Council staff

Meet the staff

Council staff support the Council by providing information for management decisions, informing the public about Council activities, helping the public participate in the process, coordinating the process and meetings, creating fishery management documents, and assisting advisory groups.

Executive staff

Merrick Burden

As Executive Director, Merrick is responsible for overseeing all operations of the Pacific Council, including fishery management matters, fiscal issues, administration, and he works closely with Council members to set direction and priorities. Merrick has a diverse career in fisheries issues that spans work on multiple aspects of fisheries management, ranging from climate change matters to community development to stock rebuilding, and more. This has included work in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific Islands, and several regions of the U.S. – including an earlier tenure with the PFMC during the development of the trawl rationalization program.

Mr. Burden has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Linfield College and a master’s degree in Environmental and Resource Economics from Oregon State University. His career has included a prior tenure with a U.S. based conservation organization, as the former Executive Director for a large seafood interest group focused on fisheries off Alaska, as a Groundfish Staff Officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council, as an Industry Economist for the National Marine Fisheries Service, as an analyst for Northern Economics, Inc., and as a commercial fisherman off the coast of Alaska.

Little known fact: Merrick has never had a cavity and plans to keep it that way.

Kelly Ames

Kelly is the Deputy Director responsible for aligning staff and financial resources to achieve the Council’s priorities. Kelly has over 20 years of experience developing and implementing fisheries policy and management programs for commercial and recreational fisheries off the West Coast and Alaska. Prior to joining the Council, she was employed as a Groundfish and Halibut Staff Officer at the Pacific Council, Operations and Policy Branch Chief with the West Coast Region, Fisheries Program Leader at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and as the Stock Assessment Survey Coordinator at the International Pacific Halibut Commission.  She has a master’s degree in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management and a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Little known fact: Kelly got hooked on fishery management after responding to a job announcement seeking a “biologist with a sense of adventure.”

A woman in a purple shirt poses outdoors, smiling for the camera

Patricia Hearing

Patricia is the Administrative Officer for the council staff. She performs a variety of accounting duties and a range of budget preparation and analysis in support of the Council’s fiscal responsibilities. She has a Bachelors Degree in Business Management from Eastern Oregon University. Her background includes accounting for non-profits in Maine, Oregon and California.

Little known fact: Patricia was a lifeguard in high school.

Staff officers

Marlene A. Bellman

Marlene is the staff officer responsible for supporting the Scientific and Statistical Committee, groundfish issues, and providing analytical documents for Council consideration.  She has been working with West Coast fisheries for over 20 years.  Prior to the Council, Marlene worked with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission where she played a lead role in salmon modeling and served on several technical committees of the Pacific Salmon Commission.  She previously worked for NOAA Fisheries as a research fishery biologist for US west coast groundfish observer programs, conducting scientific analyses and publishing data products and reports.  Marlene’s early work included marine spatial GIS analyses, including commercial fishery patterns and seafloor mapping.  Her work history includes positions at Oregon Sea Grant, a large animal veterinary teaching facility, several WA state agencies in field biology and laboratories, as a park ranger, and running a greenhouse.  She completed her graduate education in Fisheries Science at Oregon State University and BS degree at The Evergreen State College.

Little known fact:  Marlene grew up in rural Minnesota but has sailed Pacific Northwest coastal waters since the mid-90’s and lived aboard boats for over a decade.

Katrina Bernaus

Katrina Bernaus

Katrina is a Staff Officer with the Council. She holds a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Conservation from the University of British Columbia and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University. Katrina got her start working in fisheries as a dockside observer for groundfish in British Columbia. She has also worked on updating seafood sustainability assessments for Pacific salmon with Ha’oom Fisheries Society and the non-profit group Ocean Wise. 

Little known fact:  Katrina spent two summers leading kayak and paddle boarding tours in Vancouver, Canada.

A man in a black Hawaiian shirt smiles at the camera

Christopher “Kit” Dahl

Kit is the staff officer in charge of the National Environmental Policy Act process and highly migratory species. Kit also works on other staff officer assignments and projects. Kit has an extensive background in fisheries management, including work with the Western Pacific Council in Hawaii.

Little known fact: Kit once dined on yak stomach while trekking in Nepal.

Jessi Doerpinghaus

Jessi Doerpinghaus is a staff officer for groundfish and coastal pelagic species (CPS) and currently staffs the CPS management team and advisory subpanel.  She previously served as a member of the Groundfish Management Team for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife before joining the Council staff in 2022.  Prior to her Council work, Jessi graduated from Texas A&M with a B.S. in Marine Biology and the Bren School at UC-Santa Barbara with a Masters of Environmental Science and Management. It was at Bren that her passion for marine biology connected with the concepts of fisheries policy and management as her thesis project led her to work on an issue from her own Texas backyard- the recreational allocations of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery. 

Little known fact: Jessi is a certified Crossfit and USAW weightlifting coach.

