Ocean Institute Team

Overview

Meet Our Ocean Institute Team

Our staff comes from all over the world, having earned degrees from prestigious universities and training programs. Each person represents the diversity of the programs we offer, encompassing all disciplines of modern science, technology, history, and sailing.

Our instructors are professional educators who specialize in hands on, inquiry based, scientific and historical exploration. Through our award-winning programs, instructors not only use the ocean as our classroom, but all of the rich natural resources that Southern California has to offer.

Our staff comes from all over the world, having earned degrees from prestigious universities and training programs. Each person represents the diversity of the programs we offer, encompassing all disciplines of modern science, technology, history, and sailing.

Our instructors are professional educators who specialize in hands on, inquiry based, scientific and historical exploration. Through our award-winning programs, instructors not only use the ocean as our classroom, but all of the rich natural resources that Southern California has to offer.

From our outdoor education camp, nestled in the foothills of the Santa Ana mountains, to a Tallship on the high seas, we engage, enlighten, and inspire visitors to learn about the world and their role in it.

Since 1977, Ocean Institute has inspired scientific discovery for both K-12 students and visitors from all over the world. By offering innovative and exciting programming that incorporates technology, we create a passion for exploring science that makes discovery fun!

Ocean Institute Staff

Mary Lawson
Vice President of External Relations

Hometown: Long Beach, California

Education: University of Southern Californa

Why I work at Ocean Institute: I work at the Ocean Institute because I believe that the work we do here is both important and time sensitive.  I work here because we are an organization that helps inspire children to be future innovators, problem solvers and environmental stewards.  I work here because I believe in our mission and the positive impact we are making for the future.

Ocean Institute Staff

Jim Wehan
Tallship Captain

Hometown:  Los Angeles, CA

Education:  BS in Electrical Engineering from LMU, MA in Mathematics from CSULA

Why I work at Ocean Institute:  I enjoy educating youth especially in the field of Maritime Studies

Ocean Institute Staff

Jody Williams
Maritime Sailing Coordinator

Hometown: Tracy, MN

Education: BS Industrial Technology  Moorhead State University

Ocean Institute Staff

Chance McKee
Membership Manager

Hometown: Sulphur Springs, TX

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations

Why I work at Ocean Institute: The staff and volunteers offer a tremendously inclusive culture, affording me the opportunity to give back using my best talents.

Ocean Institute Staff

Doug Abramson
Vice President Operations

Hometown: Excelsior, MN

Education: MSCE, University of Washington - Water Resources.  BSCE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Water Resources

 

Ocean Institute Staff

Kara Whitechurch
Manager of Laurena G. Chambers Gallery

Hometown: Louisville, CO

Education: Montana State University

Why I work at Ocean Institute: Working at the Ocean Institute means I get to share my love for the ocean. I feel privileged to work for a non-profit organization that focuses on educating students in ocean science. I enjoy working with a supportive team that allows me to use my current talents while being able to learn new skills daily.

Ocean Institute Staff

Jonathan Witt
Senior Education Director

Hometown: Long Beach, CA

Education: UC Santa Barbara

Ocean Institute Staff

Nathan Taxel
Director of Outdoor Education

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio 

Education: BA, Hobart College:  Environmental Studies/ Political Science

 MS, Slippery Rock University: Parks and Resource Management 

Why I work at Ocean Institute:  I work at the Ocean Institute because it gives me the chance to create opportunities for students to participate in life changing educational programs that foster connections to our rich natural and cultural history. 

 

Ocean Institute Staff

Dan Goldbacher
Director of Maritime

Home Town: Sweetwater, New Jersey

Education: BA Geography: Environmental Planning, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Ocean Institute Staff

Alexandra Latona
Director of Public Programs

Hometown: Clovis, California

Education: Bachelor of Arts: History, California State University, Fresno

Master of Arts: History with a concentration in Museum Studies, University of North Carolina, Greensboro  

Ocean Institute Staff

Jane Birmingham
Grantwriter

Hometown:  New York City

Education:  BA Economics, University of Pennsylvania

Ocean Institute Staff

Emma Opie
Annual Fund Manager - Adopt A Class

Hometown: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 

Education: University of South Australia, Bachelor of Science in International Relations, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism

Why I work at Ocean Institute:  I have always loved the water, and am passionate about the conservation of our oceans. Everyone deserves the opportunity to learn about this precious resource because if you do not understand something, it is hard to protect it. 

Ocean Institute Staff

Randy Teague
Facilities Manager

Hometown: Henderson, NC.

Education: Masters Degree EE

      

Why I work at Ocean Institute: I work at the Ocean Institute because of the everyday challenges the job presents and where else could an almost 82 year old guy get a good job. 

Ocean Institute Staff

Rachel Basmaciyan
Business Office Manager/Executive Assistant

Hometown: Springfield, NJ

Education: Bachelor of Science, Communications – Ithaca College

Why I Work at Ocean Institute: I enjoy creating a cost-effective infrastructure to allow every possible dollar to be allocated to educational programs. Every day I look out at the ocean and am proud that the work we do at the Ocean Institute helps to protect it for future generations.