Meet our Staff and Board
Phillip Johnson, Executive Director
Phillip has been involved with Oregon Shores in one capacity or another for 25 years. He served on the board for 14 years, and during that period founded and directed the CoastWatch program, while playing other roles such as leading the board’s planning and development committee and editing the newsletter. He was also founding chair of the Oregon Conservation Network, a statewide consortium of environmental groups that began in 1995 continues to this day as a project of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Phillip moved to a staff role in 2005, taking on what had become a full-time job as CoastWatch director, and became executive director in 2009. In his earlier career he was a newspaper editor and reporter, and later a long-time freelance writer. He is never more content than when standing on a lonely headland, watching a storm roll in.
Fawn Custer, Volunteer Coordinator
Fawn’s vocation is education, and she has educated people of all ages in both formal and informal settings for more than 25 years. She taught for many years in the Lincoln School District, and continues to substitute on occasion; she teaches biology and chemistry, but her real specialty is marine science. Fawn spent 14 years as an educator at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, introducing everyone from children to seniors to the wonders of the marine world. While there she developed and implemented marine science and environmental science lab classes. She has also taught high school marine science on-line, developed an invasive species curriculum for educators and protocols for interpreters, and trained volunteer citizen scientists. A member of the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators (NAME), she has served that group as Oregon Director, President, and Treasurer. As a NAME leader, she began collaborating with CoastWatch on the annual Sharing the Coast Conference, which led to her coming over to the CoastWatch team. Fawn is a 20-year Seal Rock resident, a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, and loves traveling, camping, hiking, and learning anything related to the marine environment and sharing what she learns with others.
Coastal Law Project Attorney
While not a member of the Oregon Shores staff, Courtney works with Oregon Shores intensively as the principal attorney for the Coastal Law Project, a partnership with the Crag Law Center (where she is a staff attorney). She received her JD with a certificate in environmental and natural resources law from the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. While still a law student, she interned with Crag, as well as with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and San Francisco Baykeeper. Before joining Crag, Courtney cleared for a district court judge in Ketchikan, Alaska. While there, she enjoyed the wilds of Alaska and viewed its wildlife while kayaking, hiking and snowshoeing. Once having joined Crag in 2008, Courtney began focusing her attention on the Coastal Law Project and Oregon Shores. She has worked with us on a wide range of issues, from LNG and golf course resort proposals to gravel mining regulation and a host of local concerns brought to us by members. Her work on the coast has also resulted in publications she has authored on climate change adaptation and marine spatial planning. When she isn’t working, Courtney enjoys spending time with her husband and dog on the beaches, mountains, and rivers of Oregon, while hiking, skiing, kayaking, biking, and surfing.
Wayne Rifer, Co-President
Wayne has spent his career on a range of environmental issues. He began with The Nature Conservancy and built the basis for the Oregon Natural Heritage Program, which identifies species and ecosystems needing protection statewide. His career then shifted to developing recycling solutions, which in turn led him to focus on greening electronics. He drafted the legislation that establishes the Oregon E-Cycles Program. In 2005 he founded EPEAT (the Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool), a market-driven incentive for improved environmental performance of electronics. In addition to the Oregon Shores board, Wayne serves on the board of National Center for Electronics Recycling. Wayne recently built a home on the shores of Netarts Bay, perfectly situated to watch the eventual tsunami come barreling up the estuary.
Allison Asbjornsen, Co-President
A veteran of the Oregon Shores board, Allison served as board president for more than a decade before taking a break and returning as current Co-President. Like so many coastal residents, she has pieced together a varied career. Descended from generations of Oregon loggers (her grandfather helped to log portions of what is now the Van Duzer Corridor), Allison grew up in Portland, convinced her parents to let her leave high school and take a Norwegian freighter to Japan for a summer, and upon her return enrolled in art school and launched a lifelong vocation as a painter. She taught art at Portland State University and in community colleges, established a B&B in her home in Netarts, and took up shiatsu, becoming a practicing therapist and teacher at the Oregon School of Massage. She now splits her time between painting on the coast and running her Relax the Back franchise outlet in Tualatin. Her love of the coast led to an interest in its natural history, and she was drawn to Oregon Shores by an article about the coast’s threatened ecosystems written by Phillip Johnson, then an Oregon Shores board member and now our executive director.
