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.

Shelly Herron

Director of HR

Shelly was born and raised in Iowa where she attended Iowa State University before moving to Austin, TX. She started her career as a Chief of Staff and is currently the HR Manager for a remote company. She holds her PHR and SHRM-CP certifications and enjoys building inclusive employee engagement programs and working with employees on benefits, onboarding/training, and team-building initiatives.

Outside of work, Shelly enjoys baking, hiking, doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles, and spending time with her husband and dog. She believes in Aeon for Ocean's mission and is excited to help a cause that is dedicated to protecting the ocean and its beautiful creatures.

Nicolette Mineo

Director of Educational Programs

I'm Nicolette, driven by a passion for marine sciences and environmental care, I hope to contribute to the betterment of our oceans by creating fun, interactive educational opportunities. I hold a certification as a Rescue Scuba Diver and I am passionate about animal welfare. Alongside these interests, I find joy in family time and exploring new places.

My educational journey includes an MSc in Animal Bioscience from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, complemented by BSc degrees in Biology and Environmental Science from Regis University in Denver. Currently, I'm pursuing a Geographic Information Systems certificate from Paris Lodron University of Salzburg. I'm also a certified TEFL and TESOL teacher, having worked with international students for several years.

I believe that each one of us, regardless of scale, can contribute to positive change. By collaborating towards the betterment of our environment and its delicate inhabitants, we can collectively make a significant impact.

Benalee Valbert

Director of Operations

Benalee is Midwest native, born and raised in the greater St. Louis region where she earned a Master of Business Administration, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications, from Lindenwood University.

Her professional experience includes establishing, implementing, and managing all aspects of operations for a rapidly growing Civil Engineering firm.

Her love of the ocean began with her first visit to Pensacola Beach 25 years ago. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time in nature and travelin, while continuing to learn how to enhance this world for future generations.

She is excited to be a member of the Aeon for Ocean team and believes this is an ideal role allowing her to apply both her strong business operations experience as well as her love of the earth in support of this mission.

Kalpana Singh

HR Manager

Kalpana holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a masters in Human Resources. Before moving to the US, Kalpana has worked with multiple startups as an HR manager where she helped them build the entire function from scratch. Her expertise lies in employee relations and org/talent development.

Apart from work, she really enjoys spending quality time with her husband and daughter. She reads to rejuvenate and resonates with Aeon with Ocean's vision of spreading awareness about ocean life and their protection.

Callee Lasley

Education Program Lead

Callee holds a Bachelor of Education with a K-8 Teaching Endorsement. She is based in Spokane and has been teaching both online and in person for the last few years. Callee is passionate about creating accessible and engaging curriculum that meets learners where they are in their educational journey. When she is not creating new content, you can find her cuddled up with a cup of coffee and a good book or hiking the mountains with her husband and border collie. She is excited to be working with Aeon for Ocean and help them continue their mission to bring awareness to ocean conservation as well as the wonders of marine life.

Jonica Herzek

Marine Education Program Lead

Jonica's passion for ocean conservation began in her Florida childhood, and her college years near the Gulf of Mexico allowed her to engage with environmental organizations like Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Tampa Bay Watch. Transitioning to teaching sixth-grade science, Jonica made a lasting impact on the next generation. Today, as a Marine Mammal Observer and Educator on Jolly Sailing & Dolphin Tours in Pensacola Beach, Florida, she educates visitors from diverse regions about Gulf of Mexico's marine life. Committed to ocean conservation, Jonica actively contributes to Aeon For Ocean, supporting their mission to raise awareness about ocean conservation among children across the United States. For fun, she enjoys climbing, hiking with her faithful pup, and exploring the depths of the ocean through scuba diving; she finds joy and balance in the great outdoors.

Rachel Halupa

Education Manager

Rachel holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Marine Science and Oceanography, as well as a few minors, including one in Education. She is currently getting her Masters in marine science with an emphasis in marine predator conservation, as well as another in Geospatial Informational Sciences. She was originally from Maryland, but moved to Kansas when she was about 8. Ever since then the ocean has been calling her back. She is passionate about research, data analysis, public outreach and education. In her free time she helps coach a high school softball team as well, as staying fit by taking her Dosh hound for walks around the local lake. With every opportunity and endeavor presented to her, she is driven to advocate for the ocean and all of its wonders.

Tansey Hensley

Program Manager

Tansey is a Pacific Northwest native, born and raised in the Seattle area. She earned a Bachelor's degree at University of Portland in Biology with a minor in Psychology, followed by a Master's Degree in Athletic Leadership from Boise State University. Now living just outside of Boulder, Colorado, she works remotely as a project manager. In her free time, she runs competitively and loves to travel with her husband- especially to the beach! As a former high school science teacher, Tansey has a deep love and passion for science, nature, and our oceans. She's excited to be working with Aeon for Ocean to empower the next generation of conservationists.

Michelle Haddad

Community Engagement Manager

Michelle is the founder of Knack Social, a digital marketing and social media company with a passion for helping small to medium-sized businesses grow. After graduating with a sales and marketing degree, Michelle worked as the marketing manager at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal helped grow the events and marketing department significantly while growing back in her spare time. She ran the events department, and the social media and digital marketing team. Before working at the Business Journal, Michelle was the marketing director for Biltwell, a group of now 13 local restaurants. She was in charge of social media, email marketing, and social media training for the company, and this is where she started her success in growing independently-owned businesses.

Michelle's favorite activity is scuba diving, and this is why she has a strong passion for doing her part to help save the ocean in whatever way possible.

