Meet our team!

Aquatic Conservation Initiative is made up of a team of staff and a volunteer Board of Directors. Both staff and board members commit their time to better conserve aquatic and coastal ecosystems across the island of Newfoundland. Volunteer board members are elected for a two-year term at an annual general meeting or are government-appointed, non-voting directors who represent their respective jurisdictions. Read our by-laws here.

Would you like to volunteer with us?
We all have a role to play in keeping our environment clean. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day.

Jennifer Blundon
Jennifer BlundonExecutive Director
Jennifer joined Aquatic Coservation Iniative after graduating in the spring of 2021, from Memorial University’s B.Sc. program with a major in Ecology and Conservation Biology Co-op and a minor in Geography. She is eager to apply the knowledge she has acquired thus far to field operations, conservation research, and environmental education. She has previous experience volunteering with the Fluvarium in St. John’s, where she learned about the watersheds that flow through the Northeast Avalon. She also completed a work term with the Ecological Sciences Section with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, where she monitored habitats and species in Terra Nova’s Newman Sound. Outside work, she enjoys spending time outdoors gardening, hiking, and camping with her family.
Gabby Riefesel
Gabby RiefeselProject Coordinator
Gabby joined Aquatic Conservation Iniative in October 2023 as a field technician working on invasive European green crab removal from St. Mary’s Bay area and has sense taken on the role as Environmental Technician and Project Coordinator. She graduated from Memorial University in 2020 with a major in ecology and conservation biology and a minor in geography. She also completed a GIS applications specialist program at Fleming College in 2022. Gabby would like to bring her spatial analyses skills and interest in coastal environments to the forefront of her role with NAACAP. When not working, she enjoys running, backpacking, and getting out to watch the ocean.
Rachel Brown
Rachel BrownProject Coordinator
Meet Rachael Brown, our dedicated Project Coordinator at Aquatic Conservation Initiative since June 2023. Rachael earned her Bachelor of Science in Ocean Sciences and Marine Biology from Memorial University in 2020. With a strong background in marine research and a track record of contributing to numerous projects, Rachael brings valuable expertise to our team. Her role extends beyond research as she has developed impactful educational programs as part of her work in public education outreach coordination. Rachael’s passion for coastal environments shines through in her commitment to ACI’s mission. Outside of work, she finds joy in traveling and exploring new destinations.
Drew Hillier
Drew HillierAquatic Conservation Intern
Drew is a third-year Marine Environmental Technology student at the Marine Institute with a passion for scientific outreach. As our intern for the summer of 2024, Drew will help with fieldwork and curate ACI’s website and social media. Outside of work, Drew enjoys wildlife identification and making art.

Board of Directors

Heather Ward
Heather WardChair
As Chair, Heather organizes meeting, and leads the board of directors.
Danielle Fequet
Danielle FequetVice-Chair
Danielle assists in chairing and leading the board of directors.
Shane Belbin
Shane BelbinTreasurer
Takes care of project expense tracking, payroll, and year-end expense reporting.

Other Voting Members

Christopher Hearn
Christopher HearnIndustry Representative
Chris is a specialist in aquatic biology with SEM Ltd. Chris acts as a specialist for aquatic fish research projects, in particular projects related to American Eel.
Emma Wells
Emma WellsSecretary
Emma is a specialist in aquatic biology at SEM Ltd. She is our acting secretary and keeps notes and keeps us organized during our meetings
Sarik Shaikh-Upadhye
Sarik Shaikh-UpadhyeDigital Media Creator
Sarik is a specialist in oceanography and is a researcher at Memorial University. He has a knack for nature photography and videography and provides us with great media!
Emily Cummings
Emily CummingsENGO Partner - Conservation Corps
Emily worked with us a few years back and has since taken on the role as Conservation Manager at Conservation Corps NL
Rachel Forbes
Rachel Forbes
Alex Arkilanian
Alex Arkilanian
Helia Kamel
Helia Kamel
VacantCommunity Events Officer
The role of the community events officer is to help staff plan and execute public enagement and outreach events.
VacantSocial Media Officer
The role of the Social Media Officer is to post about current ACI projects, outreach opportunities, and engage the commmunity through science communication and build awareness about regional environmental concerns and assets.

Government Appointees

(Vacant) – City of St. John’s, Councillor-at-Large

(Vacant) – Environment and Climate Change Canada, Government of Canada

(Vacant) – Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Government of Canada

(Vacant) – Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador