Linden Wolbert – Board Chair
Mermaids in Motion
With a BA in Film and Science (underwater cinematography) from Emerson College in Boston, Linden shares the life aquatic with others via underwater wildlife documentary films. Mermaid Minute, her educational ocean web series for kids, “edutains” young viewers about an array of animals and ocean life. Her passion is reaching as many children as possible with her message of conservation, education and exploration thereby transforming them into our world’s youngest ocean ambassadors.
As a PADI Master Scuba Diver, underwater model and full time professional mermaid through her company, Mermaids in Motion, Linden would spend all of her time in the water if her hands didn’t get so pruny! An International AIDA Freediving Judge since 2006, she travels the globe to officiate world records that span far beneath the ocean’s surface. Linden is delighted to be a member of the board of Reef Check, which she learned of a decade ago through her favorite underwater documentary, Coral Reef Adventure.
Julie Rubash – Secretary
Chief Privacy Counsel, Sourcepoint Technologies, Inc.
Julie Rubash is the Chief Privacy Counsel for Sourcepoint Technologies, Inc., a software company with a mission to increase transparency between consumers, brands, publishers and intermediaries. Julie coordinates the company’s legal efforts and ensures that the product suite innovates and expands to meet the demands created by the changing regulatory landscape. She has over 15 years of legal experience both at law firms and as internal counsel in the entertainment, technology and advertising sectors. Julie and her husband, Jonah, are regular Reef Check volunteer divers in southern California and avid scuba divers around the world. Although she loves the occasional thrill of pelagic life on her travels, Julie’s passion brings her back to the diverse macro life under every rock in Southern California. She’s always eager to raise her hand for invertebrate transects in Reef Check surveys.
Robert Kugel – Treasurer
Senior Vice-President, Ventana Research
Robert joined Reef Check as a volunteer diver in 2010 and is active in North Central California surveys. His special interest is “diving with great people in cold, dark, surgy and low-visibility conditions.” Robert is Senior Vice-President at Ventana Research, an advisory services and benchmark research firm, where he runs the Business and Office of Finance practices.
His focus is on marrying a company’s strategic objectives to available information technology to improve performance. He is an authority on the practical application of enterprise software to business needs. Prior to joining Ventana he was an equity research analyst covering aerospace, conglomerates, defense electronics and enterprise software at Drexel Burnham Lambert, Morgan Stanley and First Boston. He also was a consultant with McKinsey & Co. Robert earned a BA in Economics from Hampshire College and an MBA in Finance and Accounting at Columbia University. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst.
Chief Operating Officer, Chai, Inc.
An expert in the development of cross-infrastructure analytics and technology for Big Data applications, he is one of the most sought-after providers in the U.S. market for the design and development of technology tools to power e-commerce, and he has been at the forefront of the development and market application of behavioral energy efficiency technology.
He was among the pioneers in developing mobile apps, including, in 2003, the development of the mobile customer relationship management (CRM) application with the German software giant SAP SE and Canadian multinational developer of enterprise software and Internet of things Research in Motion (RIM), now known as BlackBerry Limited, providing the catalyst for SAP’s mobile CRM platform used by such giants as McCormick & Company.
His career in technology began in high school when he worked for IBM, and while at John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, he worked for Deutsche Bank as a consultant deploying real-time trading technologies developed by Bloomberg, and in 2004 he co-founded his first technology company, SOS Technology Group, providing an array of IT services. By 2010 he was at Southern California Edison as its lead corporate strategist and company-wide program manager for Environmental Strategy and Sustainability, then in 2014 he co-founded and served as Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Executive Officer for Chai Energy.
He is a leader in many organizations, including Young Professionals in Energy (LA) and Reef Check Foundation, serving as a member of the Boards of Directors of both, is on the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Business Council, and has been a featured speaker on cutting-edge technology issues at numerous forums, including SXSW Eco 2015, and VerdeXchange, 2015-2019.
He is frequently quoted, or featured, in media outlets covering technology developments, such as appears in “L.A. Startup Pays Users to Save Power,” Annlee Ellingson, L.A. BIZ Journal, 8/15/16, and “Can the Golden State Go Green,” Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News, 3/13/17.
