Our Story

Our history protecting Oregon's coast


Beach Bill Passed

Oregon Legislature passes the Beach Bill, reserving all of Oregon's shoreline up to the vegetation line as public area


Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition Founded

Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition was founded from the ad hoc group, Citizens to Save Oregon Beaches, as a watchdog over the newly protected public beaches


CoastWatch Program Founded

CoastWatch volunteer program founded, which became the first program in the nation through which the citizens of a state have adopted their entire shoreline


Marine Reserves Created

Oregon Shores worked with allied partners to support the creation of Oregon's five marine reserves


Defeated Jordan Cove LNG Project

Oregon Shores and allied partners battled to successfully defeat the proposed Jordan Cove LNG project

Our People

Meet our Staff and Board

Our dedicated team of passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds is united by a shared commitment to safeguarding the Oregon coast’s ecological richness and public accessibility.


Elise Newman

Executive Director (she/her)

Elise fell in love with the Oregon coastline as a young girl. Ever since then she longed to become a permanent Oregonian, but she took a meandering path to get here. She graduated from Cornell University summa cum laude with a degree in Biology and Society, focusing on environmental conservation and wildlife management. While researching her thesis in Kenya and Tanzania, she developed a passion for grassroots conservation that has persisted throughout her career. After studying community conservation’s effects on biodiversity in Kenyan ecosystems, Elise worked with Cornell’s Bioacoustics Laboratory to study the infrasonic communications of African forest elephants in Gabon. Observing the rampant poaching problems in Africa inspired her to work for Global Conservation Force, a nonprofit that provides anti-poaching support for endangered species. Subsequently, Elise spent ten years working in wildlife management and zoo conservation managing endangered species, hosting conservation events, and raising money for raptors in Vermont, for red pandas and other exotic species in New York, and for tigers and elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California. Of course, bottle-feeding tiger cubs was the best part of her job! Elise moved to Oregon in 2021 and is thrilled to have found the home she was seeking in the conservation world with Oregon Shores.

Phillip Johnson

Shoreline and Land Use Manager (he/him)

Phillip has been involved with Oregon Shores in one capacity or another for well over 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. He became Executive Director in 2009. In 2023, he moved into a new role, leading Oregon Shores' shoreline and land use advocacy work. 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.

Jesse Jones

CoastWatch Programs Manager (she/her)

Jesse, a lifelong Oregonian, joined Oregon Shores as the CoastWatch volunteer coordinator, in 2019. In a career devoted to the watersheds of Oregon’s north coast and north coast range, she has managed large and small habitat restoration projects, engaged countless property owners in land conservation, and worked alongside youth of all ages in the natural world and around the world (in Ireland, she built puppets out of recycled materials with students, incorporating these puppets and schools into parades). She spent four years as executive director of the North Coast Watershed Association and, before that, consulted on water projects in Clatsop and Columbia counties, including mediating cooperation between small, rural water districts. In 2015, Jesse started volunteering for Surfrider, co-leading their Blue Water Task Force to its new home at Seaside High School, training students to collect and process ocean water and post results. Jesse received her undergraduate degree in community development at Portland State University, received a documentary film certificate from the Northwest Film Center, and did her graduate studies at Portland State University in natural resource policy. As of 2022, Jesse is president elect of the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators, a chapter of the National Marine Educators Association.

Katie Russell

Education and Outreach Manager (she/her)

Katie Russell earned her Master's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon with a focus on education and nonprofit management. She worked with The Marine Mammal Center to redesign their education volunteer training materials to include a stronger focus on strategies to talk with guests about climate and ocean health. In addition to her work with Oregon Shores, she also currently serves as the board secretary of The National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpreters and on the board of The Elakha Alliance, which works for the restoration of sea otters to Oregon’s ocean. Katie moved to Oregon in 2020 after spending many summers at her family's blueberry farm on the McKenzie River. Before moving to Oregon, she graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a B.S. in Natural Science and worked as a marine mammal trainer and zookeeper in Hawaii for almost ten years. Now that Katie is a permanent Oregonian, she is excited to spend more time exploring the Oregon coast.

