Jan Freiwald, PhD

Executive Director

Jan Freiwald is the Executive Director of the Reef Check Foundation. Jan has deep expertise in reef community ecology, marine management, citizen science and marine conservation. Prior to becoming Executive Director, Jan led the Reef Check California program for eight years. He has grown this program into a statewide marine protected area monitoring network of citizen scientists. Jan is responsible for implementing a climate change research project for the Reef Check California program, which is studying the effects of ocean acidification and hypoxic zones on the reefs and kelp forests along the California coast. He studied biology in Germany before receiving a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz. Prior to joining Reef Check, Jan obtained a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz where he used approaches ranging from acoustic telemetry, to community surveys to genetic analyses to investigate kelp forest community ecology and marine protected area design.


Dan Abbott

Director, Kelp Forest Program

Dan’s fascination with kelp forests started when he was a kid, abalone diving in the lush forests in Northern California. Later at UC Berkeley, he continued to pursue this interest in ocean management by studying Environmental Economics and Policy, an interdisciplinary program that combined both scientific and economic aspects as well as by undergoing scientific diver training. After college, Dan put his skills and passion to work by volunteering with Reef Check. Today Dan is now the director of the Kelp Forest Program at Reef Check and is returning to monitor some of the same sites he used to dive as a kid — some of which have changed dramatically — and hopes that through his team’s work he can give scientists and marine managers the tools they need to protect and restore these ecosystems. Recently he has been working to expand Reef Check’s work preserving these ecosystems into areas of Oregon and Washington that are experiencing their own changes. Dan oversees the Reef Check Dive Program, is a member of the UCSC Diving Control Board, an active NAUI Instructor, and an Outdoor Emergency Care technician.


Annie Bauer-Civiello, PhD

Director, Restoration Program

Annie Bauer-Civiello is originally from Texas but discovered her love for the ocean at the age of eight. After moving to California, she received a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from the University of California Santa Cruz, where she also received all her dive training. During the last year of her degree, Annie studied abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia where she began to intern as a Project Officer for Reef Check Australia. After a brief stint with California Fish and Wildlife, Annie returned to Australia for her Master of Science in marine biology and PhD in environmental science at James Cook University. While studying, Annie worked as the Great Barrier Reef Survey Coordinator for Reef Check Australia, where she led scientific dives, marine debris clean ups and outreach events. After finishing her PhD, Annie then became the Executive Officer of a local NGO, working closely with the Australian Government, research institutions, community organizations and industry groups to improve waterway health in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. After nearly a decade in Australia, Annie has recently returned to her roots in California. She is very excited to bring her wide range of experience and knowledge to assist the Reef Check Foundation and the Restoration Program. 


Morgan Murphy-Cannella

Director, Education Program

As the Director of Education, Morgan Murphy-Cannella is a passionate advocate for ocean conservation and science education. With a Bachelor’s degree in Climate and Energy Environmental Science from Cal Poly Humboldt, Morgan’s academic journey is complemented by a passion for global exploration. As a certified NAUI Scuba Instructor, Morgan integrates education and exploration, empowering individuals to connect with the ocean’s wonders while fostering a sense of responsibility for its preservation. Since 2020 working as Reef Check’s Kelp Restoration Coordinator, Morgan has been at the forefront of kelp restoration efforts and ecological research in Mendocino County. Through innovative projects and long-term data collection initiatives, Morgan made significant contributions to preserving and restoring vital kelp forests along the rugged coastline. Morgan is thrilled to lead the Dive into Science Program, which focuses on empowering under-resourced and Tribal communities. By providing access to quality science education and fostering a deeper connection to the ocean, Morgan aims to inspire the next generation of ocean stewards to protect and cherish our planet’s most precious resource.


Brooke Truesdale, CFRE

Director of Development

Brooke Truesdale is thrilled to dive in as Director of Development at Reef Check. Equally passionate about environmental conservation and connecting generous donors to worthy missions, Brooke is excited to show Reef Check’s donors the impact of their support and share the incredible success of Reef Check with new audiences. Brooke has a deep knowledge of philanthropy and donor relations, as well as a wealth of experience in nonprofit leadership, board and volunteer engagement, and strategic planning.

Prior to joining Reef Check, Brooke worked at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance where she focused on raising major gifts for more than 150 conservation projects across the world. Brooke serves on a number of nonprofit boards including the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Saola Foundation Advisory Board, and SunCoast Market Coop where she is the Fundraising Committee Chair. She is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and has completed the Chapman University Nonprofit Management Certificate program.

Brooke loves animals of all kinds- whether they be furry, finned or feathered- and has fostered dozens of animals until they find homes. She lives near the beach in San Diego and enjoys bird watching, competitive trivia, yoga, plogging on dog walks, and tending her pollinator garden.


Jenny Mihaly

Operations Manager

Jenny Mihaly, born and raised in Southern California, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology after studying at Bodega Marine Laboratory in Bodega Bay. She began her Reef Check journey while a student at UCLA and is grateful for and always inspired by the amazing network of Reef Checkers across the globe.


