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Cherie Prothro-Shea

Managing Director

Cherie Prothro-Shea is Managing Director of the Waitt Foundation where she cultivates and executes initiatives on behalf of the board of directors. Cherie began working for Mr. Ted Waitt at Gateway, Inc. nearly 25 years ago. In 2004, when Mr. Waitt retired from Gateway to focus full-time on his philanthropic interests at the Waitt Foundation, Cherie joined the team and helped define the future vision of the organization. In addition to oversight of daily operations and reporting, Cherie manages a diverse global portfolio of non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the Waitt Rapid Ocean Conservation (ROC) small grants program.


With the launch of the Blue Prosperity Coalition, Cherie helps evaluate conservation opportunities and is closely involved in establishing international government relationships. She facilitates the development of a network bringing together world class technical experts to create customized partnerships for the purpose of advancing global ocean protections goals.  Cherie has an extensive background in business and investor relations. Combining her corporate background with the conservation initiatives of the Foundation, Cherie provides a unique perspective to program development, management and effectiveness. Cherie is a member of the Oceans 5 Board of Directors where she also serves as Treasurer of the Finance Committee.


Tom Grueskin leads an effort to develop and maintain a broad and up-to-date understanding of the various issues that affect and define each of the potential Blue Prosperity Coalition partner countries and territories. He also oversees the process of making the body of research produced by the Waitt Foundation’s grantees, including the Waitt Institute, publicly available. 

He has previously worked in an extremely broad array of organizations and roles, including as a co-founder in three different startups, ten years with Avalon Capital Group, and twelve years with Gateway. Among the many hats worn are director of technology, marketing, product management, political analysis, sales, and president. He holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree in Finance from the University of Iowa. 

Tom Grueskin

Blue Prosperity Coalition Director


Tamara Marshall, J.D.

Senior Director, Administration

Tamara focuses on legal review, finances, contracts, compliance, and operations generally to keep the organization running smoothly. She joined the Waitt team as an employee of the Avalon Capital Group in 2005.


Over the past fifteen years, she has held numerous positions within the organization across the areas of human resources, administration, operations, finance, legal, and investments. She is an experienced professional accountant with a background in entrepreneurship and small business advising. Tamara has a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and a J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Tamara aspires to use her law degree to make a difference in the world and to give back to the community.


Josh Sherer

Chief Financial Officer

Josh joined Avalon Capital Group in 2017 as the Chief Financial Officer. He provides leadership, direction and management of the finance and accounting team at both the Waitt Foundation and the Waitt Institute. As CFO, Josh also oversees the financial forecasting and budgeting process, providing strategic recommendations to the CEO, president and members of the management team. Additional responsibilities include overseeing preparation of all financial reporting along with tax planning and compliance. 


Josh's background includes19 years of combined public and private accounting experience.  Prior to joining Avalon Capital, he was the Chief Financial Officer for a global clothing manufacturer with operations primarily in North and Central America. Josh has a Masters of Business Administration, a license in Chartered Global Management Accounting, and his Certified Public Accountant license in Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.


Shayna Brody

Media & Communications Director

Shayna oversees communications across the Waitt Institute, Waitt Foundation and Blue Prosperity Coalition to develop communication strategies related to blue economies, marine spatial planning, and ocean conservation. She also supports communications for project sites including Barbuda, Curaçao, the Maldives, and Tonga. Shayna is involved in content creation and branding across organizations.


Shayna has a broad background in science communications and visual media with expertise in branding, graphic design, social media marketing, photography, videography, and large-scale communications initiatives. She brings communications experience from the VC backed tech startup as well as for animal rescues, aquariums, and NGOs including The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Colorado Ocean Coalition, Heal the Bay, Star Eco Station, and the Denver Aquarium. Shayna has a Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a Bachelor of Science in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from University of Colorado at Boulder.


Emma Head

Media & Strategic Communications Manager

Emma manages communications for multiple programs at the Waitt Institute and supports general communications for the organization. She joins the Waitt Institute following a role in government relations at Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she advocated for ocean research funding at the federal, state, and local government levels.


Emma has a background in strategic environmental communications and public outreach. She was previously a public affairs consultant and coordinated and managed communications for large-scale environmental projects. She planned and executed virtual and in-person events such as public hearings, stakeholder briefings, webinars, workshops, and more.


Tiffany Ngo

Media & Strategic Communications Manager

Tiffany manages digital communications across the Waitt Institute, Waitt Foundation and Blue Prosperity Coalition, as well as managing communications for the Institute's programs in the Maldives and the Federated States of Micronesia. In this role, she works with local partners to develop and implement communications strategies and campaigns. Tiffany also creates and shares content on the Institute's website to engage and inform audiences about the organization’s work and initiatives in sustainable ocean management.


She previously worked as a consultant helping government agencies communicate about clean water and sustainable infrastructure projects. Tiffany has also worked for the Environmental Law Institute and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority where she supported research and program implementation for various environmental issues. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from UC Santa Barbara in Environmental Studies with a minor in Spatial Science.


Ellen Spooner

Media & Strategic Communications Manager

Ellen designs and implements communication campaigns and strategies across the Waitt Institute, Waitt Foundation, Blue Prosperity Coalition, and several of our partner countries to build resilient ecosystems, economies, and communities that benefit all. This involves creating and sharing content, organizing events, and facilitating workshops and conversations to engage audiences about the organizations’ work in sustainable ocean management. 


She previously worked for NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment program developing and implementing strategic communication plans to advance ecosystem-based management within the agency. Ellen also worked for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. conducting education and outreach for the Sant Ocean Hall and Narwhal exhibit. She was a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in 2016 and holds a Master's Degree in Fisheries from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor's Degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona.


Lorea Dandoy

Creative Communications Manager

Lorea manages creative projects and media development across the Institute’s programs. Combining storytelling, strategy, and design, she works with our team, partners, and creative contractors to develop communication assets that bring to life program milestones and messages. From developing storylines and concepts for video projects to establishing designs for reports and graphics, Lorea supports the content production side of communications.


She has a background in creative strategy and multimedia storytelling. She previously worked for an experiential marketing agency, where she developed cross-channel communications and digital content for global organizations. Now she applies these skills to create stories that engage audiences about actionable ocean protection and resource management. She holds a Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Georgetown University.


Lauren Dvonch

Communications Fellow

Lauren supports writing and media initiatives at the Waitt Institute as well as general communications for the organization. As a diver, swimmer and former ocean lifeguard, Lauren was raised in and around the ocean and is passionate about protecting its beauty and resources for future generations to come.


Lauren has a background in public outreach and climate change mitigation. She previously worked as a community engagement planner, collaborating with environmental justice populations to develop communication and outreach strategies in conjunction with local governments. Lauren has also worked in the nonprofit sector, developing communication and sustainability strategies related to agriculture and food insecurity. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Policy from Chapman University, and a Master of Science in Environment, Politics & Society from University College London.

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Taholo Kimi

Special Advisor, Pacific Region

Taholo Kami was born in Tonga, raised in Papua New Guinea and is a current resident of Fiji. Taholo is the CEO at Kami Pasifiki, working to infuse a Pacific perspective into regional, national and global issues. He has worked extensively as a policy specialist and is a lifelong advocate for the ocean and the environment. Taholo is the former Fiji Special Representative for Oceans and previously worked as a Sherpa on the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. He also was instrumental in the establishment of the IUCN Oceania Office. 

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