Conference Speakers Bios


Administrator Regan

Wednesday, October 12, 6:30 PM MST

Michael S. Regan was sworn in as the 16th Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency on March 11, 2021, becoming the first Black man and second person of color to lead the U.S. EPA. Administrator Regan is a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, where he developed a passion for the environment while hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather and exploring the vast lands, waters, and inner Coastal Plain of North Carolina. As the son of two public servants - his mother, a nurse for nearly 30 years, and his father, a retired Colonel with the North Carolina National Guard, Vietnam veteran, and former agricultural extension agent - Michael Regan went on to follow in his parents' footsteps and pursue a life of public service.

Prior to his nomination as EPA Administrator, Michael Regan served as the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). As Secretary, he spearheaded the development and implementation of North Carolina's seminal plan to address climate change and transition the state to a clean energy economy. He established North Carolina's first-of-its-kind Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory board to better align social inequities, environmental protection, and community empowerment.

Administrator Regan is a graduate of the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, making him the first EPA Administrator to have graduated from a Historically Black College and University. He earned a master's degree in Public Administration from The George Washington University.

Conference Opening, featuring Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient Julie Packard

Wednesday, October 12, 6:30 PM MST

Monterey Bay Aquarium
2022 NAAEE Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient

Julie Packard is executive director of the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium, which she helped found in the late 1970s as the nation’s first major public aquarium dedicated to interpreting marine life of a single region. She is an international leader in the field of ocean conservation, and a leading voice for science-based policy reform in support of healthy oceans.

Under her leadership, the aquarium has pioneered innovative exhibits and education initiatives and has evolved into one of the nation’s leading ocean conservation organizations. It is known for its respected Seafood Watch program, work to improve ocean governance in California and beyond, and field research illuminating the lives and conservation challenges facing sea otters, white sharks, and tuna in the wild. The aquarium envisions a world in which both people and nature thrive, and equity and social justice are essential underpinnings to achieving its mission: to inspire conservation of the ocean.

Julie is a leader in ocean conservation worldwide and brings a lifelong passion for the natural world to her service with many organizations dedicated to conservation activities. She is equally a strong advocate for advancing equity and diversity in the sciences, including endowment of scholarships at UC Santa Cruz that support individuals from historically marginalized communities, and of aquarium programs that help young women develop confidence and identity in the sciences.

She is a trustee of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and chairs the board of the independent Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, a world leader in deep ocean science and technology. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Audubon Medal for Conservation, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the California Coastal Commission’s Coastal Hero award. In 2013, she was appointed to California’s Parks Forward Commission to craft a vision and blueprint for the future of a state park system serving 38 million Californians.

She was a member of the Pew Oceans Commission and serves on the Joint Oceans Commission Initiative, where she works to implement comprehensive reform of U.S. ocean policy. She has addressed ocean issues as a featured speaker at international conferences, including the World Trade Organization, the International Aquarium Congress, and the Seafood Summit.

A marine biologist, Packard earned bachelor's and master’s degrees in biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a focus on marine algae.

Executive Director
Monterey Bay Aquarium 
886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 648-4802
Twitter: @juliepackard

Julie Packard’s remarks will be presented virtually during the in-person opening ceremony.

Mayor Regina Romero

Conference Opening: Wednesday, October 12, 6:30 PM MST

Raised by immigrant farm-workers in Somerton, Arizona, Regina is the youngest of six children and began breaking barriers early on as the first member of her family to vote and the first to graduate from college. She is a proud graduate of the University of Arizona and holds a post-graduate certificate from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In 2007, Regina became the first woman to represent Tucson’s Ward 1 on the Tucson City Council. She has proven herself to be a champion for issues such as acting boldly on climate change, affordable housing, infrastructure investment, immigrant and workers’ rights, and access to a high-quality education. In November, 2019 Regina was elected Tucson mayor, becoming the first woman and first Latina mayor of Tucson, as well as the only Latina mayor in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Thursday, October 13, 11:30 AM MST 

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry 
Indigenous Knowledge for Education and Sustainability

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett and, in 2015, addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. The center’s mission is to create programs that draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. 

As a writer and a scientist, her interests include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She holds a BS in botany from SUNY ESF, an MS and PhD in botany from the University of Wisconsin. Kimmerer is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge, and restoration ecology. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild. 

This session will be presented virtually. 

