The Noyo Center for Marine Science is made up of an incredibly dedicated team of staff, board members and advisors. But the true heart of the organization is the ever-ready team of volunteers and docents. If you have interest in joining our team in some way, email [email protected] or fill out our volunteer application. We look forward to working with you!
At the Noyo Center for Marine Science, a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace is one where all employees, board members, and volunteers feel valued and respected, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation or identity, education, or ability.
Ecological justice, environmental justice and social justice are important objectives for the organization, and in order to take care of and protect the environment, we must protect and take care of people. Any injustice that affects part of our community affects us all. We respect and value diverse life experiences and heritages and strive to ensure that all perspectives are heard. Diverse voices form the foundation upon which the Noyo Center for Marine Science advances ocean conservation through education, exploration and experience.
Sheila Semans, Executive Director
Sheila has led the development of the Noyo Center from its inception in 2015. She has worked in coastal and marine conservation for more than twenty-five years, most recently with the California State Coastal Conservancy where she served as senior staff to the California Ocean Protection Council. Sheila’s experience developing highly collaborative programs like the California Seafloor and Shoreline Mapping Program or the Coastal Ocean Currents Monitoring Program has enabled her to work with all of California’s marine labs, with local, state and federal agencies, and with academic and industry leaders conducting leading-edge marine research. When not at work, Sheila can usually be found on or near the ocean.
Michael Hicks, Development Director
Michael joined the Noyo Center in 2022 after 10 years on the staff of the Reno Philharmonic in Reno, NV where he started as the Box Office Manager before being promoted to Development Director. Michael oversees the Noyo Center’s fundraising efforts, including individual giving, grant writing, corporate relationships, and legacy giving. He was born and raised in Montana in a small, agricultural town and has loved the outdoors since childhood. Michael has dreamt of living near the coast and is thrilled to make that dream a reality. His love for whales and passion for environmental conservation drew him to the organization. Michael is excited to expand the Noyo Center’s fundraising program as the organization continues to grow.
Lynne Sullivan, Operations Manager
Lynne joins our team after moving to the Mendocino Coast in 2019 from Indiana where she spent her career working to improve air quality with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. She and her husband enjoyed annual visits to California for 20 years and fell in love with the Mendocino coastal community. Since making the move here, Lynne enjoyed volunteering with the Noyo Center and helped to organize the Scavenger Hunt FUNdraisers. She says that her impression of the high level of knowledge, enthusiasm, and dedication of the Noyo Center’s staff, board, and volunteers made her decision to join the team as the new Operations Manager an easy one. She is looking forward to working closely with staff to support their efforts and explore new ideas to streamline operations as the organization grows.
Trey Petrey, Interpretive Facilities Manager
Prior to joining the staff at Noyo Center in 2020, Trey worked with the Anderson Valley Land Trust as General Manager, assisting in the development of conservation easements, overseeing special events, managing the office, and coordinating their educational programs. Before moving to Mendocino County in 2014, he lived in the Bay Area and worked for over 18 years at the San Francisco Symphony. In addition to overseeing operations of the Discovery Center and retail, Trey is working with the Noyo Center team to enhance the variety of marine exhibits at the Discovery Center and continue expanding our diverse variety of educational programming.
Sarah Grimes, Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator & Educator
As Stranding Coordinator, Sarah responds to all deceased marine mammals, working under a collaborative agreement with California Academy of Sciences as part of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. This data provides critical information on the status and threat of marine mammals along our coast, human interactions, and the health of our oceans. When not combing the beaches in search of clues relating to our coastal ecosystems, Sarah is in the classroom or out in the field giving a tour as one of our educators.
Richard Millis, Collections Manager
Richard has been Noyo’s go-to bone man for over 3 years now. As collections manager, Richard has taken a lead role in the collection and processing of all our marine mammal specimen, most notably our 26-ft killer whale. Working behind the scenes on things like his “maggot motel”, this work is not often glamorous, but our growing specimen collection is more spectacular by the day. Involving student interns whenever possible, Richard continues to work on our 73-ft blue whale skeleton. As the father of two kids, Richard is excited to see his kids grow up with all the Noyo Center has to offer.
Crans Squire, Marine Technology Coordinator
A lifelong tinkerer and creator, as a kid growing up in Mendocino County, Crans spent many hours inventing contraptions in his father’s workshop. After receiving a B.S. Electronic Engineering from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo he worked as a professional engineer in the Oceanographic, Medical and Environmental Industry. As a designer/engineer, Crans’s experience and skill solving technical challenges while mixing the mediums of art and technology to manifest unique creations has always been a passion and joy.
