RAE Staff

RAE Staff

Jeff Benoit

President and CEO
703-524-0248 x.1 | jbenoit@estuaries.org

Jeff Benoit is the president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. He has over 28 years of experience and leadership in coastal management and marine conservation. A coastal geomorphologist by training, Jeff started his career with the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management, first as a coastal geologist, and then as director. From 1993 to 2001 Jeff served as director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) where he had responsibility for the National Coastal Zone Management Program, National Estuarine Research Reserves, and National Marine Sanctuaries. Jeff has served on two National Research Council Committee’s: 1) Review of the Restoration of Coastal Louisiana; and 2) Mitigating Shore Erosion along Sheltered Coasts. He is past president of The Coastal Society, an organization of coastal and marine professionals.

Jeff earned a B.S. degree in marine geology from Southampton College and an M.A. in geophysical science from the Georgia Institute of Technology/Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys reading Clive Cussler novels, working on an endless list of projects around the house, and creating culinary delights for friends to enjoy (so he hopes).

Thomas Ardito

Southeast New England Watershed Grant Program Director
401-575-6109 | tardito@estuaries.org

Tom Ardito is the director of the Southeast New England Watershed Grant Program for Restore America’s Estuaries. As program director, his goal is to preserve coastal ecosystems through partnerships that restore clean water throughout Rhode Island, Southeast Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the islands of the region.

Tom has an M.A. in marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island and has been working on coastal ecological restoration in New England for about 20 years, including oil spill restoration, Superfund site restoration, dam removal, salt marsh restoration, and storm water management. He has worked extensively in public parks management, focusing on the balance between public use and ecological values, and is interested in fostering environmental justice through restoration of urban environments. Tom lives in North Kingstown, R.I., along the West Passage of beautiful Narragansett Bay.

Nicole Breslin-Romano

Operations Manager
703-524-0248 x.2 | nbreslin.romano@estuaries.org

Nicole Breslin-Romano is the operations manager at Restore America's Estuaries, overseeing all internal operations within the organization. She started her career as a consultant for CAO's and Controllers, then became the business manager for a small non-profit based in the District of Columbia, before joining RAE in 2017. She holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park, and after living in the area for the past 16 years, now calls Arlington "home."

Water has always been a passion for Nicole — her favorite place in the world is the coast of Maine — and she is thrilled to be doing her part to save our precious marine resources. She also enjoys camping, cooking far too much food for people, and crafting.

Steve Emmett-Mattox

Strategic Programs Director
720-300-3139 | sem@estuaries.org

Steve Emmett-Mattox is the strategic programs director at Restore America's Estuaries. He has more than 30 years of experience with conservation organizations, including the Institute for Conservation Leadership, National Wildlife Federation, and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Steve has held previous positions with RAE, including vice president, and helped launch the US blue carbon initiative in 2009. He initiated and managed projects to develop the science and tools needed to use blue carbon as a catalyst for increased investment in coastal ecosystem restoration and conservation. He co-managed the technical teams that wrote the wetland requirements for the Verified Carbon Standard, the global Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration Methodology (VM33), and the global tidal wetland and seagrass conservation methodology (VM007), which is pending final approval by the VCS. Prior to focusing on blue carbon, he helped develop other major program areas, including the biennial National Conference and the Community-Based Restoration Partnership with NOAA.

Steve has a master’s degree in environmental ethics from the University of North Texas, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Rice University. He and his wife currently live in Niwot, CO, where you can often find Steve jogging and hiking on nearby trails.

Sarina Katz

Communications & Outreach Manager
703-524-0248 x.0 | skatz@estuaries.org

Sarina Katz is the communications and outreach manager for Restore America's Estuaries. Prior to joining RAE, she served on the communications team at the Land Trust Alliance and as a paralegal at the Department of Justice. She has experience in marketing, design, project management, and social media. She brings with her vast knowledge of effective outreach initiatives in both the nonprofit and government sectors. Sarina has a long history of working in conservation and sustainability; she has spent time in both Costa Rica and Kenya working on sustainable development projects.

Sarina graduated from Penn State University with degrees in international relations and history. Originally from Philadelphia, she's lived in Washington, D.C. for four years. In her free time, Sarina enjoys exploring the city, visiting museums, and traveling whenever possible.

Elsa Carlisle Schwartz

Senior Director of Restoration and Administration
360-926-8814 | eschwartz@estuaries.org

Elsa Schwartz began her career with Restore America's Estuaries in 2000 as a manatee watch intern for Tampa Bay Watch, one of RAE's member organizations. In 2004, Elsa was reintroduced to RAE when she was hired to work at RAE's 3rd National Conference. Now as the senior director of restoration, Elsa manages RAE's national restoration program and the restoration projects undertaken by RAE's member groups each year. Prior to working for RAE, Elsa worked in the San Juan Islands for the Samish Indian Nation, working on a variety of projects from salmon restoration to shorelines stabilization.

She has an M.S. in marine affairs from the University of Washington, and a B.S. in biology from Pacific Lutheran University. Elsa lives on beautiful Camano Island where she enjoys crabbing and sailing with her husband, Nate and dog, Bailey.

Suzanne Giles Simon

Strategic Programs Director
413-695-8922 | ssimon@estuaries.org

Suzanne Simon is the senior strategic projects coordinator for Restore America’s Estuaries. She has spent more than 20 years working on coastal, marine, and estuarine issues in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. An estuarine scientist by training, she started her career at an oceanographic consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest. From 2000 to 2004 she worked in D.C.’s non-profit sector, including a two-year period as RAE’s national policy and science director. A move to Florida prompted a switch back to the private sector, where she once again joined a consulting firm and developed an expertise about Florida’s ecosystems and drinking water issues. She re-joined RAE in 2009.

Suzanne earned a B.S. in biology from Bates College and an M.S. in environmental science with a concentration in marine and estuarine science from Western Washington University. Keeping up with her family provides Suzanne with exercise and entertainment during her “down” time. In those rare moments when she can, she thoroughly enjoys a good book.

Lance Speidell

Senior Director of Development
703-524-0248 x.3 | lspeidell@estuaries.org

Lance Speidell is the senior director of development for Restore America’s Estuaries, managing RAE’s relationships with current and potential institutional funders. Lance brings twelve years of experience working in corporate and foundation relations for environmentally-focused nonprofit organizations, most recently with the National Parks Conservation Association.

Lance graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in anthropology, and before entering the nonprofit sector spent several years in IT sales and marketing. Having grown up in the Tidewater area of Virginia and having spent many summer vacations in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Lance has a long history with coastal and estuarine areas and a deep appreciation for the value they bring to their communities. In his free time, he enjoys trying to keep up with his toddler son and having his heart routinely broken by various D.C. and University of Virginia sports teams.

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