The Channelkeeper crew is a super smart, savvy team of individuals who work together to achieve a common goal we’re deeply passionate about – clean water.
Penny Owens, Education & Community Outreach Director
Penny Owens has led Channelkeeper’s education programs since she joined our team in 2004. She also manages Channelkeeper’s single-use plastic reduction initiative and our MPA Watch program. Prior to her work with Channelkeeper, Penny worked as an educator for several organizations and as a research diver in California’s kelp forests. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from UC Santa Cruz. Penny’s knowledge of marine and coastal ecosystems is a natural complement to her diverse field experiences in environmental education. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors in the ocean, mountains, or among plants.
Ben Pitterle, Science & Policy Director
Ben Pitterle is Channelkeeper’s Interim Executive Director and former Science & Policy Director. Since 2006, Ben has supported Channelkeeper’s mission by developing and managing water quality monitoring programs, directing advocacy campaigns, and managing litigation and enforcement initiatives. Before joining Channelkeeper, Ben worked in the hazardous waste management and environmental remediation fields. He earned a Masters in Environmental Science and Management from UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School and a BS in Environmental Science from UC Riverside.
Molly Troup, Science & Policy Associate
Molly Troup joined the Channelkeeper crew in 2018. She assists with the development and implementation of Channelkeeper’s advocacy, monitoring, public education, and outreach activities. Molly has a Master’s in Environmental Science and Management from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, a background in coastal planning, and a fierce drive to inspire new environmental stewards through her work at Channelkeeper. When she’s not in our creeks taking water samples or giving public testimony at hearings, Molly is out trail running in the mountains or paddle boarding along the coast.
Debra McCarty, Development Director
Debra brings a wealth of experience to Channelkeeper from her prior posts as Development Director of the Carpinteria Education Foundation and Executive Officer of the California Avocado Festival, as well as her background in ocean science with a BS in Marine Biology from San Diego State University. Since moving to California in 1990, Debra has taught science at ecological reserves, volunteered for many environmental organizations, tracked animals with PhD candidates, and worked on CalCOFI vessels, all with commitment to protect the beautiful natural environment that Californians are blessed to enjoy. When not raising funds to support Channelkeeper’s impactful programs, Debra can be found trail running, surfing, and spending time with her husband and two sons.
Laura Sanchez, Communications Director
Laura is an accomplished communications professional who has led global marketing and communications teams in the renewable energy sector. As the former editor of Water Efficiency and Distributed Energy magazines, she has written extensively about water quality and resource conservation issues. She brings an abundance of strategic leadership, content development, and public relations expertise to support our communications initiatives. Laura earned her bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in Vermont and began her editorial career in Copenhagen, Denmark. A multi-generation Carpinterian, Laura grew up hopping rocks in Rincon Creek and playing in the waves at Padaro Beach. Laura is excited to use her communications expertise to advocate for clean water and to benefit our local community.
Board of Directors
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper has a dedicated and diverse Board of Directors with a wide range of professional backgrounds, including finance, law, business, real estate, marketing, non-profit management, fundraising, and science. They volunteer their time and expertise and provide significant financial support to the organization.
President, Principal Electrical Engineer, Zebra Technologies
Vice President, Retired
Secretary, Attorney (retired)
Filmmaker and Writer
Vice President of Development, Planned Parenthood
Founder & Principal, Newton Geo-Hydrology Consulting Services
Senior Federal Government Fish and Wildlife Biologist
Owner, The Shopkeepers
Conservation Manager, Land Trust of Santa Barbara County
Realtor, Coldwell Banker Previews International
In addition to our Board of Directors, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper also has an Advisory Council which provides technical expertise, advice, recommendations and support to the Board of Directors, assists with fundraising, facilitates connections to key organizations and individuals, and serves as ambassadors for Channelkeeper in the community. Most of our Advisory Council members are former members of our Board of Directors.
Attorney, Land Trust for Santa Barbara County (retired)
Michael S. Brown
Principal, Brown & Wilmanns Environmental Consulting
Professor, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University
CEO, Douglas, Emmett & Co
Educator and Naturalist, Channel Islands Naturalist Corps
Dean, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California Santa Barbara
Boat Builder and Philanthropist
Creative Design Consultant
Professor, UCSB Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (retired)
Professor, UCSB Bren School of Environmental
Science and Management