Board of Directors

Photo by USGS on Unsplash

The Board

With decades of experience in the fields of management, environmental sciences, engineering, education, and more, the SkyTruth board provides invaluable expertise to help the organization fulfill its mission to use the view from space to inspire people to protect the environment.

Walter Ailes

Walter is a retired educator and school administrator with a career in Washington, D.C., private schools that spanned nearly 50 years. He worked at the Georgetown Day School for 34 years, Edmund Burke School, and the Lowell School along with a few consulting roles in the Washington area and beyond. Walter also served on several boards associated with education during this time. He was lucky to have spent many a weekend on his family farm near Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where SkyTruth’s headquarters is located.

Soon after retiring to the farm, Jenny Allen, SkyTruth’s Chief Operating Officer introduced him to SkyTruth’s work, leading him to appreciate the role of this unique organization. He had previously read an article about this mission-driven, one-man crusade (when SkyTruth’s only employee was founder John Amos) in this small West Virginia town. The organization he joined as a board member still has that mission-driven man, John Amos, but quite a few additional passionate members now. Walter calls SkyTruth a fun place to hang out!

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John Amos

As President of SkyTruth, John develops organizational strategy and partnerships, mentors technical staff, and provides remote sensing expertise as needed. He is an expert in the use of satellite images and other remote sensing data to understand and communicate local, regional, and global environmental issues. Educated as a geologist (at the University of Wyoming for his M.S. and Cornell University for his B.S.), John spent 10 years applying image processing, image analysis, and digital mapping techniques to conduct environmental, exploration and resource assessment studies for the energy and mining industries and government entities.

In 2001, he founded SkyTruth, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to strengthening environmental conservation by illuminating environmental problems and issues through the use of satellite images, aerial photographs, and other kinds of remote sensing and digital mapping. In addition to his role as President of SkyTruth, he serves on the boards of The Commons and Global Fishing Watch, a nonprofit organization formed by SkyTruth, Oceana, and Google, and on the advisory board of The Ocean Foundation.

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Mary Anne Hitt

Mary Anne is the Sierra Club’s National Director of Campaigns. Previously, she directed Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which has been recognized as one of the most successful environmental campaigns in history. Working with partners across the nation, the campaign has blocked the construction of 200 proposed US coal plants, secured retirement of over half of existing U.S. coal plants, and helped usher in the clean energy era. Mary Anne was listed in 2015 as one of the POLITICO 50, POLITICO’s list of the top thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics. She has made numerous media appearances ranging from Good Morning America to National Public Radio, and was featured in the National Geographic film From the Ashes and their Emmy-winning series Years of Living Dangerously. She is also co-host of the climate storytelling podcast No Place Like Home.

Mary Anne previously served as the executive director of several grassroots organizations, including Appalachian Voices. She received her Master’s of Science from the University of Montana and her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, where she later received the 2008 Notable UT Woman Award. She grew up in the mountains of east Tennessee and now lives in West Virginia with her family.

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Catherine Irwin, Secretary

Catherine brings over 30 years of experience in nonprofit management to the board of SkyTruth, particularly in the areas of governance and engagement, fiscal oversight, and fundraising. Prior to moving to West Virginia in 1999, Catherine was the Director of Development at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the Managing Director of the Living Stage Theater Company, the outreach program of Arena Stage. She also is recognized for her administrative leadership of the Contemporary American Theater Festival, one of our country’s leading new play development theaters.

In addition to her professional work, Catherine has dedicated herself to volunteer service, working with a wide variety of national and community nonprofits whose missions reflect her strong commitment to social justice and conservation. Locally, Catherine has served on the board of Shepherdstown Area Independent Living, an organization serving seniors who wish to continue to live independently. She has also served on the board of the Westminster Foundation, as well as on the board of the American Conservation Film Festival.

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Darshan Karwat

Darshan is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and The Polytechnic School at Arizona State University (ASU), where he runs re-Engineered, an interdisciplinary group that embeds environmental protection, justice, and peace in engineering. His current work and teaching focuses on engineering and science for environmental, energy, and climate justice; on developing new methods to understand and plan participation in energy transitions; border walls and wildlife; the politics of science and engineering; re-imagining environmental and sustainability governance; and fluid dynamics.

