Foundation

Team

Our team consists of a passionate group of people who are dedicated to marine conservation. Our core operations are handled by a small group of people located in various offices around the world.

MANAGEMENT & ADMINISTRATION

Dr James Lea

Chief Executive Officer

James is the chief executive officer of the Save Our Seas Foundation.

He has had a fascination for the marine realm from a young age and it was this that sparked his ambition to explore the oceans. Having been humbled by encounters with various shark species, he became keen to learn as much as he could about their behaviour and ecology. James gained a first-class Honours degree in biological sciences from the University of Oxford and then volunteered as a shark researcher at the Bimini Biological Field Station. At Bimini he cut his teeth catching, tagging and tracking sharks, and working with them so closely consolidated his passion and further motivated him to fight for marine conservation.

James then moved to work as a research scientist for the Save Our Seas Foundation, before completing a PhD in marine biology at the University of Plymouth in collaboration with the D’Arros Research Centre. His primary research focus was a comprehensive tagging programme tracking almost 200 sharks of seven different species in Seychelles, aiming to determine the factors that drive their movement behaviour and use this knowledge to inform effective conservation strategies. James’ research has helped to contribute to the design of marine protected areas and has revealed previously unknown open ocean migrations of tiger and bull sharks, highlighting the challenge of managing shark populations that span ocean basins. He continues his research as part of the Evolutionary Ecology Group at the University of Cambridge.

James fully realises the importance of actively promoting awareness of marine conservation issues, so he is particularly excited to lead the Save Our Sea Foundation team to help ensure that we can live with healthy oceans for generations to come.

Sandrine Griffiths

Grant Programme Manager

Sandrine first became passionate about biology and genetics in college, although from an early age she had always felt a strong need to be immersed in nature. Born in Switzerland, she was lucky to spend long vacations by the Mediterranean Sea, savouring the elements and admiring the marine fauna as she tried to follow her father, a free-diver. Later she travelled less often, so the Swiss mountains and Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe, fed her need for nature.

A biologist by training, Sandrine taught science to teenagers before joining a biotech company where she acquired strong project management skills. After seven years, an opportunity arose that enabled her to set up her own business and open a sailing and nautical sports store on the shore of Lake Geneva. It was this adventure that reminded her how much she wanted to take care of the many aquatic ecosystems and their wildlife that is degraded by human activity. She is passionate about living creatures in all their forms.

COMMUNICATION

Aurélie Grospiron

Director of Communication

Born and raised in the French Alps, Aurélie developed a strong connection with the natural elements: mountains, lakes and the ocean. She became an expert skier, sailor and diver, loves adventure and also enjoys contact with people who are passionate about nurturing a vision for a better world. Environmental issues, the legacy for the next generation and educational objectives are what matter to this dynamic woman.

Aurélie graduated from an international business school in Paris in 1992 and went on to work mainly with premium brands such as Rolex, Oakley and Dynastar. Her fields of expertise are public and media relations, sponsoring, advertising and event management.

In April 2019, after a career in the sport and luxury industries, she felt it was time for her to reconnect with her personal aspirations and follow a new professional direction. She joined the Save Our Seas Foundation in Geneva to handle its communications strategy and make the organisation’s activities and ambitions better known to the general public. For Aurélie it’s a new reality that makes perfect sense, a role that matches her preference for exploration, conservation and innovation.

Thomas P. Peschak

Director of Storytelling

Thomas P. Peschak is a National Geographic Photographer, Explorer and Fellow who specialises in documenting both the beauty and the fragility of the world’s oceans, islands and coasts. For National Geographic Magazine he has produced 10 feature stories that cover various natural history and conservation issues, ranging from manta rays to marine protected areas.

