Dr. Judith Connor
Judith Connor has over 40-years of experience in ocean research off all the continents, using research ships, human-occupied and remotely operated vehicles, and research diving. After earning her PhD from the University of California Berkeley and post-doctoral research at Stanford University, Connor taught at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where she also wrote natural history books and contributed to education programs and exhibits. Before retiring from the management team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, she directed the institute’s communications, education and technology transfer efforts. Connor is enthusiastic about contributing to the California Marine Sanctuaries Foundation in support of coastal communities, ocean health and conservation.
Steve Dennis founded two successful Silicon Valley software firms; Smith, Dennis & Gaylord in 1973 and SD&G Healthcare Systems in 1988, both of which were acquired by large public companies. He also served on the Board of Directors of Pointshare Corporation ($70m in venture funding), a healthcare software startup later purchased by Siemens Corporation. Earlier in his career, Steve worked for General Electric on the Apollo Moon Project (Cape Canaveral, FL).
Steve has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including Sea Studios Foundation, Point Lobos Foundation, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Sealife Conservation, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Ventana Wildlife Society and the Monterey County Family Service Agency. Since moving to Carmel in 1996, Steve has logged over 7,000 hours as a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where he has lectured on jellies, white sharks and deep-sea research. In 2002, Steve was honored with the Lucille Packard Volunteer of the Year Award, and the next year assisted in the development of an updated Strategic Plan for the Aquarium. In 2015 Steve was honored as a Jefferson Award winner for Monterey County.
A graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Steve has taught Strategic Management at CSU at Monterey Bay, and has worked with dozens of non-profits on strategic planning and visioning.
Steve and his wife Sona, who also volunteers at the Aquarium, have two married sons and six grandchildren.
Dr. Melissa Garren
Dr. Garren is Founder and CEO of Working Ocean Strategies—a firm dedicated to advancing social, financial, and ecological sustainability in the oceans space.
Holding a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, with a completed postdoctoral fellowship in the Dpt. of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, and >20 years of experience underwater as a PADI certified scuba Divemaster, Melissa Garren brings substantial expertise to the intersection of technology and marine conservation. Melissa’s passion for and focus on the application of cutting-edge technologies to marine conservation solutions has remained constant since the earliest days of her scientific career when she completed her undergraduate work in Molecular Biology at Yale University, where her thesis brought novel molecular tools to bear on questions surrounding coral reef conservation.
In a former role as COO & Chief Scientist at Pelagic Data Systems (PDS) Melissa leveraged her extensive experience and practical knowledge working with local communities and diverse groups of stakeholders around the globe to foster fishery sustainability and healthy nearshore water quality. In addition to awards PDS received in 2018 from the National Geographic Society and SeaWeb, in early 2019 Conscious Company named Melissa to its “35 World-Changing Women in Conscious Business 2019” – aptly placing her in a cohort transforming business, and the planet, for the better. A frequent speaker at international conferences on topics such as combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, Melissa is often called on as a technical expert by UN Agencies such as the FAO and national governments. She is also Adjunct Research Faculty at California State University Monterey Bay in the Department of Applied Environmental Science.
In 2019, Dr. Garren joined the Center for the Blue Economy Advisory Council.
With a BA in Environmental Biology from University of California at Santa Barbara and a Masters in Marine Biology from California State University at Humboldt and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Scott has led small and large operations within local government as well as through non-profits.
As a member of the Monterey County Planning Commission for 5 years, Scott oversaw land use in Monterey County with management of 120 employees. During his time as the Director of the Watershed Institute at CSUMB, Scott managed multiple watershed restoration projects in Monterey County including riparian and wetland restoration in the Salinas Valley through funding from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, USFWS, CDF&W, California Department of Transportation and the Packard Foundation.
Scott founded a food service business that grew to $10 million in annual sales with 120 employees as well as a native plant nursery focused on production of indigenous native plants for restoration projects. Scott has also provided his expertise as a land use consultant providing permit assistance and biological reports and letters for private individuals, public utilities and public agency projects. Examples of projects: MPRPD- Garland Park Southbank Trail Reconstruction, Palo Corona Aerial Spraying Program, the Palo Corona Parking Facility, and the MPWMD-Steelhead Barrier Access Acquisition and permission to Work Program.
As a founding member of the California Mountain Lion Foundation Scott worked to develop and pass the California Wildlife Protection Act (Proposition 117) which provided substantial funding for land acquisition for the MPRPD. As a board member of the Hatton Canyon Coalition, Scott worked to prevent Hatton canyon from becoming a freeway route. Scott has been on the board of the Monterey Peninsula Audubon Society, the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Monterey County Resource Conservation District, the Fort Ord Parklands, and a volunteer with the Santa Lucia Conservancy and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District doing habitat restoration projects.
Dave was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has always had a love of the California coast. He received his BS in biology from Caltech in 1970 and did graduate studies at UC Santa Cruz, where he discovered his passion for electronic music. In 1972, he founded E-mu Systems, Inc. He is currently CEO of Rossum Electro-
Music LLC, and continues to enjoy his hobbies of mountaineering, trail running, and diving.
Tracey Weiss is a non-profit Executive Director with over 16 years of experience in environmental education. She uses her passion for environmental education to inspire and engage youth and their adults to take stewardship of California’s natural world. Tracey excels in executive leadership, grant management, fund development, strategic vision and engagement, Board management, and developing pathways to better engage students in environmental education.
As an Executive Director since 2006, Tracey possesses in-depth knowledge and experience in leading both the complex day-to-day operations of an organization as well as guiding its vision, growth, and financial reserves. She is a skillful builder of partnerships and a master implementer of strategies which strengthen an organization’s objectives and outcomes. She has a proven track record for developing an organization’s vision and direction and building a roadmap to get there.
Throughout her professional career, Tracey has been dedicated to serving youth, the environment, and developing strategically sound nonprofits. She is currently responsible for a $2.2M environmental education nonprofit that serves more than 8,000 students annually while supervising over 35 staff at three facilities. As a demonstrated leader, Tracey brings tenacity, compassion, and inspiration to her big-picture, proactive approach to management.