Our Team

Aeon Bashir

Founder, Chief Krill

Aeon, the driving inspiration of our organization, founded Aeon for Ocean at the age of seven. His unprecedented passion for the ocean and its many ecosystems started when he was just two years old. He had showed profound love for the marine life displayed on his play mat, and he adored his stuffed dolphin and octopus. Instead of outgrowing this fascination with the sea, it grew with him. That fascination has since evolved into tremendous appreciation and respect, which he's used to impact not only the life of the ocean, but the lives of many people who depend on it.

Aeon understood from a young age that living far inland doesn't make you independent from the world's waters. Knowing this, he took every chance got to further explore his curiosity about the interconnectedness of life on Earth. He sought not only to learn just how much the ocean impacts people who don't live near it, but how those people impact the ocean in return.

This curiosity has taken him on multiple whale-watching tours, to beach clean-ups, and to marine conservation meetings. As his parents, we learned right along with Aeon, and we've remained truly amazed by life under the sea and how critical a role humans have in regards to its health. That said, we supported Aeon when he felt compelled to share his discoveries with family, friends, and peers. He's since been giving presentations at various schools about whales, dolphins, sharks, endangered marine species, and sustainable seafood. These presentations have become a critical component of Aeon for Ocean's mission.

Menaka Nagarajan

Executive Director

Menaka oversees the governance of Aeon for Ocean and is heavily involved in communication and outreach for our Krill2Whale program. She has been instrumental in connecting with marine biologists, scientists, and various schools and communities on the educational programs.

Growing up on the coast, she realized that she – like many of us – was unwittingly part of the problem, so she strongly believes it's time to give back and strives to be a part of the solution by raising awareness to protect the oceans. The knowledge she has gained over the last several years has left her amazed at how wonderful the ocean and its creatures are, as well as the importance of healthy marine ecosystems and the critical role humans play towards its conservatio.

She is a computer engineer and has been in various roles in IT industry. She has been volunteering at Save the Water™ managing technology team and in local schools through various educational programs.

Bashir Ahmed

Director of Operations & Technology

Bashir oversees the development and operations of Aeon for Ocean. His business acumen and technical expertise has proven valuable in Aeon for Ocean’s initiative. He has been the driving force behind the upbringing of Aeon for Ocean's organizational entity, forging partnership with organizations, online presence, and much more. He always has been an avid advocate of investing in science and engineering.

He has been professionally and personally involved in various aspects of business development & technology for years and has a passion for STEM education. He continues learning about marine life & ecosystems and has been studying about marine habitats and ocean conservation for the past several years, firmly believing "it is about knowing and recognizing that we are part of everything, and everything is a part of us - We are One"

Alex Cooper

Director of Finance

Alex is a Director working at FOX 9 News in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul television market who has been awarded a Regional Emmy® and eight additional nominations for automation-based live productions over the past 12 years. His additional skills come from serving as the President, Board of Directors for Ridgewoods Condominium #1 Association. In that role Alex has been able to implement a recycling program for 20 units which previously had only trash service, partner with Hennepin County to pass along continuing education materials to homeowners on the importance of recycling, and work to upgrade the property to reduce the carbon footprint mainly through energy improvements. He wrote his thesis on the association's ability to grow satisfaction by providing better communication to owners through strategic outreach and empowerment tools. In his spare time, he enjoys visiting the National Parks and other public lands here in the US along with Canada to hike, camp, photograph animals, or try out something new in connecting with nature.
He holds a Master's Degree in Strategic Communication Management (Concordia University - Saint Paul), Bachelor's Degree in Communications / Associates in Environmental, Safety & Security Technologies (Thomas Edison State University), and Associates in Accounting/Mass Communication / Certificates in Management, Human Resource Management, along with Marketing Management (Normandale Community College). The volunteering seed was planted early in Alex's life as he began helping with video production work for the local food shelf in high school and was presented with the Caring Youth Award by the City of Minnetonka along with a nomination for the Youth Service Award by what was then Time Warner Cable.

