Meet our Staff and Board
Elise Newman, Executive Director
Elise fell in love with the Oregon coastline as a young girl. Ever since then she longed to become a permanent Oregonian, but she took a meandering path to get here. She graduated from Cornell University summa cum laude with a degree in Biology and Society, focusing on environmental conservation and wildlife management. While researching her thesis in Kenya and Tanzania, she developed a passion for grassroots conservation that has persisted throughout her career. After studying community conservation’s effects on biodiversity in Kenyan ecosystems, Elise worked with Cornell’s Bioacoustics Laboratory to study the infrasonic communications of African forest elephants in Gabon. Observing the rampant poaching problems in Africa inspired her to work for Global Conservation Force, a nonprofit that provides anti-poaching support for endangered species. Subsequently, Elise spent ten years working in wildlife management and zoo conservation managing endangered species, hosting conservation events, and raising money for raptors in Vermont, for red pandas and other exotic species in New York, and for tigers and elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California. Of course, bottle-feeding tiger cubs was the best part of her job! Elise moved to Oregon in 2021 and is thrilled to have found the home she was seeking in the conservation world with Oregon Shores.
Phillip Johnson, Conservation Director
Phillip has been involved with Oregon Shores in one capacity or another for well over 25 years. He served on the board for 14 years, and during that period founded and directed the CoastWatch program, while playing other roles such as leading the board’s planning and development committee and editing the newsletter. He was also founding chair of the Oregon Conservation Network, a statewide consortium of environmental groups that began in 1995 continues to this day as a project of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Phillip moved to a staff role in 2005, taking on what had become a full-time job as CoastWatch director. He became executive director in 2009. In 2023, he moves into a new role, directing Oregon Shores' policy and advocacy work. In his earlier career he was a newspaper editor and reporter, and later a long-time freelance writer. He is never more content than when standing on a lonely headland, watching a storm roll in.
Jessica Jones, CoastWatch Program Manager
Jesse Jones, a lifelong Oregonian, stepped into her CoastWatch role, initially as volunteer coordinator, in late spring of 2019. In a career devoted to the watersheds of Oregon’s north coast, she has managed large and small habitat restoration projects, engaged countless property owners in land conservation, and worked alongside youth of all ages in the natural world and around the world (in Ireland, she built puppets out of recycled materials with students, incorporating these puppets and schools into parades). She spent four years as executive director of the North Coast Watershed Association and, before that, consulted on water projects in Clatsop and Columbia counties, including mediating cooperation between small, rural water districts. In 2015, Jesse started volunteering for Surfrider, leading their Blue Water Task Force to its new home at Seaside High School, where students now collect and process ocean water and post results. She is also the chair of the North Coast Surfrider Chapter. Jesse received her undergraduate degree in community development at Portland State University, received a documentary film certificate from the Northwest Film Center, and did her graduate studies at Portland State University in natural resource policy. As of 2022, Jesse is president elect of the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators, a chapter of the National Marine Educators Association.
Katie Russell, Communications Coordinator
Katie Russell earned her Master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon with a focus on education and nonprofit management. She worked with The Marine Mammal Center to redesign their education volunteer training materials to include a stronger focus on strategies to talk with guests about climate and ocean health. In addition to her work with Oregon Shores, she also currently serves as the board secretary of The National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpreters and on the board of The Elakha Alliance, which works for the restoration of sea otters to Oregon’s ocean. Katie moved to Oregon in 2020 after spending many summers at her family's blueberry farm on the McKenzie River. Before moving to Oregon, she graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.S. in Natural Science and worked as a marine mammal trainer and zookeeper in Hawaii for almost ten years. Now that Katie is a permanent Oregonian, she is excited to spend more time exploring the Oregon coast.
Annie Merrill, Land Use Coordinator
Annie recently graduated with her Masters of Science from the Marine Resource Management program at Oregon State University. Her thesis research focused on interactions between eelgrass and pacific oysters to inform ecosystem-based management of aquaculture. She received her Bachelors of Science in biology at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Before coming to Oregon, Annie spent some time working as a field technician for the Yellowstone Wolf Project and wrote grants for the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in her hometown of Victor, Idaho. Annie's passion for the outdoors and the ocean stems from her adventures scuba diving, skiing, surfing, mountaineering, and biking. She's excited to engage with the Oregon Shores community to increase climate resilience and further conservation goals.
