Speakers & Panelists

Anna Eskamani - MPA, MNM

State House Representative (D-47), Florida House of Representatives

Representative Anna V. Eskamani is an Orlando native and daughter of working-class immigrants from Iran who has committed her life to advocating in support of Florida’s hardworking families. On November 6, 2018 Anna was elected to serve the great people of House District 47 with a vote margin of 57% to 43%, flipping a legislative seat, and becoming the first Iranian-American elected to any public office in Florida. Tough, authentic and unafraid, Anna is a progressive who has proven herself as a leader who works hard, delivers results, and gets things done.

Carlos Zegarra

Executive Director, Sachamama

Born in Perú and raised in Colombia, Carlos Zegarra is a biologist whose dedication and passion for the environment was recognized with two Northern California Emmy Awards. After working on several environmental projects and noticing the lack of information available to the Latinx community, he decided to move away from scientific research to help develop more effective ways to communicate the science of climate to the general public. Currently, he is the executive director of Sachamama, an environmental organization working to build support for a 100 percent clean energy economy and sustainable lifestyles within Latinx communities.

Cheryl Holder - M.D.

Associate Professor and Co-Chair, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Florida Clinicians for Climate Action

Dr. Cheryl L. Holder, Fellow of American College of Physicians, Associate Professor in Department of Humanities Health and Society at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine has devoted her career to caring for the underserved populations. She focuses on teaching the impact of social determinants of health on health outcomes, addressing diversity in health professions through pipeline programs, HIV prevention and health impact of climate change. Dr. Holder is Director of Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP™ Education and Pipeline She serves as President of the National Medical Assn. Florida State Medical Association,and Co-Chairs Florida Clinicians for Climate Action.

David Doniger

Senior Strategic Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

David Doniger has been at the forefront of the battle against air pollution and global climate change since he joined NRDC in 1978. He helped formulate the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement designed to stop the depletion of the earth's ozone layer, as well as several essential amendments to the Clean Air Act. In 1993, he left NRDC to serve on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, followed by key posts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He rejoined NRDC in 2001 and has since been working to defend the Clean Air Act from assaults in Congress. He is based in Washington, D.C.

David S. Vogel

CEO/Chief Scientist, Voloridge Investment Management

David Vogel is a world-renowned data mining and predictive modeling expert. Having won numerous data science awards, he has earned international recognition for his predictive modeling accuracy. He has been expertly quoted in Bloomberg, Barron's, ThinkTech, and others on charitable and financial topics and Vogel regularly presents research and data at conferences and institutes worldwide. He currently serves as Board Member to Environmental Defense Fund. JUST Capital, and Amplio. David has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master of Science degree in Scientific Computing from New York University.

Jack Beuttell - MEM, MBA

Co-founder & Board Member; COO, Kunoa; Indrio Brands

Jack Beuttell is Co-founder of Kunoa, a vertically integrated Hawaii beef company. Jack was raised in Florida, where his family began farming citrus in the 1960s. After seven years in the real estate private equity space, Jack earned his MBA and Master of Environmental Management from Duke University, where he was awarded the CASE Seed Prize in social entrepreneurship and a fellowship sponsored by Burt’s Bees. Jack consulted impact investors before co-founding Kunoa. In 2017, he was named the HVCA’s Ag Entrepreneur of the Year, and Kunoa was named Best New Business by Pacific Edge Magazine. Jack relocated to Florida in 2019, taking a position as COO for Indrio Brands, a holding company with assets in the citrus arena.

Kelsie Johnson

Coordinator, Arboretum

Kelsie graduated from UCF in May of 2016 with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Environmental Science. Her main focus was biology related courses. Among her favorites were Intro to Marine Biology, Conservation Biology, Tropical Ecology, and Animal Behavior. Throughout her time as an undergrad, Kelsie worked with the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG) in Melbourne Beach, FL on the Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge during the summers from 2014-2016. In addition to biology, Kelsie is also very interested in communal and personal gardens as well as the natural systems in and around the UCF community. She hopes to further engage and educate students on the importance of the sustainable growth of food and natural systems.

Luke Grey - M.S.

Engineer, MIT

Master's student in mechanical engineering at MIT in the Precision Engineering Research Group under Prof. Alexander H. Slocum. Interested in machine design for climate restoration, renewable energy infrastructure, and a happier planet. SOScarbon is an effort to bring more efficient collection and disposal technologies for sargassum seaweed to the Caribbean. We aim to sequester millions of tons of equivalent CO2/yr by sequestering invasive sargassum seaweed in the deep ocean. Our system rids Caribbean coastline of rotting sargassum, improving tourism, human health, and coastal ecology.

Mamta Mehra - Ph.D.

