SEACC Staff

Meredith Trainor, Executive Director

Meredith Trainor, Executive Director

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Meredith Trainor has been the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s Executive Director since
2016.

Before working for SEACC, she spent six years working on boreal forest conservation in Canada for the International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC), while based out of Seattle.

At the IBCC, Meredith worked with stakeholders from the Forest Products Association of Canada on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, joining an effort to increase the amount of Canadian Boreal Forest under permanent, legislated protection from industrial development by working with forestry industry leaders, provincial and First Nations governments, Indigenous peoples, the scientific community, and Canadian citizens, among others.

Later, she led the Mineral Tenure Act Reform Campaign for British Columbia, an effort to update and contemporize mining laws around the staking of new claims, with particular implications for what is known in Alaska as the transboundary region, between British Columbia and Alaska.

Before beginning work at SEACC Meredith also worked on the Manitoba Boreal Campaign, helping elevate the public’s support for protecting the boreal forest by designing and running social media and public awareness campaigns, including through using surveys, public art, and focus group work to advance boreal forest protections in that province.

Meredith holds a master’s of Environmental Science in Forest Ecology and Management from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (now the Yale School of the Environment), and bachelor’s degrees in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva, New York.

Meredith believes she was always destined for Alaska, after spending the best summer of her life doing plant ecology and climate change research at the Toolik Experimental Field Station on the North Slope in 2005, an experience she chased with a remote backpacking trip in Denali National Park with a close friend. Although it took 11 years to make it official, her love for northern places, big and challenging peaks, cold and snowy winters, and extreme weather was affirmed during years spent mountaineering and alpine climbing in Washington state, and is being expanded upon through other forms of adventure now.

In her private life, Meredith is an avid outdoorswoman, and weekends and days off often find her enjoying one of the Tongass National Forest’s many public use cabins while fishing, hiking, mushrooming and gathering wild plants, kayaking, running, packrafting, skiing, training for mountaineering, and doing other active sports along the way. Southeast Alaska’s rainiest days also find her spending time at home knitting and crafting, usually with her dog Rhubarb (Ruby) somewhere close by.

Maggie Rabb, Deputy Director

Maggie Rabb, Deputy Director

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Maggie was born in Juneau but grew up in rural Northern Vermont where she developed a deep appreciation of nature. She jumped at the opportunity to travel to Alaska after high school working as a trolling deckhand out of Sitka for six summers. Maggie found her passion for Southeast during her summers on that troller delivering salmon to communities throughout the region. During that time, she met, and later married, a commercial fisherman and continued to spend time each year in Southeast.

She graduated with a bachelor’s in Sociology and Environmental Studies from St. Lawrence University in upstate New York where she focused on social movement organizations. Maggie spent time pursuing graduate studies in Sociology at Michigan State University and later spent a year as an international marine policy fellow at the State Department’s Office of Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C.

In 2013 Maggie followed her dream of relocating to Southeast Alaska by moving to Juneau, where she worked at Perseverance Theatre as their Development Director for three years. She is now using her fundraising and nonprofit management experience in furtherance of her passion for environmental conservation. Originally hired as SEACC’s Director of Development and Operations, Maggie now serves as SEACC’s Deputy Director.

Chiara D'Angelo, Tongass Forest Program Manager

Chiara D'Angelo, Tongass Forest Program Manager

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Chiara was raised on the shores of the cold salt waters of the Salish Sea in Washington state. There, she fell in love with the brilliant landscapes, forestlands and fragile underwater ecosystems that called the Salish Sea home. At a young age she began to connect the dots between human behavior within her community and the health of the ecological systems she called home. Chiara was drawn to informed advocacy at a young age to help reverse the trend of ecological collapse and transition to a new era of ecological conservation.