Noah Winchester, Vice-President and Secretary
Noah finished law school at Lewis and Clark in 2004 and has since worked on a number of environmental and land use issues. The list includes pro bono work for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge to oppose the application of Measure 37 (which suspended land use regulations for long-time owners) in the Columbia River Gorge, and more than five years working under Oregon Shores board member Steve Schell (of the Black Helterline law firm) on land use development and conservation matters, as well as extensive work on Superfund compliance in the Portland Harbor Superfund site. He has also represented clients on renewable energy projects including rooftop solar and wind farms. In addition, Noah has an engineering background, with a B.A. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and has been a project manager for engineering firms. He is currently a senior account manager for SICK, Inc., managing sales and projects in the areas of aerospace, semiconductor, and biomedical manufacturing. Noah is also active in various types of outdoor recreation, especially surfing (he is a member of the Association of Surfing Lawyers!), and has strong ties to the outdoor recreation community. Due to his love of surfing he has a very close relationship with the Oregon Coast and spends as much time there as possible.
Leslie Morehead, Treasurer
Leslie is a consultant providing financial management services for small businesses. She has been a private business owner, a consultant in information systems design and analysis, and a business software analyst in both the high technology sector and the banking industry. Leslie began her career in Portland, having graduated from Reed College with a master’s degree in teaching, taught physics and chemistry at Jefferson High School, and earned a doctorate in systems science from Portland State. Since then, she has traveled and worked abroad extensively, consulting and teaching business management courses in Eastern Europe and Russia as these countries emerged from Soviet rule. Returned to Oregon, Leslie is a member of the City Club of Portland’s Board of Governors. She and her husband own a condo in Astoria, and she serves as treasurer for her Homeowners’ Association. In addition to keeping watch over the Columbia estuary for Oregon Shores, she serves on the board of the Astoria Music Festival.
Bob joined the Oregon Shores board shortly after concluding his career as the state’s leading coastal planner. He grew up on the Oregon coast in North Bend when the air was thick with the scent of freshly sawn Douglas fir and the sound of mill whistles. He watched from his high school classroom window as tidal flats were filled and Pony Village Shopping Center built, which may have shaped his lifelong determination to preserve coastal resources. Playing in the “swamps” of upper Pony Slough, exploring tide pools at Cape Arago with his family, and skipping classes with pals to go watch thunderous winter waves at Shore Acres made him a true “coastie.” Graduating from Portland State University in 1968 with a degree in Earth Science, he began his career in coastal land use planning in the Coos County planning department, where he directed the first Coos Bay Estuary Plan and helped lead designation of South Slough as the nation’s first estuarine sanctuary in 1974. By the time he retired in 2010, he had spent nearly twenty years working on ocean issues and another eight years as the Coastal Program Manager for the Department of Land Conservation and Development. Along the way he coauthored The Oregon Oceanbook, 1985, helped enact the Oregon Ocean Resources Management Act, 1987, and was staff director for the Oregon Ocean Resources Management Plan, 1990 and the Oregon Territorial Sea Plan, 1994. If that weren’t enough fun, he served as a planning commission member (2000 – 2002) and elected city commissioner (2003-2006) in Oregon City. He is currently a member of the budget committee for the City of Salem, and the board of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust. In his discretionary time he plays guitar, banjo and washboard with friends and tries to keep his backyard looking good.
