Leadership Team
Bern Johnson, Executive Director

Bern Johnson
Executive Director
Bern directs the work of ELAW and develops initiatives to protect the environment through law and science. Bern was the first Staff Attorney at ELAW before assuming the position of Executive Director in 1993. His work to protect the environment has taken him to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the South Pacific, Europe, and Central and South America. Prior to joining ELAW, Bern practiced law in Seattle. He was President of the Environmental Law Society at Harvard Law School, where he graduated cum laude. Before attending law school, Bern worked on environmental issues in the U.S. Congress as a Legislative Assistant to Representative James Weaver. The Harvard Law Bulletin, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Grist, Christian Science Monitor, and E Magazine have reported on Bern's work with ELAW.

Lori Maddox, Associate Director

Lori Maddox
Associate Director
Lori helped launch ELAW in 1991. She has traveled to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the South Pacific, and Central and South America to reach out to public interest advocates and help build cross-border collaboration to protect the planet and human rights. Currently, she is most deeply engaged with colleagues in Mexico and Central America, and focused on protecting marine and coastal biodiversity and coordinating ELAW's work to Defend Defenders - fighting back against attempts to chill civil society leaders worldwide. Lori oversees administration and finance at the ELAW Secretariat in Oregon and represents ELAW US on the ELAW Network Group, an advisory body to the global ELAW Network. Lori studied English and Theatre (B.A.) at Hollins University and business at the Katharine Gibbs School. She served 23 years as a Board member of the Western Environmental Law Center, a regional public interest law firm in the Western United States, and now serves on the Board of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which supports resilient community design for diverse communities around the world.

Law Team
Jen Gleason, Staff Attorney

Jennifer Gleason
Law Program Director
Jennifer manages ELAW's Law Program and collaborates with lawyers around the world to strengthen and enforce laws that protect the environment and human rights. She joined ELAW in 1993 after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Law with a certificate in Natural Resources Law. Jen's focus is collaborating with lawyers challenging projects that produce harmful greenhouse gases and promoting sustainable alternatives. Her current work focuses on coal, oil and gas, and plastic. Jen taught Energy and the Law at the University of Oregon School of Law for 10 years.

Pedro León, Attorney on contract

Pedro León Gutiérrez
Law Program Associate Director
Pedro helps direct ELAW's Law Program and provides legal assistance to environmental advocates around the world. Before joining ELAW, he worked at Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice, providing assistance on issues of human rights. He is a former case officer at the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (MICI) of the InterAmerican Development Bank. He also served as coordinator of the Human Rights and the Environment Program at the Instituto de Derecho Ambiental (IDEA) in Guadalajara. Pedro received a law degree from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO) in Guadalajara, where he later lectured in environmental and international human rights law. He also earned a Master's degree in International Human Rights Law from Lund University in Sweden.

Letícia Soares Peixoto Aleixo, Lawyer

Letícia Aleixo
Letícia collaborates with environmental and human rights lawyers around the world through the ELAW network. Before joining ELAW, Letícia supported communities impacted by mining as project coordinator at Caritas Minas Gerais, Brazil. She also served as assistant to the Prosecutor’s Office in Mariana, Brazil, where she worked on cases of high environmental impact. Letícia is co-founder of the Human Rights Clinic at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, where she worked for years as a supervising attorney. She received her law and master’s degrees from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and later lectured on international law at Faculdade Milton Campos. She speaks Portuguese, French, English, and Spanish.

Érick Kassongo, Attorney

Érick Kassongo
Erick has worked for years to protect the environment and defend human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and across Africa. He co-founded the Congolese Center for Sustainable Development Law (CODED), based in Kinshasa, and serves as its Executive Director. He was a member of the working group on extractive industries within the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. He has conducted research for the Center for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation. He received a Master of Laws (LLM) specializing in international trade law from the University of Salford, Robert Kennedy College in Manchester, England, and a Bachelor of Laws from the Free University of Kinshasa. He is fluent in English and French.

