Tricia Coyne, President
Tricia Coyne’s lifelong love of the ocean has had a major impact on both her professional and personal life. She became certified as a SCUBA instructor and worked as a Dive Master and Instructor while studying Marine Biology at UCLA, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in 2006. Tricia has studied marine life around the world, including a research-intensive quarter in Moorea, Tahiti, as well as an internship tagging and tracking Great White Sharks in Mossel Bay, South Africa.
After college, Tricia worked in a marine and freshwater biology lab in Los Angeles, where she executed regulatory compliance bioassays and helped develop studies involving various toxins including pyrethroids and endocrine disruptors. She also spent time at the Georgia Aquarium teaching visitors about marine life including whale sharks and other large pelagic fishes. She has dove many of the world’s great reefs, including the Red Sea, Fiji, and Thailand, and has worked as a SCUBA instructor on the Great Barrier Reef, in California, many parts of the Caribbean, and in Key West.
Tricia now lives in Key West and owns the restaurants Firefly, Tiger Bar, and The Champagne Room. Although she is no longer professionally involved with marine biology, she enjoys diving, snorkeling, and paddle boarding, and is proud to be able to help protect the reefs as a member of the Board of Directors at Reef Relief.
Carly Shabo, Vice President
Carly was born and raised in Massachusetts, but migrated south to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. She began an internship with Reef Relief shortly after graduation and fell in love with the organization’s mission and all of the students she got to work with. As Reef Reliefs Education Coordinator, and later Assistant Program Director, she worked with thousands of students and kept the organization running smoothly from behind the scenes through fundraising, volunteer organization, and staff management. She received a Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (San Diego, CA) in 2019 and joined the 2020 cohort of Sea Grant Fellows where she sat in NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. She is currently working with California Sea Grant as a Resilient Communities Research Associate supporting their fellowship and coastal resilience work.
Genya Yerkes, Treasurer
Genya is a native Floridian that originally moved to Key West in June 2000. She started her career at the Key West Aquarium as an educator and by 2004 she had moved up to Senior Aquarist. She has left and returned to Key West several times while following her career and has worked in varied education and animal care/training positions at Sea World Orlando, Discovery Cove, Busch Gardens Tampa, Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts, and the Orlando Science Center. She collaborates with multiple facilities, non-profits, and government agencies to promote the conservation and awareness of our fragile coral reef and compromised marine ecosystems. She is a proud member of the Florida Keys Community College Marine Environmental Technology Program Advisory Board, mentor for the Gills Club (a non-profit promoting STEM education and marine science for teen girls), and a participant in the environmental outreach within our island community and youth.
Mimi Stafford, Secretary
Mimi Stafford was born in Hamilton, Ohio but moved to Central Florida as a young child. Close proximity to lakes and the oceans all around Florida sparked an appreciation and curiosity about the world beneath. This lead to formal study of marine biology and microbiology first at the College of Charleston, Charleston, SC and then at the University College of Swansea, in Wales, where she met her husband, Simon, who was studying oceanography.
After graduation, the couple came to Florida to see family and then to Key West in early 1974 so that Mimi could share one of her favorite places from her childhood with her new husband. This was the beginning of a planned around the world trip, but once Simon got under water, they knew they would never leave. For many years, they made their living diving for lobsters and specimens. Early on they realized they are both captains at heart, which lead to the purchase of a second boat and Mimi took up sponge fishing and eventually decided to go to a larger boat and run traps for stone crabs and lobster.
Mimi and Simon have two children born and raised in the Keys. Their daughter, Tess, currently lives in Sydney, Australia, where she and her husband teach environmental economics at the University of New South Wales. Their son, Dylan, fell in love with the sea at an early age and has been working on the family boats all his life.
Today, Mimi keeps busy fishing, doing massage therapy, and participating in various advisory boards. She is a current member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council lobster advisory board, Monroe County Port Advisory Board, Restoration Advisory Board with NAS Boca Chica, and a Reef Relief board member. Mimi has been diving in the Keys since the early 1960’s and has seen many changes and a general degradation of the ecosystem. She strongly believes that education, working with lawmakers to reduce source pollution and restoration of habitats is vital to the recovery of the Keys natural ecosystems and plans to continue her work in these areas.
