STAFF & BOARD
Meet Our Team
Barbara Schlitt Ford
Barbara Schlitt Ford is a 2nd generation Vero native, an accomplished attorney, educator and organization leader. She grew up appreciating this area as a true paradise. Barbara is a lifelong nature lover. An ideal day might include a swim in the ocean, a boat trip on the lagoon, or a mountain hike to a waterfall. She cares about environmental stewardship and is passionate about living in union with our Earth systems, nature preservation and on finding solutions to our water quality issues in the area. She joined the ELC as Executive Director on April 1, 2019. She strives to maintain a mission-focused, collaborative and uplifting leadership style. She appreciates synergistic commitment and teamwork from staff, board members, volunteers and community partners. She is an optimist who believes that individually we can each make a positive impact, but working together, we can truly create a better future.
Kyle is originally from Guntersville, Alabama, and has always enjoyed being outdoors - camping, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. He moved to South Florida in 2013 after graduating from Auburn University with a BS in Finance. Since then, he has spent the last decade in real estate finance, as a portfolio manager and asset manager, overseeing funds and focusing on process improvement. Combining his financial experience and enthusiasm for water conservation brought him to ELC in 2023.
He and his wife, Amanda, have three amazing children together, Watson, Malia and Gunter (woof). On his days off, you can find him with a fly rod in one hand and his family in the other, finding new fishing spots and exploring nature preserves and botanical gardens South Florida to help inspire new ideas for their backyard.
Operations and Human Resources Manager
Linda joined the ELC staff in November 2021 after relocating from the Northern Virginia area. She spent her years in Fairfax, Virginia working for a local government agency which focused on children’s school readiness and ongoing success. Her work there in the areas of grants management, contracts, strategic planning and educational programming led her to her position as Operations Manager at ELC. As an Ohio native, Linda appreciates the warm Florida climate as well as the many outdoor offerings and opportunities in her new hometown of Vero Beach.
Heidi Leone Royals
Director of Philanthropy
Heidi Leone Royals has dedicated her career to working with nonprofits throughout the country across education, international philanthropy, and healthcare organizations.
Heidi spent her teens and twenties in Vero Beach and moved back in 2020 to marry the love of her life, Wally. She is passionate about animals (especially dogs), nature, flora, and fauna. Heidi is thrilled to be a part of the team at the ELC to help prioritize the preservation of the environmental heart of our community, the Indian River Lagoon. She feels strongly that all need to be educated about this incredible resource so it is not taken for granted.
Heidi enjoys boating, traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family, especially her bonus children, Micah and Hannah, and her Jack Russell Terrier, Fiona.
Marketing & Communications Specialist
Janie is a Vero Beach native, and her family has been in Indian River County since the 1920’s. As Marketing and Communications Specialist here at the ELC, she has the opportunity to support two causes she is enthusiastic about: the environment and education. Janie’s experience includes 20 years with Fortune 500 media companies as an Account Executive and Sales Trainer. She has also worked for a local advertising agency in client services, producing videos and TV shows and event planning. Janie is a graduate of University of Florida School of Journalism with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising. In her leisure time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and volunteering with Team Fox.
Marketing & Events Specialist
Heather returned to the ELC after 10 years away while she raised her son and worked from home consulting various non-profits. She most recently worked in Tourism at the Sebastian Chamber of Commerce. Heather has been a successful manager, copywriter, graphic designer, and event coordinator for over 22 years, and along with her love of nature and positive attitude, brings her creative ideas and synergy to the organization. She holds a Bachelors degree from UCF in Interpersonal/Organizational Communications, minoring in Marketing, and certified in Conflict Management.
In her free time, she enjoys being out on the water; fishing, boating, kayaking, boogieboarding, and beach walking. She is currently working on publishing three children’s picture books, which she wrote while working at home, and is now designing the artwork. She lives in Melbourne Beach with her husband, Matt, who designs swimming pools, her son, Clayton, a sixth grader, their rescue dog, Luna, and Ripple, their pet snake.
Elizabeth (Liz) Yerian
Business Development & Education Liaison
Elizabeth (Liz) Yerian is a seasoned naturalist with over 35 years of experience in Environmental Education, Zookeeping, and Ocean Advocacy. Liz comes to us from the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Center in Key Biscayne, Florida and has worked in the Animal Care and Education Departments of Disney, Cypress Gardens, Sea World and Department of Environmental Protection Agency of Florida.
Liz is a lifelong Floridian in love with its spectacular ecosystems and wildlife. She is an avid reader and has recently published her first book in a Wildlife Warrior series for children called “Rayne’s (Wild!) Life Adventures.”