Her insatiable desire to more complexly understand how to protect watersheds and ensure vibrant ecosystems led her into her studies of environmental Systems Thinking at Fairhaven College in Bellingham, Washington. Since graduating from Fairhaven in 2016, Chiara has launched a student-led nonprofit organization, attended graduate school in public administration and public policy, started a youth-led Political Action Committee and worked under the Endangered Species Coalition as a regional campaign organizer.

When she’s not organizing, you might find Chiara swimming in cold waters, composing a new song, falling in love with a new ecosystem or daydreaming about organizing.

Heather Evoy, Indigenous Engagement Lead

Heather Evoy, Indigenous Engagement Lead

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Heather was born and raised in Ketchikan, and is an Alaska Native, Tsimshian, and Tlingit. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Alaska Southeast with focus areas of Anthropology and Environmental Sciences.

The locally focused interdisciplinary training and knowledge she gained throughout her undergraduate career included topics such as: environmental economics, glaciology, hydrology and geomorphology of the Southeast landscape in context/relation to ancient human occupation; tribal and local governance and politics; museum/archival experience; and countless hours of independent study based on ethnographic interviews and archival research regarding her family’s home community of Metlakatla.

Some of Heather’s fondest childhood memories took place in Metlakatla with her grandmother when they went out in darkness at minus tides to dig for clams and when they would spend long summer hours together berry picking.

Heather has observed the many environmental changes experienced in her region, both in her personal life and academic work. She seeks to understand those changes through an Indigenous lens while strengthening and uniting forces for those most afflicted by the ongoing changes.

Heather has lived in Juneau since 2012 where she and her two children have continued to enjoy being members of two intertribal dance groups and learning their Tsimshian ancestral language of S’malgyax. Heather is also the Alaska Indigenous Representative to the Western Mining Action Network (WMAN).

Aaron Brakel, Inside Passage Waters Program Manager

Aaron Brakel, Inside Passage Waters Program Manager

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It was no surprise when Aaron Brakel was brought on at SEACC to officially work for water protection. In fact, most of his friends were probably wondering what took him so long. 

Aaron has been a SEACC volunteer since the 1980s. His involvement with mining and water quality work started in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He’s worked on the Alaska-Juneau and Kensington mines permitting processes, and on turning out public support for forest issues, extensively as a volunteer.

Aaron’s passion for protecting Southeast Alaska is a family affair. His stepfather, noted naturalist Greg Streveler, was a long-time SEACC board member. And his mother, Judy Brakel, was a renowned wilderness guide who also served as the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission’s representative to the Alaska Board of Fisheries.

“Growing up in Southeast Alaska, I’ve seen things that I want to be able to pass on to the coming generations, things like clean water, healthy habitat, and robust wilderness that support the cultures and economy of this amazing place for the longterm,” Aaron says.

Aaron considers himself very fortunate to have grown up on Auk Kwaan land in downtown Juneau. Aaron and his mother were adopted into the Kiks.adi clan’s Clay House by Matushka Emily Williams in the 1990s at the memorial ku.eex for his brother Kaaxaachgook, Robert Williams.

“To me,” Aaron says, “Upholding the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples, and the cultural values and languages that are part of this place, will always pay off in the long run.”

As the Inside Passage Waters Program Manager, Aaron hopes to play a useful role in protecting the waters and the habitat of this amazing place we call home. In his off time, Aaron is on the soccer field, reading, or spending time with family.

Shannon Donahue, Upper Lynn Canal Organizer

Shannon Donahue, Upper Lynn Canal Organizer

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Shannon Donahue spent eight years exploring the state of Alaska from the Interior to the Aleutians before choosing Haines as her home in 2010. She loves the dramatic beauty, abundant wildlife, strong communities, and deciduous trees of the Chilkat Valley.

After dividing her time between Alaska and Montana for graduate school, she earned a master’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana in 2010, with a focus in bear conservation and education. She has worked for the Great Bear Foundation, Alaska Arts Confluence, Alaska State Parks, and the U.S. Forest Service (Tongass and Chugach National Forests).