Michael Coe, Website Coordinator
When he served as an Oregon Shores board member, Michael led the effort to develop our current website. In his professional work as a research consultant, he has led many research and evaluation studies focused on science education, conservation, natural resource management, agricultural genomics and environmental resilience. Recent work includes two projects in coastal regions of Oregon, northern California, Washington and Alaska that provided in-depth education about earthquake and tsunami science and preparedness to park and museum interpreters, emergency management personnel, and science teachers. An Oregon resident since 1998, Michael is an active backpacker, photographer and sport fisherman.
Anuradha Sawkar, Coastal Law Project Attorney
While not a member of Oregon Shores’ staff, Anu is the attorney we work with most often as part of our Coastal Law Project, a partnership with the Crag Law Center. Anu is Crag’s Coastal Law Project Legal Fellow. Anu was born in Poughkeepsie, New York but grew up in Portland. She graduated from Whitman College with a B.A. in Politics with a minor in Economics, and earned her J.D. with a concentration in Advocacy from Cornell Law School. She joined Crag Law Center’s staff in January, 2019, and immediately plunged in to representing Oregon Shores on a wide range of issues, notably in the many regulatory processes involved in our opposition to the proposed Jordan Cove LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal on Coos Bay’s North Spit. Through this partnership, Anu works to preserve public access to Oregon’s beaches and conserve Oregon’s priceless coastal ecosystems. Outside of work, Anu enjoys running, hiking, yoga, reading, and writing longhand.
Jean Caroline, Key Volunteer
Dedicated volunteer Jean Caroline plays important roles on the Oregon Shores team. She helps to edit and post material on the website, and assists with CoastWatch records. She is always ready to take on special projects. Jean, long a Florence resident, lived in the Oregon coastal region from 1973 until a move to Albany several years ago. She raised her family on a homestead within the Siuslaw National Forest, and once her children were on their own, began volunteering with the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, eventually being hired as part of the ODNRA staff. While there, she did everything from meeting the public and providing information to handling accounting and inventory to issuing permits. In retirement, she occupies herself with a wide range of interests: gardening, crafting stained glass, knitting, photography and writing (she has published a children’s novel, her father’s memoirs which she edited, and a book of letters about her adventures and challenges while living in the forest). Busy as she is in so many ways, she always finds time to pitch in to help Oregon Shores.
Allison Asbjornsen, President
A veteran of the Oregon Shores board, Allison served earlier as board president for more than a decade before taking a break and returning as current president. Like so many coastal residents, she has pieced together a varied career. She is descended from generations of Oregon loggers (her grandfather helped to log portions of what is now the Van Duzer Corridor). Allison grew up in Portland, convinced her parents to let her leave high school and take a Norwegian freighter to Japan for a summer, and upon her return enrolled in the Pacific Northwest College of Art and launched a lifelong vocation as a painter. She taught art at Portland State University and in community colleges. To survive she established a B&B in her home on Netarts Bay, and took up shiatsu style body work, becoming a practicing therapist and teacher at the Oregon School of Massage. She now divides her time among painting, practicing Tai Ji and nourishing her love of the coast and its natural history. Allison was drawn to Oregon Shores by an article about the coast's threatened ecosystems written by Phillip Johnson, then an Oregon Shores board member and now our executive director. She also serves on the board of the Netarts Water District.
Al Solomon, Vice-President
Al Solomon has re-joined the Oregon Shores board after a four-year hiatus, having served two earlier terms. Dr. Solomon is retired from a career as a plant ecologist and paeloecologist who studied the terrestrial global carbon cycle. He retired as the U.S. Forest Service’s National Program Leader for Global Change Research, in which role he coordinated research within the Forest Service and between his agency and other federal and state programs. Before coming to the Forest Service in 2006, he held staff positions with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. A decade ago, Al and wife Jean Adamson returned to the Oregon Coast, to the house on Cape Arago where they have lived (when not in Washington, D.C.) since 1994. He is active as an amateur radio operator involved in emergency communications, in community organizations, and in educating the public about climate change.