Senior Environmental Educator
Sara’s relationship with the ELC goes back to 2006. From 2006-2008 Sara helped teach our school programs as a part-time naturalist. In the spring of 2008 she left the ELC to work as a field biologist. She’s worked for The Nature Conservancy, The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the United States Geological Survey on research projects related to restoration ecology, water quality, and foraging and reproduction studies of passerines and water birds. Sara grew up exploring green spaces around Indian River County, as she was raised right here in Vero Beach. Although Sara connected with the natural world from a very early age, her passion for conservation and natural resource management was ignited during her studies at the University of Florida. In 2004, she earned her B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from UF. Additionally, Sara’s received training from the National Geographic Society in Watershed Education. Sara originally joined the education team as a full-time Naturalist. She’s thrilled to expand her relationship with the communities ELC serves and strives to promote a life-long, positive, mutually-rewarding relationship with nature. In her free time she enjoys all things nature, cooking, traveling, live music, crafting natural products, aromatherapy, and spending time with her family.
Meghan is an Indiana native and a transplant to Florida. She grew up with a deep love of nature and as a child she aspired to grow up to be a Marine Biologist. She graduated from Wittenberg University in 2018 with a B.A. in Biology and a Minor in Marine Science. Since graduating Meghan has worked in environmental education in positions with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Smithsonian Marine Ecosystem Exhibit and most recently Pelican Island Audubon Society. In these positions Meghan has had the joy of combining her passion for the natural world with her love of teaching and encouraging others to explore the amazing habitats in their own back yard. Meghan is thrilled to be a part of the ELC education team where she can works to connect others to the wonders of our natural world.
Environmental Educator and Guest Services
Julia Weinbrecht is a Sebastian native. Her love for the environment began at the ELC on a class field trip and was strengthened by the environment-focused culture of Indian River County, along with the presence of beautiful wildlife. Julia earned her bachelor's degree in Biomathematics and a master's degree in Aquatic Environmental Science at Florida State University (FSU) where she assisted with research on sargassum degradation and became a scientific scuba diver. In 2023, she received her Florida educator certificate, and hopes to inspire the generations of tomorrow in environmental conservation.
On her days off, Julia is usually with a book, playing a video game, or attending local events. She also loves spending time with her dog, Opal, and her family.
Part-Time Environmental Educator
Gian (pronounced John) has lived in Vero Beach since 2006. He taught middle school science at Sebastian Charter Junior High and St. Helen Catholic School, as well as oceanography at Indian River State College. Prior to moving to Florida, Gian was first the education coordinator and then the director of a public aquarium called the SEA Lab located in Redondo Beach, California. He has a Masters degree in Marine Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and two Bachelor degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. All of his favorite things to do involve water- whether it be fishing with his son in the Indian River Lagoon, fossil hunting with his daughter in Peace River, snorkeling with his wife in the Florida Keys and even running on the beach with his water-loving pooch. Gian helps lead Lagoon Academy, a weekly program that is part of a monthly thematic module for homeschool students.
Part-Time Environmental Educator
Sharon moved to Brevard County, Florida in 1984 and earned a B.S. in Biology from UCF. She was employed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and operated an environmental consulting business. Prior to retirement, she spent several years working for the Army Corps of Engineers in Planning and Policy on Everglades and Kissimmee River Restoration, Okeechobee Waterway recreation, manatee protection systems, sustainability and regulatory compliance. During her career, she was fortunate to conduct research on manatees, birds, horned lizards and turtles, on renewable energy development, sustainability, and as the Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve Manager. Sharon joined the ELC staff in 2021. She is grateful for opportunities to engage the community in stewardship activities benefitting the Indian River Lagoon and its diverse wildlife. Sharon enjoys spending time on art projects with her husband, boating, watersports and just being outdoors in Indian River County.
Laura Hersh Harris
Part-Time Environmental Educator
Laura has been a Nature Mentor and Outdoor Educator with a variety of organizations throughout Washington, California, New York, Maine , Illinois, and Vermont since 2000. In addition, she has directed and instructed in multiple nature-based homeschool co-ops and organizations and has been a Teacher's Assistant at a Montessori school. When she is not mentoring she enjoys exploring Florida's natural wonders with her husband Brian, photography, playing guitar, practicing friction fire, riding bikes, playing guitar, and creating her own Results Coaching Business based on the work of Tony Robbins and Cloe Madanes.
Laura has earned her B.A. from Evergreen State College in Washington focusing on Community and Education as well as an A.A.S. in Graphic Design and Marketing and an A.A. S in Ornamental Horticulture. She is a graduate of the Wilderness Awareness School Immersion and Apprenticeship Program.
Laura helps lead the ELC's Little Wonders Nature Playgroup for toddlers and helps facilitate leadership and team-building exercises for community groups.
Brent is a graduate of Ohio University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. While there, he was selected for an internship with the National Aquarium in Baltimore and began his career in saltwater aquariums. He spent five years at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, Texas, starting as an aquarist, and then transitioning to a marine mammal trainer. He then started his own aquarium maintenance company specializing in coral reef aquarium design and care. More recently, he has been working in aquaculture, where he has been raising numerous varieties of exotic and local fish species. In his spare time, Brent enjoys fishing, swimming, volleyball, and spending time with family. Brent is looking forward to sharing his love of our local eco-systems with ELC visitors and works hard to ensure that our aquaria are top-notch.