Bob Cardenas, Board Member
Bob Cardenas is the Past President of the Reef Relief and is currently an
active member of the Board of Directors. Raised in Fort Lauderdale, he
quickly became passionate about our Ocean environment. Growing up, he
had more aquariums in his bedroom than a pet store and was driving boats
long before he was able to drive a car. An avid diver and fisherman, it was
natural that he also became a conservationist, wanting to preserve the coral
College found him at FSU majoring in Marine Biology, where he concluded
his undergraduate work, as well as three years of graduate studies in Marine
Biology, following his life-long passion for the marine environment. Having
difficulty finding a job in Marine Biology, he had an opportunity to spend
five months on a sailboat as captain, bringing a 43’ sailboat across the
Atlantic Ocean, via all parts in between. This was his second Trans-Atlantic
crossing on a sailboat. After that life-changing trip, he decided to get into
the Real Estate profession, to make enough money to fund his passion for
being on the water and enjoying the marine environment. He is an avid
sailor, fisherman, and diver.
At the current time, he has three Sotheby’s International Realty offices in
the Florida Keys, Key West, Marathon, and Islamorada. Due to his 43 years of
in the Real Estate Business, as well as his passion for the marine
environment including his formal education as a Marine Biologist, he is well
qualified to see and understand all of the factor, economic and
environmental, that are affecting our Coral Reef system. Fully understanding
both sides of these critical issues is often the difference between success
and failure when it comes to protecting our Coral Reef systems.
In addition to being the Past President of Reef Relief, Bob also served his
community as the Chairman of the College of the Florida Keys Foundation,
was the 2013 District Vice President of Florida Realtors, was the 2011
President of the Key West Association of Realtors and holds a US Coast
Guard 100 Ton Master Captain’s License.
Jeff Graves, Board Member
Jeff Graves is founder of Vision Event Management (VEM), an endurance event production company offering full spectrum marketing and event management services. Since 2006, Jeff has been committed to building VEM into one of the best active lifestyle management companies in the United States, by producing the highest quality events that not only set the standard for event production, but also set the trend for the industry.
During the peak of the COVID crisis while other event promoters were ceasing operations, VEM continued to offer engaging fitness options to participants in the form of virtual competitions.
The Key Largo to Key West Challenge was VEM’s first Virtual Challenge and Reef Relief was the Official Charity Partner. The Key Largo to Key West Challenge was rated one of the top 5 virtual challenges in 2020. In just 2 years VEM has donated over $30,000 to Reef Relief.
Through his experience in event management, marketing and sales, Jeff has honed his leadership capabilities and gained respect in the endurance event space, having been nominated for Race Director of the Year in 2005. Jeff holds a B.A. in Telecommunication, and a Minor in Marketing from Ball State University. He is committed to serving the community through volunteering and serving on various Boards of Directors, including the Indiana Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Indiana. Jeff enjoys educating students and other race directors about the event industry through speaking engagements at various universities, conferences and running clubs.
When he’s not working, Jeff is likely on the water in Wisconsin at Lake Geneva or down in the Florida Keys. Originally from Illinois, Jeff has lived in Indiana for 30 years and currently resides in Cicero, Indiana, with his best dog Wilson. Jeff has 3 daughters in college at Illinois State, Purdue and Bradley University.
Maggie Howes, Board Member
Maggie Howes is a veterinary consultant that grew up on the sea islands of South Carolina near Charleston. As a young child she could always be found roaming the beaches picking up trash and helping the local turtle patrols protect nests and hatchlings. Her interest in marine life and stewardship only grew as she pursued her career in veterinary medicine after beginning to volunteer in a clinic at age 11. She achieved her SCUBA certification by 18 and used this to dive the artificial reefs off the coast of Charleston, as well as visit Florida and the yearly manatee migration in Homasassa Springs. After running three emergency and specialty veterinary practices around the US for 13 years, Maggie decided to slow down and move to Key West in 2011, where she could still work in the veterinary industry as a consultant but also return to her first love – the ocean. Maggie is currently not only an active volunteer and board member with Reef Relief, but also a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, a Kiwanian, an eco-tour guide and kayak/paddleboard instructor, and GM of a local running group that also raises money for Reef Relief as well as other charities. Her favorite thing to do at Reef Relief is teaching the kids in schools and Coral Camp in an effort to promote stewardship of marine ecosystems for generations to come.
Kevin Keeley, Board Member
Kevin Keeley has been a successful Business Executive in the High Tech Industry for the past 20 years working with firms such as Intel and Cisco. His education is in the field of Computer Science with minor focus in Biology and Psychology.
In addition to his business efforts, Kevin has been an active participant in the Community working with diverse groups such as the Hillsborough County School Board on “Business dedicated to Quality Education” to supporting Walt Disney’s efforts with the Orlando Charity, “Give Kids the World”.
