Meet the VSI Team

Lane McDonald

Founding Director of Vermilion Sea Institute

Lane has a double master’s degree from UCLA and was a college biology instructor for thirty-eight years specializing in marine biology and human ecology. He has created and taught field programs in Baja California since the early 1970s, and has also taken classes to the Virgin Islands, Tahiti, the Fiji Islands, New Zealand, and tropical Australia.

Rafael Galvan Villavicencio

Rafael is a holistic wellness practitioner specializing in healthy lifestyle changes and naturopathic treatments. Rafael’s family has lived at Rancho San Gregorio for over a century where he now operates a holistic wellness clinic. He learned the art of healing from his grandmother, a curandera (medicine woman) and again later in formal training.

Meghann McDonald

Executive Director of Vermilion Sea Institute

Meghann McDonald is a marine ecologist and educator leading place-based field science courses in Mexico and Australia. She is an avid scientific diver and SCUBA instructor. As the Executive Director of the Vermilion Sea Institute, Meghann strives to build partnerships and cross-cultural connections that aim to protect and enhance the Sea of Cortez ecosystems while expanding programming at the Vermilion Sea Field Station and San Gregorio Ranch.

Education: She graduated with her bachelors from the University of California – Monterey Bay and earned her Masters in Zoology through Miami University’s Global Field Program

Rafael (Lalo) E. Galván Aviña

Field Experience Engineer

Rafael’s childhood was extraordinary. Spent exploring the urban hillsides around his family’s home in Tijuana, then traversing the ridges surrounding his ancestor’s historic rancho (Rancho San Gregorio), and spending his summers with the first Earth Expeditions in Baja.  As a young adult, Rafael honed his talents and passion into a practice of architecture and civil engineering. Despite successes in his field, Rafael has created an amazing brand that he start in 2016 as a hashtag and now growing as a brand by the name of “Born To Baja”.

Alejandro Galvan Aviña

Ecotourism Specialist

A Baja California native, Alex has been immersed in the natural history programs since childhood.  For the past seven years, he has worked primarily with international tourists throughout Mexico including Mexico City and Xcaret, Cancun.  His pride and joy for all things Mexican are exemplified by his online personality, “Enano Adventures.” As “Enano,” Alex has exclaimed the beauty and accessibility of Mexican culture, artifacts, and experiences to his thousands of followers for the past three years. VSI consistently benefits from Alex’s positivity, insight, artistic prowess, and his persistent search for new and meaningful experiences.

Education: Tourism Management, UABC Facultad de Turismo y Mercadotecnia, 2017

Brendan McGrath

Hospitality Specialist

Brendan returns to VSI for his second year following an extensive career in hospitality and a lifetime of outdoor adventures.  He was trained to be a chef at a young age at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park and later attained a degree in Hotel Management from UNLV, concurrently working as a freelance personal assistant and caterer to TV and movie productions as well as touring bands and live events.  As a chef, Brendan spent a decade in San Diego developing and executing his menus in both cutting edge and rustic kitchens. 

Katie Dell

Community Outreach Coordinator

Katie Dell is a middle school science teacher and department chair for Baltimore County Public Schools. She also works with Miami University as a Community Learning Leader so she can spend her summers reconnecting to her favorite place- Baja! Her academic research focuses on racial and gender equity in science and environmental education. She is a certified lifeguard, open water diver and has received extensive training in first aid, CPR, and wilderness first aid. Katie spends her free time outside with family, friends and her pit bull mix, Luna, hiking, kayaking, and taking pictures in the Great Outdoors. Katie is often the author behind our Facebook feed. She leads field courses for VSI and works as our Community Outreach Coordinator.

Education: Katie received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Towson University and her Master’s degree in Biology from Miami University through the Global Field Program.

Angela Yeager

Community Development Specialist

Hailing from Ohio, Angela has been joining and leading trips to Bahia de los Angeles since 2011.  Her passion is connecting others with nature and she leads hundreds of people on forest adventures in Ohio each season. She enjoys traveling and has two young children who now join her on adventures! She loves to make learning fun and hands-on using inquiry and exploration. Angela is trained in Red Cross First Aid/CPR, is a trauma-informed educator and is an Outdoor Skills trained Girl Scout leader.

Education: University of Miami: Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology & Miami University: Master’s degree from the Global Field Program. Ohio Teaching License: 7-12 Life Sciences

Robyn Johnson

Field Leader

Robyn is a tree-hugging, pun-loving California native. She currently resides in Orlando living a life inspired by her favorite childhood movie, The Lion King. Robyn has joined or led Stars to Sea trips since its inception in 2015. Formerly a competitive swimmer with lifeguarding certifications, Robyn has current CPR/AED training from the American Heart Association. 

