Our Team

Board of Directors

Ben Tuff, Board President ~ Email Ben ~ Ben joined the COA board in January 2021 after supporting the organization for many years. He has spent his whole life in Jamestown enjoying fly fishing, sailing, and swimming. In 2019, he swam around Conanicut Island to raise $55k for COA. In July 2021, he exceeded his previous fundraising goal for COA by swimming from Block Island to Jamestown, the first person ever to do so. He is a lifelong educator and is currently the Director of Admissions at a Junior Boarding School in CT called Rumsey Hall School. His wife Gretchen is an avid Ironman athlete and they have two children: a son, Wyatt, and a daughter, Maisie.
Ian Owen, Board Treasurer ~ Email Ian ~ Ian as the 2nd term Treasurer is leading the finance efforts to achieve long term fiscal solvency and to develop an endowment. He has an EEE degree from the Royal Navy (UK) and received a commendation from the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) when he helped set up and run an oiled bird rescue and rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. Ian is a program manager at Sonos Inc.
Annie Becker, Board Secretary ~ Email Annie ~ Annie is performing the role of Secretary fostering communication and ensuring proper management and utilization of organizational records, bylaws, policies and procedures, and assisting with fundraising and community events. She has a Bachelor of Science in statistics and finance from Syracuse University. Annie is a realtor on Aquidneck Island and is the President Elect of the Newport County Board of REALTOR©

Tricia Bielinski ~ Email Tricia ~ Tricia, a self-proclaimed beach bum, joined the COA board at the beginning of 2021. She is a C-level HR Director focused on the establishment of a global HR framework and organizational development and strategic initiatives. She has extensive experience in planning and building the people infrastructure to support new projects, talent acquisition and development, leadership development, succession planning, digital enablement and the accompanying change management efforts that go with all of the above. Tricia first came to COA as a volunteer and a member of the composting program, and is excited to contribute to the organizational development of COA.

Julie Frost, Board Director~ Email Julie ~ Julie joined the board in August 2021 after 10 years of volunteer service with various COA programs. A lifelong scientist and avid lover of all things water, her commitment to the organization began as a water sampler for our OCEAN program and recently served on the Strategic Planning Committee. Julie is a Principal Scientist in Process Development for Amgen, recently celebrated 20 years of tenure with the biotechnology company, and has been instrumental in helping to increase COA renewed grants with the Amgen Foundation. Raised in Atlanta, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology/marine biology from Eckerd College and lives in the north end of Newport, where she is an active member of her neighborhood association.

Liz Frank, Board Director~ Email Liz ~ Liz Frank was first introduced to Clean Ocean Access in 2019 as a donor and a fan, supporting Ben Tuff’s 23-mile swim around Conanicut Island. She was deeply involved in the July 2021 event, helping Ben raise over $100,00 for the first-ever swim from Block Island to Jamestown. She quickly discovered a connection to COA on many levels: Jamestown, the Ocean, the environment and helping others. Liz grew up in Philadelphia and spent all her summers in Jamestown, RI. She is a graduate of Trinity College in CT and has an established career in fundraising. In her spare time, Liz is an avid runner and serves on the alumni board for her high school, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.


Dave McLaughlin, Executive Director ~ Email Dave ~ (401) 236-2561 x8

Dave is the Co-Founder of Clean Ocean Access in 2006 and as Executive Director since the inception of the non-profit organization in 2014 he is working on innovative methods and strategic initiatives for transforming the organization into a sustainable non-profit such that the mission lasts forever. He earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in applied mathematics from the Florida Institute of Technology with a concentration in atmospheric science and physical oceanography in 1993 and 1996, respectively. Before this journey, Dave had a career in information technology as an enterprise architect at Hasbro Toy Company from 1996 to 2014.

Emily Conklin, Communications Marketing Coordinator ~ Email Emily ~ (401) 236-2561 x4

Emily joined the team to serve as the Communications Marketing Coordinator in January 2021. Emily is a marine biologist and science communicator with an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College MA and a Master’s degree from Northeastern University. In her position, she is responsible for social media, email marketing, and marketing materials production, among others. She is focused on sharing the story of the organization with our community in support of our programs and overall mission.

Eva Touhey, Program Manager ~ Email Eva ~ (401) 236-2561 x1

Eva joined the team as an intern in October of 2015 working on watershed reporting, and advancing education activities in 2016. As the program manager, she is responsible for core programs, big projects, volunteer management, advocacy, education & outreach, reports, and program revenue. Eva received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 2015, and a Master of Arts degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island in 2019, with a thesis on the influence of plastic bag bans on pro-environmental behaviors in Rhode Island coastal communities.