Helen Brierley graduated from the London School of Economics and earned her Master’s degree in Economic Development from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. She started her career in investment banking in New York and London, moving on to commercial real estate and fund raising in Hong Kong and later back in the UK. She moved to Los Angeles with her family in 2010 where she has been involved in fund raising and joined Reef Check in 2013. She has always had a passion for anything marine related – she has been an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer for 30 years, and races sailboats out of Marina Del Rey at every opportunity.
Matt is an avid surfer, mountain biker, hiker, snowboarder, musician, world traveler and investor, with a passion for ocean health and a love for the outdoors.
Matt’s career in technology includes CRM consulting for Fortune 500 clients with Deloitte Consulting and leading operational Master Data Management and data quality strategy for Toyota Financial Services.
At Toyota, Matt also led volunteer events and built technology solutions benefitting youth-oriented nonprofits throughout Southern California, and he completed the Riordan Volunteer Leadership Development Program, a fellowship preparing professionals for community leadership through service on nonprofit boards. That fellowship, his long-standing love of the ocean, and professional focus on high-quality data driving positive outcomes, were what attracted Matt to Reef Check, where he has served on the Board of Directors since 2014.
Matt is a native of Hermosa Beach and longtime resident of Redondo Beach. He holds a B.S. in Management Information Systems from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Founder & CEO, Nova Medical Products
Sue Chen founded Nova Medical Products in 1993 when she was just 23 years old with a strong vision – offer stylish designs and choices to people using mobility equipment. Today, Nova has grown to become an industry leader in Mobility and Bathroom Safety products providing greater independence and well being to people at all stages of life with products that reflect the beauty, style and confidence of their customers. Sue is changing the look and perception of medical equipment and improving the lives of millions of Americans reliant on assistive devices by incorporating fashion and function in products such as designer canes and colorful walkers. Through her trademark “Mobility Makeover”, Sue helps customers show their style and pursue an active lifestyle with the help of their mobility equipment.
Most recently, Sue was a finalist for the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, recipient of the Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and named one of the ten Most Powerful Entrepreneurs in Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women issue.
Sue is a Director for NAWBO-LA (National Association of Women Business Owners), YPO member, Trustee of the California Lutheran University Board of Regents, President of Reef Check Foundation and Director of Shark Savers. She is also the author of Confessions of a Walker Stalker, about her experiences changing the way America faces mobility challenges.
Sales Manager, United Natural Foods
Blake Cornwell was born and raised in Orange County, California. From a very young age, he considered himself a “Fish.” He is also an avid surfer and water polo player. After attending Cal State Fullerton and earning a degree in finance, he completed his MBA from Concordia in Irvine, CA. As a current sales manager for United Natural Foods, Blake is passionate about food and body wellness. He was also featured on the internet’s largest financial podcast, “Tasty Trade,” where he displayed mastery of financial markets and derivatives trading. Blake currently serves on the finance board of advisors at Cal State Fullerton. In his free time you can find him catching the waves or catching air on a wakeboard.
Owner, Bluewater Photo & Bluewater Travel
Scott Gietler is the owner of Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and the Underwater Photography Guide. Bluewater Photo, based in Culver City, CA is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious underwater camera stores, serving many thousands of customers each year, where nothing is more important than customer service. The Underwater Photography Guide is the world’s first website to feature free tutorials on underwater photography, and has become the most trafficked resource on underwater photography worldwide. Bluewater Travel is a full-service dive travel wholesaler sending groups and individuals on the world’s best dive vacations.
Scott is also an avid diver, underwater photographer, and budding marine biologist, having created the online guide to the underwater flora and fauna of Southern California. He is the past vice-president of the Los Angeles Underwater Photographic Society, has volunteered extensively at the Santa Monica aquarium, and is the creator of the Ocean Art underwater photo competition, one of the largest underwater international photo competitions ever held in terms of value of prizes. He lives in Marina Del Rey with his wife and kids.
Chris is a CA Licensed Professional Fiduciary working as a trustee for private and special needs trust, conservator, power of attorney and estate administrator at ACTIVTM. He previously served as a business consultant and Director of International Business Development for Reliant Energy International, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions in Asia, Europe, Middle East and South America.