Originally trained as a marine biologist, Thomas embraced photojournalism 15 years ago after realising that his photographs could have greater conservation impact than scientific statistics. He is a founding director of the Manta Trust and a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. His images have won 17 Wildlife Photographer of the Year and seven World Press Photo awards. Thomas has supplied the photographs and text for seven books, including Currents of Contrast, Sharks & People and Manta: The secret life of devil rays. He is a popular speaker for National Geographic Live, having presented more than 20 shows in 15 cities on three continents. His official 2015 TED talk, ‘Dive into an ocean photographer’s world’, has been viewed more than one million times.

 

Jade Robyn Schultz

Content Manager

From a young age when she and her family would go on holiday to nature reserves and the seaside, Jade has felt a very strong connection to the natural world and a great appreciation for its overwhelming beauty. With time however, she realised that this was a view few others shared. Having experienced in particular how little other people know about the wonders of the ocean, she became acutely aware that they know even less about the dangers that the marine realm faces.

With a background in marketing and media experience, Jade understands that the media is extremely powerful when it comes to spreading a message and raising awareness– and, in fact, in today’s digital world it is an invaluable conservation tool. She believes that the knowledge and experience that she is able to bring to the Save Our Seas Foundation’s Conservation Media Unit, together with the passion and dedication of the other team members, can and will make a positive difference in the mindset of the public – and, ultimately, the health of our oceans.

Nicola Poulos

Graphic designer and video editor

Growing up on the beaches of Durban and Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, with her large family was the root of Nicola’s deep respect for the natural world and she has been an earth-child and ocean-lover from a young age. The rest of her story evolves into a love for surfing, diving, balance, health, sustainability and conservation. She is an active, nature-loving, waste free-advocating eco-warrior, usually spotted on her bicycle.

Nicola graduated from Rhodes University with a Bachelor of Journalism and Media Studies, specialising in creative communication and psychology. Since then she’s been grappling with the challenge of how to communicate an ethic, specifically one of environmental consciousness: an awareness of, and responsiveness to, uplifting one’s surroundings.

Over the past few years she has worked in the media industry, in magazines and publishing, lifestyle and action sports, museums and exhibitions, events and festivals, in South Africa and the United Kingdom. With these foundations and practised in the production of print and digital graphics, Nicola strives to use her knowledge and skills for change, for good and for a better world.

A couple of years ago she found herself becoming increasingly disheartened with the media industry and its lack of emphasis on what really matters. She left the city and began working towards her goal of having a more positive impact through her craft, which led her to the Save Our Seas Foundation’s communications team.

In a world of growing trivial distractions and diminishing attention spans, she believes that honest, impactful and captivating communication techniques are vital. As much as graphic design is rooted in communicating ideas that inspire, inform and captivate consumers, she believes in its capacity to also generate awareness and effect positive change. Nicola aims to tell the stories that need to be heard and to create content that matters – content that focuses attention on and supports those who are striving to create a better world.

Kelli Whitehead

Social media manager and content marketer

Growing up on the west coast of South Africa in a family of sailors set the stage very early in life for Kelli’s deep connection to the ocean. As a youngster she travelled to many places around the world, experiencing them through sailing and forming an intense love and respect for the sea. Soon after commencing her studies at the University of Stellenbosch, she began embracing the ocean even more, leaning towards volunteer and education programmes alongside her degree in linguistics.

In 2018 she opened her own international yacht charter agency, hoping to inspire people to travel the world and to experience the magic of the marine world. After shifting focus to her growing passion for marine conservation and finding a deeper understanding of how important online media can be for the conservation of the natural world, Kelli joined the Save Our Seas Foundation’s communications team in 2020. She hopes to spark joy and inspiration in the minds of those who engage with the foundation online in a way that brings about a positive change for the plight of our oceans.

 

CONSULTANTS

Sarah Fowler

Scientific Advisor

Sarah has a first class joint honours degree in zoology and marine zoology from the University College of North Wales, an MSc in conservation from University College London and 30 years of professional experience as a marine biodiversity conservation expert. She has worked in various capacities for government departments, national and international NGOs and a biodiversity consultancy. Having been appointed to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group in 1991, she chaired it for many years and is now its vice-chair for international treaties.

