Our Staff


Garry W. Brown

Executive Director & CEO

Garry founded Coastkeeper in 1999 and serves as the organization's Executive Director and Board President.  Under Garry's leadership, Coastkeeper has become a powerful voice for water quality, marine habitats, and water supply issues in the region and throughout California. Coastkeeper has achieved numerous milestone successes through collaboration with stakeholders and scientific and legal research as a basis for advocacy.

 Garry comes from a long background of building public-private partnerships.  He served for five years as an assistant city manager for the City of Redlands, ten years as an advocate and executive director for trade associations in the real estate and building industries, and served two terms as president of a chamber of commerce.  In addition, Coastkeeper has built relationships and partnerships with major corporations and public agencies such as Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, The Irvine Company, Walmart, and The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for the purpose of demonstrating on the ground projects that enhance water quality and reduce urban runoff.  

 A native of Orange County, Garry is committed to expanding Coastkeeper's presence as a proactive, results-oriented organization that uses coalition building and partnerships to find effective solutions to the environmental problems that impact our communities and watersheds.  Garry holds positions of leadership on numerous Boards of Directors and governmental advisory committees, including the California Coastkeeper Alliance, the Nature Reserve of Orange County, OCTA's Environmental Cleanup Allocation Committee, the Community Engagement Panel for the Decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Station, the Harbor Safety and Oil Spill Response Committee for the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, American Green Power, the California Artificial Reef Enhancement Foundation, and Ocean Defenders Alliance.  Garry holds a B.A. in Government from the University of Redlands.


Ellen A. Orange Brown

Associate Director

Ellen co-founded Orange County Coastkeeper with her husband Garry in 1999. As the Associate Director, she provides operational leadership and is responsible for organizational development, fund development strategy and implementation, and financial and administrative oversight.

Ellen hails from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where she developed a wealth of expertise in hospital administration, public relations, and business and financial management. She has called Orange County home since 1980, and is an active member of the community, contributing her time and talent as Treasurer to the Broadmoor Association in Huntington Harbour where she resides.


Ray Hiemstra

Associate Director of Programs

Ray Hiemstra has spent the last fifteen years at Orange County Coastkeeper working to preserve, protect, and restore coastal and inland water quality and habitat.  His work includes water quality advocacy, policy development, grant writing, Marine Protected Areas, species and habitat restoration and water and sediment monitoring.  Ray is a member of numerous committees and workgroups including the Port of LA/Long Beach Harbor Safety Committee and Newport Bay Management Committee.

Ray is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys traveling. He is a lifelong resident of Orange County and spends his spare time working with with the Sierra Club, community groups or relaxing with his family and friends.  


Colin Kelly

Senior Staff Attorney

Colin earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Oregon in 2003 and a Juris Doctorate from Whittier Law School in 2009. Colin’s responsibilities at Coastkeeper range from supervising our Legal Internship Program, advocating our position at regional meetings, and developing strategies for our legal actions. Prior to accepting a position with Coastkeeper, Colin was the two-time President of the Environmental Law Society and one of six recipients of the 2009 Dean’s Citation Award at Whittier Law School.

When he is not at Coastkeeper, Colin enjoys spending time with his friends and family, enjoying the beach, visiting friends in Oregon with his wife, and attending Oregon football games.


Sarah Spinuzzi

Staff Attorney

Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Occidental College in 2012 and her Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in 2015. During law school, Sarah gained legal experience interning with the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy and the Surfrider Foundation. She served as the President of the Environmental Law Society at Loyola. Prior to joining the Coastkeeper team, Sarah spent a year practicing general liability defense litigation. She utilizes her litigation skills to assist Coastkeeper’s legal department in environmental litigation and advocacy.

Outside of the office, Sarah spends the majority of her free time surfing Southern California’s local breaks. As a native to Colorado, she also enjoys going home to ski with her family.

