Janis Steele, PhD, Co-Founder Island Reach embodies Janis' deep commitment to exploring connections between people and their natural environments. She holds a BA in Human Ecology, and a MA & PhD in Cultural Anthropology. Her interests over the years have included the politics of representation in film and storytelling, knowledge brokering and Third Space engagements, critical theory, agroecology, and women's issues. She has sailed three oceans as a conservation activist, worked as a documentary filmmaker/producer, an adjunct college professor, created and run an artisanal forest farm, and co-founded Island Reach to engage crises of collapsing biocultural diversity and climate disruption.
Brooks McCutchen, PhD, Co-Founder Brook was raised working on artisanal farms in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. He later earned a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic -- and first SCUBA dived in cold Maine winters harvesting scallops. He holds an MA & PhD in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on cross-cultural and community practice. With Janis and family he built the agroecology project Berkshire Sweet Gold Maple Farm which has been their primary income for 25 years. In launching Island Reach, Brooks became a blue-water captain and navigated the steel ketch Research Vessel Llyr as a service vessel in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific to then base in Melanesia. His activism over time has increased, responding to accelerating climate crises and global collapse of biocultural diversity.
John Ronneth, Vanuatu Country Manager Ronneth is a seasoned conservation activist, having served as a Vanua-tai monitor since the network's inception 25 years ago. He has also been a member of the Nguna-Pele Marine & Land Protected Area Network for 13 years, and served as network Chairman for four of those years. His knowledge of Vanuatu’s diverse islands and peoples is extensive and he brings senior leadership and organizational skills to the many projects he takes on. His expertise includes helping communities build environmental networks and drafting Community Conservation Area management plans. He has traveled throughout the Pacific region to train on both conservation leadership and coral reef restoration. In 2016, he certified with the Pacific Island Community Co-Management program of the University of the South Pacific for CMP development. He's an expert spear fisherman who holds a deep passion for coral reefs.
Alfonse Yemen, Island Reach Torba Province facilitator, Lalnetak, Vanua Lava, Vanuatu Alphonse is a Chief and Chairman of the Vanua Lava Environment Network. He is also a a Vanua-tai monitor, as well as being a community volunteer Fisheries Authorized Officer for the Dept. of Fisheries. Alphonse helps coordinate Island Reach activities across Torba Province.
Connor Steele-McCutchen, MSPH, Island Reach Board Member Over the years, Connor has helped hone Island Reach's ridge to reef activities in Vanuatu, working closely with communities on building local resilience and advancing IR's messaging through his passion for documentary storytelling. His experience and commitments led him to pursue a BA and MA in International Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Currently, Connnor is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, working as a Project manager with the nonprofit United Purpose on food sovereignty projects, with a focus on women and refugees and a broad project portfolio.
Rowan Steele-McCutchen, Island Reach Board Member Rowan is currently pursuing a degree in environmental studies and anthropology at the University of Victoria in Canada. In addition to his activities with IR, Rowan served as a global volunteer in Nepal with AIESEC in 2017.
Gavin Steele-McCutchen, activist Gavin engages with young people around conservation actions and expresses his love for the natural world through his passions for surfing and SCUBA diving.
Donald James, Coordinator, Wan Smolbag Vanua-tai Environmental Resource Monitors Network Port Vila, Vanuatu Donald has decades of experience as a senior Vanua-tai Turtle Monitor. As the Program Coordinator, he travels Vanuatu extensively surveying and teaching seminars and holds unique knowledge of the country's geography, ecology, and village diversity. Donald is a leader with a friendly, generous style who maintains strong connections across the islands as his teams work to track and understand changing turtle populations and broader impacts on coral reefs and coastal communities. As the Vanua-tai expand their conservation and climate change adaptation activities, Donald has welcomed Island Reach as a partner.
Ingrid Shockey, PhD, Associate Teaching Professor in Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Worcester Polytechnic Institute Ingrid is an environmental sociologist whose work concerns natural literacy and the interplay of human-wilderness relationships. These domains include topics in biodiversity loss, climate change perceptions, and our sense of place and identity with respect to the landscape. Her work has focused most recently on mountain ecologies and economies in the western Himalaya.
Willie Kenneth, Secretary, Nguna-Pele Marine and Land Protected Area Network Worasiviu, Pele Island, Willie worked as a field coordinator for Island Reach for two years before moving on to attend the Australian Pacific Technical College to earn a Qualification in Community Development. Willie now helps Island Reach liaise with the Nguna Pele Marine and Land Protected Area Network, with whom IR has a Memorandum of Understanding.
Noy Holland, Writer and Professor, MFA Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Noy is passionate about exploring polyphony and imagination in responding to the climate crisis. She considers, how we might "as poets, scientists, fishermen, farmers -- put our shoulder to the same wheel." An accomplished writer, Noy is the recipient of the 2018 Katherine Anne Porter Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her short story “Tally” was included in Best American Short Stories, and read by Suzzy Roche at Symphony Space in New York City. Her books include I Was Trying to Describe What It Feels Like, New and Selected Stories; the novel Bird; and three collections of short fiction and novellas-- Swim for the Little One First, What Begins with Bird, and The Spectacle of the Body.
Dr. Les Kaufman Professor of Biology, Boston University Marine Program and Marine Conservation Fellow Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans Conservation International
Les is a professor in Boston University’s Marine Program and a Marine Conservation Fellow with Conservation International, in its Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans. Les's research is focused on coral reef recovery, and also in helping to build the cross-disciplinary, CHANS science needed to guide global sustainability and climate change adaptation. Les also writes popular books, magazine articles and television, including multiple stints as either author or subject with NOVA and National Geographic. He was awarded the first marine Pew Fellowship in 1990.
Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby, Director of Corals for Conservation Austin's passion is to address coral reef decline by developing sustainable, community-appropriate enterprises designed to shift the burden away from over-used and depleted fisheries resources. He developed coral gardening methods that are easily adopted by communities, at low expense, and that focus on protecting super corals (highly adaptive corals) that may have a better chance of surviving warming seas.
Peter Whitelaw, Secretary of The Vanuatu Scuba Operators' Association Owner, Sailaway Cruises Peter is a resident expert in Vanuatu with efforts to manage the Crown of Thorns starfish plague impacting the country's coral reefs. He has helped coordinate the Association's activities around COT management and collaborated with the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries. The special COT injection gun kits Island Reach uses were developed in collaboration with Peter. Peter has lived in Vanuatu for 30 years and has extensive experience with and knowledge about sailing and diving around the archipelago.
Vanuatu regional knowledge brokers and IR partners
Daniel Neneth, Mota Lava Torba Provincial Agricultural Extension Officer on Mota Lava
Sophie Frank, Valuwa, Mota Lava Vanua-tai Monitor, and chairperson of the Mota Lava Women's Network
Joe Woleg, Ngerenigmen, Mota Lava Vanua-tai monitor