Darshan is an aerospace engineer by training (specializing in gas dynamics and combustion) and space, rockets, and satellites were his first love, apart from soccer; so he’s excited to be on SkyTruth’s board. Before ASU, he spent three years as a AAAS Fellow in Washington, D.C., first at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the Innovation Team, where he worked on climate change resilience and low-cost air pollution sensors, and then at the U.S. Department of Energy in the Water Power Technologies Office, helping design and run the Wave Energy Prize. He is originally from Mumbai, India, but feels equally at home in Michigan or Washington, D.C. (and now, Arizona!).

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Susan Coady Kemnitzer, Treasurer

Sue recently retired from a long career in leadership positions in science and natural resource management organizations. Most recently she served as Deputy Director of the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport System Division of the National Science Foundation Directorate for Engineering. As a member of the Senior Executive Service, Ms. Kemnitzer managed an annual portfolio of over $400 million in grants that explore the nation’s most innovative multidisciplinary research and education.

Sue also served as a Budget Examiner in the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President. There, she recommended budget and legislative policy for science and natural resource agencies, prepared the President’s annual budget request to the Congress, and negotiated the Administration’s position on legislation. Most notably she led the administration’s efforts to establish 140 million acres of new parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas in Alaska and then served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior.

Currently, Sue volunteers as Chair of the Corporation of Shepherdstown Water and Wastewater Utilities, which recently built the first wastewater treatment plant in West Virginia to meet the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint to protect the bay. She is a strong friend of the American Conservation Film Festival, especially the new Emerging Filmmaker Fund. She served on the board of the Contemporary American Theater Festival for nine years and is honored to serve on SkyTruth’s board.

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Monica Medina

Monica is an independent consultant based in Washington, D.C. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and recently served as the Deputy Director of the Environment Program and a Senior Fellow at the Walton Family Foundation. Prior to joining the Walton Family Foundation, Monica was the Senior Director of Ocean Policy at the National Geographic Society. From 2012-2013, Monica served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. Previously, she served as the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where she led efforts on Arctic conservation, and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Monica has worked for nearly thirty years at the intersection of law and policy in Washington, D.C. She attended Georgetown University on an Army R.O.T.C. scholarship, and began her legal career on active duty in the Honor’s Program of the Army General Counsel’s office. For her service in the Army, Monica was awarded an Army Commendation Medal in 1989, and a Meritorious Service Medal in 1990. In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta awarded her the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal.

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Barbara Morgan

Barbara taught indoors and outdoors at public schools for 24 years, and trained with the crew of the space shuttle Challenger as a backup to Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe. She served as a NASA Astronaut for 10 years and flew on a construction mission to the International Space Station, before retiring to become Boise State University’s Distinguished Educator in Residence (now emeritus). Barbara’s experiences in education and viewing the Earth from orbit strengthened her belief that policy makers and the public need meaningful access to evidence observed and gathered from space in order to protect our environment.

Stephen J. Paradis

Steve served as the chief operating officer of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, redefining the role staff played in daily management of the Trail and successfully positioning the organization for a transition in senior management and board development. By emphasizing communication and synthesis of information across traditional departmental boundaries, he built a senior management team that identified and exploited opportunities to optimize organizational capacity. Steve holds Masters and Bachelors of Science degrees in mechanical engineering from M.I.T. and an M.B.A. from Stanford University and has worked with entrepreneurs and early stage companies in energy and sensor design. At Hewlett Packard, he led a global supply chain initiative to improve responsiveness to customer demand and rapid change in supplier technology. His work in the forest products industry resulted in U.S. patents for power boiler safety systems.

Steve currently serves as an elected council member for the town of Bolivar, West Virginia, and president of the town’s planning commission. He is a board member of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society and a past board member of various other outdoor organizations. He hiked the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail and has contributed as a volunteer to help maintain and preserve the Trail and its associated lands.

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Alan Septoff, Chair

Alan joined Earthworks in July 1997 after working for the National Academy of Sciences. He became Earthworks’ Policy Director in 1999, Research & Information Systems Director in 2001, and Communications Director in 2013. Alan has played key roles in many of Earthworks’ successes, including improving federal public lands mining regulations, the No Dirty Gold campaign’s efforts to embarrass jewelry retailers into committing to more responsibly sourced metals, and working with local groups to pass Texas’s first municipal fracking ban. He leads Earthworks online and media outreach in pursuit of all organizational campaign goals. He holds master’s degrees in Environmental Science and Public Affairs from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

David Shearer, Board Science Ambassador

David served as SkyTruth’s Board Chair from 2014 through 2019. He is co-founder and CEO of Full Circle Biochar, a for-profit enterprise that is developing biochar products for global agricultural and carbon sequestration applications. Prior to launching Full Circle Biochar in 2008, Dr. Shearer was Chief Scientist at California Environmental Associates where he worked primarily with Toyota on next generation transportation, energy, carbon mitigation, and information technologies with Google.org and evaluating next generation plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) and implementing a PHEV demonstration program.