Sarah founded the European Elasmobranch Association and its UK member, the Shark Trust (and is a trustee of the latter). She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to marine conservation in 2004, and a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation in 2005. She became principal scientist for the Save Our Seas Foundation in 2011.

Dr Dean Grubbs

Scientific Advisor

Dr Dean Grubbs is a fish ecologist with interests in the biology of exploited and poorly studied estuarine and marine taxa. Much of his research addresses specific gaps in biological knowledge necessary for the management and conservation of coastal and deep-water sharks and rays. Dean specialises in the use of fishery-independent surveys to study population dynamics and the drivers of distribution patterns of fishes and to facilitate studies of life histories, reproductive biology, trophic ecology and systematics. Dean has also tagged and released more than 10,000 sharks representing over 40 species during the past 25 years. He employs a variety of tagging and telemetry techniques to examine movement, migration and patterns of habitat use and to delineate essential and vulnerable habitats for exploited, threatened or poorly studies species.

Dean is a native of Florida and his early years spent fishing and exploring the waters of the north-eastern Gulf of Mexico led to an early interest in marine biology. He received Bachelor’s degrees in marine science and biology from the University of Miami and a doctoral degree in Fisheries Science from the College of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Dean was a post-doctoral researcher and faculty member at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology before moving to Florida State University (FSU) in 2007. He is a member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Protected Resources’ Smalltooth Sawfish Recovery Team and NOAA’s SouthEast Data Assessment and Review Advisory Panel for Highly Migratory Species. Dean is currently the associate director of research at the FSU Coastal and Marine Lab, where he mentors graduate and undergraduate students and maintains an active research programme on the ecology of deep-water and coastal fishes. His research has been featured in many television documentaries, including National Geographic TV, National Geographic Wild, Discovery Channel and the US Public Broadcasting System.

Dr Andrew Chin

Scientific Advisor

Dr Andrew Chin is a fisheries scientist whose work focuses on shark and ray biology and ecology, and how the information from this research can be translated into conservation and sustainability. Specifically, Andrew is interested in how fishes use coastal and marine habitats and how patterns of use affect their vulnerability to pressures such as fishing, habitat loss and climate change. His recent research spans the life history and biology of sharks by means of tagging and acoustic telemetry, as well as risk assessment. As an applied scientist, Andrew is also very interested in how fishes, sharks and rays interact with people and how their populations can be managed, as well as in impacts on their populations.

Andrew grew up in South-East Asia but currently lives in Queensland, Australia, where he received his PhD from James Cook University. He has a diverse marine background, having worked as a marine biologist in the tourism industry and as an education officer in a public aquarium. He also spent 10 years working at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian federal agency charged with protecting the Great Barrier Reef. In 2017, Andrew launched SharkSearch Indo-Pacific, an effort that blends formal research, citizen science and public outreach, and aims to develop a scientifically robust shark diversity checklist and conservation account for every country and territory in the Pacific by 2022. He is also one of the founders of the Oceania Chondrichthyan Society and a member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group.

S​t​e​f​a​n K​u​b​i​c​k​i

Technology Advisor

Stefan grew up in North Dakota, about as far away as it’s possible to get from the coast in the USA. He first developed a fascination with sharks and the underwater world thanks to nature documentaries and well-worn issues of National Geographic. He began his career as an analyst at a UN-based NGO in New York before moving to London, where he worked as a web developer and advisor to several startup companies. He joined the Save Our Seas Foundation in 2010. Aside from his work for the foundation, Stefan is an award-winning filmmaker whose films have screened at festivals around the world.

SOSF SEYCHELLES

Helena Sims

Seychelles Ambassador

Born and raised in Seychelles, Helena has a deep love for the sea. She has always felt drawn to the ocean, and marine biology was what she wanted to do for as long as she can remember. She first went diving on her 10th birthday and by the time she was 18 she was already a dive master.

