Chief Executive Officer
Appointed to the position of CEO by the Foundation’s board of directors in July of 2012, Eric Eikenberg has extensive policy and political experience in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. During his time in public service, Eikenberg served as chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist and former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw. Immediately preceding his joining the Everglades Foundation, Eikenberg served as senior policy advisor at the law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP co-chairing the firm’s Florida Government Advocacy Team with former Gov. Bob Martinez. As the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, Eikenberg leads the Foundation's science, advocacy, communications and legal teams, which are nationally recognized for their expertise in Everglades restoration. A graduate of the American University and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Eric and his family live in Miami.
Tom Van Lent, Ph.D.
Vice President for Programs
Runner, swimmer, bike rider, aficionado of Icelandic poetry, soccer referee...Thomas Van Lent is a 21st-century Renaissance man. In addition to aforementioned pursuits, Van Lent is currently the Director of Science and Policy at the Everglades Foundation, where he works on providing scientific and technical support to non-governmental environmental organizations supported by the Foundation. His responsibilities include presenting expert analysis of hydrologic, engineering, and ecological information to assist in development of Everglades restoration alternatives and meeting Everglades restoration and protection objectives. Van Lent has a distinguished career as a scientist and engineer. He graduated from South Dakota State University before attending the University of Minnesota and Stanford University where he received master’s and doctorate’s degrees respectively. He has also worked at the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades National Park and as an assistant professor at South Dakota State University. Van Lent is a resident of the Florida Keys and received the George M. Barley Conservationist of the Year Award for his ability to convey highly technical information in understandable terms to decision-makers on Everglades restoration.
Deborah Johnson, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Deborah has dedicated her career to serving organizations that invest in our community and its children. She has served over 12 years of her career in education, including Associate Director of Philanthropy & Strategic Partnerships at Oxbridge Academy, West Palm Beach; the Director of Development at Canterbury School, Fort Myers; and the Pine School, Hobe Sound. As a senior administrator, she led the school’s fundraising, communications and alumni relations. She has been instrumental in raising funds in excess of $20M, including raising $10M to build a new Upper School campus. Deborah is a creative thinker and is drawn to strategic mission and visioning. In 2013, she served as the project leader on a comprehensive institutional strategic assessment and audit with Independent School Management (ISM). She led this year-long process of capturing financial and operational data, leadership assessments, as well as survey data from a board base of constituencies, including trustees, parents, faculty, students and donors. Deborah has served as a non-profit leadership and fundraising consultant to many organizations to help achieve strategic leadership and fundraising objectives. Deborah graduated cum laude from Barry University with a degree in business and marketing. She is accredited through CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executives) International, where she is one of only 5,404 professional fund raisers worldwide that hold the designation. It is awarded to individuals who have achieved the highest levels of skill and knowledge in their profession. Her experience spans all facets of the field including strategic planning, annual support campaigns, capital campaigns, planned giving and board development. She lives a mission of leadership and service, and is currently working to launch Impact 100 Palm Beaches, which is a women’s giving network that funds $100,000 impact grants for area non-profits — or as she likes to say, “for-purpose” organizations. Additionally, she has held several board leadership positions including the American Heart Association, the Florida Public Relations Association, the Big Heart Brigade, Association of Fund Raising Professionals, Rotary International Foundation and the Treasure Coast Planned Giving Council. She has been recognized with numerous awards for leadership, fund development and communications projects. Deborah is married to her husband Gary and together they have a son Jordan who is a junior in high school. She most enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, traveling and being outdoors.
Director of Marketing & Communications
Liz Amore previously worked at the University of Miami for more than 12 years and served as Executive Director for Communications and Public Relations before joining the Foundation. Liz graduated from the University of Miami in 2007 with a master’s degree in Public Relations. She holds an undergraduate degree in Business from Florida International University. Liz also teaches adjunct at local colleges and universities.
Marketing & Digital Media Specialist
Edyna Garcia is a Strategic Marketing Communications Professional with a passion for digital media and a keen understanding of marketing to the various generations. She graduated from Miami-Dade Honors College in 2010 with an associate’s degree in Political Science, and went on to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and American Studies from the University of Miami. After graduating in 2012, Edyna began her career in the entertainment industry. A year in, she felt she wanted to do something that would give back to society, and began a blog, weartonow.org, that brings awareness to the cancer community through the arts. Through this experience, she fell in love with the non-profit sector and decided to take her career in this new direction. As a Miami native, Edyna spends much of her time at the beach, cuddling with her French bulldog, Fitzgerald, and jet-setting to a new location. .
