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, Lori, Jen, and Mark constitute ELAW’s leadership team. Bern began as ELAW’s first Staff Attorney in 1991 before assuming the position of Executive Director in 1993. Before joining ELAW, Bern practiced law in Seattle. He was President of the Environmental Law Society at Harvard Law School. 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. Bern’s work is inspired by wild rivers, big mountains, ancient forests, and his family.

Based in Oregon
Languages: English and conversational Spanish
Contact: bern@elaw.org

Lori Maddox, Associate Director
Lori Maddox
Associate Director

Lori is on ELAW’s leadership team and manages ELAW’s operations and finances. She works with the team and the Board to refine and strengthen ELAW’s strategy and programs. Lori helped launch ELAW in 1991 and has helped build the Fellows Program, the Defending Defenders Program, and the MesoAmerican Reef project. She received a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre from Hollins University and has substantial experience building and leading nonprofit organizations. She currently serves on the Board of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which supports resilient community design for diverse communities around the world. In the wild, Lori is often spotted singing, hiking, rafting, or birding with friends and family.

Based in Oregon
Languages: English and proficient Spanish
Contact: lori@elaw.org

Law Team
Jen Gleason, Staff Attorney
Jennifer Gleason
Law Program Director

Jen is on the leadership team and directs the Law Program with Pedro. Her current work with ELAW focuses on legal initiatives to protect the climate, including challenging fossil fuel projects, advancing strong energy policies, and reducing the production and use of single-use plastic. Jen taught Energy and the Law at the University of Oregon School of Law for ten years. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law with a certificate in natural resources law.

Based in Oregon
Languages: English, and proficient French and Spanish

Pedro León, Attorney on contract
Pedro León Gutiérrez
Law Program Associate Director

Pedro directs ELAW's Law Program with Jen. Pedro brings expertise in human rights law with an emphasis on the Inter-American Human Rights System. At ELAW, he primarily collaborates with partners in Latin America on issues including human rights, infrastructure, and development projects. Pedro has worked at Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice and the Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism of the InterAmerican Development Bank. Pedro received a master's degree in international human rights law from Lund University and a law degree from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente.

Based in Mexico City, Mexico
Languages: Spanish, English, and conversational French and Portuguese

Letícia Soares Peixoto Aleixo, Lawyer
Letícia Aleixo

Letícia has expertise in human rights and socio-environmental justice. She collaborates with lawyers in Brazil and throughout Latin America who are defending the rights of communities, protecting the climate, and building a just energy transition. Before joining ELAW, Letícia supported communities impacted by mining as a project coordinator at Caritas Minas Gerais, Brazil. She also worked on cases of high environmental impact as assistant to the Prosecutor’s Office in Mariana, Brazil. 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 and later lectured on international law at Faculdade Milton Campos.

Based in Santa Catarina, Brazil
Languages: Portuguese, French, English, and Spanish

Jennifer Castello, Attorney
Jennifer Castello

Jen brings experience in defending human rights and land rights, especially communal lands. She is also well-versed in the EU legal system. Jen collaborates primarily with partners in Africa. Previously, she served as Head of Law at Minority Rights Group, where she led a team of lawyers working on the protection of minorities and Indigenous peoples in Africa. She holds a master’s in international relations from Paris-Panthéon-Assas University and an LLM in public international law from Westminster University in London. Jen is inspired by her yoga practice, music, films, reading, and traveling.

Based in Toulouse, France
Languages: French, English, and intermediate Spanish

Melissa Fourie, Attorney
Melissa Fourie

Melissa joined us in Eugene as a Visiting Scholar for the summer of 2023 and then agreed to work with ELAW through spring 2024 to share her extensive experience with lawyers around the world fighting fossil fuel projects and promoting a just energy transition. Melissa just finished a leadership transition at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), an organization she has been leading since she helped found it in 2010. She also previously served as Director of Enforcement in the national Department of Environment in South Africa. She holds a law degree from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and a master’s in environment & development from the London School of Economics. She is inspired by amazing natural areas in South Africa, and playing tennis and the piano.

