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.
Kate Zender is the Director of Development 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.
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.
Nicole Broquet is the Environmental Education Coordinator for the MRC. She was born and raised in Alaska but fled the cold to California for her B.S. in Biology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. There she discovered her passion for sustainability and environmental education. After graduation, she moved to Texas to pursue her M.S. in Fisheries and Aquaculture at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. She combined her graduate studies with a two-year Peace Corps service in the Philippines as a Coastal Resource Management Specialist focusing on outreach and strengthening marine protected areas. In 2019, she moved to Florida and joined the MRC team. Nicole is incredibly excited about the restoration projects in the Indian River Lagoon. She also loves being outdoors and spending as much time as possible in the ocean.
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.
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!
Kara McGuirk Woods is the LagoonWatch Coordinator for the MRC. She is a geologist, earning her B.A. in Geology from Cornell University and her M.S. in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University. Before moving to Florida in 1994 with her husband Mark, a seismologist, she worked for an environmental consulting firm out of Chicago, travelling the Midwest and Northeast to work on state and federal hazardous waste site investigations and cleanups. She was born and raised in Massachusetts; her parents were public school teachers who taught her the value of education and a love of learning. A summer long family camping trip from Massachusetts to California when she was 6 showed her the wonders of the natural world, and she has been an advocate of the environment ever since.
Cassidy Myers is the Volunteer Coordinator for the MRC. A Brevard native, her family ties to USAF let her travel the country, eventually settling in Tampa. In 2016, she received her B.A. in Anthropology from University of Central Florida, studying human evolution and culture. After graduation, she moved to New Orleans and worked for the LASPCA and New Orleans Human Law and Rescue. There, she learned her passion for animals and nature, and her love for the non-profit sector. In 2018, she moved back to Melbourne and has since begun advocating for the Lagoon.
Bill Prendergast is an Environmental Technician for the MRC. Originally from Georgia, he moved to Florida when he was three and has lived in Brevard County much of his life. Growing up near the Indian River Lagoon, Bill has developed a passion for the unique environment of our coastal waterways. He has just finished his B.S. in Environmental Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Technology and Management. Bill is an Army veteran with aspirations of returning to active duty as an Environmental Science Officer. He is using his time here at MRC to earn experience and develop his skills in environmental management.
Nathan Bonanno is an Environmental Technician for the MRC. He moved from Tampa to Melbourne to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology. After graduation, he returned to FIT for a Master’s degree in coastal zone management. As someone who has been on waters on both sides of the state, Nathan is excited for the opportunity to make a positive change on the Indian River Lagoon.