Annie Merrill

Estuaries and Ocean Manager (she/her)

Annie recently graduated with her Masters of Science from the Marine Resource Management program at Oregon State University. Her thesis research focused on interactions between eelgrass and pacific oysters to inform ecosystem-based management of aquaculture. She received her Bachelors of Science in biology at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Before coming to Oregon, Annie spent some time working as a field technician for the Yellowstone Wolf Project and wrote grants for the Teton Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in her hometown of Victor, Idaho. Annie's passion for the outdoors and the ocean stems from her adventures scuba diving, skiing, surfing, mountaineering, and biking. She's excited to engage with the Oregon Shores community to increase climate resilience and further conservation goals.

Denise Harrington

Education and Community Science Specialist (she/ella)

As the Education and Community Science Specialist, Denise Harrington works with CoastWatch in the Schools, community science programming, and provides outreach in Spanish.

During her fourteen years as an elementary and high school teacher, Denise sought out opportunities to bring ocean literacy into the classroom. She sailed as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Teacher at Sea on a hydrographic survey off the coast of Alaska and on a longline survey in the Gulf of Mexico, which led to her 2022-23 fellowship with the NOAA Teacher at Sea Alumni Association. During her fellowship, Denise collaborated with the Oregon Shores CoastWatch Program to pilot a marine debris survey guide for educators. Through these and other outdoor educational experiences, Denise finds ways to weave her ocean advocacy, curiosity, and love of science and languages together, inspiring learners of all ages and backgrounds.

Prior to becoming a teacher, Denise managed a legal aid office and still serves part time as a Justice of the Peace for her community. When she isn’t working, Denise is often kayaking rocky coastlines, filling her boat with marine debris. She lives in Garibaldi, Oregon.

Eric Wriston

Coastal Law Project Attorney (he/him)

Eric is an attorney at Crag Law Center; he is the principal attorney with the Coastal Law Project, our partnership with Crag. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Eric is a lifelong-appreciator of Oregon's coast. He attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy with a focus on climate and environmental policy, and later received his JD from Harvard Law School. Eric is a member of the Oregon State Bar. Prior to joining Crag, Eric worked as a legal fellow at Environmental Defense Fund where his work focused on reducing emissions from the transportation sector. Outside of the office, Eric enjoys getting outside as much as possible to hike, kayak, and run along the shore.


Cathryn Tortorici

President (she/her)

Retired Division Chief for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Interagency Cooperation Division at NOAA Fisheries headquarters. Worked in Portland for NOAA Fisheries, as served as Columbia River Estuary Coordinator, implementing policy, technical, regulatory, and research actions per the ESA and Magnuson-Stevens Act (essential fish habitat). Implemented estuary, nearshore and ocean related projects (e.g., habitat restoration; Oregon’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council [OPAC]; marine reserves; wave energy projects off the Oregon coast). Branch Chief implementing ESA section 7 in the
Southeast Regional office of NOAA Fisheries covering nearly 20,000 miles of tidal
coastline throughout the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean. Prior to tenure with NOAA Fisheries, worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (Region VII) as their Missouri River Coordinator on water resource/Big River issues, as well as their TMDL Coordinator, Wetlands Enforcement Coordinator, and as a Senior Reviewer of Environmental Impact Statements (National Environmental Policy Act).

Allison Asbjornsen

Vice President (she/her)

A veteran of the Oregon Shores board, Allison served earlier as board president for more than a decade before taking a break and returning as current president. Like so many coastal residents, she has pieced together a varied career. She is 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 the Pacific Northwest College of Art and launched a lifelong vocation as a painter. She taught art at Portland State University and in community colleges. To survive she established a B&B in her home on Netarts Bay, and took up shiatsu style body work, becoming a practicing therapist and teacher at the Oregon School of Massage. She now divides her time among painting, practicing Tai Ji and nourishing her love of the coast and its natural history. Allison was drawn to Oregon Shores by an article about the coast's threatened ecosystems. She also serves on the board of the Netarts Water District.

Megan Burrows

Treasurer (she/her)

Commercial Banking Relationship Manager, Umpqua Bank. Megan has extensive experience working with both not-for-profit and for-profit organizations located in Oregon. A life-long Oregonian, she grew up exploring the shores of the Oregon coast and now enjoys sharing those experiences with her three young children. She is also currently serving as a member of the SMART Reading Leadership Council for the South Valley. Skills: Accounting and financial management and oversight, fundraising and planning.

