Our Team

at Friends

Tina Whitman

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.”

Tina Whitman Science Director

[email protected]

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.

Tina Whitman
Shannon Davis

Shannon Davis Grant Manager

[email protected]

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 Grants Manager, Shannon is in charge of grant writing and grant management, she also assists with projects, education, and many other activities.She joined the Friends staff in 2003.

Katie Fleming Community Engagement Director

[email protected]

Katie lives on San Juan Island with her family and is passionate about exploring, enjoying and protecting the Salish Sea ecosystem. Katie’s background is in sustainable community development and environmental education. She earned a Masters in Natural Science Education from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University and a BA in Telecommunications from Indiana University. As the Community Engagement Director, Katie informs, educates, and engages members and the community in the work of Friends of the San Juans through events, presentations, volunteer programs, electronic and print media, mailed publications, and youth mentorship programs.

Lovel Pratt Marine Protection and Policy Director

[email protected]

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

[email protected]

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

[email protected]

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 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.

Stephanie Buffum
Stephanie Buffum

Jess Newley Marine Science Coordinator

[email protected]

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 Marine Program Coordinator — working on boater education, Pacific Sand Lance beach surveys, and developing other marine science programs for Friends.

Make a difference. We’re always looking for volunteers to join our team.

Join us!
friendsOur Team