She has always been an active volunteer for environmental causes in Seychelles and when eco-clubs started up while she was still at school, she became a founding member. In 2002 she won an eco-school award trip to Aldabra. Her dedication and hard work took her to Australia to study marine biology at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland, and on her return she worked in the research section at the Seychelles National Parks Authority. A few years later she accepted the position of project coordinator at the Green Islands Foundation, a local NGO, before going on to manage a four-year GOS–UNDP–GEF protected areas project.

Helena has more than 10 years of experience in marine biology and conservation and project management. A highlight of her career was being part of the team to finalise the world’s first debt-for-nature swap for a marine area. She is also the first woman to be appointed the chairperson of the Seychelles National Parks Authority. Currently she is working full time on an initiative to develop a marine spatial plan for Seychelles’ entire Exclusive Economic Zone and to identify 30% of that area to be protected. The plan aims to balance ecological, social and economic objectives to ensure that the ocean and its resources are used sustainably.

The sea is within all Seychellois, believes Helena. It’s not only in their blood, it’s their life. She has dedicated her career to helping ensure that this way of life is maintained and preserved. An island girl by nature and profession, she feels blessed to be living and working in such a beautiful country. Her heart, she says, beats to the rhythm of the ocean around Seychelles.

Terence Vel

UniSey & Island School Seychelles

Before joining University of Seychelles in 2015 as a science laboratory technician and a field lecturer for BSc environmental science students, Terence Vel spent 16 years as a laboratory technician in various secondary schools. Twenty-one years ago he became a founder of Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles and during this time has managed the organisation’s projects and coordinated environmental programmes in 40 schools on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue. In 2000 he worked as a technician on a project called ‘Avian ecosystems in Seychelles’, which was funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the former BirdLife Seychelles. The project involved two distinct phases: in the first, ecological research was carried out on a number of the Seychelles’ Inner Islands to investigate their biology and conservation potential; during the second, endemic Seychellois birds were translocated from certain islands to others that were more suitable. In 2008 Terence embarked on studies for a diploma in environmental education and social marketing at the University of Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation. This led him to The Darwin Initiative Rare Pride Campaign to work on a project called ‘Investing in island biodiversity: restoring the Seychelles paradise flycatcher’. The project was based on La Digue Island and aimed to translocate a small population of birds on Denis Island. Terence also conducts outreach programmes that focus on marine education for youth groups from the community.

Dr Robert Bullock

Research Director – SOSF D’Arros Research Centre

Rob can trace his love for science and the marine world back to his youth and to Sir David Attenborough, whose words instilled a curiosity that soon grew into a passion for learning about nature. As an adult, Rob pursued this passion, studying marine and freshwater biology at the University of Hull. As he learned more about the marine realm and its inhabitants, he became particularly interested in the importance of species in healthy ecosystems and the need for science-based conservation. Through his education he discovered the amazing diversity among sharks, the fascinating roles they play in marine systems and the extreme threats they face.

Rob conducted his PhD research at the Bimini Biological Field Station, where he worked as a Principal Investigator and studied the fine-scale behaviour of young lemon sharks using the Bimini Island nursery sites. He then moved on to broaden his skill set as a post-doctoral research associate with the Marine Biodiversity Unit of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), assessing extinction risk to marine species. Rob’s career thus far has taken him to the intersection of scientific research and conservation action and he is driven to deliver science with tangible conservation outcomes.

Henriette Grimmel

Programme Director – SOSF D’Arros Research Centre

Growing up in Germany and Switzerland, where competitive swimming and rowing meant that she spent a lot of time in and on water, Henriette has always had a strong connection to this element. Hiking and camping holidays with her family led to an enduring interest in animals and nature. She first dipped into marine biology while studying in the USA during a high-school exchange year, learning about marine species and snorkelling for the first time in Hawaii.