Jaclyn Mann

Southern California Regional Manager

Jaclyn grew up in Ventura, California where she discovered at a young age that she had an interest and a passion for studying marine biology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Marine Biology and Fisheries from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Upon graduation, she was gifted her first scuba certification class which enabled her to explore the ocean from a whole new vantage point. Following undergrad, Jaclyn pursued her Master’s in Biological Sciences at California State University, Long Beach as a member of Dr. Bengt Allen’s community ecology lab where she studied changes in species interactions across stress gradients in the rocky intertidal. While studying for her degree, she continued to delve deeper into scuba diving and worked her way through PADI’s scuba certification courses until she became a PADI Instructor in 2014. Jaclyn started volunteering with Reef Check in 2022 and, right from the start, was drawn to the enthusiasm and dedication that Reef Check volunteers have for monitoring California’s kelp forests and rocky reefs. She is excited to continue to work alongside Reef Check’s volunteers and to contribute even more to Reef Check’s long-term monitoring program as the Southern California Regional Manager.


True Barnes

Central Coast Regional Manager

True Barnes was raised in Half Moon Bay, California and quickly found an affinity for marine science, species identification, and taxonomy. True went on to get his B.S. degree in Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences at Oregon State University, where he also joined the OSU SCUBA program as a student and then as a PADI instructor. Working with OSU SCUBA and the scientific diving department, True dove and learned the ecosystems of many Pacific Northwest locations. At the same time, True organized and taught Outdoor Education skills to kids while working with multiple school districts across Oregon with Coyle Outside. Back in California, True obtained his AAUS scientific diver certification with Moss Landing Marine Labs, worked as an Underwater Explorers Instructor with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and obtained his PADI SCUBA Instructor certification in 2023. True became a Reef Check diver in 2022, diving in both Central California and Oregon. True’s love for kelp forest diving sparked a drive to conserve and restore these fragile ecosystems. Today, True is super stoked to work with Reef Check in the Central Coast and can be most often found floating in the kelp beds of Carmel.


Ian Norton

Northern California Regional Manager

Ian Norton grew up free diving off the coasts of his hometown in Fort Bragg, California. He received his bachelor’s in Environmental Science: Climate and Energy from Humboldt State University. After graduation in 2013, he discovered SCUBA and never looked back. From diving for abalone as a kid, becoming a Dive Master at Utila Dive Center in Honduras, and an active NAUI Instructor in Washington, the protection and conservation of the world’s oceans has become increasingly important to him. He worked for the Noyo Center for Marine Science in Fort Bragg producing video documentation of the urchin population explosion and early efforts to remove urchins. His videos are on display at the Noyo Center, to enhance public education on the topic. After receiving his AAUS certification from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, he began work with Reef Check in 2020 and is excited to monitor the purple urchin situation on the Mendocino coast.


Diana Hollingshead

Diana Hollingshead

Oregon Regional Manager

Diana Hollingshead graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Biology with heavy emphasis on Marine Biology. She became a PADI IDC Staff Instructor in 1997 and a DAN Instructor in 2010. When she became an AAUS Scientific Diver in 2013, she started as a volunteer diver for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, completing underwater Marine Protection Area surveys. In 2015, she became a volunteer Scientific Diver on the United States Forest Service dive team. She helped develop the volunteer diver training program and educates volunteer divers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where she has over 6000 volunteer hours. In 2018, she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame and currently serves as a board member.


Jackie Selbitschka

Jackie Selbitschka

Washington Regional Manager

Jackie Selbitschka earned her degree in Marine Biology from the University of California Santa Cruz. While at Santa Cruz, Jackie worked her way through scuba certifications up to NAUI Dive Master and received her AAUS scientific diver certification participating in PISCO surveys. After graduating from college she moved down to Catalina Island to become a NAUI instructor, teaching youth to scuba dive in the summer and guiding marine ecology, biology and geology excursions to visiting school groups at Catalina Island Marine Institute. Since then she has worked at many organizations teaching hands-on marine science and certifying scuba divers. Her passion is to share the incredible life that lives underwater so that others are inspired to care for and protect our marine habitats. When not diving for work you may find Jackie at the Seattle Aquarium as a volunteer diver or up in the mountains hiking and rock climbing with her wife and crag dogs. Jackie joined Reef Check in 2022 to begin monitoring Washington’s Kelp Forests and train and inspire other Washington divers to do the same.


Marcello Lalopua

Grants Specialist

Marcello was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia before his family moved to the United States in 1997. He attended and graduated from California State University Fullerton with a degree in Finance. He has served as a Bookkeeper, Office Administrator, and recently as grants administrator for different companies and non-profit organizations. He loves being outdoors and in the ocean. A son of a sailor and a banker, he is a natural in the administration role of all things relating with protecting the ocean’s health.