Dr. Leesa Souto is the Executive Director for the MRC and adjunct faculty at FIT. She grew up in S. Florida and after completing her bachelor’s degree in Biology at Florida State, she moved to Brevard County to help protect and preserve the beauty of this area. She received a Doctorate from UCF with expertise in urban ecology that links human geography, structures and behaviors to water quality impacts. Her research focuses on groundwater impacts to the lagoon, muck management strategies, fertilizer, and alternative landscapes. Her professional career spans over twenty years of working to improve Florida’s water quality at Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Brevard County Natural Resources Management Office, and more recently with UCF’s Stormwater Management Academy. She loves the water and exploring new ecosystems in Florida and around the world.
Sondée Lima is the Deputy Director for the MRC. She was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Ft. Lauderdale spending most of her childhood at the beach and playing outdoors. She comes to the MRC with a very diverse background of education and experience. She holds a B.S. in Business with a major in Finance from the University of Florida and an M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Florida International University. Her work experience ranges from teaching robot programming, business writing and business communications to working as a stock broker, running her own tack and feed business and fundraising for other local non-profits here in Brevard County. Being passionate about animals and the environment, she fell in love with the IRL upon first glance and is now thrilled to be a part of its protection and restoration.
Stephen Sharkey joined MRC as a volunteer in 2015, when he coordinated the overwhelmingly successful music and learning festival, LagoonFest. He was hired shortly thereafter and MRC has never been the same. Steve’s background in business management, marketing, and music venues added a new, fun twist to fundraising at a time when our community needed to unite for the lagoon. Steve has been instrumental in bringing diverse businesses to the lagoon cause, engaging unique partnerships, and spearheading entrepreneurial opportunities.
Caity Savoia is the Lead Scientist and Restoration Specialist for the MRC. She is also a biological technician for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She was born and raised in Tampa where her love for the ocean was inspired by her family boating activities. She acquired a B.S. from the University of Florida and a master of professional science degree from the University of Miami. During her time in Miami, she assisted on numerous projects for NOAA including mangrove surveys, scientific diving and tuna/billfish research. She is excited to apply her specialty in Geographic Information System (GIS) to create maps displaying the data collected by our citizen science projects.
Kate Zehnder is the Volunteer and Membership Coordinator for the MRC. She hails from the great white north of Rochester, NY. She made the move to Melbourne to earn her marine biology degree from Florida Institute of Technology. Post-graduation, she moved out to California to work for the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program, where she spent the next 4 and a half years. Now back on the east coast, Kate is excited to be involved in local conservation efforts surrounding the Indian River Lagoon. She is an avid rock climber and hiker/backpacker.
Shannon Egger is the Education Coordinator for the MRC. She grew up in suburban Illinois and rural Wisconsin, both of which cultivated her love for the outdoors. Shannon moved to Florida in 2013 in order to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa. There she received her bachelor’s degree in Science Education, along with a minor in Spanish Language. After graduating, she moved to Brevard County and became a teacher. Shannon made the transition to the Marine Resources Council, working to protect the Indian River Lagoon in order to satisfy her desire to protect and preserve the beauty of the world’s ecosystems.
Julie Albert is the Coordinator for the North Atlantic Right Whale Conservation Program. Her passion for marine mammals began in northwest Ohio where she enjoyed Sea World as a child. However, seeing whales in the wild for the first time on a family vacation to Hawaii in 1988 solidified this passion. She went on to earn her B.S. in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1995. She also volunteered for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, worked in cephalopod aquaculture, and raised king penguins before moving to Florida in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Julie became MRC’s Right Whale Program Coordinator and loves educating the public about how we can be better stewards of our ocean environment and its inhabitants. She is a proud wife and mother of three wonderful children and is passionate not only about marine mammal conservation, but also animal welfare, recycling, and litter reduction. She always leaves the beach better than she found it!
Kim Zarillo is the Grant Writer for the MRC. She is an accomplished business professional with 23 years’ experience in Florida and the eastern coast of the U.S. Her firm, Scientific Environmental Applications (S.E.A.), is certified as a Florida Department of Transportation DBE and a Minority Business Enterprise with the state of Florida. Ms. Zarillo has conducted grant research, as well as preparation and post award documentation of grant applications for academic- and business-related programs. S.E.A. has completed several million dollars of environmental and geotechnical projects involving desktop research studies, data collection in the field, and data analysis for government agencies, nonprofits, and private firms.
Jared McNally is an Environmental Technician for the MRC and the President and founder of Swell Science, LLC. Jared is a Brevard County native who is passionate about the conservation of Central Florida’s unique coastal environment. After completing his B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in Oceanography, Jared received his M.S. in Environmental Science with expertise in pollutant transport processes from FIT in 2015. Since then he has been active in Indian River Lagoon conservation efforts, focusing on water quality monitoring, muck management strategies, fertilizer impacts, green business practices, citizen engagement, and geospatial data analysis and mapping. Jared also conducts marine and meteorological data analysis to produce surf forecasts for the world’s leading surf forecasting website. As a life-long surfer and active member of Surfrider Foundation, he strives to involve himself in protecting our oceans, waves, and beaches. Jared enjoys traveling to remote coastlines around the world to experience new cultures, ecosystems, and waves.