Based in Cape Town, South Africa
Languages: English and Afrikaans

Érick Kassongo, Attorney
Érick Kassongo

Érick brings expertise in extractive industries and human rights to his work at ELAW. Much of his work focuses on collaborating with lawyers throughout Africa to protect communities impacted by extractive industries and addressing climate change by advocating for just and sustainable energy systems. Érick co-founded the Congolese Center for Sustainable Development Law (CODED). He was on the working group on extractive industries within the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. In addition, he has conducted research on climate change mitigation and adaptation for the Center for International Sustainable Development Law. He received law degrees from the University of Salford and the Free University of Kinshasa, and a master’s degree from Robert Kennedy College.

Based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Languages: French, English, and local languages

Anya Mintz
Anya Mintz
Law Associate

Anya brings deep knowledge of international law to the team and collaborates with partners engaging in treaty processes, including the development of the global plastic treaty. Anya collaborates with lawyers from around the world, including working closely with ELAW Fellows while they are in Oregon. She is currently investigating complex topics such as accountability for environmental damage from war and the use of ecocide laws. She joined the team in 2021 after working with ELAW as a Legal Fellow. Anya earned a law degree from Vanderbilt University. Outside of work, poetry, film photography, and listening to records bring Anya joy.

Based in Oregon
Languages: English, Spanish, and French

Maria Generosa “Genee” Mislang-Tomboc
Genee Mislang-Tomboc

Genee brings experience in litigation and training to the team. She collaborates primarily with lawyers from South and Southeast Asia, with much of that work focused on reining in plastic, protecting biodiversity, and challenging fossil fuels. She joined ELAW in 2021, bringing years of experience as a lawyer representing communities in the Philippines, including 20 years at Tanggol Kalikasan (Defense of Nature). In 2018, she was named National Coordinator at the Alternative Law Groups. She earned a master of laws degree from New York University School of Law and a law degree and a bachelor’s in physics from the Ateneo de Manila University. Genee taught Environment and Natural Resources Law for many years at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law. Nature photography and theater inspire her.

Based in California
Languages: Filipino and English

Liz Mitchell, Staff Attorney
Liz Mitchell

Liz brings expertise in mining laws and extractive industries to ELAW, where she collaborates with lawyers around the world to strengthen and enforce environmental impact assessment laws and protect communities impacted by mining and oil and gas development. She joined ELAW in 2007. Liz holds a bachelor’s from Middlebury College and was a Thomas J. Watson fellow. After graduating from the University of Oregon School of Law with a certificate in natural resources law, Liz was a Staff Attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, where she litigated public interest cases to preserve public lands and forests and enforce pollution laws.

Based in Washington

Bernard Ngalim, Attorney
Bernard Ngalim
Africa Law Associate

Bernard brings expertise in defending land rights and challenging extractive industries. Bernard joined ELAW in 2019, bringing many years of legal experience championing human rights in Cameroon. He started his public interest work with the Foundation for Environment and Development in Cameroon. Bernard also worked with Forets et Developpement Rural to challenge extractive industry abuses in Cameroon and as a pro bono human rights lawyer. He served as a human rights consultant with Africans Rising in Kenya and the Arch Diocese of Bertoua in Cameroon. He earned a master’s degree in human rights law at Northeastern University School of Law, a master’s in international law at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, and a bachelor’s in law at the University of Yaounde 2.

Based in Oregon
Languages: English and French

William ‘BJ’ Schulte, Attorney
William ‘BJ’ Schulte

BJ brings expertise in providing legal support and training to local communities, conducting research on emerging environmental law issues, and training public interest advocates. He collaborates primarily with partners in Asia and will help more lawyers in the region connect with ELAW. Most recently, BJ worked as the Mekong Region Policy and Legal Advisor at EarthRights International. He also served as Assistant Director and Adjunct Faculty for the US-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law at Vermont Law School in the United States, and spent a number of years litigating environmental cases in New Jersey. BJ earned law degrees from Rutgers University Law School – Newark and Vermont Law School. He enjoys hiking, trail running, and exploring mountain peaks.