Patrick Bloniasz

Director of Education

Patrick is an undergraduate at Bowdoin College and is a major in Neuroscience and Philosophy with a focus in mathematics and education. Patrick is an independent researcher for America’s Service Commissions and the Public Education Institute, focusing his work on Statistical Assessment Theory in educational curricula, national testing, and curriculum development. He is a contributor to intervention research in loneliness/social isolation, IDD, and major depressive disorders and is an active member of the American Psychological Association and the Psychometric Society.

Patrick has a great love of the ocean coming from his time growing up on the east coast and believes that oceanic conservation and environmental protection should be on the mind of all people; he believes that such a passion is developed early on in today's youth. In his free time, you can find
Patrick running on trails in Brunswick, Maine or fueling his love of iced coffee in one of the area’s shops with his friends (without a plastic straw of course)!

Rashi Mahato

HR Manager

Rashi is a chemical engineering graduate and Masters in Business Administration in Human Resource Management. She has a total of 10+ years of corporate experience and a certified PHR (Professional in Human Resources) from HRCI (Human Resources Corporation Institute), USA.

She is currently working as a Pro Bono HR professional with Save The Water™. She strongly believes that there is nothing that people need in their lives more than water. "Save Water, Save Life"!

Lakshmi Bonam

HR Associate

Lakshmi, Master of Business Administration post graduate with dual specialization human resource management and marketing, and Bachelor of Science in Computer Science graduate. Lives in Cary, North Carolina, nature lover, likes gardening, strong believes that earth is the only known planet in this universe where life is possible only because of the availability of water and oxygen. Water is most important necessity of life for all the living beings on the earth. So, save it for future generations.

Ann Johnson

Music Director

Ann Johnson, music director of "The Krills" band is Aeon's piano teacher. With a degree in Music Education from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, she has taught music K-12 and has been a church music director. She is currently directing two Handbell Choirs and a Sunday School children's choir, teaching a preschool music class and giving piano and guitar lessons. With a life long commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle, "Working to lessen pollution is right up my alley!"

Kaitlyn Martinez

Marine Educator

Kaitlyn is an educator at the Marine Science Institute in Redwood City, California. She spends her days teaching students of all ages about the San Francisco Bay and all of its inhabitants. At MSI, Kaitlyn encourages hands-on learning, which often includes handling scientific equipment, touching sharks and bat rays, playing with mud, and exploring the Bay on a 90-foot research vessel named the Robert G. Brownlee. The San Francisco Bay is connected to the Pacific Ocean, which means its conservation is key in protecting our oceans. An Ecology graduate from University of California, Santa Cruz, Kaitlyn is most passionate about the beaches she grew up loving and spent her college career studying. She adores marine mammals of all kinds, but in light of environmental stressors such as climate change and overpopulation, has been focusing more on the big picture. Kaitlyn firmly believes that conservation of all kinds starts in the classroom, first with our students knowing about all the amazing wildlife that exists in this world, so they can be inspired to begin brainstorming ways in which they can protect it.

Marissa Neitzke

K2W Program Manager

Marissa hails from Wisconsin and recently graduated from Northland College with a BS in Biology and minored in Environmental Studies. During her undergraduate career, she studied marine conservation and contributed research at CIEE Bonaire and Prescott College's Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies. Always mystified by the natural world and raised with equitable conservation at the forefront, she rapidly fell in love with aquatic ecosystems at a young age. Her infatuation with the amphibious world pushed her to procure her American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) and PADI Divemaster certifications. Particularly passionate about long-term sustainability, interdisciplinary collaboration, and democratic transparency, she champions for an inclusive and thoughtful balance between anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic ecosystems. Marissa has directed at two non-profit organizations and has held research roles at the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While at Aeon For Ocean, she looks forward to cultivating holistic conservation practices through accessible science education and community conversation with great optimism for the future.

