RAE Staff

Daniel Hayden

President and CEO

Daniel Hayden joined Restore America’s Estuaries as President and CEO in 2020. He brings more than 25 years of experience as a leader in the private and public sectors. For nearly a decade, Daniel built multi-million-dollar partnerships and programs, and oversaw quality and learning for Rare, an international conservation NGO focused on proven locally-led solutions. In a previous role as senior campaign director at PCI Media, Daniel organized UN Environmental Program’s Webby award-winning “Wild for Life” Campaign generating over 3M pledges and assisted in designing a global campaign to reduce marine plastics (CleanSeas). More recently, Daniel led business operations for Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) at the UN Foundation.

Daniel earned a BA in Economics and History from Hamilton College cum laude and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where he has been recognized as an Andrew Youn Impact Scholar. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys being outside with his wife and two children on the water whether liquid or frozen, previously he was Chair of the Board of the Washington Literacy Center.

Thomas Ardito

SNEP Watershed Implementation 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.

Shahela Begum

Program Director – Long Island Sound Community Impact Fund

Shahela Begum joins Restore America’s Estuaries as the Program Director for the Long Island Sound Community Impact Fund. She brings years of experience in working with under-resourced regions in New York City. Most recently, as a senior environmental conservation educator for Wildlife Conservation Society and the Rockaway Institute for Sustainability & Equity, she created curricula and educated coastline communities. At UPROSE, she was the climate justice resilience coordinator, focusing on resiliency work on the ground while working with various stakeholders, along with project management. As a program director at Laal, she created multiple programs, such as a community garden and a civic leadership curriculum through ESL.

Shahela graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, Language, & Criticism with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity, & Class Studies from Hunter College and earned a Master’s degree in Environmental Conservation Education from New York University. She obtained her Permaculture Design Certificate from the Center for Bioregional Living and a Permaculture Teacher Training Certification from Earth Activist Training.

Dr. Philip McAdoo

Inclusive Coasts Initiative Senior Advisor

Dr. Philip McAdoo is a subject matter expert on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with over 15 years of experience in the field. Currently, McAdoo serves as the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Earthjustice.  

Before founding his own consulting firm, he served as the Director of Equity, Justice, and Community at the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Through his consulting work, McAdoo has collaborated with several nonprofits and educational institutions to help them optimize their training, development, and succession planning strategies so that diverse talent is represented. 

McAdoo is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in communications studies, holds an MA in transformative leadership from The California Institute of Integral Studies, and earned a Doctor of Education from The University of Pennsylvania in the Graduate School of Education. 

Lance Speidell

Senior Director of Development

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 two kids and having his heart routinely broken by various D.C. and University of Virginia sports teams.

Elsa Carlisle Schwartz

Senior Director of Restoration and Administration
360.926.8814 | eschwartz@estuaries.org

Elsa Schwartz began her career with the Restore America’s Estuaries family 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 2nd National Conference. Now as the senior director of restoration, Elsa manages RAE’s national restoration program and oversees the planning and logistics of the National Summit. 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 boating with her husband, Nate, and dogs Bailey and Cody.

Hilary Stevens

Coastal Resilience Senior Manager

Hilary Stevens is the coastal resilience manager at Restore America’s Estuaries. She oversees the Blue Carbon and Living Shorelines programs. She is a geologist and environmental scientist with extensive experience in coastal resource management. Hilary has worked on coastal issues and climate change adaptation around the US and globally, with an emphasis on using best-available science to address community needs and improve resource management. She has a particular affinity for island communities, stemming from her time working in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. She holds a master’s from Yale University and a B.S. from Wesleyan University.

Suzanne Giles Simon

NEP Coastal Watersheds Grant Program Director
413.695.8922 | ssimon@estuaries.org

Suzanne Simon is NEP Coastal Watersheds Grant Program Director 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.

Sara Smith

Grants Administrator
406.594.9531 | ssmith@estuaries.org

Sara Smith is the RAE Grant Administrator.  Sara comes to us from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks where she spent eight years managing a state-wide grant program. She also coordinated the agency’s recreational boating education program, taught women’s outdoor skills classes on various topics, and was involved in many special projects focused on responsible outdoor recreation in Montana.

Sara attended the University of Montana where she earned a degree in Anthropology with minors in Geology and Irish Studies.  She enjoys working with people from different cultures and backgrounds and hearing their stories.

Water has always played an important role in Sara’s life, and she enjoys spending time on the many lakes and rivers near her home in Helena, Montana. She also enjoys gardening, sewing and hiking with her husband and two dogs.

Karen Estella Smith

Program Associate

Karen Estella Smith joins Restore America’s Estuaries as a Program Associate. She is a graduate of Florida State University with a degree in English Literature. She also has a master’s in biology, having focused on conservation, restoration, and environmental justice from Miami University (OH).

Her professional background includes working on Capitol Hill, for the Florida Department of Education, as well as with various nonprofit organizations. More recently, she has shifted focus to the environmental realm, where she has engaged the community through events, programs, and campaigns to raise awareness about the issues affecting the environment and wetlands protection. She has also helped residents develop partnerships and foster relationships related to environmental advocacy and priorities.

Karen is responsible for the programming aspect of the Coastal and Estuarine Summit, as well as Blue Carbon initiatives. She will continue her work on Diversity and Community Engagement with the Gulf Coast Oyster Reef Restoration Project and the Inclusive Coasts Initiatives.

Some of Karen’s favorite memories are going to the beach with family and friends as a child.  She and her cousins still enjoy fishing together, as they did when they were kids with their grandparents.

Brad Williamson

Manager, Government Affairs & Communications
770.714.2764 | bwilliamson@estuaries.org

Brad Williamson is the Manager of Government Affairs and Communications for Restore America’s Estuaries, managing RAE’s policy objectives with stakeholders on the Hill, in the administration, and throughout states.

Brad graduated from the University of Georgia where he earned a degree in Political Science with a minor in Communications. Since graduating, he has spent more than seven years working in both the public and private sector representing the people of his home state and leading advocacy campaigns championing federal projects that reduce emissions.

Brad grew up exploring the woods and coastline of Georgia before moving to DC where he continues exploring the waterways around the city by rowing on the Potomac most mornings.