team

R. Brent Lyles

Executive Director

More about Brent

Elise Cope

Communications and Outreach Director

More about Elise

Shannon Davis

Deputy Director

More about Shannon

Katherine Dietzman

Science and Education Coordinator

More about Katherine

D. James McCubbin

Legal Director and Staff Attorney

More about D. James

Jess Newley

Community Science and Education Manager

More about Jess

Lovel Pratt

Marine Protection and Policy Director

More about Lovel

Jan Sanburg

Operations Manager

More about Jan

Michel Vekved

Director of Philanthropy

More about Michel

Tina Whitman

Science Director

More about Tina

R. Brent Lyles

Executive Director

Brent began his professional journey teaching middle-school science in rural North Carolina, as a member of Teach For America. Since that time, Brent’s career has focused on science education, compassionate and inclusive leadership, and environmental stewardship. He holds master’s degrees in biological anthropology and nonprofit management. Before relocating to the San Juan Islands in 2020, Brent served as Executive Director at several nonprofits in Austin, Texas, and he is Board Secretary of the American Genre Film Archive. Other experiences include playing in mediocre rock bands, management consulting, and writing national science textbooks. “In this time of rapid change and upheaval,” he says, “no organization is doing more for our local environment and community than the Friends of the San Juans — I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

Elise Cope

Communications and Outreach Director

Elise joined Friends in 2022. With over 15 years of experience in the Seattle area nonprofit sector, Elise brings her talents in program leadership, development, marketing, and blending collaborative storytelling with information design. Her passions for community engagement, environmental stewardship, and social justice will guide Elise in connecting Friends’ members and advocates to what matters to them the most. She has traveled the globe extensively by foot and boat, and has sailed the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Seattle with her two sons and husband. Elise and her family now reside full-time on Lopez Island where they’re delighted to help protect the natural gems of the Salish Sea.

Shannon Davis

Deputy Director

Shannon works to safeguard the Salish Sea from the net zero home she and her husband built in Port Townsend. She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning with an emphasis on natural resource management and an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. As Deputy Director, Shannon helps the Executive Director with the daily operations of the organization and oversees education, outreach, and communications. Shannon is in charge of grant writing and grant management; she also assists with projects when needed. Shannon joined the Friends staff in 2003.

Katherine Dietzman

Science and Education Coordinator

Katherine joined Friends in 2021. She holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies, a minor in Women and Gender Studies, and a certificate in Ecological Restoration in the San Juan Islands. She is passionate about protecting and nurturing the islands she loves and calls home – whether that is through Garry Oak restoration, teaching community yoga classes, or snorkeling as much as possible. Katherine is excited to be a part of the Friends crew and to give back to the place and community that has given her so much. She helps with immersive education, youth mentorship, surveying for forage fish eggs, and shoreline restoration and protection.

D. James McCubbin

Legal Director and Staff Attorney

James joined Friends in 2022 after serving as a deputy county attorney in western Montana for many years. He is originally from San Francisco and earned his juris doctor degree at U.C. Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. During his time in government service, James worked with elected county officials, planning boards, and environmental agencies in adopting, administering, and enforcing land use and environmental regulations. His work has included litigation of numerous land use planning, environmental, and regulatory enforcement cases, with multiple appeals to the state supreme court. James enjoys rolling on just about anything with less than four wheels, and is excited to be refreshing his sailing skills. He lives on San Juan Island where he enjoys exploring all the wonders of the islands.

Jess Newley

Community Science and Education Manager

Jess Newley joined our team in 2018. Passionate about marine conservation and life under the surface, she has been SCUBA diving the Salish Sea waters for 10 years now and wouldn’t want to be found anywhere else. In 2013 she graduated from Western Washington University with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Education and a certificate in non-profit administration. With experience in diving, boating, place-based education, and field science, Jess combines all of her favorite things as our Community Science and Education Manager — working on student and boater education, Pacific Sand Lance beach surveys, community science projects, and developing other science education programs for Friends.

Lovel Pratt

Marine Protection and Policy Director

Lovel joined Friends in 2018. Her previous consulting work focused on maritime shipping and oil spill prevention on behalf of environmental groups, including Friends of the San Juans. Lovel served on the San Juan County Council for one term and represented WA State counties on several regional and state-wide oil spill prevention committees. Lovel served on the VTRA (Vessel Traffic Risk Assessment) 2010 and VTRA 2015 Working Groups. Lovel is the environmental representative on the Puget Sound Harbor Safety Committee, and a member of the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Implementation Committee, and the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee.

Jan Sanburg

Operations Manager

Jan has called Shaw Island home since 1968 and enjoys many aspects of small scale farming, including the importance of how everything is connected; and how we must all work to keep the environment healthy. She and her son also enjoy spending time at the beach, and camping in the PNW. The islands are a special place to call home and it is important to protect it.
Jan joined Friends in 2017 as the Operations Manager and brings with her 23 years of professional experience along with a BS in Business Administration; Marketing, and Accounting along with a recent certification in Project Management.

Michel Vekved

Director of Philanthropy

Michel’s depth and diversity of experience in the nonprofit sector align with her appreciation for preservation and protection of our island environment. This drives her vision to engage individuals with inspiration and integrity around environmental issues, sustainability and a thriving community. As Director of Philanthropy, Michel will cultivate philanthropic strategic planning and implementation through engagement to protect what you love in the San Juans and the Salish Sea. Michel holds a degree in Political Science from Western Washington University, Paralegal Certificate, St.Mary’s Moraga and a Masters of Science in Organizational Development and Philanthropy from University of Denver. Michel has called the San Juan islands home since 2006. She lives on Orcas Island. She joined the Friends staff in 2018.

Tina Whitman

Science Director

Tina is staff scientist for Friends of the San Juans where she has managed shoreline research, restoration and protection programs since 2002. Tina holds a Master of Science from the University of Oregon focused on the application of biological data to improved land management and a BA in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado. With nearly 30 years of experience in place based conservation on both U.S. coasts, Tina’s professional experience includes work with wildlife refuges, watershed councils and a natural history museum prior to joining the team at Friends. She has served on multiple San Juan County committees including Stormwater and the Marine Resources Committee and is a current member of the Salmon Recovery Technical Advisory Group. Tina lives on Orcas Island with her husband and son and is happiest at the beach, for work or play.

We live in such a pivotal time. Future generations are depending on us to protect and restore what will be their environment. We support the Friends because they tackle the issues that really make a big difference in our local environment, while also squeezing maximum value out of every dollar in their budget.

Ken and Mariann Carrasco

members, Orcas Island