Wei Zhu

Education Program Lead

Wei is a master's student in the Learning Technologies Program at the University of Texas, Austin. She uses her eclectic multicultural background in Shanghai’s international market to deliver innovation, quality, and performance and value-creating engaging learner experience by using innovative technologies from China and the U.S. in the design of audiovisual training materials to improve learners' outcomes. She has helped international companies with their online training, customer relations, website development, and project management. Her customer relations and quality management experience have made her a reliable and organized asset with a passion for detail and a great communicator.

Alexia Raynal

Grant Writing Lead

Alexia is a social science researcher and educator with extensive experience promoting the development of digital literacies for under-resourced communities across formal and informal learning settings. Her professional career has focused on creating scaffolded educational curricula for classroom use, mentoring youth, and implementing grant-supported education programs and research projects that leverage digital technologies for learning. Alexia grew up near the Samalayuca Desert, where images of an ancient body of water flowing through the now-deserted sand dunes filled her imagination. Such images, combined with Herman Melville's detailed descriptions of cetaceans, continually inspire Alexia to raise awareness of marine life and ocean preservation.

Marcos Bouzon

Technology Associate

As a young child, Marcos was always interested in the computer and technology world. At that time, "Visual Basic" was his first programming language. Even when he didn't understand how to interpret what was in front of me, he started discovering things by himself and was capable of writing small applications. He is a full-stack developer, working primarily with Python, JavaScript, Html, CSS, and SQL. He enjoys staying in front of the computer for long periods of time, working on projects and learning new programming languages and technologies. He strongly believes in staying up to date is essential in this big world. Playing sports is a good way to keep your mind and body healthy as well as relieving stress. He is a big fan of water sports, as he grew up near the ocean. He enjoys surfing, scuba diving, and fishing and his favorite is kiteboarding. He is based in Miami, Florida.

Ashley Sexton

Publishing Associate

Ashley is an engineer by training who enjoys bringing science and technologies to audiences of all ages. After earning her degree in Chemical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, Ashley began a career in the healthcare technology field, holding a variety of positions spanning clinical research, interoperative clinical support, quality and process improvement, and research and development. In her current position, Ashley serves as a project manager in the R&D department of a surgical robotics start-up, working towards bringing the next generation of minimally-invasive surgery to patients. Ashley was born and raised in Massachusetts and currently resides there with her husband and two young children. She strives to be a continuous learner and aims to bring the spirit of curiosity to all of her work.

Annaleigha Wilke

Illustration Lead

She has completed MFA at SCAD in Illustration, BFA in Art Education at UNC-Greensboro. She has 4+ years of experience in teaching high school visual art, 2 years of stationary production, freelance illustrator. She is currently involved in freelance projects and in free time, she enjoys researching 19th-century writing fiction, creating artwork, gardening, collecting art supplies and small figures, playing with my pet ferrets!

Lacey Raser

Digital Marketing Lead

Lacey has a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the College of Saint Benedict, and is a current Dietetic Intern at the University of Minnesota. She is passionate about sustainable eating, supporting local farms, and limiting food waste. Lacey has experience in social media marketing, photography and blog writing. Her motivation for marine conservation developed when she was a child on a trip to Florida and saw dolphins, manatees and sea turtles in their natural habitat. Since then she has returned to Florida almost every year to swim in the ocean and visit her favorite sea turtle rescue. Taking care of our oceans, means taking care of all the creatures that live in it and depend on it!

Michael Conway

Fundraising Associate

Michael Conway has over ten years of experience in business development, education, clean energy and entrepreneurship. He owned and operated an English Language Institute in Antofagasta, Chile for five years and managed Corporate Social Responsibility and other projects with local corporations. He has extensive volunteer experience and pro-bono business consulting experience for social entrepreneurs located in Chile, Nepal, and Australia. His passion for the ocean has led him to become a 5Gyres Ocean Ambassador and hopes to find new and innovative ways of keeping our waterways clean. He's currently pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at Bard College.

