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.

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 graduated from Bowdoin College with 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)!

Troy Engel

Director of Operations

Troy was born and raised in Pennsylvania until he graduated from High School and his adventurous streak took him to Venezuela. There he spent most of the next two years living next to gorgeous white sand beaches where he learned how industrial activities affect offshore fisheries and freshwater aquatic environments. He is passionate about the environment and about preserving wildlife habitat and animal welfare. He has worked with various volunteer organizations; as a foster dad for dogs recovering from injury and abuse, and in assisting birds of prey recover from injuries with the intent of returning them to the wild. He also participated in elementary education presentations as a bird handler teaching kids about long-eared owls, merlin falcons, and rough-legged hawks.

Troy holds an MBA in Marketing (Washington State University), a Masters in Military Science (American Military University), a Bachelors in International Studies with a concentration in Latin America (Colorado State University), and an Associate Degree in Biology (Aurora Community College). He has spent the last 14 years working in a wide variety of marketing and communications capacities throughout the world. He worked with the Department of Defense in Latin America on counternarcotics missions as well as subverting human trafficking. In the private sector he has developed strategic marketing plans for Polaris Inc. and Harley-Davidson. Troy believes that educating children and nurturing a love for the environment is one of the best ways to make an impact on our planet for good.

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!"

Lakshmi Bonam

HR Lead

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.

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.

Jacqueline Kristofik

Program Manager (K2W)

Jacqueline recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Environmental Science, concentrating in Oceanography. Even though she grew up in Michigan, she has always been fascinated by the ocean and learning the science and culture surrounding it. During her undergraduate career, she worked at a wildlife rehabilitation clinic and conducted research on the microbial communities in freshwater marinas. These experiences showed her the detrimental effect humanity has on the environment, but also how much people care and how the smallest action can make the biggest difference. She is passionate about respecting the life around us, no matter how small and learning the different ways to protect it. Jacqueline strongly believes that passionate environmental education is key to its preservation and that the greatest way to develop the passion for environmental learning is just to play outside- in any way that makes you happy! “Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.”

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.

Caleb Walker

Technology Manager

Caleb was born and raised in Minnesota, and recently moved back here to start a family. He grew up spending a lot of time outdoors and was taught to appreciate nature and leave places better than you found them, and would love to be able to pass those values on to his kids. After graduating with an electrical engineering degree in 2014 and spending the last 6 years programming and automating factories, he is now changing career paths and moving into web development.

Neha Bhatt

HR Lead

Neha has completed her Masters in Human Resource Management and has 6+ years of corporate HR experience. During her free time, she enjoys cooking, dancing, reading books and binge watch and is based in Bellevue, Washington.

She strongly believes that working with Aeon For Ocean would provide her an opportunity to give back to the community and make a difference and quotes - "There is no life without water. It dies if we die".

Hannah Peterson

Publishing Manager

Hannah is a Master's student studying Sustainable Management through the University of Wisconsin's Extended Campus and UW-Stout. She holds a bachelor's degree in Graphic Communications from UW-Stout as well, which she applies in her current career as a member of the digital print team at Japs-Olson Company in the Twin Cities. Hannah has always been very passionate about the environment and animals in particular which she has studied in various contexts throughout her education. She became fond of the ocean at a young age and as a child dreamed of being a marine biologist or a dolphin trainer. Spending time in the ocean and rainforests in Belize for a study abroad trip was one of the highlights of her college experience. She aims to help with the communication and marketing for environmental organizations, including helping with newsletters and creating other educational materials. Outside of work and school, Hannah enjoys reading, art, and spending time being active outdoors.

Eve Feldman

Illustration Lead

Eve is a Bachelors of Fine Arts candidate with a concentration in Scientific Illustration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Two years of her college years were spent at Northern Michigan University where she studied painting and drawing along the shores of Lake Superior. The lakes of the Great Lake system have always been just a mile or two away from where Eve calls home. While it is not the ocean, water has been a constant source of reflection in her life. Eve is passionate about wildlife conservation of land and sea animals. Eve works within the intersection of science and art, two passions that have shaped her understanding of the world. It is an exciting endeavor to use this skill to give back to her community and work for a better tomorrow for marine animals, the environment, and us.