Languages: English and conversational Mandarin Chinese
Based in the United States

Alejandra Serrano Pavón, Of Counsel
Alejandra Serrano Pavón
Attorney, Marine and Coastal Lead

Alejandra brings expertise in marine and coastal legal issues with an emphasis on the MesoAmerican Reef region. Alejandra leads ELAW’s legal work with partners defending coastal marine ecosystems, preserving local fisheries, and promoting the human right to water. She co-facilitates the ELAW Marine Working Group, formed by partners from around the world to share legal strategies for marine conservation. Ale brings more than 20 years of experience as a community advocate, including serving as Director of the Southeast Office of Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental. She received her law degree from Panamericana University. Alejandra is a board member of Sureste Sostenible, a Mexican regional environmental fund whose main objective is to finance and operate conservation, sustainable use, and climate change projects.

Based in Mexico
Languages: Spanish and English

Science Team
Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist
Dr. Mark Chernaik
Science Team Director

Mark is on ELAW’s Leadership Team and coordinates the Science Program, providing public interest advocates around the world comprehensive and timely scientific support in the pursuit of environmental justice. Mark joined ELAW in 1992 and focuses on helping partners challenge projects that would adversely impact public health or the Earth’s climate, often providing expert testimony. Mark received a doctorate in biochemistry from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s in biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He earned his law degree from the University of Oregon School of Law in May 1993.

Based in Oregon

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, and air 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.

Based in California

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 doctorate and master’s in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a bachelor’s in molecular biology from Yale. She 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 disciplines, including engineering, water quality, microbiology and biotechnology, disease, aquaculture/fisheries, and social issues.

Based in California
Languages: English, advanced Spanish, and intermediate French

Dr. Riley Howard, Staff Scientist
Dr. Rye Howard
Scientist, Public Health

Rye joined ELAW in 2022 to help ELAW partners around the world understand the impacts of toxic substances, including plastic pollution, air pollution, and pesticides on public health. They earned a doctorate in environmental public health from the Boston University School of Public Health. Rye taught at Northeastern University, Boston University, the Brown University School of Public Health, and Dickinson College, where they served as Chair of the Environmental Studies Department. Rye has consulted with NGOs and European government agencies to improve toxic substance regulations. They enjoy bike touring and are an experienced astronomer who runs a small bookstore and community gathering place with their partner.

Based in Massachusetts
Languages: English, and basic Spanish and French

Meche Lu, Staff Scientist
Dr. Meche Lu
Scientist, Geography and Biochemistry
Environmental Monitoring Lead

Meche specializes in collaborating with partners on environmental governance; social and environmental impact assessments; understanding water, soil, and air quality; health impacts of pollution; and cases relating to extractive industries, industrial pollution, and infrastructure projects. She began work with ELAW while living in Peru in 1991. Meche moved to Oregon in 2003 to continue working with the team. She earned a doctorate in geography and a master’s in international studies from the University of Oregon. She also holds a bachelor’s in pharmacy and biochemistry from San Marcos University in Peru. She enjoys art, music, and spending time with good friends and family.

Based in Oregon
Languages: Spanish, English, intermediate French, and reads and understands Portuguese

Dr. Gilles Wendling, Scientist on Contract
Dr. Gilles Wendling
Scientist, Hydrogeology

Gilles focuses on helping partners understand the impacts of projects on watersheds. He grew up in France, where he earned a degree in geotechnical engineering from Grenoble University. Gilles received his master’s in geotechnics and doctorate in hydrogeology from the Ecole Polytechnique, University of Montreal, Canada. In 2005, he started his 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 a co-author of “Canada’s Groundwater Resources” (Rivera et al., 2013) and an advisor for Living Lakes Canada. Connection with nature, community, art, and family brings him joy and inspiration.

Based in British Columbia, Canada
Languages: French and English

Defending Defenders Team
Kate Holcombe, Managing Attorney, Defending Defenders Program
Kate Holcombe
Managing Attorney, Defending Defenders Program

Kate collaborates with allies around the world to support ELAW’s partners in need of legal defense. She connects partners to protection resources and supports them as they develop locally-rooted security strategies to defend against strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), criminalization, and other threats. Before joining ELAW in 2022, 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 received her bachelor’s in English from California State University, Chico, her master’s in EU public policy from the University of Kent, and her JD from American University, Washington College of Law.