Anya Mintz

Anya Mintz
Law Associate
Anya supports the legal team in providing assistance to environmental and human rights advocates around the world. She holds a J.D. from Vanderbilt University, and has previously practiced environmental law as a clerk at the Environmental Protection Agency, and international humanitarian and human rights law with Global Rights Compliance and the Irish Centre for Human Rights respectively. While at Vanderbilt, she worked with Vanderbilt’s International Practice Lab to create an evidence collection and prosecution primer for the crime of genocide, and with the Vanderbilt Immigration Practice Clinic to obtain humanitarian relief for unaccompanied alien children. She is also a published poet.

Maria Generosa “Genee” Mislang-Tomboc

Genee Mislang-Tomboc
Genee collaborates with lawyers around the world. She brings years of experience as a lawyer representing communities in the Philippines to her work with ELAW. Genee worked for nearly 20 years at Tanggol Kalikasan (Defense of Nature), providing legal services to fisherfolk, farmers, upland dwellers, urban poor, and Indigenous peoples. She conducted paralegal workshops and environmental legal education for communities, law enforcement groups, law students, judges, prosecutors, and more. In 2018, she was named National Coordinator at the Alternative Law Groups. She received both a Bachelor of Science in physics and a Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo de Manila University. She also earned a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Public Service Law from New York University School of Law. Genee has taught Environment and Natural Resources Law at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law for many years.

Liz Mitchell, Staff Attorney

Liz Mitchell
Liz provides legal assistance to grassroots attorneys outside the U.S. who are working to protect communities and the environment. She joined ELAW in 2007. Liz holds a B.A. from Middlebury College and was a Thomas J. Watson fellow. After graduating from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1994, with a certificate in Natural Resources Law, Liz was a staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. Liz has traveled to Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean to help partners protect communities and the natural environment.

Bernard Ngalim, Attorney

Bernard Ngalim
Africa Law Associate
Bernard Ngalim brings many years of legal experience championing human rights in Cameroon and across Africa. His passion is protecting the rights of citizens affected by extractive industries, infrastructure development, and agribusiness. He started his public interest work with the Foundation for Environment and Development in Bamenda - Cameroon. He also worked with Forets et Developpement Rural (FODER) to challenge extractive industry abuses in Cameroon and as a pro bono human rights lawyer representing aggrieved workers. He served as a human rights consultant with Africans Rising (Kenya) and the Arch Diocese of Bertoua (Cameroon). He earned a Master of Laws (LLM) specializing in Human Rights at Northeastern University School of Law, a Master of Laws in International Law at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law (China), and a law degree (BA) at the University of Yaounde 2 (Cameroon). He is fluent in English and French.

Alejandra Serrano Pavón, Of Counsel

Alejandra Serrano Pavón
Attorney, Marine and Coastal Co-Lead
Alejandra provides legal assistance to environmental advocates around the world. She is the former director of the Southeast office of Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA) in Cancún. CEMDA protects the environment on behalf of communities and NGOs throughout Mexico. Alejandra received her law degree from the Panamericana University (Mexico City). She has been advocating on behalf of communities for more than 17 years.

Science Team
Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist

Dr. Mark Chernaik
Science Program Director
Mark helps attorneys and citizens make effective use of scientific information to defend the environment. Mark received a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University. His work has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A, and the Journal of biological Chemistry. Mark received his law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law in May 1993, and has worked on litigation challenging pollution from pulp mills in the Pacific Northwest. He joined ELAW in 1992. Mark's work has taken him to Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Dr. Johnnie Chamberlin, Staff Scientist

Dr. Johnnie Chamberlin
Scientist, Climate and the Environment
Johnnie joined the ELAW team in 2023, bringing experience in technical analyses of greenhouse gas emissions, energy, air quality, and water quality. Previously, he worked for the National Audubon Society on water quality, habitat improvement, and reforestation projects. He researched the carbon sequestration potential and economic costs and benefits of various climate solutions with Project Drawdown. Johnnie earned a doctorate in Environmental Dynamics and a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability from the University of Arkansas, a master’s in Environmental Engineering from Duke University, and a bachelor’s in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley. Spending time outdoors in the Bay Area with his family and backpacking in the Sierras and the Olympic Mountains inspire him.