Leander Lacy

Friday, October 14, 11:30 AM MST

Lacy Consulting Services, LLC, Denver, Colorado
Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey

Leander Lacy is the founder and owner of Lacy Consulting Services. His company focuses on helping environmental organizations and sustainability-minded businesses meet their goals of improving human and community well-being through conservation action. Leander has worked on projects such as dam removal; deer management; building trust between fishers and conservation groups; a five-state collaborative to protect the US shortgrass prairie; assessing discrimination in US farming and ranching; and assisting the states of Kansas and Maryland in their efforts to ensure that justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are core to their strategy for statewide environmental education. Leander is trained traditionally as a wildlife ecologist and received his MS in human dimensions of natural resources with thesis work on how to improve the quality of life of the urban poor through environmental action. Before starting his company, he worked on global teams with The Nature Conservancy and has been an advocate for increased social science and JEDI in conservation projects.

Renata Koch Alvarenga

Saturday, October 15, 12:00 PM MST

EE 30 Under 30, Class of 2022
EmpoderaClima, Brazil
Renata is a leading voice on gender and climate justice in the global youth movement. She founded the multilingual organization EmpoderaClima at 22 years old, to raise awareness of women's empowerment in climate decision-making spaces and advocate for girls' education for climate action. Renata is a Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School, as a Belfer Young Leader Fellow. She has just been named as an EE 30 Under 30, while wrapping up her work as a Climate and Sustainable Development Fellow at the UN Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth. Renata is also engaged in several international initiatives; she's a G(irls)20/Fora Ambassador of Brazil, National Gender Youth Activist of UN Women, Transform Education Leader, Voices That Inspire Fellow and Gender Co-lead for Youth at UN Climate. Prior to Harvard, she led the political engagement of the British Government in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Renata holds a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations from Unisinos (Brazil), having studied for two years at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations (United States). Renata has spoken about her work and the need for youth leadership in climate action at conferences in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, including high-level UN conferences such as CSW65, COP25 and COP26.

Nick Okafor

Saturday, October 15, 12:00 PM MST

Nick Okafor (he/him), a strategist and design researcher, founded trubel&co, a culturally-responsive technical education platform that champions youth to disrupt society for the better. trubel&co manages Mapping Justice, a free summer course instructing under-resourced youth in STEM on how to design geospatial tools for social change. Previously, Nick was a Senior Associate at Sidewalk Labs (Google's urban innovation arm), where he drove incubation for new urban technology advancing sustainability, affordability, and inclusion in cities. Nick is also a doctoral student at Stanford University, where his research focuses on the consequences of disruption, abolitionist technologies, and business models that incentivize responsible urban innovation.

Gerry Ellis

Saturday, October 15, 12:00 PM MST

Gerry’s award-winning career as an international wildlife film-maker, photographer, and writer spans three-decades and features work appearing in National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, the New York Times, Ranger Rick, and more. Gerry is the author and/or photographer of more than a dozen books, including two in the highly acclaimed National Geographic Kids Book series.

Gerry’s filming project in 2001, Wild Orphans, inspired the founding of nonprofit GLOBIO. GLOBIO is a global awareness nonprofit that creates environmental films and provides visual support to wildlife conservation organizations around the world, and tells their stories globally, while educating the public about our shared environmental challenges. GLOBIO’s mission is to inspire a positive relationship with our environment by connecting species, people and planet.

Under Gerry’s leadership GLOBIO works with international partners in four critical Focal Regions across Equatorial Africa and Borneo/Sumatra focusing on great apes and their habitat to create innovative, locally-driven education solutions to foster conservation and environmental awareness and understanding.

His current film work is featured on the GLOBIO YouTube channel Apes Like Us. He is also host of the new podcast, Talking Apes.

Scott D. Sampson PhD

Saturday, October 15, 12:00 PM MST

Scott Sampson serves as executive director of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California, a nonprofit museum in San Francisco, California that features an aquarium, planetarium, tropical rainforest, and natural history museum. He is a dinosaur paleontologist, author, and science communicator who has appeared in many television documentaries, and served as a science advisor for a range of media projects. Sampson has published numerous scientific and popular articles and authored multiple books, including How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015). He regularly gives presentations to audiences of all ages, on topics ranging from evolution and science to education and nature connection. Sampson is known to children and parents around the world as “Dr. Scott the Paleontologist,” host and science advisor of the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS television series Dinosaur Train, produced by the Jim Henson Company.