A woman in a white teeshirt and jeans stands smiling in front of a classic green sportscar

Robin Ehlke

Robin is the staff officer responsible for salmon fishery management and handling Pacific halibut issues.  Robin staffs the Salmon Technical Team, the Salmon Advisory Subpanel, the Model Evaluation workgroup.  She is a Washington State native; born and raised in Vancouver, Washington. Robin attended Clark Community College and Portland State University to earn her Bachelors degree.  Prior to joining the Council, she worked at Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for 16 years. While there most of her work focused on Columbia River salmon fisheries, but also included sturgeon, smelt and Chum salmon research, stream surveys, commercial sampling and creel checks.  

Little known fact:  Robin is a big fan of American classic cars.

Angela Forristall

Angela is a staff officer working on the Salmon Fishery Management Plan. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, but has experience in fisheries management from across the country. Before joining the Pacific Council, she worked on the Groundfish Management Plan at the New England Council and as a SeaGrant fellow with the North Pacific Council. Angela earned her B.S. in Marine Biology from Seattle University and Masters in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington. 

Little known fact: Angela was an aspiring nature photographer as a young child. To this day, she has a collection of fuzzy rabbit photos that may yet make their National Geographic debut.

A man wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses holds up a sportfish

Kerry Griffin

Kerry staffs the Habitat Committee and the Ad Hoc Marine Planning Committee, working on a variety of issues including offshore wind energy, aquaculture, marine sanctuaries, and essential fish habitat periodic reviews. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s Degree in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University, where he studied marine fisheries management and aquaculture. Prior to coming to the Council, he worked nine years with NMFS on a variety of habitat issues such hydropower, fish passage, gravel extraction, essential fish habitat, and habitat restoration.

Little known fact: Kerry plays bluegrass fiddle and is a founding member of the P-Star All Stars, the PFMC house band.

Gilly Lyons

Gilly is the staff officer responsible for leading Council initiatives related to climate change resilience. Prior to joining the Council staff, she worked on marine conservation, fisheries policy, natural climate solutions, and Pacific Northwest salmon recovery for both national and regional nonprofit organizations. Gilly received her M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana.

Little known fact: In college, Gilly was a DJ at her campus radio station where she started out hosting the 2AM to 5AM timeslot.

A man wearing glasses and a black shirt smiles for the camera

Todd Phillips

Todd is the staff officer responsible for staffing groundfish management issues. Todd has degrees in marine biology and zoology, along with graduate work in population genetics of lingcod, from Humboldt State University. He started with the Council in 2018 following a diverse career in fisheries; ranging from being a long-time domestic fishery observer in Alaska, the West Coast, and Hawaii  to leading a stakeholder driven charter for-hire fishery electronic reporting program in the Gulf of Mexico.

Little known fact: Todd grew up working in a bakery and remains very enthusiastic about bread and all things related to fermentation.

Information Technology

A man wearing a Washington Cougars hat and sweatshirt smiles for the camera

Kris Kleinschmidt

Kris is the IT Program & Logistics Manager for the Council. He is responsible for all aspects of the Council’s computer infrastructure, cloud systems, network administration and management, computer support services, website construction and maintenance, and a variety of other technical support functions. Kris graduated from the Edward R. Murrow school of Communication, at Washington State University, Pullman. GO COUGS!

Little known fact: During his travels, Kris has snowboarded in the Swiss Alps, rode a Harley Davidson around the Big Island of Hawaii, and visited “The Top of the World” at the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland.

Hayden York

Hayden is the Technical Operations Specialist for the Council. He is responsible for computer support services, website maintenance, operational logistics and a variety of other technical support functions. Hayden received his education from Seattle Pacific University, graduating with a degree in English Literature, as well as a certificate of Secondary Education.

Little known fact: Hayden is a devoted chess fan, and always keeps a travel set in his car to play at a moment’s notice.

Administrative Staff

A woman in a knitted hat poses, smiling, with a baby in a the snow

Kimberly Ambert

Kimberly serves part-time as an Administrative Specialist for the Council staff. She is responsible for document production and distribution functions, as well as other administrative activities. She graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Liberal Studies and an emphasis in pre-Elementary Education. She has two little boys to chase after, enjoys writing and doing Barre3 in her spare time, and is having fun slowly playing interior decorator at home.

Little known fact: Despite growing up in Bend she does not ski or snowboard, but will always be a sun-seeker.

A woman in a red shirt sits on a rock at the beach, smiling with her dog

Amy L’Manian

Amy is an Administrative Specialist with the Council. She assists with document production and distribution and other administrative duties. She graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in Geography. She enjoys reading crime novels, watching paranormal TV shows, and spending time with her kids and crazy basset hound.  

Little Known Fact: Amy is left-handed but also cross-dominant. 

Samantha Holland

Samantha works as the event planner, coordinating Council Meetings with hotels. After decades supporting non-profit conferences, she recently spent several years as a travel and personal finance content creator. She enjoys the arts, exploring nature, and weekly pub trivia with family and friends.

Little Known Fact: Recently, Sam visited every Disneyland in the world in one year (there are twelve parks in six locations—Shanghai is the best).