Sue Coulter, Education Coordinator
Sue has spent the last 30 years teaching kids of all ages in many diverse contexts. A common theme in Sue’s teaching is to share her own insatiable curiosity about learning with the kids she comes in contact with. It is from her love of the ocean and her adoration of the wild beauty and nature here on the coast that Sue brings her gifts to the Noyo Center. Having started out in 2013 as one of Noyo Center’s naturalist/education team members, Sue now serves the center’s needs more fully as Education Program Coordinator. It is with great delight that Sue continues to explore and expand upon the education programs & camps for Noyo Center.
Laura Vague, Discovery Center Docent & Retail Clerk
Laura Vague moved from Nashville TN to Fort Bragg in 2017, and one of the first things she did when she got to the Coast was to help articulate our Orca skeleton. She spent 18 years as a zoo professional and is thrilled to again be working for an organization focused on science and conservation. She is loving learning more about marine habitats and animals every day at the Discovery Center and getting to hang out with our amazing Orca! In addition to working with us and being a rescue volunteer for the Marine Mammal Center, she also owns a pet sitting business focusing on exotic pets and birds as well as dogs and cats, so she can continue with the animal care that is in her blood.
Leah Shirley, Discovery Center Docent & Retail Clerk
Leah joined the Noyo Center as a retail clerk and docent in 2021, although she has been working with the organization as a volunteer for many years. She grew up in Forest Ranch, CA, and re-located to Fort Bragg in 2011. It was then that she got involved with the Noyo Center, cleaning blue whale bones and eventually participating in the articulation of the killer whale skeleton that is on display today. She has worked as an assistant educator, a docent at the Crow’s Nest Interpretive Center, and continues to assist in maintaining the tidepool aquarium there. Leah is trained in advanced dead marine mammal identification and has been a member of the Noyo Center’s stranding response team for many years. She is also a rescue volunteer for the Marine Mammal Center and a gray whale docent at the Point Cabrillo lighthouse. Leah is currently working towards her degree in biology at Mendocino College, inspired by her love for the ocean.
Jo-el Houle, Discovery Center Docent & Retail Clerk
Jo-el Houle grew up on the Mendocino Coast, spending her childhood exploring beaches and tide pools. After travels to many parts of the world, Jo-el settled in San Francisco where she started a special events company working with non-profits to help organize their outreach and fundraising initiatives. Upon returning to Mendocino in 2019, Jo-el knew she wanted to be involved with the work the Noyo Center was doing to further education and awareness of ocean ecosystems and started volunteering as a docent at the Crow’s Nest Interpretive Center, as well as a surveyor for the Beach Monitoring Program. Jo-el is also a Response & Rescue Volunteer for The Marine Mammal Center’s Northern Region Operations. You can find Jo-el at the Discovery Center sharing her enthusiasm for educating visitors about our local marine mammals and marine ecology or exploring the intertidal zones searching for juvenile sea stars.
Debra Jones, Bookkeeper
Debra joined our team in 2021 to assist in the management of Noyo Center’s financial transactions. She is a QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor and works for many small businesses and nonprofits within the community. After moving to the area in 2017, she began building a stronger connection with the natural environment and became eager to learn more. She completed a California Naturalist Program in 2019 and frequented Noyo Center’s science talks and community events. She loves exploring all the beautiful trails and beaches that the coast has to offer.
Board of Directors
A longtime resident in Elk, Robby spends a good portion of his year as a commercial fisherman based in Sitka Alaska. As a active member of the United Fishermen of Alaska, Robby has participated in many negotiations regarding regulation of our fisheries and creating sustainable harvest measures.
Ginny Feth-Michel, Treasurer
Ginny has lived on the Mendocino Coast since 2010. Prior to calling Mendocino home, she frequently vacationed in Mendocino, camping, hiking and biking in and around Fort Bragg. Ginny is a Certified Public Accountant. During her career, she has worked at large public accounting firms, as a sole practitioner and held the position of Vice President of Finance and Human Resources with a national natural foods distributor. Prior to retiring, Ginny worked with the City of Fort Bragg, most recently as the Assistant City Manager. Ginny currently serves on the County of Mendocino Civil Service Commission and as a Board member for the West Company, a not-for-profit economic development organization.
Peter settled in Fort Bragg in 2013 after thirty years as a U.S. diplomat. During his career with the State Department he served in China, India, Cameroon, Bosnia, Burundi, Tunisia, Kuwait and Canada as well as in Washington, D.C. Peter grew up in a coastal New England town and has had a lifelong passion for the ocean and the environment — interests he was able to pursue in some of his overseas assignments. Since settling in Fort Bragg, Peter has worked as a California Parks volunteer and has spent many hours kayaking Mendocino County’s rivers and exploring its many parks and reserves.
