Karina Nielsen, Director

Karina Nielsen leads the talented and dedicated Oregon Sea Grant team of staff, extension faculty, and educators and together we advance discovery, understanding, and resilience for coastal communities and ecosystems.

Dr. Nielsen brings more than 25 years of experience working as a scientist, educator, and leader in coastal zone stewardship, policy, and public engagement. She is committed to ongoing learning and the advancement of equity and inclusion. Karina was recognized as a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 2017 for her outstanding contributions to the natural sciences.

Karina earned her Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State and a B.S. in biology from Brooklyn College. After receiving her Ph.D., she trained as an NSF International Postdoctoral Fellow at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas (UC Chile Coastal Marine Station) and with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans at Oregon State. Before returning to Oregon State in her current role, she directed the Estuary & Ocean Science Center at San Francisco State University and worked for 19 years as a professor of biology at Sonoma State and SF State universities.  Karina studied photography and filmmaking at Hampshire College and worked in a variety of roles in the restaurant and catering business in New York City before transitioning to a career in science.


Sarah Kolesar, Assoc. Director – Research and Scholars

Sarah Kolesar is the primary contact for researchers working under – or applying for – Sea Grant support, as well as for our graduate and undergraduate Sea Grant Scholars. She joined Sea Grant in 2009 and became our research program specialist the following year; in 2014, she joined the leadership team. A former associate program manager at the Office of Naval Research's Biological Oceanography program, Sarah holds a Ph.D. in estuarine ecology from the University of Maryland and spent two years as a visiting professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland.


Jessi Kershner, Assoc. Director - Extension and Engagement

Jessi brings more than 15 years of experience working at the intersection of science and policy to improve the conservation and management of natural resources. She has expertise in workshop design and facilitation, project and program management, translating and synthesizing complex science information into a variety of products, and communicating climate impacts, adaptation, and mitigation to diverse audiences.

Jessi earned a master’s degree in marine science and policy from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. After completing her master's, Jessi worked as a program coordinator for a non-profit, helping organizations, agencies, and communities engage in climate adaptation planning and implementation. Prior to joining Oregon Sea Grant, Jessi coordinated water and climate initiatives for the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), a state grant-making agency. Other previous experience includes designing a monitoring framework and identifying indicators to track the implementation and effectiveness of the Puget Sound Partnership’s Strategic Science Plan.


Sheryl Powell, Fiscal Officer

Sheryl Powell brings years of institutional finance and accounting knowledge to her role as Oregon Sea Grant's fiscal officer. She has been with Oregon State University since 2010 as the Finance and Accounting Manager with the Agricultural Sciences and Marine Sciences Business Center. Prior to joining Oregon State University, Sheryl was at the University of Oregon for 11 years, first as the department accountant for English and Folklore, and later as the Grants Financial Manager in the Office of Research Services and Administration. Sheryl holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Oregon, has been a Certified Research Administrator (CRA) since 2009, and previously held an Oregon tax license for 20 years.


Tracy Crews, Associate Director of Education

Tracy Crews has led the Oregon Sea Grant Marine Education Program at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center for the past 15 years. As the Oregon Sea Grant Associate Director of Education, she currently oversees the Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center and associated public and youth programs and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, which supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs for teachers and students in communities along the entire Oregon Coast. Tracy also facilitates STEM at Sea research experiences for students aboard OSU research vessels, serves as an education lead for the Regional Class Research Vessel Project, and provides leadership for the Oregon Chapter of the Marine Technology Society.

Advisory Council

Oregon Sea Grant's citizen advisory council helps ensure that research and outreach programs address the needs and priorities of Oregon's ocean and coastal communities, businesses and policymakers.

Council members are drawn from the private sector, community groups, local government, resource management agencies, and others with a stake in Oregon's ocean and coasts. They serve without pay and meet periodically to help set program priorities, review research proposals and advise the program's leadership. Members and former members of the advisory council also act as advocates for Oregon Sea Grant under a variety of circumstances.

Current advisory council members are:

  • Anne Berblinger, Portland, OR. Retired, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration; small farm owner

  • Deanna Caracciolo, Salem, OR. Rocky Shores Coordinator, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development

  • Dr. Caren Braby, Newport, OR. Manager of the Marine Resources Program at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

  • Jeremy Childress, Salem, OR. President/CEO of the Sexton Corporation

  • Mike Graybill, Coos Bay, OR. Former manager of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

  • Trish Mace, Coos Bay, OR. Director of the Charleston Marine Life Center, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (UO)

  • Dr. Christine Moffitt, Coos Bay, OR. Formerly from the University of Idaho and USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

  • Charlie Plybon, Newport, OR. Oregon policy manager for Surfrider