Our Team

Meet the Reef Renewal Staff

Francesca

Coordinator

Francesca Virdis

Raised into a family of avid divers, Francesca received her scuba certification at early age. Her passion for the underwater world sparked a constant interest which she carried with her to school, receiving her MSc in Marine and Environmental Science from the University of Bologna, Italy in 2004.

On June 2008 she decided it was time for a lifestyle change and a closer connection to the ocean, so she moved to Bonaire, where she started working as dive instructor. In 2012, Francesca was asked to get involved with the initial coral nursery set up and since then she has been dedicating herself to the Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire project coordination and development. Francesca’s love for the ocean and her dedication to reef restoration is a wonderful combination that leaves divers and volunteers happy to help, inspired to continue and excited to be part of the future of our reefs.

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Assistant Coordinator

Sanne Tuijten

Sanne has been visiting the Netherlands Antilles since she was 12 when she got her scuba certification in Curaçao. From a young age, she knew she wanted to become a marine biologist. When she found out that the Dutch University system did not offer a marine biology bachelor program, she moved to the UK to study Marine Biology at the University of Southampton. There she focused on subjects related to tropical ecosystems and coral reef ecology. She became president of the Student Dive Club and got used to diving in the cold and murky waters of the North Sea.

After receiving her Msc in 2020 she joined Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire, eager to put her scientific knowledge to use for protecting and restoring coral reefs. She is “a fish in the water”, as one says in Dutch, and enjoys everyday preserving Bonaire’s reefs.

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Reef Restoration Technician

Elizabeth McWhinnie

Liz is from the United States, but has been visiting Bonaire since childhood. She has a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the College of Charleston and graduate studies in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development.

Liz fell in love with reefs and diving in 2004, on her first trip to Bonaire shortly after becoming scuba certified. As a former RRFB intern and Reef Renewal Instructor, she has worked in the dive industry locally for 3 years — certifying over 120 Reef Renewal divers!

She looks forward to continuing to give back to Bonaire’s reefs while helping more locals and visitors get involved.

Meet the Board of Directors

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Martinus W.A. van der Valk

President

Augusto

Augusto A. Montbrun Segnini

Secretary

Paul

Paulus P. Coolen

Treasurer

David-Fishman

David J. Fishman

Director

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Christine Nicolaas

Director

Meet the Advisory Board

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Ken Nedimyer

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Dr. Erik Meesters

Technical Advisor, Founder of Reef Renewal International

Ken Nedimyer is the founder of Reef Renewal and the founder and former president of the Coral Restoration Foundation.  Ken has designed and set up coral nursery and reef restoration programs in over 12 different countries, has a degree in Marine Biology and has a life time of experience diving on coral reefs.  Ken played an important role in establishing the nursery and restoration program on Bonaire, and continues to work with the program managers at Reef Renewal Bonaire to share lessons learned in Bonaire and around the world.

Scientific Advisor

Dr. Erik Meesters is a researcher, marine tropical ecologist and co-ordinator of policy supporting research on marine topics for the Caribbean Netherlands. He is also investigating about the long-term development of the reefs of Bonaire and Curacao since 1973 with  Wageningen Marine Research (WMR) in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). Erik’s specialties include coral reef ecology, generalized linear and additive mixed models and multivariate statistics.