One of Adam's 1st memories is of a huge school of fish he saw swimming off a dock in Alaska at age 3. Since this moment, there is not a body of water he passes without looking for fish and other critters! Adam spent much of his early years caring for a mini-zoo both in and out of his childhood home. Here he had large salt water tanks, made a huge frog terrarium (that he slept on top of), bred Macaws and started his 1st business at age 8, breeding and selling rare bantam show chickens and mini holland lop rabbits. Adam was related to the founders of the Austin Zoo and grew up spending some summers working there. Moving into his adult years, he was lucky to have worked at a greenhouse with Leo Chance, a renowned botanist who taught Adam all about rare plants and how to care for them. Adam chose to study Animal Science and Husbandry as well as Zoology in College and got to work with Animals at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. He also studied Art and Business, areas that crossed over nicely to his time working at The Denver Aquarium as he became a Swiss army knife of sorts, helping with and initiating a broad range of projects. Adam also used his artistic background to create the Quarters for Conservation sculpture for the Greenville Zoo and helped with one for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, both very successful projects to this day raising money for conservation. Adam took his passion for animals abroad on multiple occasions, helping remote villages in Fiji improve fresh water stream health to increase prawn and eel populations, working at a sea turtle refuge in Costa Rica and doing beach clean-ups in Mexico to improve shore bird health. Adam is also dedicated to conservation education and uses every opportunity to promote and advocate for the environment and the critters that live in it! Adam assists Brent with aquaria care, helps with signage, and offers nature-based art programs for all ages through the ELC.
Volunteer Coordinator and Guest Services
Karen is a Florida native with a passion for food, community and the natural world that surrounds us all. She graduated from Vero Beach High school in 2006 and started a family right away. Being a wife and mother are her two greatest accomplishments in life!
She traveled Central America with her husband and two children from 2010-2020 and were immersed in different climates, environments, culinary styles, and cultures. Experiencing different elements of life and the beautiful flora and fauna ignited a deep appreciation for nature and a desire to protect it. Karen is grateful to be a part of the ELC team where she can grow and learn even more about Florida’s environment.
Karen works as Guest Services Specialist at the Front Desk and is also our ELC Volunteer Coordinator.
Marc has been a member of the ELC since 2018 and joined the team in 2021. He studied philosophy at the University of Stuttgart, Germany, where he also worked in customer service and administration at the Stuttgart Ballet for seven years. From a very young age he was active with various environmental organizations and their efforts to protect and preserve wild spaces. Upon moving to Florida he developed an avid interest in Florida native plants and landscaping for wildlife, which led to him working in native plant cultivation, landscape design, and habitat restoration.
Whenever Marc is not at the ELC campus, you can most likely find him hiking through conservation areas with his family and climbing trees with his son. Marc takes care of the entire campus and is in charge of ELC's Native Plant Nursery as well as our canoe, kayak, & SUP programs. He often leads native plant walks and paddling excursions and is a wealth of knowledge on all things involving our local ecosystems.
Part-Time Facilities Consultant
Ray was born in South Africa and lived in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and worked as an electrician until he moved to the US in 1980 with his wife. Ray continued working as an electrician until 2005 when he started his own business, Ray’s Home Improvements, where he remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. After retiring in 2015, Ray moved to Florida and volunteered with numerous organizations including ELC where he helped in the maintenance department and became an employee shortly after.
Boat Captain & Facilities Assistant
Phil joined the ELC in September of 2018. Phil was born and raised in New York City. He left the northeast for Florida in 1989 when his snow shovel broke. Phil is a life long fisherman and boater. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100 Ton Master License. In his previous career, he was a 41 year veteran of the auto repair industry and felt it was time for a change that would bring him closer to nature and the water. When not at the ELC, he likes spending time with family, fishing, boating, traveling and building custom fishing rods. Phil is our ELC lead boat captain and assists with Facilities when not our on the water.
Part-Time Boat Captain
Dave was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up on Long Island in NY. Dave retired in 2018 and moved to Vero Beach to enjoy the sun and boating all year. On Long Island, Dave owned many different boats, some as large as 40 feet and always enjoyed boating.
Starting his career as a computer programmer, Dave used to fly on and off US Navy aircraft carriers to work on their computer systems as a civilian. Dave has been around boats and always loved the water. After 37 years of large computer system design work, Dave retired and took up tennis, golf, fishing, boating and enjoying Florida.
After he retired, he looked for something else he can do and decided to pursue his USCG 100ton Master Captain's license. After achieving that goal, Dave sought work and found it in his own backyard. Dave totally enjoys his role as a part-time Captain at the ELC and loves to see the smiling faces of the people when they exit his boat.
Part-Time Boat Captain
ELC Board of Directors
Tyler G. Puttick
Susan van der Stricht
Barbara Schlitt Ford
ELC Foundation Board
John L. Daniels
Donald E. Barr
Barbara Schlitt Ford, Ex Officio