An avid Diver, Kevin has experienced first hand the degradation of the waters and Reef system of the Florida Keys, where he is also a resident. He is committed to creating a community of interest in the Major Markets of Florida by carrying the Reef Relief message to the Universities, Laboratories, and like minded Businesses in those areas.
Patrick H. Rice, Board Member
Patrick H. Rice is the Dean of Marine Science & Technology at The College of The Florida Keys, which is the only institution of higher education in the Florida Keys and has campuses in the upper middle and lower Keys. He currently resides as Chair for the Science and Technology Taskforce of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition (FKEC), a group of concerned civic, environmental, academic and business professionals formed to provide a unified community voice for environmental issues affecting the Florida Keys. Dr. Rice also resides on the Wyland Foundation Board (http://www.wylandfoundation.org/), an organization devoted to conservation through art and education. Dr. Rice also serves as the Director for the Instrumented Underwater Training Systems project at FKCC and Senior Marine Biologist for SharkDefense Technologies, LLC. (www.sharkdefense.com).
Dr. Rice earned his Ph.D. (2008) at the University of Miami – Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM-RSMAS) where he studied commercial fisheries in an effort to reduce unwanted catch (i.e. bycatch) associated with commercial fishing and provide better catch estimates used to manage fisheries populations. Dr. Rice is the principal investigator for current NOAA fisheries research focused on employing shark repellent technology to reduce shark bycatch during commercial pelagic longline fishing. While attending UM-RSMAS, Dr. Rice participated in the design, construction, operations, and management of the University of Miami – Experimental Fish Hatchery. During this time he also studied at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), Achotines Yellowfin Tuna Laboratory, Las Tablas Panama, with a focus on pelagic fish ecology and mariculture techniques for tuna and billfish.
Dr. Rice earned his Master’s Degree (2000) in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A & M University (TAMU) where he studied ways to improve marine farming technology and reduce pollution associated with the growing industry. During that time, he was awarded an NSF Monbusho Fellowship to study mariculture in Japan where his primary focus was on culturing bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus orientalis) at the Japanese Seafarming Association’s (JSFA) Amami-o-shima Bluefin Tuna facility.
Before entering the MS program at TAMU, Dr. Rice was a volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in South Pacific Islands of Fiji. His primary responsibility was to teach indigenous Fijians deep within the interior of the island to culture fish (Tilapia spp.) for a constant source of protein during times of isolation from coastal environments during the rainy seasons.
Dr. Rice earned his Bachelor of Science (1992) degree in Biology (Aquatic option) from the University of Texas – Austin where he conducted residency at the UT Marine Science Institute at Port Aransas, Texas.
Alex Risius, Board Member
Alex graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016 with a degree in Environmental Science and a concentration in Wildlife Conservation. Shortly after graduation, she moved to Key West to work for Reef Relief as their Education Intern. Alex then continued her journey at Reef Relief by working as their Membership Development Consultant, Education Coordinator, and Assistant Director. During her time at the organization she taught thousands of students about coral reef ecosystems, worked with community stakeholders to solve local environmental issues, and assisted in hiring and managing staff and interns.
In May of 2023, Alex graduated with her Master of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Currently, Alex serves as Program Manager at ANGARI Foundation in West Palm Beach, FL where she oversees their education and outreach programs.
Ed Russo, Board Member
Ed Russo is an environmental expert, author, entrepreneur, and a member of several voluntary and government boards. He serves as President of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, Former Member of the Monroe County Climate Change Advisory Board, Board of Directors of the College of the Florida Keys Foundation, Planning Board of the City of Key West. Ed currently is a member of the Board of Pilot Commissioners, for the State of Florida.
He began his career crusading against toxic polluting landfills in New Jersey and overseeing the projects included under the Federal Superfund Program. Ed is an expert in the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance of industrial water re-use, reclamation, and recycling equipment and facilities.
Ed is currently CEO of Russkap Holdings LLC.
Jeffrey Sharkey, Director of State Programs
Dr. Sharkey is the Managing Partner of Capitol Alliance Group. Inc. He has been actively involved in statewide issue campaigns for over fifteen years. He has been successful in creating, mobilizing and evaluating public policy issues and trends to prepare and take advantage of new challenges and opportunities occurring in the arenas of state and local governments. Dr. Sharkey’s professional background includes education and economic development research, policy and planning. He has worked in England, Thailand, Latin America and in other parts of the world as a consultant for various international agencies. He holds a B.S. degree in English, a M.Ed. in Educational Research, a M.S. in Sociology and Economics and a Ph.D. from Florida State University in International Development.