Education: BS in Agroecology & Animal Science from The University of British Columbia & MA in Zoology (Project Dragonfly) from Miami University

Josh Wiseman

Field Leader

Born and raised in the heart of the Bluegrass State, Josh spent the last several years traveling much of the East Coast for various jobs. He now resides in Nashville, Tennessee, working as an Outreach Keeper at the Nashville Zoo. Since his first expedition to Baja in 2015, Josh has played the role of student, participant, support staff, and now trip leader. He looks forward to growing his Baja family this summer, and hopes to continue spreading his love for the wonderful people and creatures that call the Sea of Cortez home. Josh is CPR and First Aid certified.

Education: Western Kentucky University: Bachelor’s Degree in Biology w/ concentration in Zoology  

Cole Basar

Field Leader

After coming to Baja for the first time and experiencing its magic, Cole decided to quit his job as a science teacher, grow a beard, and pursue his passions of wildlife conservation and education. He is very happy with this decision and plans to make many more like it. When he’s not dreaming about whale sharks and citizen science in Baja, Cole bounces back and forth between Hawaii and Orcas Island as a charter captain, marine naturalist and outdoor educator. Whether it’s the issues affecting the orca whales in the San Juans or humpback whales in Maui, Cole acts as an ocean ambassador and wildlife advocate by educating passengers through meaningful experiences on the water. He is a North Shore Certified Lifeguard, as well as CPR and First Aid certified. Fair warning, he learned CPR in France.

Education: Arizona State University: Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education Earth & Space Science  In progress: Harvard University: Master’s in Sustainability & University of Miami of Ohio: Master’s in Conservation Biology

Kristi Brown

Field Leader

Kristi is a high school science teacher, with 14 year of experience educating young people. She enjoys working with students, building a foundation of science techniques, content and introductory principles. Kristi loves working with kids in and out of the classroom. She has extensive experience leading students on expeditions abroad. Kristi has traveled through 19 countries. Her first trip to Baja was in 2011, she has been actively participating in programs with VSI for the last 5 years, leading CampOceano and high school programs. She has current CPR and first aid certification.

Education: BS Biology Emphasis Zoology, Boise State University & MA Zoology, Miami University

Mallory Peebles

Field Leader

Mallory has always had a passion for animals, more so for ground dwelling mammals. But after partaking in the Stars to Sea program back in 2017, her love for marine wildlife grew tenfold. When she’s not enjoying the sights of Baja, Mallory resides in Los Angeles, California, working as an animal care professional at the Los Angeles Zoo as a hoofstock keeper. Mallory looks forward to this trip every year; to reconnect with nature and share the love of the sea with new and returning participants. She is CPR/First Aid certified. She’s traveled to over 15 countries and recently spent a month in the Philippines working on a reintroduction conservation program on the Visayan warty pigs. If she’s not doing something with animals, she can usually be found singing or dancing. So be prepared for a possible karaoke or dance party!

Education: BS in animal science/ pre-vet with a minor in zoology from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

Shelby Brose

Field Leader

Shelby is an interpretive environmental and humane education guru. When she’s not rocking a massive sun burn and ear-to-ear smile in beautiful Baja, she’s managing education programs at the Arizona Humane Society aimed at enriching the lives of both pets and people in her community. Shelby is passionate about connecting people, especially youth, with nature. She has received frequent opportunity to facilitate these connections through her 10 years at the Phoenix Zoo where she (also) currently works evenings introducing groups of kiddos to the wonder of the natural world. Shelby has current CPR and first aid certification for both pets and people- she promises to double check what species she’s working with before administering any assistance.   A life-long learner, Shelby considers her career path her classroom, and utilizes each opportunity afforded to her to the fullest extent.

Benjamin Brose

Field Leader

Being the youngest of a set of triplets, Benjamin has developed his “loud” abilities in a number of ways. Loud in his laughter, positive energy, team support, creative thinking, and passion towards our natural world. When not spending his time as an educator inspiring others about aquatic life at OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale, Arizona, you can find him near any water he can locate fishing to his hearts’ content.  A variety of “side passions” like dinosaurs, and his brother-run production company, Brose Brothers’ Productions, keep him distracted from the daily grind.  Ben is First Aid and CPR certified and also happy to boost the morale and confidence of everyone (mental health is important too)!

MJ Munsey

Field Leader

MJ joins us from corporate world with an extensive background in sales and customer relations. She is currently pursuing her degree in Learning, Literacy, and Leadership at the University of Arizona while simultaneously following whales between the islands of Hawai’i and San Juan with her partner, Cole. In her free time you can find her diving the reefs of Maui, hiking into the abyss of Haleakalā,, or snowboarding in Purgatory. She’s an avid outdoors(wo)man, baker, gym-goer, and animal enthusiast. If you’re in need of CPR she’s got you covered, as long as you’re on her good side…you can bribe your way there by offering her street tacos, pie, or one-on-one time with a dog. 

Education: Bachelor’s of Science in Learning, Literacy, and Leadership.