Shelia Axelsen

Grant Writing Associate

Shelia is passionate about environmental sustainability and education. She is a graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and is currently working at a non-profit. She has experience teaching and working with NGOs both domestically and abroad. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, the outdoors, and volunteering.

Nick Hudalla

Graphic Designer

Nick is a freelance Graphic Designer. He has graduated with a Bachelor's Degree from the Art Institutes International in Minneapolis in 2016. He enjoys walking his dog, spending time with friends, bowling, gaming and reading and his interest areas are graphic novels, animals, Anime, comic book conventions.

Norma Foster

Publishing Lead

Norma's career in software documentation and content strategy has always centered around finding the just the right words to say, at the right time and in the right way to help people find what they need. It’s been a great combination of listening and learning. Born and raised in Minneapolis, attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, Norma now lives in White Bear Lake. She finds great joy in her two dogs, two cats, two daughters and husband - living, working and relaxing near the lakes (and Hawaii when she can). Volunteering for Aeon for Ocean is a chance to bring this all together and find a way to protect the Earth’s future for our children.

Jessica Jenkins

Publishing Associate

Jessica Jenkins is a Publishing Associate for Aeon for Ocean. She has had a lifelong love of the water and the environment that grew from her favorite place, her grandparents' house on the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland. She currently serves as a Tours & Experiences Aide at the National Aquarium. She previously worked as a journalist covering politics in Washington, DC as well as in communications for multiple environmental organizations and non-profits including the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, MARACOOS, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She's always had a love for writing and the ocean and is so excited to use those loves to further a great cause!

Kelsey Britton

Operations Manager

Kelsey is responsible for expanding business opportunities that allow for Aeon For Ocean to achieve and sustain its mission. Her Interpersonal Communication studies and degree from Central Michigan University will allow the organization to build authentic partnerships that will extend the organization’s brand locally, nationally, and globally.
During her employment with Eaton Corporation as an Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Senior Analyst, Kelsey’s love for the environment and the well being of communities thrived. Overseeing the EHS of two Eaton facilities, located in Oregon and Michigan, she was able to obtain priceless knowledge and skills to ensure humans are coexisting with the environment and wildlife.
Kelsey has always had an extremely strong connection with our oceans, but her passion for the oceans blossomed during her time spent in Oregon. She feels it is time for her to give back to this beautiful world that has allowed her to explore and continuously learn knowledge through all of its wonders.

Carlyn Iverson

Scientific Illustrator

For three decades Carlyn has worked as a creative professional bringing art and science together. After graduating from the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences with a Bachelor of Science Degree, Carlyn worked in the Biomedical Graphics Department of the University of Minnesota Hospitals learning skills of the medical illustration profession.

She is working as an Illustrator/Designer for the Climate Program Office of NOAA under the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Division and also have been working with the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos on ocean conservation. Carlyn has over 20 years of experience in scientific/medical illustration, 3-D illustration and animation, Video, ZBrush modeling, 3-D diorama design and fabrication.

Carlyn has held a wide range of freelance contracts for organizations such as the Minnesota Zoological Gardens creating illustration work for several major new exhibits, illustrations of tropical insects for a traveling exhibit designed by Outhouse Exhibits Design firm, wild orchid models for Maltbie Design firm, and for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources developing over 200 illustrations for the state-wide school curriculum package called MNAqua. This award winning curriculum and art package brings the freshwater ecology of Minnesota directly to the students of the state to increase awareness of water as a valuable and intrinsic resource in Minnesota's environment and it's value to people.

She has also worked with Taser International, Kongsberg Submarines, and institutions such as the National Institute of Health, the University of Vermont, National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. One of her most recent project was designing of exhibits for the Charles Darwin Exhibition Hall in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, which opened in June 2016.