Senior Fellow, Project Drawdown

Mamta Mehra, PhD is the senior fellow at Project Drawdown, where she is working on the modelling of various landuse and food sector solutions. These solutions have many cascading benefits, besides their high potential for carbon sequestration and avoided emissions. She has more than ten years of professional experience working with national and international organizations in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation related to the agriculture and landuse sector. As part of her PhD research, she has developed a conceptual framework for the delineation and characterization of resource management domain for sustainable agriculture and resource use in the semi-arid region of India.

Marshall Shepard - Ph.D.

Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and Director, Atmospheric Sciences Program, University of Georgia

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd is a leading international expert in weather and climate and is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. Dr. Shepherd was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS), the nation’s largest and oldest professional/science society in the atmospheric and related sciences. Dr. Shepherd serves as Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program and Full Professor in the Department of Geography where he is Associate Department Head. Dr. Shepherd is also the host of The Weather Channel’s Award-Winning Sunday talk show/podcast Weather Geeks and a contributor to Forbes magazine.

Peter Jacques - Ph.D.

Professor, University of Central Florida, School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs & National Center for Integrated Coastal Research

Peter J. Jacques is Professor of Political Science and the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research at the University of Central Florida. He is an Earth Systems Governance Senior Fellow, former Co-Director of the Florida Climate Institute at UCF, and the President of the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences for 2018-2020. He has written five books on environmental politics and published many academic research articles. His book, Sustainability: the Basics (Routledge 2015) is being translated into Spanish and going into a second edition.

Rick Christie

Editorial Page Editor; Project Collaborator, The Palm Beach Post; The Invading Sea

Rick Christie, the award-winning Editorial Page Editor of The Palm Beach Post since November 2013, supervises the Opinion section and Editorial Board for the Post and PalmBeachPost.com. Over 37 years, Mr. Christie has had a varied newspaper career that has taken him from Beijing to Washington to West Palm Beach to Havana -- and back. He has covered everything from major financial stories to presidential campaigns to foreign conflicts before settling into his current role. His latest project, The Invading Sea, has won state and national awards for raising awareness about the threat of sea level rise to South Florida. The project is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between 3 newspapers from 3 separate companies.

Saul Santiago

Production Manager, UES-Chilled Water Production

Saul Santiago, 14 years with UCF in various positions. Currently responsible for the university's Chilled Water production plants. Came to UCF from the United States Air Force where he was in charge of Air Refueling flight simulation, C-141 and C-5 flight simulators. Saul is also a certified Mil Wright Instructor.

Thomas Wahl - Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida

Thomas Wahl is an Assistant Professor for Coastal Risks and Engineering at UCF, where he is affiliated with the Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering Department and the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. He obtained his Diploma and Doctorate degrees at the University of Siegen, Germany, before taking a postdoc position at the University of South Florida. Before coming to UCF he was a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow of the European Union at the University of Southampton, UK. Through his research he connects engineering and various science disciplines to better understand the vulnerability of coastal societies, and to support the development of sustainable and resilient adaptation strategies.

Vanessa Hauc

Journalist and Senior Correspondent, Telemundo Network- Sachamama

Vanessa Hauc is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and senior correspondent for Noticias Telemundo. From social, cultural and political events to natural disasters, Vanessa has been a valuable source of information for U.S. Hispanics. Today she is leading the investigative unit on environmental issues at Telemundo Network “Planeta Tierra”. Vanessa is the co-founder of Sachamama or “Mother Jungle,” a nonprofit organization that works to inspire, empower and educate the Latino community on climate issues. She has worked hand-in-hand with The Climate Reality project and Vice President Al Gore in his global initiative “24 Hours of Reality” for the past 8 years, she was name one of the ten Latinos leading on Climate by the HuffPost.

Benji Backer

President and Founder, American Conservation Coalition

Benji Backer is the President and Founder of the American Conservation Coalition, a nonprofit focused on free-market, limited-government environmental reforms. A junior at the University of Washington, Benji is a fellow at the Chapman Center in Seattle and on the Advisory Board of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. He has written for CNBC, The Hill, Washington Examiner, and many other publications. He has been the recipient of RedAlert and GreenBiz's 30 Under 30, as well as the Grist 50. His home state is Wisconsin and is a proud Packers fan.

Caroline Lewis

Founder and Senior Advisor; Independent Consultant, The CLEO Institute; Caroline Lewis Consulting

As an independent consultant for individuals and organizations, Lewis advances leadership, strategic plans, and program design. In 2010 she founded The CLEO Institute to promote climate literacy and urgent action. In 2002, Lewis, a science teacher & high school principal, created the Fairchild Challenge program, engaging thousands of students around the world. Her service roles include: the National Environmental Education Advisory Council; Miami-Dade Executive Board for Science Curriculum & Instruction; White House Summits on Climate & Energy and Women & the Environment. In 2013, Lewis was a recognized White House Climate Resilience Champion of Change.