Spending his teenage years in Guam, Chris explored the coral reefs and recognized the need to preserve the reefs. He has a scientific diver certification, volunteering as a diver with Reef Check, CA Science Center and the former USC Catalina Conservation Divers. Chris has worked on dive projects with the Monterey Aquarium Research Institute, USC Wrigley Marine Institute, LA Waterkeepers and Aquarium of the Pacific.
In other past volunteer roles, Chris has served as Lt. Governor of a Kiwanis Region, President of the Oneonta Club, City of South Pasadena Commissioner, and numerous other civic committees.
Chris received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.
Co-Founder & CEO, Surf-fur
Cynthia is an avid surfer, level two certified freediver, paddler, gypsy, recovering boat owner and reluctant gardener.
It was during her various ocean experiences that gave her the idea to design something wearable to keep her warm, even when wet and sandy. She set out to do the business of warming water-loving adventurers all over the planet. All of the products are made with a soft, warm fleece that is bonded so that it’s wind-proof, water-proof and breathable. When you put any of the products on, it’s like an instant warm hug!
Working with an online business has allowed her and her family to move all over the planet in search of various ocean adventures. When picking a new place to live, the main criteria is always to be close to the water. With the ocean always being her favorite place of recreation and refuge, it was only second nature to find any and all ways to protect the ocean, educate others on the importance of a healthy ocean and keep it beautiful for many generations to come.
Cynthia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Merchandising Management and a Master’s Degree in Education. She currently lives on the Big Island of Hawaii surrounded by her husband, two boys and a lot of bananas and palm trees.
CEO, Alpha Data Strategies
As a double-threat Registered Nurse & MBA, Sari helps businesses turn data into business sense, driving profitability and company growth. Sari has a deep background in healthcare and diverse experience and skill sets across other industries including the SCUBA industry. This experience provides Sari with the understanding of where data can be found as well as how it should be organized, prioritized, visualized, and used to develop and execute strategy. In addition to running her own consulting company focused on data, she is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University for full-time MBA students teaching simple, obtainable ways businesses can use data-driven strategies to drive desired results.
Sari’s passion for the ocean runs deep and has participated in many volunteer underwater research expeditions, many of which were through the University of Miami, where Sari obtained her undergraduate degree.
Sari is also passionate about philanthropy and in addition to being a board member for Reef Check, chairs the Associate Board of Professionals for Aviva Familiy and Children’s Services, is a member of the Glass Leadership Institute for the Anti-Defamation League, Chief Strategy Officer/COO and Board Treasurer for the Clinical Trials in Color Foundation, and provides pro-bono business consulting services to companies which promote veganism and plant-based diets for health and conservation purposes.
President, Dive N’ Surf, Inc.
Russ attended Manhattan Beach schools from kindergarten through high school and then graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a degree in accounting. He served in the U.S. Army as a first Lieutenant in the finance corps, then worked as a CPA in the Long Beach based firm of Windes & McClaughry. He was a partner from 1970 to 1990. In 1986 he was elected managing partner. In 1990, when he left the firm to become president of Body Glove International there were about 110 employees at Windes, making it one of the largest single office CPA firms in the country. In 2016 the majority interest in Body Glove was sold, so now Russ is the president of Dive N’ Surf, Inc.
Russ has been married to Charlotte for over 53 years and they have three grown children. He served eight years on the Manhattan Beach City Council, including two terms as Mayor. Russ and Charlotte have received many awards individually and jointly, including Citizens of the year in Manhattan Beach, and Citizens of the year for the South Bay. Russ has been recognized as a “Distinguished Alumni” of Mira Costa High School and Cal State Long Beach.
They both have served on numerous boards and commissions through the years. Russ, along with his sons Tim and Greg, friends Pat Dietz, Rich Wenzel, Evan Calbi, Bill Severance, and granddaughters Allegra, Caroline and Naya form the Folk/Rock Band Thin Ice. They have played at various venues in the South Bay. Russ plays guitar, does vocals, and has written a selection of songs, including two that were released on a CD commemorating 100 years of surfing in the United States, and a theme song for the International Year of the Reef.
Art Levitt has built a successful and varied career launching and growing businesses in the media, hospitality and entertainment industries ranging from launching Hard Rock Cafes worldwide, to overseeing retail entertainment at Walt Disney World to overseeing a large global philanthropic foundation. His most recent initiative has been developing and operating a unique fast casual restaurant- Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.
