MRC Team Biographies
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.
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.
Ken Parks is Development Director at MRC, where he is continuing his career of stewarding responsible community development resources to improve our planet. Like many of us here who’ve been around a bit, Ken recalls his youth along Florida’s Space Coast, experiencing the former abundance of the Indian River Lagoon. He believes that we possess the right stuff it will take to restore this place to its former wonder, even while we are exploring the next great frontier, space. Ken is an avid outdoors person who spends a few hours a week volunteering at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge; is a former U.S. Navy photojournalist who loves snapping photos of our world; is the father of two grown wonderful sons; and has been a mentor to many other people working to find their place in our great world. What we do together, is our greatest work, he believes. Ken looks forward to working with all of you in advancing the powerful and lasting mission of MRC.
Nicole Broquet is the Director of Education 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 Director of Science and Restoration for the MRC. She is a Florida native from Tampa where her love for the ocean was inspired by a childhood spent fishing and scuba diving. She has a diverse educational background with a B.S. in psychology from the University of Florida and a master of professional science from the University of Miami in marine conservation and geographic information systems (GIS). Her work experience includes many facets of environmental science including scientific diving, mangrove surveys, laboratory processing, and GIS analytics. She loves to learn and explore outdoors. Her current area of interest is living shorelines although she also desires to expand other important programs at MRC such as Muck Finders and Groundwater Monitoring.
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.
Angie Oswalt is our new Youth Education and Summer Camp Coordinator. She grew up in Indiana, near Chicago, and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Horticulture. She moved to Florida after graduating to get away from the snow and managed a garden center until becoming a stay-at-home mom. She spent years volunteering with Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Melbourne Area Junior Woman’s Club. She has spent the last 18 years teaching middle school science with Brevard Public Schools. Angie loves being outside, gardening, biking, and kayaking, and is very excited to be working with the Marine Resources Council.
Bri Forté is the Programs Coordinator for the Marine Resources Council. Originally from Maryland, Bri’s first experiences with the ocean were through trips to the Baltimore Aquarium and Chesapeake Bay, where she developed a deep connection with coastal wildlife. Fleeing the cold, Bri completed her B.S. in Marine Biology at Florida Tech, and is currently working on her M.S. in Conservation Technology. Bri loves the Indian River Lagoon like a local, and is excited to help preserve the magic of this unique ecosystem through community outreach, data collection, and MRC’s restoration efforts.
Allison McGinley is an environmental educator here at MRC. Growing up in Miami, she was able to see the effects urban development has on the environment firsthand. She graduated from Florida International University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. Afterwards, she worked in Miami Dade County Public Schools as a Special Education Teacher for almost four years. During her time in public school, she led environmental clubs and initiatives. Allison created a school-wide recycling program, garden club, and received a Florida Green Schools Award for her school. Her enthusiasm for sustainability and the environment brought her to Marine Resources Council, where she can help educate the youth about things they can do to help save and restore the Indian River Lagoon! She is passionate about making environmental education exciting and accessible to all children!
Caitlin Bagnall is the Community Environmental Educator at MRC. Originally from California, she always had a love for the ocean and the animals that inhabit it. During college at UC Santa Cruz, Caitlin cared for rescue sea lions and seals at the Marine Mammal Center, and cared for and trained dolphins, sea otters, and seals at the Marine Mammal Physiology Project. After graduating with a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in Psychology, she jetted off to Honolulu, HI to work as a dolphin trainer, leading swim-with-the-dolphins programs and educating the public on marine conservation. It was there that she realized her passion for teaching not only applies to those with flippers, but to humans as well! Now a Florida resident, Caitlin loves being near the water, trying to spot some of her old friends coming up for a breath.