President & CEO
A 25-year veteran of non-profit management, Jim McDuffie previously served in a variety of leadership roles for The Nature Conservancy’s programs in Florida, North Carolina and Maryland/DC. His tenure with the organization also included fellowships in Palau, where he consulted with the Palau International Coral Reef Center in Koror, and in Australia, where he collaborated with multiple conservation partners across the Asia-Pacific region on strategies for building financially viable organizations. A native of North Carolina, Jim grew up in the longleaf pine forests of the Sandhills, where from an early age he enjoyed hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits. He added fly-fishing to those passions 20 years ago, beginning with trips out West and ultimately leading to the saltwater flats of Florida. Jim received the BA and MA degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves on the boards of the Florida Ocean Alliance and Now or Neverglades coalition as well as on the Policy Council of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Vice President for Conservation and Public Policy
Kellie Ralston, a fifth generation Floridian, serves as the Vice President for Conservation and Public Policy for the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. She was also appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to Florida’s Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board and serves on NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, which provides guidance to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce on relevant issues. Ralston attended Florida State University where she furthered her interest in the natural and marine world and received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in biology. She began her professional career working on water quality and Everglades’ restoration projects with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and then served as an analyst for the Florida House of Representatives’ Water and Resource Management Committee. She subsequently worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission where she was involved in policy development and stakeholder coordination for the Division of Marine Fisheries Management, and served as the Southeast Fisheries Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association covering recreational fisheries and conservation issues.
Director of Science and Conservation • Senior Scientist, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Florida Atlantic University
Aaron received a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in Maryland, a Master’s degree from the College of William and Mary, and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and also holds a Coast Guard Captain’s License. He has lived, worked, and fished on both coasts of the US, and in the Caribbean, where he has been conducting fish research for more than 25 years. His pursuit of effective fish and habitat conservation are rooted in his years growing up near Chesapeake Bay, where he witnessed the decline of the Bay’s habitats and fisheries.
As Director of Science and Conservation, Aaron is responsible for formulating, overseeing, and implementing BTT’s science and conservation plan, and applying scientific findings to conservation and management via interactions with resource management agencies and other non-governmental organizations. Aaron has been an author or co-author on more than 70 peer-reviewed scientific publications, has authored three books, and contributed chapters to four books. In addition to his scientific focus, he spends considerable effort translating fish science into angler’s terms.
Aaron has been an avid angler since the age of five, and was even known to skip school in pursuit of fish. Also at a young age, the why and how of fish and their habitats became a passion. The career of fish conservation scientist is a perfect combination of these passions. You can see his scientific publications on his Researchgate page: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aaron_Adams
Director of Marketing & Communications • Editor, Bonefish & Tarpon Journal
Nick Roberts grew up in North Carolina, where he earned a BA in English from Duke University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Before joining the BTT staff in 2016, Nick spent six years working as a fly-fishing guide and freelance writer in Asheville, NC. He has had the opportunity to fish at a variety of fresh and saltwater destinations, including Patagonia, The Bahamas, Belize, Mexico, and Italy. His articles about fly-fishing and conservation have appeared in a number of publications, including Gray’s Sporting Journal, Field & Stream, The Drake, American Angler, and Fly Rod & Reel, and online at Patagonia, Orvis, Simms, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. His photography has appeared in Forbes, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Field & Stream, and elsewhere.
Director of Development
Mark caught his first bonefish when he was nine years old, and has been pursuing all types of finned, feathered, and furred species ever since. He is a graduate from Elon University with degrees in Strategic Communications and Video Production and holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida International University. While his early career began in a tent on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, he eventually progressed to a brief term at Capitol Hill Consulting Group, a lobbying firm on Capitol Hill. Looking for more, he transitioned to BTT in 2014 and has been guiding people to science backed conservation and advocacy ever since.
As the Director of Development, Mark oversees all fund development for the organization, including individual giving, corporate sponsorships, foundation grants, memberships, and event-based fundraising.
Mark is thankful to have gotten an early start in fishing through his parents, and hopes to preserve the world’s most exciting game fish for his future children.
Director of Operations
A graduate of the University of Miami, Scott is a Miami native whose family owned and operated Pinewood Acres School in Kendall for 60 years. He is an avid fisherman and hunter who started fishing at the age of four. Growing up, he and his father traveled frequently to the Caribbean and Keys chasing bonefish, tarpon and permit on fly. Snook fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands is one of his favorite pastimes. As a member of the BTT staff, Scott is committed to helping the organization conserve the flats fishery for future generations of anglers.
Florida Keys Initiative Manager
Ross is a second generation South Floridian. He grew up fishing for tarpon and snook out of Everglades City. Ross earned his Masters and Doctoral degrees at Florida International University, studying how weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts, and extreme cold events, impact sportfishes in Florida Bay and Everglades National Park. After his schooling, he worked for Florida Fish and Wild Conservation Commission, researching fish movements and migrations, and applying that information to conservation actions.
Based in Marathon, Ross spends most of his time in the Keys, either conducting BTT science, or working with anglers, and management agencies to turn BTT science into meaningful management and regulatory changes that improve our Keys fishery.
Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager
JoEllen grew up fishing Charlotte Harbor with her family which soon influenced her to pursue a career in marine science. JoEllen held a position with Florida’s management agency (FWC) and spent time in the field volunteering with FWC and Mote Marine Laboratory. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree from Florida Gulf Coast University, JoEllen was hired as BTT’s first membership administrator and research assistant in 2009. She completed her Master’s Degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at University of Florida (Go Gators!) where her research focused on Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Use. JoEllen spends her free time fishing Charlotte Harbor with her husband and their children, Massey Marlin and Landon Snook.