Dr. Melissa Garren, Scientist on Contract

Dr. Melissa Garren
Scientist, Marine Biology
Melissa is the principal at Working Ocean Strategies LLC and brings diverse experience in public interest science to our team. She provides research and strategy support to our work with partners around the world to protect coastal and marine ecosystems. Melissa earned a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from Yale, and a master's and a doctorate in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography focusing on environmental threats to the integrity of coral reefs and holds an adjunct research faculty position with California State University Monterey Bay. Melissa has worked at the intersection of ocean and coastal environmental issues that impact communities spanning an array of scientific disciplines, including engineering, water quality, microbiology and biotechnology, disease, aquaculture/fisheries and social issues.

Dr. Riley Howard, Staff Scientist

Dr. Rye Howard
Scientist, Public Health
Rye helps ELAW partners around the world understand the impacts of toxic substances, especially plastic pollution, on public health. She earned a doctorate in Environmental Health from the Boston University School of Public Health, and has held teaching positions at Northeastern University, Boston University, the Brown University School of Public Health, and Dickinson College, where she served as Chair of the Environmental Studies Department. Rye has consulted with NGOs and European government agencies to better regulate toxic substances, including polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), flame retardants, and other ubiquitous toxic chemicals. In 2019-20, she was based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, helping NGOs address environmental health problems, conducting environmental monitoring of PFAS in Bangladesh’s waterways, and traveling thousands of kilometers across India by bicycle.

Meche Lu, Staff Scientist

Dr. Meche Lu
Scientist, Human Geography, Environmental Monitoring Lead
Meche provides on-site support for air, water, and soil quality analysis, and expert opinion on environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and environmental health. Her work with ELAW began in Peru in 1991. She joined ELAW's U.S. office in 2003. Her work has taken her to Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and Eastern Europe. Meche has a Ph.D. in Geography with research interests in political ecology and extractive industries (oil, gas, metal mining) in developing countries. She also has a M.A. in International Studies from the University of Oregon, with emphasis on environment and development in Latin America, and a B.Sc. in Pharmacy and biochemistry from the National University of San Marcos. She pursued graduate studies in Ecology and Environmental Management at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima.

Heidi Weiskel, Staff Scientist

Dr. Heidi Weiskel
Scientist, Marine Ecology, Marine and Coastal Co-Lead
Heidi is an American marine ecologist who spent her formative summers on the islands off the coast of New England, an experience she credits for her lifelong dedication to marine ecology and coastal protection. She has a BA from Harvard University; an MS from Tufts University; and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, where she studied the effects of nutrient pollution on marine species. She did her postdoctoral work on oyster reef food webs at the University of Georgia. In addition to her field research, Heidi was the Director of Pollution Policy at the Pew Oceans Commission, which developed recommendations for the U.S. Congress and Administration to improve marine resource laws and regulations. She also worked at the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission on marine mammal protection policy, as an environmental research fellow at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, and as a science editor at UNESCO in Paris. Since 2012, she has served as a Staff Scientist with ELAW, where she works at the intersection of ecology, law, climate change, and coastal environmental justice. She co-facilitates the ELAW Marine Working Group with Attorney Alejandra Serrano (see above), a group formed by ELAW partners to share successful legal strategies for marine conservation around the world. She is also an Advisory Council Member of the Estuary & Ocean Science Center at San Francisco State University and a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Marine Connectivity Working Group.

Dr. Gilles Wendling, Scientist on Contract

Dr. Gilles Wendling
Scientist, Hydrogeology
Gilles grew up in France where he earned a degree in geotechnical engineering from Grenoble University. He received his Master’s (Geotechnics) and Ph.D. (Hydrogeology) from the Ecole Polytechnique, University of Montreal, Canada. He consulted in western and northern Canada for the mining and petroleum industries, addressing groundwater contamination associated with their activities. He then shifted from working for parties responsible for water contamination to protecting aquifers and watersheds. In 2005, he started his own firm, GW Solutions, specializing in watershed protection. Gilles predominantly works with First Nations, supporting them as they assert their rights through the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other mechanisms. He is co-author of “Canada’s Groundwater Resources,” (Rivera et al., 2013) and an advisor for Living Lakes Canada.

