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OPC Staff


Deborah Halberstadt, OPC Executive Director/Deputy Secretary for Oceans and Coastal Policy, California Natural Resources Agency

Deborah Halberstadt has extensive experience in environmental law and policy and has devoted her career to advocating for and protecting the environment. Deborah is committed to implementing California’s innovative, ecosystem driven approach to ocean and coastal management and its emphasis on science-based policies and collaborative partnerships. Before joining the OPC, Deborah spent ten years in the Office of the California Attorney General litigating civil and criminal cases to enforce environmental laws. During that time she worked on several multi-jurisdictional teams with local and federal agencies and was cross-designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. Upon graduating from law school, Deborah clerked for the Honorable Walter L. Carpeneti at the Alaska Supreme Court in Juneau. Prior to law school, Deborah served as a federal legislative liaison in the Office of Governor Gray Davis, handling natural resources and environmental protection issues. She also served as director of constituent affairs. She was a legislative and policy coordinator in the Office of Lieutenant Governor Gray Davis. Deborah earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University.

Contact: (916) 657-0198 or


Jenn Eckerle, Deputy Director, Ocean Protection Council 

Jenn Eckerle joined OPC in December 2016.  As OPC’s Deputy Director, she is responsible for supervising staff and helping set the strategic priorities for coast and ocean policy in California. Before joining OPC, Jenn spent eight years as an ocean policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, where she conducted technical analysis and developed policy recommendations to advance ocean conservation. Prior to that, she was a coastal program analyst for the California Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.  Jenn earned an M.S. in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Biology from the University of Vermont.  She is an East Coast transplant that has spent the last two decades trying to forget the cold winters of New York. Jenn loves being outdoors, especially when it involves camping, hiking, scuba diving or paddleboarding.  

Contact: (916) 654-9055 or


Chris Potter, OPC Program Manager

Contact : (916) 654-0536 or


Cyndi DawsonCyndi Dawson, OPC Marine Protected Areas Policy Adviser

Cyndi Dawson joined the OPC in September 2014 and is an experienced marine ecologist with her past work focusing on nearshore ecology, marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries management. In her most recent position as an Environmental Scientist with CA State Parks she was tasked with balancing the impacts of recreational uses with the conservation and restoration of Asilomar State Beach’s extraordinary natural resources. Before joining State Parks in 2012, Cyndi received her B.S. in Biology from Humboldt State University and her M.S. in Marine Science from San Francisco State at Moss Landing Marine Labs. Her graduate research used acoustic telemetry to determine habitat use patterns of prickly shark in the Monterey Canyon. She has worked as a Marine Biologist for CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and as the Director of Science of Reef Check California A focus of Cyndi’s past positions has been helping diverse stakeholders to understand and use science to address complex ocean management issues. Her current role as the Marine Protected Area Policy Advisor for the Ocean Protection Council focuses on working with a diverse range of agency and non-agency partners to support effective management of CAs network of MPAs.

Contact: (916) 653-0542 or


Jenn_OPCJennifer Phillips, OPC Climate Change Policy Adviser 

Jenn joined the Ocean Protection Council in April 2015 and leads our work on ocean acidification and hypoxia and other climate change efforts. She works closely with the other West Coast states through the Regional Planning Body, West Coast Ocean Partnership, and Pacific Coast Collaborative. Before OPC, she worked in the NOAA Administrator’s Office where she started as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow and then spent a year on the Administrator’s staff. During this time, she helped with the development and execution of NOAA’s priorities, such as community resilience, and managed the associated communication and outreach. Jenn has a master’s from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.S. in Biology from Cornell University. Her graduate research explored the impacts of CO2-driven acidification of the Great Lakes through modelling, analysis of EPA data, and community surveys. Jenn grew up in upstate New York, volunteered throughout South America after college, and is a retired collegiate rower who tries her hand at many other endurance sports as she gets older.

Contact: (916) 651-0237 or


HolWeb-photo-smallly Wyer, OPC Marine Pollution Program Manager

Holly Wyer joined the OPC in March 2016, and her work focuses on marine debris and trash pollution. She started working on coastal and ocean management for the State in 2012 with the State Lands Commission. At the State Lands Commission, her work focused on industrial and emerging uses in the ocean, including offshore renewable energy. In 2011, Holly earned a master’s in Environmental Science & Management from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara, and she earned a B.A. from Western Washington University in 2008. Her master’s thesis group project worked with Ecotrust and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans to integrate tribal marine resource use into California’s marine protected area planning process on the north coast. She enjoys traveling, backpacking, and exploring the outdoors.