Shannon co-directed and produced the documentary film, “Walking Bear Comes Home: The Life and Work of Chuck Jonkel,” featuring archival footage of Jonkel’s groundbreaking polar bear field research in the 1960s, that premiered at the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana in 2017. Shannon now organizes around mining and water quality issues in the Chilkat Valley.

In addition to her environmental work, Shannon spends her time practicing greenwood carving, foraging from the land and sea, cooking delicious meals with friends, and slowly finishing her house.

Conor Lendrum, Development and Outreach Associate

Conor Lendrum, Development and Outreach Associate

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Born and raised in Juneau, Conor is a sincere and enthusiastic lover of the landscape in which he was born. Son of an Oregonian landscape architect and a Californian horticulturalist, Conor was raised to always be watching the world around him; to appreciate what human hands had labored to create and to see the intricate and elegant beauty that none could replicate. Growing up in Auke Bay he was raised in the nursery beneath the boughs of the Tongass, his playmates the salmon in the creek by his house and the bears that traveled through his yard to eat them, the bats that bedded in his attic and the great blue herons that nested in the broken Sitka spruce outside his window.

Graduating from the University of Oregon with a bachelor’s in English and having completed the Kidd Tutorial in creative writing, Conor returned home for a few years where he worked at Kindred Post and volunteered as the secretary of the board for Woosh Kinaadeiyí. He then worked for two years in grassroots field marketing and small business advocacy in Philadelphia, PA, traveling and working all over the mid-Atlantic.

Conor returned home to Southeast Alaska in December 2019 and has found his dream job at SEACC, crafting messages and organizing events in the cause of protecting the home he has always loved.

Mel Izard, Development and Outreach Associate

Mel Izard, Development and Outreach Associate

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Mel Izard was born and raised in the Buffalo area of western New York. They moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international studies, with a focus on environmental sustainability (during which they studied abroad in Costa Rica). Mel then moved to Massachusetts, where they completed a master’s degree in conservation.

There is nothing in the world that brings Mel more joy than the beauty and strength of nature. They have been passionate about environmental conservation since they were a child exploring the natural world of New York state. They have also spent time in the not-for-profit world as a leadership fellow at a language learning nonprofit.

They’re thrilled to be living in Southeast and getting started at SEACC. Mel strongly believes in the need to address social issues alongside climate issues, as justice cannot be achieved otherwise. They are excited to support SEACC’s efforts to tackle both social and environmental issues by serving as the Development and Outreach Associate.

Matthew Jackson, Climate Organizer

Matthew Jackson, Climate Organizer

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Matt was born in Ketchikan, but his family moved south shortly after the pulp mill closed. The shock of moving from the vibrant Tongass to sterile suburbia taught him the value of healthy ecosystems and communities at a young age. His appreciation for wild spaces was deepened at Sterling College, a radically sustainable college whose mission is to advance ecological thinking and action. It was at Sterling that Matt learned how to apply ecosystem thinking to the real world, and came to believe that ecosystem thinking is critical to addressing social as well as environmental issues.

After graduating with his bachelor’s, Matt returned to Southeast and put his beliefs into practice at Youth Advocates of Sitka, working as a direct service provider for teens from across Alaska and eventually serving as the Community Program Coordinator. In his spare time, Matt has served on the board of the Sitka Local Foods Network, directed and produced a transboundary mining documentary, Uprivers, and co-founded the Herring Rock Water Protectors group, among other projects. When Matt heard about SEACC’s Climate Organizer position, he was excited by the opportunity to turn his experience as a grassroots community organizer into a career. Climate change organizing fascinates Matt because of its place at the intersection of social and ecological issues, and how it forces us to examine basic assumptions about our society.

When he’s not organizing, you might find Matt hiking, hunting, fishing, gathering, gardening, cooking, tanning and sewing leather, sailing his 24′ Dolphin sloop around the Inside Passage, or learning how to backcountry ski.

