Alison McDowell

Director   Marine Scientist

As a lifelong resident of Okaloosa and Walton counties, Alison grew up swimming, fishing and boating in the Choctawhatchee Bay. Having a greater appreciation for local waterways, her passion extended past her childhood and set the path for her career. She received her Master’s in Environmental Science from the University of West Florida in 2007, which eventually lead her to the role as Director of CBA in 2013. As Director, her goals for the organization focus on the growth and expansion of CBA’s mission and objectives. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her children and gardening at her home in Santa Rosa Beach.

Amanda Briant

Education Coordinator

Having always loved science and nature, it wasn’t surprising that Amanda decided to major in Biology at the University of North Georgia. She pursued her interests in ecology research by working at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in Southwest Georgia, where she spent three summers learning all about the longleaf pine ecosystem. When asked to be a part of a research project on the Eglin Reservation, she jumped at the opportunity. After a few years working in the research and natural resources field, Amanda realized how little people know about the nature in their backyards, and she started looking for opportunities in outreach and education. In 2016 she began her journey with CBA as an Environmental Education Technician. Two years later she was given the ultimate honor of being asked to become their Education Coordinator. While the longleaf pine brought Amanda to Northwest Florida, it is the beautiful diversity of habitats encompassing this area that keeps her here. Whether her feet are in the wiregrass or in the water, she is always exploring, learning and teaching.

 

Jenna Testa

Monitoring Coordinator

Growing up along the Emerald Coast, Jenna has always been fascinated by the marine environment and the life it supports. She earned her undergraduate degree in Biology at Florida State University. Interested in animal behavior and wildlife conservation, Jenna worked and volunteered as a wildlife rehabilitator, zookeeper, and marine animal stranding coordinator. While gaining critical experience, she completed her Master’s Degree in conservation biology through Miami University in 2018, which allowed her to travel to Belize, Australia, and Africa to learn from experts and practitioners.  Her master’s portfolio focused on incorporating marine conservation into the community of Northwest Florida. As Monitoring Coordinator, Jenna is in charge of managing sampling at over 130 water quality sites throughout the bay, completing seagrass surveys, working on monofilament recycling, helping new and ongoing research projects, and more.

Rachel Gwin

Restoration Coordinator

Living in Florida for most of her life gave Rachel a deep appreciation for the beautiful landscapes across the Gulf Coast region and inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies. After receiving her degree from Florida State University, Rachel completed a year of service with AmeriCorps. After her year of service was complete she was hired on with CBA and has worked her way from a Program Specialist to the Restoration Coordinator, where she plans, permits, and coordinates living shoreline and invasive plant removal projects. Rachel has completed her GIS certification through the University of West Florida. In her free time, Rachel enjoys gardening and horseback riding.

Erika Zambello

Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Erika grew up in beautiful Maine, slowly migrating south as she attended Cornell University for her Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Anthropology, worked in Washington, DC, and then received her Master’s Degree in Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, where she specialized in Ecosystem Science and Conservation. She has always been passionate about communication, and completed a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant in the Maine North Woods in 2015-2016. She has published in Bird Watching Daily, Guy Harvey Magazine, Florida Sportsman, the Maine Sportsman,  the Coastal Angler, and more. At CBA, Erika coordinates social media, outreach, press events, and more to communicate CBA’s initiatives to a local, regional, and national audience. She will complete a Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Florida in 2019.

Chad Perko

Ecology Technician

Growing up in the rural Cleveland Ohio area, Chad has always been impressed by the importance and beauty of the natural environment.  After Chad’s Honorable Discharge from the United States Army, he attended college at Eastern Kentucky University where he was an Animal Studies major. In 2016 Chad relocated from Ohio to Northwest Florida where he worked as a Park Ranger at Grayton Beach State Park before joining CBA. He has plans to continue his education in the environmental field and build upon his understanding of the great value of environmental stewardship in sustaining healthy ecosystems.

Taylor Beck

Ecology Technician

Originally from Virginia, Taylor moved to Florida to pursue her passion for marine biology. She attended the University of West Florida where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science with a Minor in Environmental Science. Her main interests lie in understanding the evolutionary history of marine organisms and using that knowledge to inform future conservation practices. 

Ryan Brown

Environmental Education Technician

Ryan is a native to the Florida Panhandle, and joined CBA in 2018 after completing two years as a NWF Environmental Stewards AmeriCorps Program. He has a passion for learning and working outside, as well as teaching others. Ryan plans to continue his education in archaeology.