Chris Castro - LEED GA, CPB

Director of Sustainability & Resilience, City of Orlando

Chris is a sustainability and clean energy professional and eco-entrepreneur with a passion to create smart, resilient, and sustainable cities. Chris is currently the Senior Advisor to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Director of Sustainability & Resilience, and Co-chair of Smart Cities for the City of Orlando, developing policies & programs to advance the City’s sustainability, clean energy, & climate action goals. Chris is best known for his work as the president and founder of IDEAS For Us, a global UN-accredited 501c3 nonprofit working to incubate and fund innovative projects that advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Chris is a UCF grad who studied Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Energy Systems.

David Norvell

Assistant Vice President, Sustainability Initiatives

Mr. David Norvell is charged with driving and implementing the university sustainability strategy, putting the UCF at the forefront of the sustainability movement. A 1993 Alumnus, David began his career at UCF in 2001 as the university Energy Manager. In the last decade, he has served as Director of the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management where he spearheaded the sustainability program, saving the university more than $14M in energy efficiency projects, before joining the administration. From 2011-2015, he served as the Assistant Vice President for Facilities tasked with the reconstruction of the university's largest department, the Department of Facilities Operations. In 2015, David was appointed Assistant Vice President of Sustainability Initiatives where his true passion lies.

Erin Rothman

CEO, StormSensor Inc

Erin K. Rothman, CEO and Founder of StormSensor Inc., has 15 years of stormwater and remediation consulting experience, working with cities across the United States. Recognizing a need for innovative data capture in the stormwater industry, Erin founded StormSensor with the objective of creating intelligent wastewater infrastructure using StormSensor’s patented sensors and real-time analytics. Erin assembled an incredible team of talented engineers with disciplines ranging from software development, computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering to fulfill StormSensor’s goal of generating a massive data intelligence network for application in stormwater- and wastewater-focused infrastructure.

John Morales

Chief Meteorologist, WTVJ NBC6-TV

John Morales is the longest tenured broadcast meteorologist in South Florida, serving as a reassuring television presence for nearly three decades. His tropical weather acumen and steadfast character guided South Florida viewers through hurricanes Andrew, Irene, Katrina, Wilma, and most recently Hurricane Irma. For his life-saving work during the 2017 season, Mr. Morales was recognized with the John Coleman Broadcast Award at the National Tropical Weather Conference. John Morales is one of very few weather presenters elected to be a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He is accredited by the AMS as a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, and has won four Emmy Awards.

Lisa Chambers - Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida

Lisa Chambers is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at UCF with a secondary joint appointment in the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research. She obtained her Ph.D. in Soil and Water Science from the University of Florida with a specialization in wetland biogeochemistry. Her research focuses on understanding the chemical cycles that occur in our natural environment, particularly the role of soils in storing and transforming carbon that could otherwise contribute to global climate change. Dr. Chambers’ research spans wetlands, rivers, and coastal ecosystems across Florida and Louisiana and has helped us understand how sea level rise is altering coastal carbon dynamics.

Maggie Monast

Senior Manager - Agricultural Sustainability, Environmental Defense Fund

Maggie Monast works with farmers, food companies, agricultural organizations and others to create an agricultural system that drives climate stability, clean water, and food security. Maggie works to quantify the farm financial impacts of conservation practice adoption, collaborates with major corporations to develop sustainability initiatives, and develops innovative financial incentives to advance sustainable agriculture. Maggie has a Master's in Environmental Management from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Mark Dickie - Ph.D.

Professor of Economics, UCF Department of Economics

Mark Dickie is Professor of Economics at the University of Central Florida. His major fields are environmental economics and health economics. His research focuses on estimating economic benefits of reducing environmental risks to human health; understanding how people perceive environmental health risks; and examining the determinants and effects of actions that people take that affect the risks they experience. His work has been funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Dickie served for six years on EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee.

Megan Case

Nutrition and Outreach Coordinator, Wellness and Health Promotion Services UCF

Megan Case has a degree in Dietetics and Consumer Food Science from the University of Georgia. She works in the Wellness and Health Promotion Services Department at the University of Central Florida. As the Nutrition and Outreach Coordinator, Megan is involved in teaching life skills around nutrition and meal preparation to UCF students.

Nicole Salzberg

Programs/Communications Coordinator, VoLo Foundation

Nicole serves the VoLo team as Communications and Program Coordinator. Nicole brings sustainability experience as a LEED Certified Green Associate and a decorated work history with several environmental and sustainability businesses and non-profits, including ReThink Energy Florida and The Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Global Sustainability from the University of South Florida. As a mother, Nicole’s passion for helping secure a livable future for her children is paramount.