Michael is a clinical and research psychologist with more than 20 years of experience in social and educational research, organizational consulting, program and project evaluation, and psychological and educational assessment. He has led research and evaluation studies for projects funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Education, and many state and local agencies and private philanthropic organizations, and served as an expert consultant to the US Environmental Protection Agency on the evaluation of public partnership programs for environmental results. Recent work includes an NSF-funded project that brought geology, geohazard, and emergency preparedness education to park and museum interpreters, emergency management personnel, and science teachers in coastal regions of Oregon, northern California, and Washington. He brings wide-ranging skills in project design and evaluation and grant-writing to Oregon Shores’ work. A Portland resident since 1998, Michael is an active backpacker, photographer and sport fisherman.
A Portland resident since 1994, Jill is retired from a career as a systems engineer (in software development) and business consultant. She lived on Cape Cod until college, and grew up as a beachcomber and sailor—blue water sailing remains one of her favorite activities. She studied environmental science and found her first job as a research assistant at the famed Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute before switching to engineering. Jill engages enthusiastically in sport and outdoor activities of all types, from cycling, running and hiking to skiing, sea kayaking and horticulture (she is a Master Gardener). She is also a taekwondo and lacrosse referee, as well as a trained disaster responder. In joining the Oregon Shores board, she has returned to her first love of marine biology and conservation.
Graham, our youngest board member, has a deep personal interest in conservation biology, and has concentrated his early career on developing knowledge and experience related to this field. He is currently the REEF (Restoring Ecosystems and Educating Future Conservation Leaders) Education Coordinator with the Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council (in northern Lincoln County), responsible both for designing and leading educational programs for students and teachers, and for conducting habitat restoration activities within the council’s territory. Prior to that he served as a conservation technician for the Forest Park Conservancy in Portland, and as a volunteer in the Wilderness Resource Office in Olympic National Park, immediately after graduating from the University of Puget Sound. Graham is also an accomplished artist—painting his images on surfboards, among other media—and enthusiastically explores the natural world as a surfer, skier, backpacker and cyclist.
Ron apportions his time among academia, wildfire management, nonprofit management, and communications. He first encountered the Oregon coast when he moved to Bandon in 1994 to teach journalism at Southwestern Oregon Community College for 10 years. The next eight years were spent with one foot in Bandon and one in Vermont, as a professor at Green Mountain College, an innovative institution that was named the "Greenest School" in the Sierra Club's “Greenest Colleges” competition for 2010. At the college, he worked actively in community media projects that include launching of a Farmer's Market newspaper with Rutland Area Farm and Food Link and writing of and production support for “Historical Audio Walking and Driving Tours” with the Poultney Historical Society. Starting in the fall of 2012, he was able to transition to online and hybrid field-based courses, allowing him to re-establish himself in Bandon (and join the Oregon Shores board) while continuing to teach. But Ron also has a second career during the summers, in wildfire management. He began as a fire lookout in Patagonia, Arizona and continued with seasonal positions in Saguaro National Park, where he served as fire effects monitor and lead of a backcountry fire crew. Since 1992, his fire seasons have been based out of Grand Teton National Park, where he supports Teton Interagency Fire as a fire monitor, incident commander, and fire analyst. As a board member for the International Association of Wildland Fire, he helped to launch wildfireworld.org, a community-media website supporting the launch of a Global Wildfire Awareness Week. Since 2011, much of his writing and editing has focused on Wildfire Magazine, for which he chairs the Editorial Board. His expertise in fire management has led him around the globe as a consultant and student of the effects of climate change. But he always returns to the Oregon coast and Bandon’s gorse-strewn shoreline.
Pat serves on the Oregon State University 4-H Youth Development Faculty, and brings over 25 years of varied expertise to OSU (and to the Oregon Shores board). Prior to joining the Extension Service, he was a science education program manager at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; the executive director of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, a 725-acre natural area located in northern Oregon; and a high school classroom science teacher. He has developed and implemented a wide range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs for pre-service and in-service for teachers, and a long list of classes and camps for youth and families. His work and research specializes in natural resource programming, place-based/community-based education, STEM, and volunteer programming/management. He has long had a special place in his heart for coastal natural history, and has long conducted educational expeditions that bring young people to the coast.