Director of Development, Naples & SW Florida
Margaux Biernat moved to Naples, Florida in 1987 as a child. After spending more than 15 years working in Manhattan, she recently relocated back to Naples. Her previous experience in fundraising includes positions at Park Avenue Armory, amfAR - The Foundation for AIDS Research, New York City Opera and Citymeals-on-Wheels. Most recently, Margaux consulted with the Naples Ballet. She joins the Everglades Foundation as Director of Development for Southwest Florida and Naples. In her spare time, Margaux enjoys cooking, painting, playing tennis and competing in road races.
Gloria Calle joins the Foundation as the development assistant. Prior to her position with the Everglades Foundation, she worked at Excalibur Electronics, Inc., an international electronics product company. The long-time Miami resident was formerly employed with the multi-national oil and gas company, Cooper Energy Services. She is a graduate of Grace Institute Business School in New York City.
Education & Outreach Program Assistant
Bianca Cassouto's higher education and career experiences focus on the impact humans have on nature, sustainability and environmental education. She graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in Geography Geosciences and a minor in Environmental Studies and received her M.A. in Global Sustainability with a concentration in Sustainable Tourism from the University of South Florida. She is driven to help educate people on their environmental impact and the differences they can make to lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Bianca is a Miami native and enjoys traveling, baking and reading.
Director of Leadership Giving
Leana Cianfoni is a highly creative and results-driven development professional with entrepreneurial passion, drive and vision for philanthropic causes. With more than seven years of experience building revenue and enhancing support bases for local not-for-profit organizations, Leana is committed to the growth and sustainability of Miami-Dade County’s philanthropic community. Leana has taken donor recognition and stewardship to award winning levels, but most importantly she implements creative, meaningful and scalable communications to deliver charitable impact to thousands of donors. From 2012 to 2016 Leana provided innovative solutions to donor retention and elevated stewardship at the University of Miami. She implemented online impact reports; created personalized stewardship communications; and retained annual leadership and loyal support from 10,000+ constituents. Leana was instrumental in the launch and development of a Loyalty Society to a community of over 170,000 alumni. Prior to her role at the University of Miami, Leana focused her talents at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce as Leadership Programs Manager. She coordinated and delivered the Leadership Miami and Youth Leadership Miami programs to young professionals and high school student leaders while securing sponsorship support annually for both programs. She is currently serving her second year on the board of directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Miami chapter and was recently nominated as president-elect. She received the Joyce Galya/Ralph Chamberlain scholarship award at the 2014 National Philanthropy Day Awards for her excellence in fundraising and service. Leana graduated from the University of North Florida in 2007 with a degree in public relations. She is a published author and contributed to the first photography book on Key Biscayne with renowned photographer Kiko Ricote, “Key Biscayne: Island Paradise.” As a native to Miami and a local Key Biscayne resident, Leana has seen the negative effects of climate change and sea level rise over the past 30 years in South Florida. She is dedicated to focusing her talents on environmental sustainability and conservation of the natural resources of the great state of Florida.
Stephen E. Davis III, Ph.D.
Davis, a native of Ohio, graduated from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., with a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science. In addition, he attended Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., and received a master’s degree in biological and environmental science. He attained his doctorate of philosophy in Miami, Fla., from Florida International University. In his role as wetland ecologist with the Foundation, Davis continues his extensive body of wetland research that dates back more than a decade -- most recently at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas -- where he served as an assistant professor then associate professor for the past eight years. Davis leads Everglades research projects on mangrove wetland biogeochemistry and carbon dynamics.
Director of Education
Jennifer Diaz taught mathematics and science to elementary and middle school students for more than 15 years and has extensive experience as a science coach and science curriculum development. In addition to the classroom, Diaz served as a science leader, science club organizer, and team leader of the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering. Prior to joining the Everglades Foundation, Diaz was a Science Curriculum Specialist for Miami-Dade County Public Schools working with school site administrators, teachers, students and parents. Diaz provided school site support for low performing schools, to model effective science teaching, share resources, motivate, encourage and support professionalism in STEM teachers. She also served as Miami-Dade County Public Schools director of two grants, University of Florida’s STEM TIPS teacher induction program-funded by the Department of Education and University of Miami’s Promoting Science Among English Language Learners (P-SELL)-funded by The National Science Foundation. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in health education/community health and Nova Southeastern University with a master’s in educational leadership. In addition, Diaz holds a science-teaching certificate in STEM Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, awarded by the NASA Endeavor Fellowship Program.