Dave Turner, President and Executive Committee Chair
Mayor Dave Turner was first elected to the Fort Bragg City Council in 2002. Born in Fort Bragg, Dave attended Stanford University where he majored in “Social Thought and Institutions,” a political science honors program. While attending Stanford, he opened a specialty sleep shop to help pay his way through college. Dave is president of FloBeds, makers of the Original Personally Crafted Mattress, which ships customized latex mattresses worldwide.
Linda Ruffing has been involved with the Noyo Center since its inception- first in her capacity as the City of Fort Bragg’s Community Development Director, and then as City Manager. Linda is a professional land use planner with decades of experience on the Northern California coast. She currently has a private planning practice, and joined the Noyo Center Board of Directors in December 2019.
Wendi Felson, Volunteer Coordinator and Community Engagement Liaison
Wendi Felson moved to Fort Bragg in 2016 and knew before she moved that she wanted to be part of the Noyo Center. In December she started volunteering as a docent at the Crow’s Nest once a week. She also volunteers with the Help the Kelp campaign, the Science Talk presentations and the upcoming Beach Monitoring program. She is a retired Clinical Laboratory Scientist after 27 years at San Francisco General Hospital.
Paul Sweigart, Fundraising Committee Chair
Paul is graduate of California State University, Chico. He began his career with Edward Jones over five years ago in Oroville, CA, and has been in the financial industry for 13 years. He is married to his wife of 16 years, Tara Sweigart, and has three children: Asa, Ella and Logan. Active in the community, he is a board member of the Rotary of Fort Bragg and The Symphony of the Redwoods. He is also a supporter of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital Foundation.
Mike de Roos and Michi Main, Master Marine Mammal Skeleton Articulators, Cetacea, Salt Spring Island, Canada
Maureen Flannery, Ornithology and Mammalogy Collection Manager, CA Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA
Jeff Jacobsen, Marine Mammalogist / Acoustician, BioWaves, Arcata, CA
Ron LeValley, Biologist, Photographer, Mendocino, CA
Lee Post, Master Marine Mammal Skeleton Articulator, Homer, Alaska
William Sydeman, President and Senior Scientist, Farallon Institute, Petaluma CA
Cetacea is a small, family-run company specializing in skeleton restoration and articulation and will be leading the preparation of the Noyo Center’s 73-foot blue whale skeleton. They lead the field in the world of modern artistic skeleton articulations, building displays that breathe life, portraying subjects as they would exist in the natural world.
Located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences is California’s oldest operating museum and research institution for the natural sciences, housing one of the largest natural history collections in the world. CAS is authorized under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to respond to all deceased marine mammals along the San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, and southern Mendocino county coasts. As their designee organization in Mendocino, the Noyo Center is helping fill an important gap in our understanding of marine mammal health and range shifts due to a changing climate.
Mendocino College, Marine Science Program
Mendocino College is looking at ways to grow their Marine Science Program, including at their Coast Campus in Fort Bragg and in the Noyo Harbor. The Noyo Center is working to provide dock and wet lab space for marine scientists and students in the harbor.
City of Fort Bragg
The Noyo Center for Marine Science grew out of public and municipal efforts to diversify and revitalize the economy and community of Fort Bragg as the former Georgia-Pacific Mill Site redevelopment began. In 2006 the City polled the community as to what they wanted on the Mill Site. First was coastal access. Second was a Marine Science facility. The City gave the Noyo Center 11 acres on the headlands for the facility. In 2016 Fort Bragg citizens voted to provide the Noyo Center a portion of Fort Bragg’s TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax, or Bed Tax).
West Business Development Center
West Center educates and advocates for small business so that local entrepreneurs receive the information they need to launch and expand their business.
Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians
Sherwood Valley Rancheria is located within aboriginal homelands they have used and occupied since time immemorial. Their homeland extends from approximately the Hwy 101 corridor, through the Redwood Forests, on to the Coast.
Flockworks is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization successfully supporting community creativity and local arts initiatives since 2006. We mobilize resources, talents and time, as a ‘platform’ for leadership by community artists to support collaborative art and creative initiatives. We add visibility, vibrancy and access to local arts through exhibits, events, public art, hands-on experiences and collective efforts. We see art and creativity as everyone’s birthright and actively reach out to those with little access to creative opportunities. We believe creative threads tie us together as a community, and positively shape our culture.
Creatively Supporting the Environment
Surfrider Foundation, Mendocino Chapter
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Most of the photographs on this website were generously donated by two professional photographers, Ron LeValley and Marc Shargel. Their photos can be purchased directly from their respective websites, and will eventually be for sale at the Noyo Center gift shop. Additionally, many of Ron’s photos can be purchased at Mendocino Coast Photographers Guild and Gallery at 357 Franklin Street in Fort Bragg. We strongly encourage you to browse their impressive photo libraries. Many thanks to both of them for all the work they do.