Casey Tremper, Program Coordinator ~ Email Casey~ (401) 236-2561 x2

Casey joined the team in June 2021 to take over coordination of the three founding volunteer programs of Clean, Ocean, and Access. Growing up on the beach in Matunuck, Casey has always been enthusiastic about protecting the ocean and encouraging others to do the same. She has a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs from URI, water quality monitoring training with the URI Watershed Watch, and three years of experience studying sustainability and restoration with the Environmental Protection Agency in Narragansett, RI. Casey enjoys cleaning up her own neighborhood, playing guitar, and SCUBA diving in her free time.

Lesley Muir, Events Manager ~ Email Lesley~ (401) 236-2561 x7

Lesley joined the team in September 2021 to take on the new role of Events Manager. In this position, she is responsible for advancing Hosted and Beneficiary Events as well as Sponsorship. Prior to coming to COA, Lesley spent 16 years at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, most recently as Director of Special Events. Growing up and raising a family sailing on Narragansett Bay, Lesley is passionate about protecting the environment for future generations.

Max Kraimer, Program Manager ~ Email Max ~ (401) 236-2561 x5

Max joined the team as an intern in May of 2017 focusing on Marina Trash Skimmer data collection and research.  Max is responsible to advance the big projects; Southeast New England Marina Trash Skimmers and Shrink Wrap Recycling, and program sponsorship. Max received his Bachelor of Science in marine biology with a minor in sustainability studies from Roger Williams University in 2018.

Egidia Vergano, Project Leader ~ Email Egidia ~ (401) 236-2561 x6

Egidia joined the team part-time in February 2021 to take on the challenges and opportunities of the Shrink Wrap Recycling & Life Cycle Analysis Project. In August 2021, she joined the team full-time and expanded her role to help advance both of COA’s circular economy programs, Shrink Wrap Recycling and Healthy Soils Healthy Seas Rhode Island. After spending the early part of her career as an engineer in the medical device industry, Egidia was drawn to the environmental challenges of our planet and committed herself to helping others reduce waste and pursue sustainability. Before coming to COA, she spent many years working in recycling and waste management, first for the Town of Narragansett and then with Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University.

Merit Shalom ~ Education Outreach Coordinator ~ Email Merit ~(401) 236-2561 x3

Merit joined the team in March 2021 to advance our new mission statement with a focus on education as our Education Outreach Coordinator. Her most recent role was the Education and Outreach Facilitator at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, and she graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2011 with a Bachelors in Education and Psychology and a license in teaching.
Athena smiles in the field by the COA office

Athena Vieira ~ CRM Specialist ~ Email Athena ~

Athena joined our team in 2018 as our education intern, and now serves as our Customer Relations Management (CRM) Specialist. Athena is currently an undergraduate at the University of Rhode Island majoring in marine affairs, geological oceanography, and political science. She is looking forward to engaging with the community to further COA’s initiative towards a healthy ocean that is accessible to all.

College Interns

Max McFarland Headshot Max McFarland ~ Max is currently a junior at Salve Regina University, where he is majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Political Science. After volunteering for beach cleanups, he wanted to become more involved with Clean Ocean Access. Max is excited to be working for the organization as a Marine Debris Intern, in addition to office work. Max is originally from Minnesota, is passionate about environmental policy and resource management, and is hoping to pursue law school in the future.
Brian Chantre ~ Brian is a senior at Roger Williams University majoring in public relations with a double minor in sustainability and marine biology. Being from Connecticut, Brian began developing his admiration for the ocean and the environment at a young age. He has worked with other organizations to educate those in his community about the importance of good environmental and sustainability practices. Brian is thrilled to be working for COA as their communications and marketing intern.
Matthew Fabrizio ~ Matthew Fabrizio is currently a senior at Salve Regina University where he is a Marketing student with an Environmental minor. He is also the president of the Salve Surf Club. Originally from Hampstead, New Hampshire, Matthew usually spent his time by the beach surfing or in the mountains hiking before coming to Newport. His interest in the environment has led to his goal to help his local beaches and ecosystems by working with COA as their Marketing and Communications intern.
Sophie Beauchesne ~ Sophie is a Junior at Salve Regina University, where she is majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology. Sophie is from Nottingham, New Hampshire. She spent this past summer in Newport working on an avian ecology research project at Salve Regina. As an avid surfer and beach-goer, Sophie is passionate about maintaining an ocean that is clean and accessible. She is excited to be working with the community and COA as the Access & Water Quality intern.
Samantha "Sam" Jackson ~ Sam Jackson is a senior at the University of Rhode Island, and is double majoring in Marine Affairs and History. She is originally from New Mexico, and has moved to Rhode Island to work with the ocean. She is passionate about cleaning up the ocean and environmental sustainability.