Fellows, Volunteers, and Interns
Board of Directors
Melissa Hamilton, President, moved to Sitka, Alaska in 2005 and fell in love with the beautiful scenery and the people here. She is a bookkeeper by training with a background in science, which is to have a head for finances, a heart for conservation and sustainability, and the passion for both. Melissa believes it is a privilege to be able to live in Southeast Alaska and to be able to connect with her environment in some way on a daily basis. She is excited to make a difference by being a part of the mission and efforts of SCS in a significant way. Melissa joined the SCS board in 2015.
Steve Fish, Vice President, left the San Francisco Bay area and rode the Alaskan ferry Malaspina to Petersburg in 1974 at the age of 19. Somehow, he ended up buying a plywood, gas powered boat the following year and soon after caught his first halibut despite knowing nothing about halibut fishing, and little enough about anything else. Well, life should be an adventure. The greatest adventure for Steve has been trying to be a good husband, father, and person. Steve met Kari Johnson in Petersburg. They then moved to Port Alexander and, finally, to Sitka in 1991. They have three children: Lexi, Eva and Erikson. Steve served on the board of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council including two years as Chair. He is currently president of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. He has been on the SCS board since 2010.
Debra Brushafer, Treasurer, moved to Sitka AK in 1992. She has worked as a family practice physician since her arrival in Sitka. She is an avid outdoors person. She enjoys kayaking, hiking, camping, and boating to explore the beautiful Tongass with her family and friends. Her husband, children, and she regularly subsistence hunt, fish, and gather. She believe in preserving the Tongass for future generations. Debra joined the SCS Board in 2015.
Mariah Leeseberg, Secretary, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005 and majored in Wildlife Ecology. Following graduation she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar for two years. She has since worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a technician and biologist, with the US Geological Survey, and with Alaska Department of Fish and Game. She currently works at Sitka National Historical Park with the National Park Service. Mariah loves spending time with her family, especially on the water, or roaming the Tongass National Forest.
Spencer Severson, is a commercial diver, carpenter, global sailor. He used to dive for herring roe in Prince William Sound until the Exxon Valdez spill ruined the fishery. But according to Spencer, “only the foolish indulge in despair." He says, "I’ve been blessed with an occupation and friends I love and a struggle we must win to save and protect the home we all love. Don’t give up the fight.” He has been on the SCS Board since 2003.
Judith Lehmann, grew up on a lake and in the woods in Minnesota. At an early age she began fishing, picking blue berries, making maple syrup, eating local game, and running wild in the woods. After graduating from college Judi began a 25-year career in retail management. She raised two daughters, traveled throughout the world, and began ultra-cycling. Following her retirement, she moved to Sitka to be closer to her family. Judi’s childhood and background has contributed to her deep respect for the environment; she wishes to preserve wild areas for her grandchildren, and others. She enjoys the challenge of living in Southeast Alaska, and looks forward to using her knowledge of management and experience in international travel to support community sustainability and to further the goals of SCS. Judi has been on the board since 2013.
Richard Nelson (Nels) is a subsistence hunter, fisher, and gather; an anthropologist; and former writer laureate of Alaska. His books include The Island Within, Make Prayers to the Raven, and Heart and Blood: Living with Deer in America. He is also the Producer of Encounters, a public radio program exploring wild Alaska and broadcast on stations throughout the state. Nels says that, “Volunteering for conservation is my way to give something back, in return for the pleasures and rewards that come to us from this beautiful place. Involvement with the Sitka Conservation Society has been an important part of my life for many years. We are a local group with a national constituency, working with people all over America to protect one of the world’s great natural treasures. I hope everyone who cares about the wild coast of Alaska and the Tongass National Forest will consider joining SCS in this vital effort.” Nels has been on the SCS board since 1983. Click here for more on Richard Nelson.
Jasmine Shaw grew up in Long Beach, CA, and currently works for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. She first arrived in Sitka in 2010 and immediately fell in love with the community and the surrounding environment. Within the first few weeks of her arrival, she sought out volunteer opportunities with Sitka Conservation Society. Jasmine has been a board member since 2013.
Marian Allen is a longtime Southeast resident and former fisherwoman. She is currently an English teacher and a serious sockeye slayer. She has been a board member since 2006.
Keith Nyitray grew up east of NYC and has a degree in Environmental Resources Management. He came to Alaska in 1979 to climb Denali and stayed. After many years of adventuring around the state he finally settled in Sitka in 1998. His interest in protecting the environment was instilled in him at an early age as he grew up with the then fledgling Environmental Defense Fund fighting to ban DDT nationwide. In his teens, Keith went “out west” through the Student Conservation Association and discovered his love for the wilderness. Over the years he has lobbied in DC and given presentations across the country on the need to protect both the Tongass National Forest and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He now looks forward working with everyone at SCS to protect the land and the way of life he loves so much.