As BTT’s Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager, JoEllen oversees juvenile tarpon habitat research projects from South Carolina to the Florida Keys, mapping of juvenile tarpon habitat and education to the public through presentations. The main focus of this program is to create a framework that integrates habitat into marine fisheries management plans.
Bahamas Initiative Manager
Justin is a Bahamian native from Freeport, Grand Bahama. Being raised on the island around the water, his passion for fishing and the ocean started from a very young age. He first started fly fishing off the beach near his family home for whatever could swim. From there, he evolved into a passionate flats angler and conservationist, with a particular fondness for bonefish. Justin attended St. Francis Xavier University on the East coast of Canada where he received a BA in Aquatic Resources with Public Policy and Social Research. During his undergraduate studies, he took part in a variety of conservation efforts including the Bahamas bonefish tagging program and juvenile bonefish research. After he completed his undergraduate degree, Justin went the University of York in England where he completed an MSc in Marine Environmental Management.
With BTT conservation efforts expanding throughout the Islands of the Bahamas, it was apparent that someone was needed in the Bahamas full time. Justin is now the Bahamas Initiative Coordinator, and is in charge of leading conservation efforts, such as tagging and habitat restoration. He will also be charged with maintaining and forging new relationships with the many lodges and guides around the islands that depend on the health of the bonefish fishery for their livelihood.
Belize-Mexico Program Manager
As the Belize-Mexico Program Manager, Addiel leads BTT’s conservation efforts in the region. BTT’s approach in Belize and Mexico focuses on the social, cultural, economic, and ecological connections that must be understood to ensure a healthy flats fishery for the future.
Addiel joined BTT in 2019 after completing his Ph.D. on bonefish movements and pre-spawning site identification in southern Mexico and northern Belize, where he was born in the small fishing community of Sarteneja. His experience in the lobster and conch fisheries with his father during his early years set the stage for his life goal: contribute to the sustainability of fisheries resources while improving the lives of those who reside in coastal communities.
Addiel’s integration into conservation and management began in 1997, when he volunteered and trained with many local and international researchers that collaborated with non-government organizations such as Program for Belize, Belize Audubon Society, and Coastal Zone Authority and Institute. After earning an associate degree in Marine Science, followed by a bachelor’s degree in Biology, he worked for a year in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Project before becoming manager of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve in 2006. Addiel went on to earn an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Natural Resources and Rural Development with a focus on Management in Mexico. While working on his master’s, he characterized the recreational-sport fishing of Belize using a Mixed-Methods Approach. He also used this approach in combination with tagging to understand bonefish movements and identify pre-spawning sites during his Ph.D. studies. Click here to access Dr. Perez’s ResearchGate page.
Steven is Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s first Postdoctoral Associate. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Akron in Ohio, a Master’s degree from North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology, and a Ph.D. from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Steven’s doctoral dissertation was part of a six-year research effort — funded by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation — to understand bonefish reproduction and to develop fishery and habitat management strategies to protect spawning sites and population across Florida, The Bahamas, and the Caribbean. His contributions include revealing the deep depths that bonefish dive to when spawning, assessing larval dispersal and population connectivity within The Bahamas to inform marine protected area structures, and the search for bonefish nurseries in the Florida Keys.
As a Postdoctoral Associate, Steven provides analytical and field support for each of BTT’s Initiative Programs.
Bahamas Initiative Coordinator
Nina is a Grand Bahamian who has spent most of her life on or in the ocean. Growing up exploring the waters of the Bahamas, Nina has a developed a great passion for preserving and protecting our oceans. She left her home in the Bahamas to pursue a degree in Atlantic Canada where she recently graduated with a degree in Aquatic Resources and Public Policy. Before joining the BTT team, Nina has been involved with various conservation efforts including coral reef restoration, as well as advocating for evidence-based policy and public engagement. She shares a particular interest in education and outreach and hopes to promote the sustainable use of marine resources. Nina is happy to return home and contribute towards conservation efforts throughout the Bahamas via her position as the Bahamas Initiative Coordinator.
Technical Assistant: Belize-Mexico Program
Lysandra was born in the land-locked Orange Walk Town in Belize. In the coastal village of Caye Caulker she developed a true passion for the environment and wildlife while helping her relatives who work as fishermen, tour guides and hoteliers. For them fishing and eco-tourism is a means of living but to her, it became a way of life worthy of dedicating her time leading and volunteering in conservation efforts and promoting the sustainable use of Belize’s natural resources.
She pursued a Bachelor’s degree of Science in Biology from the University of Belize and explored her potential partaking in research projects in watershed ecology and management. Her interest in the quality and quantity of water to sustain life became an integral part of her education. Paired with her biology background, it led to the successful completion of the ‘Morphological Characterization of the New River: A Preliminary Study’ an important tributary in her hometown river battered with the effects of urban and agricultural development and industrial use. Thereafter she became the Northern Belize Coastal Complex Project Coordinator and the Technical Assistant in environmental impact studies and biodiversity technical document drafting in Belize.
As the Technical Assistant at BTT her work as a conservation enthusiast will continue for the better management of the flats fishery and quality of water. She will provide technical support to the Belize-Mexico Program and participate in various research projects, field and office work all while continuing her personal journey as an avid reader, explorer and baker.