Cropped_close_up.jpgKatie Nichols

Marine Restoration Director

Katie enjoys sharing her passion for marine science and inspiring ocean conservation through community restoration. She received her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz and her M.S. in Marine Ecology from San Diego State University. Her master’s research examined sea urchins and kelp forest community dynamics inside and outside marine reserves. Prior to joining Coastkeeper, Katie worked as a Knauss Sea Grant fellow for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in Washington D.C., as a project manager with the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara, and in fisheries policy and resource management with NOAA in Hawaii and Long Beach.

At Coastkeeper Katie designs and implements restoration projects on eelgrass, oyster, abalone and nearshore habitats in collaboration with volunteers, scientists and agencies in Southern California. Her research interests include resource management and the development of practical and innovative solutions to the challenges facing marine ecosystems. Katie loves camping, hiking and is an avid traveler. She has studied and worked abroad in Tasmania, Indonesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Belize, and Costa Rica.

13071863_10204743470666752_7194875460580499036_o.jpg Lauren Smith

Volunteer and Communications Coordinator

Lauren is a recent graduate from Chapman University, majoring in Environmental Science and Policy with a  minor in Integrated Educational Studies. With a passion for community outreach and environmental  stewardship she started her career in the Silicon Valley working in corporate sustainability and corporate  social responsibility. At Coastkeeper she is in charge of planning and directing community based cleanup  events throughout Orange County. She is also manages our social media accounts and is involved in  fundraising and marketing campaigns. Lauren is native to the Bay Area, California and in her free time  enjoys hiking, yoga, exploring new beaches, and coffee.


Dyana Peña

Education Director

Dyana manages the education programs at Coastkeeper: the WHALES Program and Kids Ocean Day. She works with students in class and out in the field, teaching them about watershed health, and how their actions have an impact on water quality. Her goal is to inspire the next generation of Coastkeepers. Dyana is from Lynwood, CA where she helped establish a recycling program at her high school and participated in monthly beach cleanups. She graduated from UC Irvine with a dual B.A. in Urban Studies and Drama with an emphasis in Environmental Sustainability. Dyana loves dancing, volunteering at animal shelters, visiting her family (hi mom!) and karaoke. 



Austin Brown

Special Projects Coordinator

Austin has been at the Coastkeeper Garden since its inception and his talents and skills are showcased throughout the Garden. Austin’s landscaping expertise has has made the Coastkeeper Garden a valuable resource to Orange County Residents. Austin’s innovation can be seen on a daily basis as he works on new projects and ideas at the Garden. 

Austin is also the captain of the Coastkeeper research dive boat and can often be found out in our local ocean. Austin grew up in Huntington Beach and as a kid developed a true love for the water. In his free time, Austin enjoys scuba diving and hanging out with his canine companion, Nala, at the dog beach.

Cara_Blaxton.pngCara Blaxton

Education Coordinator

As Coastkeeper's Education Coordinator, Cara serves as a school liaison, arranging field trips and in-class presentations for WHALES, Kids Care, and Kids Ocean Day. She began at Coastkeeper in 2015 as an intern and was inspired to pursue a career in the environmental field. Cara is happy to be encouraging the next generation of environmental stewards through Coastkeeper's education programs.

Cara graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Science. She enjoys knitting, cooking, hiking, traveling, and singing.


Marianne-Hugo.jpgMarianne Hugo

Garden Director 

As the Garden Director, Marianne oversees community outreach, volunteers, school field trips, adult and family programming, as well as garden design and plant maintenance. Marianne promotes environmental stewardship by sharing the many unique features of the garden with visitors. Marianne specializes in water wise and drought tolerant plants and can often be found teaching Garden visitors about them.

Marianne is a fifth generation native Californian and enjoys spending time in her own SmartScape Yard, which includes a butterfly garden and raised vegetable bed. Marianne received her B.A. from the University of San Diego and her M.L.I.S from the University of Hawaii.