Molly Adolph

Operations Manager

Molly graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S.E in Chemical Engineering. She has spent the majority of her professional career working in manufacturing operations in roles such as process engineer, production manager and project leader. Molly currently lives in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN and works as an operations consultant for a variety of start up companies. She grew up in New Orleans, LA and spent time every summer on the Gulf Coast of Florida. For as long as she can remember, she has loved learning about marine life and spending time at the beach. However, she has seen first hand the impact man can have on our oceans and wants to play a part in reducing damage.

Qiting (Tina) Cai

Youth Leader: Social Media Lead

Qiting (Tina) Cai is currently a first year student at Middlebury College pursuing a joint degree in Environmental Studies and Biology. Tina is passionate about the environment, and she is especially interested in the topic of microbial ecology and environmental health. Growing up in China, Tina had witnessed many severe environmental problems in her hometown, and she aspired to be a part of the actions to better the environment. As a strong believer in the power of teamwork, she participated in a service trip to Costa Rica in early February 2020, where she worked with local indigenous communities with water conservation and gained valuable experiences in environmental conservation. While she envisions making positive changes to better the environment, Tina also loves to be engaged in the community that she lives in. In her free time, she loves to read, travel, and create new pieces of artwork.

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.

Daron Schmit

Technology Associate (Web Developer)

I am a 25 year-old conservationist who loves to learn about and teach others fun things about our natural environment. I live in an apartment in Minneapolis with my dear doggy and fiance. I went to the University of Minnesota for 3 years before taking a break from schooling until recently when I learned full-stack development through a bootcamp. I can't wait to get on board and help the organization's mission to teach children the ocean!

Ling Xing

Technology Associate

Ling recently graduated from Miami University-Oxford with a BA in Computer Science. She was born and raised in Chengdu, China which is also the hometown of pandas. Ling is passionate about programming and always wants to learn something new. In college, she worked as a Supplemental Instruction to help others in their school work. After graduation, she has learned Spring Framework, ReactJS and etc. She wants to use her new technologies to help others, so here she is! Outside of work and school, she likes to try new recipes, go hiking and play games with friends.

Angel Gindele

Education Program Lead

Angel holds a BS in Marketing and a Masters Certificate in Instructional Design.  She has spent the last 6 years of her career creating engaging online content and courses for learners. Growing up in Minnesota, she has always been passionate about the ocean and how she and her family can have a more positive impact on the planet. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and three kids, exploring the outdoors, cooking flavorful plant-based meals, reading, and educating her kids about the importance of being good stewards of the environment.

Madelyn Ruemping

Publishing Associate

My name is Madelyn Ruemping. I am a recent graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. My dream job is to work in an environment that is creative and has an impact, and I believe Aeon for Ocean is the perfect place. Working towards an English Literature degree I was exposed to researching, editing, and proofreading essay assignments, tailoring them to professors’ specific requirements, getting them done before specific deadlines. Through doing this I’ve found a passion for editing. I want to use this passion to spread the word about the impact we have on our oceans here in Minnesota. I am very excited to be working with the Aeon for Ocean team to help further educate students about our impact on the oceans.

Brittnee Peace

HR Manager

Brittnee is a Human Resources Professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from the University of Utah. She is also certified through HRCI with a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) credential. She grew up in landlocked Utah but always had a fondness for marine life and the ocean. Her interest and passion only grew as she was lucky to be employed at a non-profit aquarium. During that time, she was able to see firsthand the incredible impact of conservation based education. She is inspired to continue that work although her career has taken a new direction. She strongly believes that there is nothing more important than protecting our natural resources and is thrilled to play a role in helping raise awareness for ocean conservation.

Brennan Engel

Publishing Associate

My name is Brennan Knight Engel. I am a senior in high school in Muskego, WI. I am always on the lookout for a great climbing tree, or at night you can find me sitting on my roof looking at the stars. I am an avid reader and love playing DnD with friends. I believe that renewable energy sources are key to safeguarding our environment. I hope to motivate my young peers to get involved and care about nature and conservation. After high school, I would like major in journalism and help move the world forward with my words.

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.