Levitt has been immersed in the Philanthropy and conservation world serving as Chief of Staff of the of the Dalio Foundation, where his responsibilities included managing initiatives in Micro Finance, Global Oceanographic work, and Marine Conservation.
Levitt has held positions as CEO of the Nielsen Company’s Media Synch business, as well as Venture Partner with Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVPVC.com). At JVP Levitt helped evaluate new investment targets, advised JVP Portfolio boards, and served as CEO of a portfolio company, Animation Lab, a startup CGI feature film business.
Levitt was the founding CEO of Fandango, Inc., the premier online movie ticketing, and entertainment business. Art launched Fandango in July 2000 and led the company to 6 years of growth and profitability, establishing the company as a nationally recognized brand known for its creativity, operational excellence, and premium service experience.
From 1996 to 2000, Levitt served as President of Disney Regional Entertainment, a division of The Walt Disney Company focused on launching Disney-branded entertainment concepts for expansion in markets throughout the U.S. Levitt was responsible for such businesses as the ESPNZone, a sports, dining and entertainment complex, DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park, and Club Disney an interactive children’s play center.
Prior to Disney Regional Entertainment, Levitt served as President and CEO of Hard Rock Café, International from 1993 to 1996, where he managed the company’s global business, including global expansion, repositioning the brand for worldwide growth, business extensions and increased revenues and profitability.
Preceding Hard Rock Café, Levitt was vice president of resorts and special projects for The Walt Disney Company, where he oversaw the operation of the Walt Disney World Resort’s nightlife and entertainment complex, Pleasure Island, as well as The Disney Village Marketplace, and the resort hotels Disney Village Resort and Disney Vacation Club. He also served as Vice President of Corporate Projects for Disney, responsible for a broad range of initiatives including companywide synergy and emerging market initiatives, reporting to the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company.
Levitt completed the Program for Management Development (P.M.D.) at Harvard University, and graduated Southampton College with a B.A. in Biology with a focus on Marine Science. An avid underwater photographer, Levitt has served on the boards of the Walden Woods, & Elton John AIDS Foundations.
Mark D. Martin
Investment Banker, Houlihan Lokey
An investment banker in Houlihan Lokey’s Los Angeles office, Mr. Martin specializes in the structuring and execution of mergers and acquisitions for public and private companies in the aerospace and defense sector. Prior to his current position, he co-founded and served as Chief Operations Officer for Rogue Technologies, a startup eye-tracking technology company that patented retinal recognition technologies. Previously, he co-founded Prestige Infrastructure Capital, a Los Angeles-based infrastructure privatization firm established to pioneer public/private municipal finance ventures. Mr. Martin earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2011 and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University in 2004.
An avid surfer, diver, musician and ocean enthusiast, Mr. Martin has had a passion for the ocean throughout his life. As a former graduate of Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Kenya program, his passion for outdoor pursuits has led to diving with great white sharks, summiting Mount Kenya and seeking out adventures along coastlines around the world. Mr. Martin lives in Malibu with his wife, Julie, and spends his free time in the water.
Robert is a former Board Chair of the Reef Check Foundation. He graduated from the University of California Riverside with a B.S. in Environmental Science and from Pepperdine University with an MBA in finance. Robert’s career spans over the transportation, management, and finance industries. He currently teaches at universities and is the CEO of the Clatch Fund.
Bill McIlvene is a successful entrepreneur in multiple industries. He initially began his career in electronic component distribution. After realizing he was his own best boss, he branched out to start his own electronics company supporting the telecom industry, Bond Technologies. He prosperously grew the startup company to 250 employees and 3 locations in the western US region which he sold in 2000 to private equity. After enjoying the thrill of his creation, he later went on to start and grow numerous businesses in a diverse range of industries. These included motorcycle manufacturing, hospitality including several restaurants and bars, as well as residential real estate development.
His latest and most successful company to date, was an advanced electronics manufacturing firm, Veris Manufacturing. Located in Brea, California he grew this cutting-edge company into a world-class manufacturing facility servicing the high reliability industries of aerospace and defense, medical devices, and space exploration. Bill recently sold Veris Manufacturing in 2020 and is looking forward to new endeavors.