Rachel Wilson, MSSA

Senior Associate, Global Portfolio Manager, Graduate School of Public Service

Rachel manages the portfolios of Echoing Green's Global Fellows, cultivating their leadership skills and serving as their purpose champion. She has over a decade of experience working in both the public and private sectors where she helped her clients to develop sustainable strategies to amplify their impact. She is former Goodwill Ambassador to the Republic of Gambia’s and has worked across the continent of Africa building capacity through leadership development, education, health initiatives, and social enterprises. Rachel graduated with a Masters in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University and is currently finishing her EMPA at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at NYU.

Sandra Whitehouse - Ph.D.

Senior Policy Advisor, Consultant, Ocean Conservancy

Dr. Sandra Whitehouse is a consultant who is uses her marine science expertise to advise clients on ocean policies focused on how to advance ocean health and sustainably develop coastal and offshore projects. Her clients have included governments, companies and nonprofit organizations. Currently she serves as the Senior Policy Advisor to Ocean Conservancy, as a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and a member of the Ocean Collectiv. She is on the board of The National Council for Science and the Environment. Dr. Whitehouse holds a B.S. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.

Thais Lopez Vogel

Trustee, VoLo Foundation

While in her native Venezuela, Thais worked for Petroleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anonima (PDVSA). a Venezuelan State oil company and the 39th largest company in the world. She leads Volo to expand awareness of environmental issues. Her focus is expansive to include childhood education and global health care. which she believes are core building blocks for a sustainable future. She is a member of the Tiffany Circle at the American Red Cross. a board member for Water People Theater in Chicago, and also participates in several local community-focused committee groups in the Palm Beach area. Thais attended school at Colegio Emil Friedman and received her law degree from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello.

Valencia Gunder

Criminal Justice Reform Program Manager; CEO, The Smile Trust; New Florida Majority

Valencia Gunder or as most recognize her, “Vee”, is a reputable, enthusiastic, self-motivated, driven and extremely inspiring community leader who has been branded as "The Modern Day Fannie Lou Hamer”. A Miami native, Valencia is the Criminal Justice Program Manager at the New Florida Majority and Founder of the Smile Trust Inc., formerly known as Make the Homeless Smile Miami and Atlanta. Valencia assists many community based organizations with a variety of events around South Florida to ensure that there is real change being executed. Though she is not an environmentalist, Valencia has lead conversations around climate awareness in many communities on topics including sea level rise, emergency preparedness, & climate (...).

Zachary Prusak

Central Florida Program Manager/Florida Fire Manager, The Nature Conservancy

Zach has worked for The Nature Conservancy since January 2005. In his roles, Zach supports the members of the Conservancy’s Florida Fire Team, which consist of the on-site fire leaders and crew stationed at TNC Preserves, and also supports the operations at the Disney Wilderness Preserve and Tiger Creek Preserve. Zach also works with state, federal, local and private conservation groups in order to lead and promote fire training opportunities, facilitate on-the-ground partnerships, collaborate with the Florida Governor and Cabinet on fire statutory issues while also serving as the Florida Conservancy liaison on national fire issues. Zach is a proud UCF alumni, graduating with a Masters in Biology.

This year's

Conference Organizers

Abigail Axelrod

Program Director at VoLo Foundation

Abigail is an established professional and rising leader in the nonprofit sector. Her professional history is decorated with service to nonprofits across fields including education, healthcare, and the arts. Currently, she is Program Director at VoLo Foundation, Director of Climate Correction, and runs Useful Views, a platform aimed at developing philanthropy action plans for individuals and businesses. Through these opportunities, she leverages and hones her expertise in the creation, strategy, operations, and management of nonprofit organizations. Abigail serves as a member of Impact the Palm Beaches, and volunteers for several community-focused organizations in the Palm Beach area. She attended Florida State University before earning a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of Kent (U.K.). She holds a Masters Degree from Winthrop University (S.C.).

Yara Watson Colon

Coordinator, UCF Sustainability Initiatives

As a sustainability specialist at the University of Central Florida, Yara works to embolden and accelerate sustainable solutions for the campus community. By providing multi-disciplinary training and engagement opportunities to students, faculty, and staff, she fosters a culture of sustainability on campus that expands to our global community. To realize UCF's sustainability goals, Yara leads a team that stimulates innovation through an inclusive committee system and promotes transparency through data collection and reporting. She earned a B.A. in Sustainability Studies from the University of Florida and an M.A. in Global Sustainability from the University of South Florida, before heading back to her hometown of Orlando, FL.

Check back as we update! To see 2018 speakers, panelists, and recordings, click here.