Jill Marks

Secretary (she/her)

Jill's passion is Citizen/Community Science. A volunteer with COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) since 2017, she performs monthly surveys for Beached Birds and three different sizes of Marine Debris. An active CoastWatcher since 2016, she monitors (and loves) Mile 220. She joined the Newport Chapter Surfrider Board in 2022 after participating in multiple beach and highway clean-ups. Having worked as an orthopedic physical therapist for 30 years, she now helps people find their home on the coast, working as a REALTOR® for Emerald Coast Realty in Depoe Bay. When not on the beach or in the office, she can be found making gyotaku prints (Japanese fish printing), gelli and ecoprinting, hiking, and has just taken up Pickleball.

Paul Sherman


A retired professor of neurobiology and behavior, Paul Sherman provides both biological expertise and representation for the south coast to the Oregon Shores board. Paul was an undergraduate at Stanford, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow at U.C. Berkeley. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1981, was awarded tenure in 1985, and was promoted to full professor in 1991. He retired in 2013 and is a professor emeritus. During his academic career, Dr. Sherman studied birds, insects, and mammals (especially naked mole-rats) and taught courses and seminars in Behavioral Ecology, Animal Behavior, and Darwinian Medicine. His research contributed to scientific understanding in five general areas: altruism and nepotism, kin recognition, eusociality, conservation, and evolutionary medicine (especially the adaptive significance of morning sickness, allergies, spice use, and lactose intolerance). He has published or edited 7 books and 195 papers and book chapters. In 2005 he was appointed a Weiss Presidential Fellow in recognition of “effective, inspiring, and distinguished teaching.” He was a Sigma Xi National Lecturer in 2004-06, and was elected a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society in 2004. Paul now lives atop Cape Sebastian, six miles south of Gold Beach. He enjoys kayaking the south coast rivers, hiking and "biologizing" in the forests, walking the beaches, fly fishing, skiing, sailing, tending a bounteous vegetable garden and greenhouse, and playing low-stakes poker.

Felicia Olmeta Schult


Felicia is an Assistant Professor of Practice at Oregon State University and the Oregon Sea Grant Extension Coastal Hazards Specialist. She works with community partners to increase the resilience of Oregon coastal communities to the impacts of climate change and coastal natural hazards. She created the Oregon Coastal Hazards Ready (OCHR) Library & Mapper ArcGIS StoryMap and manages the OCHR listserv where she shares monthly the Pacific Northwest Coastal Hazards Resources Newsletter. She is also one of the Coastal Community Leads for the NSF-funded Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub.

Ed Joyce


Ed is an earth scientist, educator, and activist with a Ph.D. in Oceanography (from Texas A&M) and a B.S. in Geology. Research interests span from paleoclimate studies using deep marine fossils to the study of nearshore sediment transport. Ed was a research scientist in the oil and gas industry for over 20 years and taught geology at the University of Houston and the University of St. Thomas in Houston for eight years. Presently, he is adjunct faculty at Clatsop Community College where he has taught geology and oceanography since 2015. Prior to moving to Oregon, while a geologic consultant based in Pennsylvania, he served as president of the Philadelphia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He is an avid surfer, mountain hiker, snowboarder, and swimmer.

Larry Basch


Larry is a marine ecologist, scuba diver, naturalist, and community conservation activist in Coos County. He engages in applied research, adaptive management and monitoring, and teaching. Currently a research associate at the University of Oregon’s marine station, the Oregon Institute of Biology in Charleston, Dr. Basch has worked in coastal and marine environments from the tropics to the poles and from intertidal rocky shores to the deep sea -- throughout the U.S. west coast, the Pacific basin and islands, Central and South America, Europe, and from Alaska to Antarctica. He has the distinction of having spent, cumulatively, close to a full year working underwater in the course of his career, studying temperate-boreal kelp forests, coral reefs, polar, and other subtidal ecological communities worldwide. He has his PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

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Help preserve the legacy of our Oregon coast for all generations