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 was born with an obsession for all things saltwater related – especially fishing. She made her boating debut at 5-days-old and had a rod in her hand by the time she could walk. JoEllen grew up fishing Charlotte Harbor with her family which soon influenced family vacations to Australia, Belize, Costa Rica and an annual Keys trip – with the intermittent snowboard trip out west. Her fascination for fishing and guidance from her father ultimately led to 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. 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. A self-proclaimed “aquaholic”, JoEllen spends her free time fishing Charlotte Harbor with her husband and their daughter, Massey Marlin.
As BTT’s Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager, JoEllen is in charge of all things juvenile tarpon related. This includes juvenile tarpon habitat research projects from South Carolina to the Florida Keys, mapping of juvenile tarpon habitat and education to the public through presentations.
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 Coordinator
As the Belize-Mexico Program Coordinator, 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.
Membership & Development Manager
Born in Pensacola, Florida, Nick grew up in Monroeville, Alabama. He spent his childhood chasing fish, deer, and everything in between throughout South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. He caught his first bonefish on fly at fifteen and has been hooked ever since.
Nick is a graduate of the University of Alabama and the College of Charleston (MBA). His work experience includes software, barbeque, and various jobs within the outdoor industry. He is excited to join BTT and help grow the footprint of BTT’s membership. He enjoys cooking, snow skiing, and adventures with his Australian Shepherd, Omar.
Florida Keys Field Technician
Whitney grew up on the water in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York and received her Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Environmental Studies from Stonehill College in Massachusetts. Whitney’s passion for island communities led her to work with local NGOs and fishers in Madagascar to establish science-based regulations to protect local fisheries and subsistent fishing practices in the island chain.
Based in Islamorada, Whitney is a trained scientific diver and PADI Divemaster, experienced mariner, and an environmental writer committed to communicating science to the public. Throughout the Keys, Whitney leads grassroots campaigns, advocacy, and community-based ocean conservation programs with Surfrider Florida Keys, where she currently resides as Vice-Chair of the Executive Board. At the helm of the recent Key West cruise ship campaign, Whitney has worked with local fisherman, the Safer, Cleaner Ships Committee and her local community to defend ocean livelihoods and the fragile marine ecosystem the Keys calls home.
As the Florida Keys Field Technician, Whitney combines her previous fisheries management and field experience to bring science to the fight for flats fisheries and her home waters in the Florida Keys.
Marketing & Communications Intern
Madilyn Amico, a born and raised Floridian, earned her BA in Communication and Media studies from Stetson University, where she concentrated on environmental issues across multi-media platforms. She is currently receiving her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, nonfiction from Emerson College of Boston, Massachusetts. Madilyn’s passions for environmental advocacy and fishing conservation started in her younger years when her father started teaching her the importance of keeping the environment sustainable for future generations. Madilyn has since done freelance work for Friends of the Everglades and St. John’s River to Sea Loop, where she wrote press releases and promoted sponsorship campaigns. When she isn’t writing about the environment, Madilyn enjoys writing creative poetry and nonfiction; she is a published poet in Magpie Literary Journal.