At university Henriette studied geography and environmental sciences and it took a few more years before she discovered an interest in diving in Lake Zurich and a fascination for sharks. She followed these up with saltwater experiences while volunteering in Mozambique, where she assisted in whale shark research and fish censuses. After further travels and a dive-master internship in Honduras, she went on to complete an Erasmus Mundus Master’s in marine biodiversity and conservation, conducting her field study at the Bimini Biological Field Station in The Bahamas. She gained further experience in marine research while working with the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (LAMAVE) in the Philippines, where she helped to monitor a mobulid fishery and assisted in shark research in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Although it was diving and sharks that got Henriette into marine science, she has always been interested in the complexities of ocean management and how humans interact with the marine world, so she completed a second Erasmus Mundus Master’s, this time in maritime spatial planning from the universities of Seville, the Azores and Iuav Venice. Sharks and conservation remain close to her heart, but Henriette also has a very strong interest in understanding ocean processes, ecosystem services and how humans use them, and finding a pathway to governing that use in a sustainable manner.

Ellie Moulinie

Research Assistant

Born and raised in Seychelles, Ellie loves the island life. She comes from a family of fishermen living next to the ocean, so school holidays meant enjoying the sun and sea every day and, as a strong swimmer, especially snorkelling and diving. Her love of animals, nature and the ocean and her desire to visit all 115 islands in Seychelles influenced her to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in environmental science at the University of Seychelles. Only after learning how to dive did she realise that she wanted to specialise in marine science and fisheries. As an intern for Global Vision International she learnt about fish and marine invertebrates and their importance, and how to conduct surveys to monitor them. She ventured further into marine research by volunteering with the NGO Green Island Foundation, helping to conduct surveys on islands such as North, Denis and Fregate. In 2018 Ellie joined an Earthwatch team on Curieuse Island, where she participated in its Coral Communities in Seychelles Project.

Always moving her career in conservation forward, Ellie most recently worked with the Seychelles Islands Foundation as a field research officer on Aldabra Atoll, where her tasks consisted of conducting terrestrial surveys on the flora and fauna as well as marine research as part of Aldabra’s annual marine monitoring programme. As a young emerging scientist and conservationist, she believes it is her duty and responsibility to do her part to protect global ecosystems and threatened species against anthropogenic stressors and the effects of climate change that are causing the loss of biodiversity.

SOSF SHARK EDUCATION CENTRE (SOSF-SEC)

Kalk Bay, Western Cape, South Africa

 

Dr Clova Mabin

Education Centre Director – SOSF Shark Education Centre

Originally from Scotland, Clova has been in love with the ocean since she was a toddler and has fond memories of windswept beaches and very cold water! A conservation expedition to the warmer waters of Madagascar and subsequently working as a diving aquarist in a Scottish aquarium cemented her passion for all things marine. She came to South Africa in 2005 to work as a dive master with tiger sharks and then joined the White Shark Trust as a research assistant. During this time she became involved in the wildlife film industry, developing her science communication and project management skills. Keen to further her education, Clova went on to complete an MSc in conservation biology and then a PhD focusing on the status and management options for marine species that have invaded South African shores. This applied research made her realise how remote most science is from the general public and how such inaccessibility contributes to the many conservation issues we face today.

Clova loves to travel, but when in South Africa she spends her free time outdoors, either underwater or in the mountains. She is a certified PADI dive master and scientific commercial diver. As a mother and a volunteer for several organisations that focus on environmental education, she enjoys teaching children about ecology and sustainable lifestyle choices. She is passionate about sharing her love and knowledge of the marine environment, as she believes this is the best way to shape our future.

