techniques (including ReefCheck) in Mexico, Honduras and Cuba. She is also a PADI Instructor and enjoys introducing new divers to the underwater world on her weekends.
Dr Merryn McKinnon
Merryn McKinnon started out as a marine scientist, but she soon realised that talking to people about her science could do a lot more. She moved to science communication and has stayed there ever since in a variety of roles and countries. Merryn has slimed presidents, made children laugh and created programs and events to change ideas, inspire interest in science and to help protect the environment.
She is now a lecturer and researcher in science communication at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University. Her teaching and research focuses on helping the scientists, public health workers and policy makers of tomorrow to communicate clearly and with influence, and identifying ways of creating meaningful public engagement.
Dr Chris Roelfsema
Chris Roelfsema is scientist/lecturer at University of Queensland since 1998. His research focuses on integrating field and remote sensing satellite or airborne imagery to study coral reef and seagrass environments. As a result, he gained knowledge and skills in: marine biology; identification of coral, seagrass, algae, and inverts; and various marine surveying methods and developed techniques for gathering georeferenced photos of bottom types.
For the research he mapped or monitored rocky reefs, seagrass and coral reefs in: Australia (e.g. Moreton Bay Marine Park, Wolf Rock, Heron Reef, Lizard, Swains, Coral Sea), and Asia Pacific (e.g. Fiji, Cook Island, Solomon's, Palau). Chris has various degrees: BsC hydrographic surveying, MsC Geodetic Engineer, PgDip Marine Science and PhD in coral reef remote sensing. Since 1981 he has been an active diver, and has trained people in all kinds of diving and first aid skills. He has trained people in various marine surveying methods, organised volunteer based marine monitoring projects, is active supporter of Reef Check and CoralWatch, and is Reef Check trainer since 2010.
Dr Marie-Lise Schläppy
Marie-Lise Schläppy has been part of the RCA team since 2009, when she was the Science Operations Manager. Since that time, Marie-Lise has continued to support publications and conference presentations to share RCA findings.
Marie-Lise is a research associate at the University of Western Australia in Perth. The focus of her research is the effects of anthropogenic structures (offshore wind, wave and tide, oil and gas infrastructure) on marine sessile invertebrate assemblages and the biodiversity associated with those structures. The methods that she uses for this work are SCUBA diving, video transects, mosaicing and remotely operated vehicles. In addition, Marie-Lise continues her work started during her PhD at the Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology in Bremen on sponge microbes and the microbial processes of their associated unicellular symbionts. For this, she uses microsensors in laboratory and in situ experiments. Marie-Lise is also interested in marine citizen science and believe in the power of each citizen to help the marine environment.