In 2006 and 2007, David provided technical and policy guidance for Design to Win, a foundation based initiative that is creating a 10 year map for philanthropic investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation under the umbrella of ClimateWorks Foundation. He currently serves on the board of directors for SkyTruth and Black Rock Labs, both nonprofit organizations. He holds a Ph.D. in environmental epidemiology and an M.S. in environmental microbiology from the University of California, Irvine.

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Henry Hank Willard

Hank brings to SkyTruth his 35 years of experience as an office and industrial real estate developer and broker. During his career, he served Fortune 500 companies, trade associations, nonprofits, and national law firms in facility site search, selection, and acquisition in the Washington – Baltimore and Southern California markets. He began a second career in commercial aviation management after returning to the East Coast in 2001. Working with Arcadia Aviation, a private jet management company, and its successor from 2004 to 2018, he has been involved in the acquisition of airport locations and expanding facilities, as well as administering the companies’ Air Carrier Certificates and enhancing air charter operations.

Recently, Hank launched “Agronomy Air,” an aerial surveying service using advanced drone-deployed sensors to acquire data and provide a range of analytical products in support of precision agricultural and conservation efforts.

Hank has served as a board member or trustee of nonprofits with national reach and has volunteered his time for a range of local civic groups and held local elected office.

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Paul Woods

Paul Woods is a software engineer and a veteran of several Washington, D.C. – area startup software ventures. He joined SkyTruth in 2011 after the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill and helped SkyTruth build a dedicated team of inspired technologists who are committed to using remote sensing, big data, and cloud computing to promote better environmental conservation around the world. In 2015, he led the Global Fishing Watch project team, and in 2017 he became the Chief Technology Officer of the newly formed company that was spun off by the founding partners. Paul continues to consult with SkyTruth and work closely with the SkyTruth technical team.

Past board members

John Bresland (2013-2018)

John’s long career in process engineering, environmental compliance, project management, and manufacturing in both industry and government helped inform SkyTruth’s work in the aftermath of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill. John currently is a Research Fellow at the Mary Kay O’Connor Process Safety Center of Texas A&M University and President of Process Safety Risk Assessment LLC, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a consulting company focusing on the chemical and energy sectors.

David Campagna (2001-2004)

David played a fundamental role in launching SkyTruth, helping develop the concept with John in the late 1990s and providing guidance as a founding board member. A Ph.D. geologist, he conducted the first satellite-based analysis of the footprint of mountaintop mining in Appalachia — work we continue to build on. These days, David is General Manager of unconventional energy exploration at Nexen Energy.

David Festa (2001-2017)

David was the founding chair of SkyTruth, and served on the board from our incorporation in 2001 through 2017. His experience as a young correspondent with The Economist, enthusiastic policy director in the Department of Commerce, and seasoned program-builder at Environmental Defense Fund brought valuable insights and connections to SkyTruth as we evolved together. All of this sprang from many conversations John and David had as friends and neighbors. Throughout his official time with SkyTruth, David has been an unabashed enthusiast of the work we do — and an exemplar of commitment to the mission and vision.

Elliott Norse (2001-2015)

Elliott, a founding board member and enthusiastic advocate for SkyTruth, was the first spiritual leader of SkyTruth, always reminding us why we do what we do: to promote protection of the environment that sustains us. Elliott’s inspiration as founder and CEO of the Marine Conservation Institute, and as passionate advocate for conservation, continues to motivate us all — even as he nurtures life on planet Earth during retirement, cultivating both garden and grandchildren. He received his Ph.D. in marine ecology from the University of Southern California.

Vikki Spruill (2002-2012)

Vikki served on our board for ten years as a consistently calm and strong voice of reason with unwavering dedication to SkyTruth’s value proposition and mission. She steered a steady course for us through the whirlwind months and turbulent aftermath of the BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill while she was also busy at the helm of The Ocean Conservancy.  She’s the former CEO of the Council on Foundations and is currently the President and CEO of the New England Aquarium.