Lauren Cusimano, Communications Lead

Lauren Cusimano, Communications Lead

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Lauren spent a good chunk of her youth moving as a military kid but finally settled in west Phoenix as an adolescent. Since childhood, reading and writing had been a form of comfort that would eventually become a skill.

A journalism class in high school evolved into attending and graduating from Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication (where she later became a news reporting and writing professor). As a student and professional journalist, Lauren has covered everything from local culture, food, and music to refugee resettlement, food waste, and sustainability.

But Lauren’s personal interest has always been in conservationism.

As a public parks and wildlife fan, she has traveled across the country visiting national and state parks. She has volunteered with the National Park Service at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument as a ranger and content creator. She has also volunteered with Audubon Southwest — assisting in securing artificial burrows and weekly feedings of burrowing owls. She has also worked professionally with Tennessee State Parks, Arizona State Parks, and Niagara Falls USA.

For years, Lauren was in search of a job where she could join her journalism training with her passion for wildland.

Lauren moved to Juneau in summer 2021 after landing her dream job at SEACC. She’ll spend her days communicating on behalf of irreplaceable old-growth trees and waterways, and the people of the forests, waters, and land. When she’s not “working,” she’ll be off exploring her new home in Southeast Alaska.

 

Katie Rooks, Environmental Policy Analyst

Katie Rooks, Environmental Policy Analyst

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Katie Rooks arrived in Southeast Alaska, Prince of Wales Island, in 2004. Katie grew up in Northfield, Minnesota, where she earned an undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College in 1999. Although her B.A. was in English Education, Katie decided shortly after graduation that she had to pursue an occupation that included work in the outdoors, her primary passion. 

She moved to Ely, Minnesota, where she applied for work with the Forest Service and also attended Vermillion Community College, earning another degree in Natural Resources Technology. Katie spent the summer seasons of 2002 and 2003 working as a Wildland Firefighter. During this time, she traveled west to fight forest fires and was irreversibly drawn to the mountains, streams, and waters of the West Coast. 

In early 2004, she saw a job posting for a recreation position on Prince of Wales Island, with the Forest Service in Alaska, and decided to pursue that opportunity. Upon stepping off the ferry, Katie fell in love with Southeast Alaska and the Tongass National Forest. Her first summer on POW was perhaps the best summer of her life, where she combined her love of working with young people and her love of outdoor work as a Youth Conservation Corps crew leader. Katie worked her way up the ladder, holding several different positions at the Forest Service. She then earned a master’s degree in Recreation and Park Management from Frostburg State University in MD in 2015. 

In 2017, Katie left the Forest Service to start her own Outfitter-Guide company, Prince of Wales Excursion Outfitter. However, she was still eager to achieve more in terms of protecting and working for the Tongass, as she had seen large tracts of old-growth forests continue to be logged while living on Prince of Wales Island, and had seen the consequences first-hand. 

Katie is thrilled to become part of the SEACC family and plans to put her knowledge, skills, and expertise to good use as we move forward into a new era of forest management in Southeast Alaska.

Raylynn Lawless, Office Manager

Raylynn Lawless, Office Manager

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Though she was born down south in Oregon, Raylynn fell in love with Juneau and the Tongass National Forest when she would visit family for the summer and winter holidays. When she was 15 she decided to relocate from the high deserts of Oregon to the lush temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, where the love of nature and adventure runs deep.

Raylynn graduated from Juneau Douglas High School in 2008 and immediately began traveling between Oregon, Sweden, and New Zealand until she returned to Alaska and began pursuing her passion for gardening. In addition to managing an office full of SEACC team members, Raylynn is currently attending the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine to become an herbalist and Medicinal Herb Farmer. She is also a novice beekeeper, who has been keeping healthy happy bees in our temperate climate.

When Raylynn is not playing in the garden, harvesting medicinal herbs, or loving on her bees, she can be found fishing, camping, and adventuring with her two amazing dogs and wonderful husband.