Perry Roshan-Zamir practices franchise law in Santa Monica. He received his bachelors in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering from University of Southern California in 1989, his J.D. From Whittier College School of Law in 1992 and his Masters in Business Taxation from University of Southern California in 1996. He is a certified specialist in franchise law with experience in the restaurant industry. Perry is a certified diving instructor, well traveled and has had the privilege of diving in every continent. He is a member of the board of directors of Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council (HRC) which is a partnership of community organizations, institutions, businesses, and individuals which promotes and supports a respectful and socially just community through education, advocacy, and resolution of local conflicts and issues.
Anthony S. Ford, MD
President, National Association of Black Scuba Divers
Dr Anthony S. Ford graduated from Morehouse College in 1989. He earned his medical degree from UCLA in 1993. He then completed his residency in Emergency Medicine in 1996. From 1996-2004 he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory University. From 2004 to the present he is a Senior Partner in a private Emergency Medicine Group in West Georgia.
In addition to his medical career, Dr Ford became a certified scuba diver in 1999. In 2000, he completed his Advanced and Nitrox Diver certifications. He also completed his training to become a Full Cave Diver during that same year. After 4 years of cave diving, Dr Ford returned to recreational diving and became a Divemaster in 2007. He became an Instructor with the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) later that year. In 2013 he became an Instructor Trainer and in 2014 he became a Course Director, responsible for training and certifying qualified candidates to become Instructors.
Dr Ford has been active in the National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS). NABS was started in 1991 to address the needs of underserved divers of color. In 2011, Dr Ford joined NABS and in 2013, he joined the NABS Aqua Corp, a sub group of NABS members that are also dive leaders. Their primary responsibility is to provide safety and dive leadership for the members of NABS. In 2014, he was a Founding Member of the Southern SeaQuestrians, a chapter club under NABS, in the Atlanta area. In 2019, Dr Ford was elected to the position of President of NABS.
Gary L. Justice, Esq.
Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP, retired
Gary Justice is a retired senior partner who practiced for 32 years in the trial department of the international law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. He received his J.D. in 1979 from Duke University School of Law, where he was an Editor of the Duke Law Journal and was elected to the Order of the Coif. His specialties included insurance coverage litigation, mass torts and land use litigation. Mr. Justice is a scuba diver with over 400 logged dives around the world, including many in California. He has been trained in the Reef Check California protocols. Mr. Justice is passionate about reversing the destruction of our oceans. He has been active on behalf of many other environmental organizations, including the National Parks Association (pro bono litigation), Seacology and the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. For a number of years he was the Board President of Reef Check. He and his wife Cheryl Justice are now organic farmers. They live on their farm near Santa Barbara, CA and grow an exotic fruit known as Australian Finger Limes, or caviar limes.
Ms. Lim has been practicing business and real estate law in California since 1997. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Willamette College of Law in Salem, Oregon. Originally from Indonesia, Ms. Lim’s parents grew up in the heart of the Coral Triangle. She is passionate about ocean conservation and the protection of the marine environment. She also currently volunteers her time visiting hospice patients and has volunteered as a mentor to young women and foster children.
Susi McConaghy attended USC, and is the proud mother of 2 children and 4 grandsons. She has enjoyed a successful development and fundraising career, raising funds for USC, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the House Ear Institute, and Pepperdine Center for the Arts. Susi has been credited with the creation of the Getty House, the official residence of the Mayor of Los Angeles. She is now happily retired as the Director of Development from the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine.
Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Gregor Hodgson is the Founder of Reef Check. Dr. Hodgson is a coral reef ecologist, who received his bachelors in 1979 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 1980-1982, he volunteered with the US Peace Corps in the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Cebu City, Philippines, and earned a PhD in zoology in 1989 from the University of Hawaii. Subsequently, Dr. Hodgson worked in Hong Kong where he served as the Environmental Sciences Manager for Binnie Black & Veatch, carrying out environmental impact assessments and baseline ecological surveys of coastal and marine areas. He designed and led integrated coastal management projects in China and Vietnam and also taught at two Hong Kong universities. From 2000 to 2004, Dr. Hodgson was a visiting professor at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and taught Environmental Science, International Coastal Management and Marine Conservation.