Claire Metcalf

Facilities Administrator – SOSF Shark Education Centre

Raised in various small West Coast fishing and mining towns of South Africa and Namibia, with parents whose free-range approach to parenting meant lots of time outside exploring beaches, Claire is a firm believer in the power of experiential education in moulding future generations to become effective conservationists.  Claire joined the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Education Centre in May 2016 after almost eight years with Liberty Life Financial Services as a franchise business support administrator. With a diploma in administration and legal studies from Montrose Business College in Cape Town, in her role as the facilities administrator she brings a high level of organisation and structure to the dynamic working environment that is the Shark Education Centre. She is enjoying every minute of the varied opportunities this role brings and, in addition to seeing to facilities maintenance and administration, she has become a vital part of the team, joining school groups as they learn about, explore and appreciate the ocean. She has also made it her personal mission to convince the education centre’s resident puffadder shysharks to eat their food. With a family that has earned – and continues to earn – its income almost entirely from the sea, Claire has a vested interest in the conservation of the oceans for current and future generations. She believes that she is in exactly the right place to be able to contribute to this.

Craig Haley

Educator – SOSF Shark Education Centre

Craig grew up in Cape Town’s southern Peninsula, where he had a view of the ocean. As a child, he would often visit the beach, enjoying watersports among the waves and daydreaming of the mystical creatures that lay hidden beneath the water’s surface. It was his childhood fascination with the ocean that enticed him to study marine biology, starting with a Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. In 2015, he returned to university to further his education and completed a Master’s degree in applied marine science at the University of Cape Town.

In between his academic pursuits, Craig indulged a second passion: field hockey. He represented South Africa for six years and played in some of the best domestic leagues around the world. For the past few years he has been coaching hockey in several local schools.

Craig loves adventure and enjoys exploring the natural environment on land and in the sea. He has an advanced diver’s certificate and scuba-dives around South Africa’s coastline whenever he gets the opportunity. On land, he enjoys hiking, camping, trail running and game viewing. There are so many interesting marine and terrestrial animals around Cape Town, he says, ‘it really gives me joy to share with younger generations my knowledge of our wild neighbours.’

 

Ntombizanele Mayiya

Assistant Educator – SOSF Shark Education Centre

Zanele was born in the northern part of South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Even as a young girl she enjoyed cooking very much, so when she completed her matric she decided to make hotel and catering management her career. In March 2008 she started working for SOSF as a housekeeper.

By reading SOSF books and watching videos about the ocean environment, Zanele became interested in marine life. In June 2009 she joined Alison Kock on the research boat to Seal Island in False Bay and there she saw a great white shark for the first time in her life. By the end of that trip she had fallen in love with the sea and decided to become an educator so that she can pass her enthusiasm on to the young generations of South Africa.

SOSF SHARK RESEARCH CENTRE (SOSF-SRC)

Dania Beach, Florida, USA

Dr Mahmood Shivji

Director – SOSF Shark Research Centre

Mahmood is professor of marine science at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Oceanographic Center in Florida and a director of the SOSF Shark Research Center. He received his undergraduate degree in biological sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada, his masters from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his PhD from the University of Washington. He has been a faculty member at NSU since 1993 and a director of the SOSF Shark Research Center since 2010.

Mahmood credits his life-long fascination with biology to growing up in Kenya, where he was routinely exposed to African wildlife and undersea environments as a child and teenager. His interests in marine science in particular were boosted when as an undergraduate student he assisted one of his professors with kelp-bed ecology research in a pristine part of British Columbia. That experience proved transformative, leading to a career in marine and conservation science and education.

In addition to leading the research and education programmes of the shark research centre, Mahmood directs the Guy Harvey Research Institute, emphasising collaborative projects between the two entities to achieve larger and more impactful research and conservation outcomes. He specialises in integrating laboratory genetics-based and field-work approaches to study and solve problems pertaining to the management and conservation of sharks and rays, billfishes and coral reef ecosystems.

Mahmood’s work consistently receives worldwide attention. His research developing rapid DNA forensic methods to identify shark body parts is being used by US and other national fisheries management agencies to reduce the illegal fishing of threatened species. This work is also on exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum’s Sant Ocean Hall in Washington DC, and his team’s research discoveries have been widely reported in the national and international media.