Contact: (916) 653-0538 or


Paige Berube, OPC Sustainable Fisheries Program Manager

Paige Berube joined the OPC in January 2016. Her work focuses on supporting the sustainable management of California’s marine fisheries. She began working with the OPC as a Sea Grant Fellow focusing on climate change policy, including sea level rise and ocean acidification and hypoxia. Before the OPC, Paige worked as a Research Fellow with the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara, where she served as the Lead Consultant on a markets project to facilitate the sustainable management of small-scale fisheries in the developing tropics. Paige earned her master’s in Environmental Science & Management from the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara and a B.S. in Environmental Geoscience from Boston College. Working with NOAA and The Nature Conservancy, her master’s thesis group project evaluated management scenarios in the California commercial swordfish fishery, focusing on balancing conservation and economic goals through a global lens. She enjoys going on ocean swims, playing soccer, and cooking up fresh fish tacos.

Contact: (916) 651-1264 or


Marina Cazorla, OPC Program Manager & Tribal Liaison

Marina Cazorla joined the OPC in August 2017. In her prior position, she promoted strategic collaboration among private foundations supporting coastal and marine conservation in Mexico – including Baja California and the Yucatan – with a focus on fisheries, marine protected areas, mangrove conservation, and NGO capacity-building. She also developed an initiative for funders to address threats and attacks on environmental defenders globally. Before that role, Marina worked at the State Coastal Conservancy on San Mateo coast projects that included land acquisitions and easements, riparian and wetland habitat restoration, coastal trails and public access improvements; she later worked at the nascent OPC on establishing a fisheries fund, creation of a seafloor mapping program, and MPA baseline monitoring. Prior to that, Marina was a permit analyst at the Coastal Commission reviewing energy and ocean resources permit applications for projects such as oil and gas facilities, energy facilities, aquaculture, fiber optic cables, artificial reefs, and coastal restoration. She received her B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and her Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Marina’s current role at the OPC includes administration of OPC’s Proposition 1 grant program, helping develop OPC’s once-through cooling mitigation grant program, and OPC Tribal Liaison.

Contact: (916) 653-0540 or


Sara Briley, OPC Climate Change Sea Grant Fellow 

Sara joined the OPC in February 2017 as a California Sea Grant Fellow. During her year-long fellowship, she will work on climate change projects related to sea level rise, ocean acidification and hypoxia. She earned her M.S. in biology from California State University, Fullerton and her B.S. in marine biology from the University of California Los Angeles. For her master’s thesis, Sara studied the impact of native Olympia oyster restoration on co-occurring eelgrass. She expanded on this work through her role as the marine restoration director at Orange County Coastkeeper where she led efforts to restore oyster and eelgrass habitats, including the development of one of the first Living Shorelines projects in southern California. Sara loves hiking, cooking and exploring northern California.

Contact: (916) 653-0539 or


Whitney Berry, OPC Climate Change Sea Grant Fellow

Whitney joined the OPC in January 2018 as a California Sea Grant Fellow. She is working on issues and projects concerning changing ocean conditions due to a changing climate, such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and hypoxia. She will also help with the development of California’s Ocean Acidification Action Plan, in addition to helping with the implementation and advancement of recommendations from the International Ocean Acidification Alliance. Whitney earned her Master’s degree in International Environmental Policy, concentrating in Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In addition to her work at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Conservation & Science department during her graduate studies, Whitney has international work experience and previously spent time in Pohnpei, Micronesia, developing a “ridge-to-reef” management plan for the local government. She also worked with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Global Marine and Polar Program in Switzerland where she studied the potential impacts of deep seabed mining and presented her findings at the IUCN Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii. Whitney loves all things outdoors and aquatic, and is always looking for adventure.

Contact: (916) 653-9416 or


Tova Handelman, OPC Marine Protected Areas Sea Grant Fellow

Tova Handelman earned a master’s degree in coastal and marine resources management with a focus in strategic environmental communication and media from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016.  Her group thesis work evaluated citizen science as a method for monitoring the rocky intertidal zone. At the Ocean Protection Council, Tova will help manage an on-going effort among several state agencies and partners to effectively collaborate on the long-term management of marine protected areas (MPAs) across the state. She will be examining scientific information to support decision-making regarding MPAs so they can best protect the health of the ocean and coastal communities.

Contact: (916) 653-6598 or


Chris Besenty, Staff Information Systems Analyst

Chris Besenty joined the Ocean Protection Council and State Coastal Conservancy staff in November 2007. A graduate of Sonoma State University’s Department of Environmental Studies and Planning (1996), Chris began his career with the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission as a volunteer coastal planning intern in 1995, working on the North Bay Wetlands Protection Program, and in 1998 was appointed the Commission’s Chief Information Officer. His interdisciplinary focus lies in exploring ways to economically integrate information technology practices with coastal resource management, including the use of spatial data to inform coastal planning goals and objectives, and the use of the Internet as a publishing medium. His experience with information technology began in 1990 with a Compuserve account, a friend’s TI PPC, and a beta copy of DR DOS. His personal interests include biking, hiking and camping on the beaches, deserts and forests of the western U.S. and strumming the guitar for fun and profit.