Yogesh Khare, Ph.D.
Yogesh Khare joins the Everglades Foundation as Environmental Engineer. Hailing from India, Khare completed his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Mumbai. A wholehearted Gator, Khare went on to earn both his Master's degree and Ph.D. in Coastal Engineering and Biological Engineering, respectively, from the University of Florida. His expertise in the area of hydrologic and water quality modeling and model behavior analysis with applications to Florida’s unique and complex hydrology makes him a perfect addition to the Foundation’s science team. As Environmental Engineer, Khare is excited to contribute to the mission of Everglades restoration; and when he's not busy saving the Everglades, Khare enjoys Hindustani Music (Indian Classical Music) and Indian cuisine.
Jasmine Luciano has been employed in the nonprofit sector since 2012. In 2014, she received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Miami. Her work experience includes full-time positions in fundraising and event planning. She was the vice president of outreach for Nobody’s Perfect, a charity organization that assisted high school youth lacking college resources achieve their goals through sports and academics. Raised in sunny South Florida, Jasmine enjoys being outdoors and soaking in the tropical weather. She is also a certified open water scuba diver and spends much of her time off diving around the Florida coast.
G. Melodie Naja, Ph.D.
G. Melodie Naja is the Foundation's Chief Scientist. Prior to joining the Everglades Foundation, Naja—a former resident of Montreal, Canada, and graduate of University Henry Poincaré in Nancy, France--was a research officer at the National Research Council of Canada and visiting professor at McGill University in Montreal. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physical chemistry, a master’s degree in molecular and physical chemistry and her doctorate in environmental physical chemistry and chemical engineering, all from the University Henry Poincaré. Naja has conducted research as a consultant for government institutions, non-governmental organizations and the corporate sector. Naja has a penchant for delighting the Foundation staff with offerings of the Middle Eastern pistachio and honey-laden dessert known as bird nest.
Rajendra Paudel, Ph.D.
Rajendra Paudel is the Foundation's Hydrologist. He has over 15 years of experience as a researcher and engineer at universities, non-profit organizations and consulting firms and has worked on several water resources planning and management projects in the US and abroad. His work with the Foundation primarily focuses on conducting hydrologic modeling and analyses for the development of integrated water management strategies including environmental flows to support the restoration of the America’s Everglades. He leads the development of an End-Point Everglades Restoration Plan (particularly hydrologic modeling on regional and subregional scales) — an effort to protect the remaining Everglades and restore more natural hydrological conditions while ensuring adequate water supply and flood protection in South Florida. He is also responsible for providing expertise and opinion on scientific and engineering information and analyses in support of the Everglades restoration planning and assessment. Prior to joining the Foundation, Paudel spent two and a half years as a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. He received his doctorate degree in environmental hydrology from University of Florida, master’s degree in water resources engineering from an interuniversity programme jointly organized by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving
Monica Sanchez grew up in South Florida and graduated from the University of Miami with a business degree in Marketing. She comes with extensive experience in the marketing and advertising world, working for the University of Miami Athletic Department, Nickelodeon South America, and Zubi Advertising before working for a prestigious non-profit independent school in South Florida, raising money through donations and major events for 12 years. She now joins the Foundation as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Giving. Her responsibilities will include developing partnerships with corporate entities and building relationships with foundations to help support the mission of the Foundation. Monica speaks Spanish fluently and enjoys the natural beauty Florida has to offer. In her spare time, she enjoys running marathons, biking, hiking, and being on the water.
Senior Everglades Policy Advisor
In her role, Dawn focuses on researching, developing, and implementing policy positions relating to Everglades protection and restoration strategies with a variety of stakeholders and agencies. Dawn has more than 13 years of wide ranging non-profit experience public and government affairs, non-profit management and campaigns. Her background includes caring for and training large exotic animals at a wildlife sanctuary, spearheading regional growth management and national park advocacy campaigns, coordinating grassroots support, leading an alliance of 57 conservation organizations on Everglades issues and founding Everglades Day legislation adopted by the Florida legislature in 2012. Dawn, a New York native, holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Growth Management from Rollins College and a Masters in Public Administration from Florida International University.