Leslie Morehead, Treasurer
Leslie is a consultant providing financial management services for small businesses. She has been a private business owner, a consultant in information systems design and analysis, and a business software analyst in both the high technology sector and the banking industry. Leslie began her career in Portland, having graduated from Reed College with a master’s degree in teaching, taught physics and chemistry at Jefferson High School, and earned a doctorate in systems science from Portland State. Since then, she has traveled and worked abroad extensively, consulting and teaching business management courses in Eastern Europe and Russia as these countries emerged from Soviet rule. Returned to Oregon, Leslie is a member of the City Club of Portland’s Board of Governors. She and her husband own a condo in Astoria, and she serves as treasurer for her Homeowners’ Association. In addition to keeping watch over the Columbia estuary for Oregon Shores, she serves on the board of the Astoria Music Festival.
Larry Basch, Secretary
Larry is a marine ecologist, scuba diver, naturalist, and community conservation activist in Coos County. He engages in applied research, adaptive management and monitoring, and teaching. Currently a research associate at the University of Oregon’s marine station, the Oregon Institute of Biology in Charleston, Dr. Basch has worked in coastal and marine environments from the tropics to the poles and from intertidal rocky shores to the deep sea -- throughout the U.S. west coast, the Pacific basin and islands, Central and South America, Europe, and from Alaska to Antarctica. He has the distinction of having spent, cumulatively, close to a full year working underwater in the course of his career, studying temperate-boreal kelp forests, coral reefs, polar, and other subtidal ecological communities worldwide. He has his PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Ed is an earth scientist, educator, and activist with a Ph.D. in Oceanography (from Texas A&M) and a B.S. in Geology. Research interests span from paleoclimate studies using deep marine fossils to the study of nearshore sediment transport. Ed was a research scientist in the oil and gas industry for over 20 years and taught geology at the University of Houston and the University of St. Thomas in Houston for eight years. Presently, he is adjunct faculty at Clatsop Community College where he has taught geology and oceanography since 2015. Prior to moving to Oregon, while a geologic consultant based in Pennsylvania, he served as president of the Philadelphia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He is an avid surfer, mountain hiker, snowboarder, and swimmer.
Graham, our youngest board member, earned an M.S. from The Evergreen State College early this year; his thesis involved restoration techniques for the Silverspot Butterfly and the violet that it depends upon. Shortly thereafter, he became executive director of the North Coast Watersheds Association. Graham has a deep personal interest in conservation biology, and has concentrated his early career on developing knowledge and experience related to this field. Prior to returning to college to earn his graduate degree, he was the REEF (Restoring Ecosystems and Educating Future Conservation Leaders) Education Coordinator with the Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council (in northern Lincoln County), responsible both for designing and leading educational programs for students and teachers, and for conducting habitat restoration activities within the council’s territory. Graham is also an accomplished artist—painting his images on surfboards, among other media—and enthusiastically explores the natural world as a surfer, skier, backpacker and cyclist.
A retired professor of neurobiology and behavior, Paul Sherman provides both biological expertise and representation for the south coast to the Oregon Shores board. Paul was an undergraduate at Stanford, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at U.C. Berkeley. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1981, was awarded tenure in 1985, and was promoted to full professor in 1991. He retired in 2013 and is a professor emeritus. During his academic career, Dr. Sherman studied birds, insects, and mammals (especially naked mole-rats) and taught courses and seminars in Behavioral Ecology, Animal Behavior, and Darwinian Medicine. His research contributed to scientific understanding in five general areas: altruism and nepotism, kin recognition, eusociality, conservation, and evolutionary medicine (especially the adaptive significance of morning sickness, allergies, spice use, and lactose intolerance). He has published or edited 7 books and 195 papers and book chapters. In 2005 he was appointed a Weiss Presidential Fellow in recognition of “effective, inspiring, and distinguished teaching.” He was a Sigma Xi National Lecturer in 2004-06, and was elected a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society in 2004. Paul now lives atop Cape Sebastian, six miles south of Gold Beach. He enjoys kayaking the south coast rivers, hiking and "biologizing" in the forests, walking the beaches, fly fishing, skiing, sailing, tending a bounteous vegetable garden and greenhouse, and playing low-stakes poker.