Network Support and Communications Team
Karen Guillory, Program Assistant

Karen Guillory
Outreach Coordinator
Karen joined the team in 2018 to provide accordion accompaniment to our stirring performance at the ELAW International Annual Meeting’s talent show—and to help organize the event. She focuses on development, communications, and managing virtual skillshares to advance ELAW’s work with partners around the world. She also serves as ELAW’s Board Secretary. She studied Economics and International Business, with a particular interest in environmental economics, and has taken courses in permaculture design. She speaks Spanish, and loves being in a boat, on a bike, or in the garden.

Please contact Karen with questions about supporting ELAW’s work. karen[at]elaw.org or (541) 687-8454 Ext. 105

Kate Holcombe, Attorney, Defending Defenders Program

Kate Holcombe
Managing Attorney, Defending Defenders Program
Kate is the Managing Attorney of ELAW’s Defending Defenders Program. She oversees the Defending Defenders legal strategy at local, regional, and international levels and collaborates with lawyers around the world to support ELAW’s partners in need of legal defense. She also works with allies to develop protection resources and comprehensive security strategies to protect ELAW partners. Prior to joining ELAW, Kate served as the Assistant Director of two human rights initiatives at American University Washington College of Law’s Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law: the Kovler Project Against Torture and the Impact Litigation Project. She has held positions at Human Rights First, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Public International Law & Policy Group. She received her B.A. in English from California State University, Chico, her M.A. in EU Public Policy from the University of Kent, and her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law.

Colleen Keane, Office Manager

Colleen Keane
Network Support Coordinator
As Network Support Coordinator, Colleen works to deepen engagement by our global partners with the work of ELAW. With a dedication to global environmental and social justice issues, Colleen joined ELAW in 2017. Prior to joining ELAW, Colleen worked for organizations committed to supporting communities and Indigenous rights including Global Greengrants Fund, Pacific Environment, and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Colleen has a degree in Ecological Studies and is a Certified Clinical Herbalist.

Maggie Keenan, Communications Director

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator
Maggie writes grants, produces ELAW publications, works with journalists, manages the ELAW Fellows Program, and helps ELAW advocates build strong organizations. She joined ELAW in 1999. Maggie holds a Master's in Professional Studies in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University. She served for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and worked for three years in Uganda as a consultant for the Uganda Wildlife Society, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, and various USAID-funded maternal health projects. Her work at ELAW has taken her to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ukraine, Bolivia, and Chile. Maggie was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Oregon College of Arts and Sciences, where she taught Cross Cultural Communication.

Administrative Team
Bear Berry, Program Assistant

Bear Berry
Program Assistant
Bear joined ELAW in May as Program Assistant. Ze will manage ELAW's information database, helping ELAW better share its success stories. Bear earned an Associate's degree in psychology at Lane Community College, followed by a Bachelor's degree (cum laude) in linguistics at the University of Oregon. Bear is the first in zer family to earn a four-year degree. Bear also studied French and Korean, spending time at Yonsei University in Seoul. Bear is a life-long advocate for people with developmental disabilities, inspired by zer brother who has speech barriers and autism.

Amanda Parkes, Bookkeeper

Amanda Parkes
Amanda joined ELAW in 2020, bringing nearly a decade of nonprofit program experience focused on community health, nutritious food access, and human services. They are also a registered dietitian with a degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. Amanda enjoys working directly with community members as a volunteer for various essential needs distribution programs and community powered events and fundraisers.

Matt Pugh, Staff Web Developer

Matt Pugh
IT Coordinator
Matt manages ELAW’s websites, security, and helps ELAW partners around the world use web-based tools to protect communities and the environment. He has a wide variety of computer skills that span from server engineering to front end web development. Matt graduated from the University of Oregon in 2006 with a degree in biochemistry and in 2019 with a degree in computer science.