Moni Spivey serves as the Everglades Foundation’s Office Administrator. In her role at the Foundation, she works on a variety of operational projects. Spivey brings extensive business experience including office administration, project management and human resources. Spivey's previous employment includes The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, Carnival Cruise Lines, Sandals Resorts and The Home Depot. A Miami native, Spivey enjoys the outdoors through her passion for motorcycles, fishing and traveling.
Andrew Stainback, Ph.D., J.D.
G. Andrew Stainback is an Economist for the Everglades Foundation. Originally from Virginia, he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Virginia Tech and the University of Montana respectively. After completing his Ph.D. in natural resource economics at the University of Florida, he received his J.D. from Florida State University. He has expertise in economics, social science and environmental policy. Over the past fifteen years, he has conducted research on the economics of ecosystem services, the human dimensions of natural resource management, and sustainable development in both domestic and international contexts. Before joining the Foundation, he was an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky.
Sonia Succar Rodriguez
Director, George Barley Water Prize
Sonia Succar Rodríguez joined the Everglades Foundation as Director of the George Barley Water Prize in September 2014. In her role, Rodríguez oversees the Foundation’s first-ever science competition, a multimillion dollar prize aimed at finding an innovative solution to solving the global problem of excessive phosphorus entering water bodies. Sonia brings over 10 years of project management, outreach and marketing experience in both the public and private sector. Before joining the Everglades Foundation, she focused her efforts on sustainability policy and environmental management for both the City of Miami, and the City of Coral Gables. In her positions with local government, she developed initiatives in smart growth planning, energy efficiency, smart city operations, transit and urban forestry management. Prior to that, Sonia worked as a field engineer for Turner Construction, where she served on one of the nation’s largest multi-modal transportation projects, and expanded the company’s investments in sustainable development. A third generation Floridian, Sonia graduated from Rollins College with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies and Growth Management, and a Masters in Environmental Management from Harvard University. Sonia and her husband live in Miami, where they enjoy sailing along Biscayne Bay, biking on Key Biscayne and dancing in Little Havana.
Manager of Human Relations and Administration
Shannon Trivino brings a variety of administrative skills and experience to the Everglades Foundation. She was born in Maryland and primarily grew up in Central Florida. After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, she served as Membership Coordinator at Ocean Hammock Resort and The Club at Hammock Beach, both located in Palm Coast, Florida. Upon relocating to Tennessee, she served as Payroll Specialist at Alcoa, Inc. in Alcoa, Tennessee, and most recently as Executive Assistant at Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure, an environmental consulting firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. Shannon joins the Everglades Foundation as Manager of Human Relations and Administration. In this role, Shannon’s responsibilities include acting as Executive Assistant to Eric Eikenberg, as well as managing day-to-day office operations and Human Resources functions. Shannon and her husband are delighted to be back in Florida and are looking forward to spending their free time exploring local culture and South Florida’s beaches
Outdoor Education and Outreach Coordinator
Kristie Wendelberger is a conservation plant ecologist and the Foundation’s Outdoor Education and Outreach Coordinator. She has worked in South Florida for 13 years on a range of conservation issues relating to rare plant and ecosystem ecology. Kristie obtained her bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in Environmental and Plant Biology in 1998. After obtaining her degree, she traveled and studied ecological issues in South Carolina, Florida, Bolivia, Costa Rica, California and, then, returned to South Florida where she worked for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Florida and Native Plant Conservation Team. She moved on to obtain her master’s degree in Ecology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 2010. Kristie recently graduated with her PhD in Biology from Florida International University where she was looking at the effects of sea level rise and Everglades drying on coastal plant communities in the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park. During her graduate career, she had the opportunity to teach ecology classes to undergraduates leading them into the Everglades showing them the beauty of our local natural environment.
Ruscena Wiederholt is the Foundation’s Quantitative Ecologist. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of California–Berkeley in Integrative Biology, and received a Master’s degree in Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology from Pennsylvania State University focusing on ecological modeling, climate change and population dynamics. Her area of expertise is in developing quantitative tools and methods to understand the causes and consequences of species decline, and to inform conservation strategies and decision-making at the species-to-landscape scale. She has conducted research for more than 10 years in a wide variety of systems from migratory bats and butterflies to neotropical primates. At the Foundation, she leads modeling efforts to better understand the effects of restoration scenarios on the animal and plant communities of the Everglades.