Alison Gibson

Publishing Manager

Ali was born and raised in Minocqua, Wisconsin where she spent her time swimming and waterskiing at the lake. She recently graduated and earned her Masters in Speech-Language Pathology. Despite living in the Midwest, she has always had a lifelong passion for the ocean and she plans to pursue a degree in marine sciences in the near future. Ali enjoys coaching tennis, travel videography, hiking national parks with her husband and two corgis, and spending time with their five guinea pigs. Through her experience with Aeon for Ocean, she hopes to implement her knowledge in educating others and have an opportunity to advocate for and learn more about the ocean.

Bethany Woo

Publishing and Education Lead

Bethany is a recent graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a double-majored in Marine Biology and Environmental Science and minor in Conservation Biology. She is from the Bay Area, but is currently in Southern California working for a water utility company as a conservation intern. From learning how to swim at a young age, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, to snorkeling in Hawaii, Bethany developed a deep love for marine biology/science. She cultivated this passion while volunteering with The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito during high school, studying marine science in college classes, becoming scuba certified, and conducting marine research abroad in French Polynesia. Through volunteering with Aeon for Ocean she hopes to further her passion, contribute to ocean conservation/protection, and give young kids the opportunity to discover the amazing underwater world.

Clare Greeman

Publishing Lead

Clare is a recent graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College with a degree in English and Gender Studies. She was born and raised in St. Paul MN, and is excited to be pouring her passion to a local non-profit. Through her work, she hopes to contribute to the awareness and education of children surrounding our ocean and its creatures. She currently works as a pastry chef and loves cooking, reading, and spending time outdoors!

Kiyas Kousoulas

Publishing Associate

Kiyas recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Integrative Biology and a minor in Art and Design. She will soon be returning to school to pursue her Master’s Degree in Marine Science and Management at the University of Sydney. Kiyas currently lives just outside of Chicago, Illinois but has a passion for everything ocean related and she could not be more excited to be a part of Aeon for Ocean. Through her involvement at Aeon for Ocean and beyond, Kiyas hopes that she can help others understand the importance of preserving the ocean and appreciate all it has to offer.

Madeline McCormick

Publishing Associate

Madeline studied biology at Carroll University and minored in Natural Resource Management with an emphasis on wetland and aquatic ecology. Since then she has participated as an Americorps with the Sierra Nevada Alliance and Trout Unlimited to restore mountain meadow aquatic habitats, and educate community members on the importance of wetland ecosystems. Madeline has always had a fascination with the ocean and freshwater environments and is constantly seeking new, surfacing knowledge about them. She has enjoyed volunteering with Aeon for Ocean because it allows her the opportunity to educate on topics she is learned in, while also giving her the opportunity to research diverse, unfamiliar, and novel subjects.

Ashley Hamblin

Social Media Lead

Ashley is a recent college graduate from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Her biggest areas of study were English and Marketing. She was born and currently lives outside of Nashville Tennessee. Through her studies, she has learned how to write compelling copy, how to properly manage social media accounts, as well as how to create effective marketing strategies.

Despite living far from the ocean, Ashley has always had a passion for ocean conservation and marine life. She is excited to help Aeon for Ocean continue their mission of teaching children about the ocean and the many marine animals who call it home. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, writing, traveling and spending time with family!

Mayuri Thite

Social Media Analyst

Mayuri is a dynamic digital marketer with a Master's in Science, combining analytical skills with creativity. My professional journey involves crafting compelling online strategies to enhance brand visibility and engagement. Beyond the digital, I am passionate about exploring the world through travel and expressing my creativity through painting. AFO works to empower and educate children on ocean conservation & marine life. Motivated by a desire to make a positive impact, I am keen on volunteering for AFO and I believe my diverse skill set can contribute effectively to their initiatives. I am excited about the opportunity to leverage my expertise in support of AFO's meaningful projects.

Samantha Hernandez

Illustration Lead

Samantha is a 2D/3D concept artist and illustrator from Monterey, CA. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Entertainment Design from Laguna College of Art & Design. After graduating, she is continuing to work with her personal projects and gaining more experience. Currently she is a 3D Art Lead at Digital Scorpion Interactive, Graphic Designer at LatinX in Animation, and Concept Artist at Tlacuache Studios. Being capable of making 2D and 3D art gives her the ability to work on different projects. Her focus is in games and animation but that doesn’t stop her from other projects.

Now she is residing in Montreal,QC but she will always love her coastal hometown. Her joining this team gives her the chance to put her skills and admiration for the ocean into something good like Aeon for Ocean.

Joey Winton

Comic Illustrator

Joey is from Omaha, currently living in Nebraska City, NE. Her hobbies include drawing, reading, cooking, exercising, and watching movies. Ever since she can remember she has always been fascinated by the ocean and its inhabitants, by far her favorite sea creatures are hammerhead sharks.

Keira Crow

Comic Illustrator

Keira enjoys designing characters, drawing cute things, baking desserts, and cuddling up with her cat, Peanut. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in animation concentrating in story, concep, and design. She’s freelance illustrated a few children's phonetics books and excited to work as a volunteer comic illustrator for Aeon for Ocean! The ocean is one of her favorite places, and she is passionate about conservation and protection of the animals that call the ocean home. Keira's favorite sea creature is the whale shark because they are such graceful and gentle giants.

Difei Li

Illustration Associate

Difei is from China, now she is living in Los Angeles. She is a 2d vis-dev artist. She holds degrees in Animation from both School A and School B. However, compared to animation, she excels more in illustration and scene design. Currently, she is working part-time while seeking self-improvement opportunities. Apart from her academic pursuits, she is also a passionate marine documentary enthusiast with a deep fascination for orcas and deep-sea creatures. She is concerned about the survival of these marine creatures, which is one of the reasons she came to AFO. She's ready to say HELLO to everyone!

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.