Based in California

Luciano Coco Pastrana, Attorney, Defending Defenders Program
Luciano Coco Pastrana
Attorney, Defending Defenders Program

Luciano brings experience working on police violence, criminalization of protest, democratic security, intelligence, and privacy at the national level in Argentina and the broader Inter-American context. He holds a degree in international law from the University of Buenos Aires, and a criminal law specialization from the University Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires. He was awarded the Open Society Justice Initiative scholarship for the summer school in strategic litigation at the Hertie School in Berlin. Luciano formerly worked as an attorney at the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS). He also researches and teaches in the human rights clinic of the University of Buenos Aires - CELS. He finds joy and inspiration in cooking, cycling, soccer, paddle tennis, and spending time with friends and family.

Languages: Spanish, Italian, and advanced English
Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Charis Kamphuis, Attorney, Defending Defenders Program
Charis Kamphuis
Attorney, Defending Defenders Program

Charis brings experience advocating before international courts, working with Indigenous communities, and engaging with governmental and regulatory bodies. She has bachelor’s degree in international development studies, a law degree, and an LLM and Ph.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Ontario. Charis co-founded the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project, a Canadian law clinic that works with civil society groups and communities concerned with industrial resource extraction in the Global South. She is an Associate Professor of law at Thompson Rivers University and has also worked at the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria as a staff lawyer and clinical legal education associate. Outside of work, Charis enjoys spending as much time as possible outdoors with her family.

Languages: Spanish and English
Based in British Columbia, Canada

Network Support and Communications
Karen Guillory, Program Assistant
Karen Guillory
Outreach Coordinator

Karen joined the team in 2018. She focuses on sharing ELAW’s inspiring work and managing virtual events to advance ELAW’s collaboration with partners around the world. She is ELAW’s Board Secretary and Executive Assistant. Karen earned bachelor’s degrees in economics and international business with a focus in environmental economics from the University of South Carolina and has taken courses in permaculture design. She is often sighted in the woods, river, and garden. Please contact her with any questions about supporting ELAW’s work!

Based in Oregon
Languages: English and conversational Spanish
Contact: karen@elaw.org | +1 541-687-8454 x.105

Colleen Keane, Office Manager
Colleen Keane
Network Support Coordinator

Colleen works to deepen engagement by our global partners with the work of ELAW. She joined ELAW in 2017, bringing a decade of experience working with communities and Indigenous peoples on environmental issues. Colleen has a bachelor’s degree in ecological studies and is a Certified Clinical Herbalist. Her work is inspired by connection to people and the earth, time spent foraging for medicinal botanicals and wild edibles, and contemplation in wild places.

Based in Oregon
Languages: English and conversational Spanish
Contact: colleen@elaw.org | +1 541- 687-8454 x.100

Maggie Keenan, Communications Director
Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

Maggie administers foundation fundraising, produces ELAW publications, manages the ELAW Fellows Program, and helps ELAW partners build strong organizations. She joined ELAW in 1999 and holds a master’s in professional studies in international agriculture and rural development from Cornell University. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and worked in Uganda for years as a consultant for the Uganda Wildlife Society, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and various USAID-funded maternal health projects. In her free time, you will find Maggie in her garden or on the Oregon Coast.

Based in Oregon
Contact: maggie@elaw.org
Languages: English and conversational French

Administrative Team
Bear Berry, Program Assistant
Bear Berry
Program Assistant

Bear joined ELAW in 2022 to manage our information database and provide administrative support to the team. Bear earned a bachelor's in linguistics from the University of Oregon, with minor studies in psychology and additional studies in French and Korean, spending time at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Based in the United States
Languages: English, French, and intermediate American Sign Language, German, and Korean

Zachary Dolan, Finance Manager
Zachary Dolan
Finance Manager

Zachary brings experience working with diverse organizations, including purpose-driven startups, nonprofits, and cooperatively owned businesses. He manages ELAW’s financial tracking and reporting. Zachary holds master’s degrees in nonprofit management and business administration and serves as a board member for McKenzie River Trust. Raised on Orcas Island in the Salish Sea, he holds a deep love and appreciation for the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Zachary can be found paddleboarding mountain lakes in summer and splitboarding the Pacific Crest Trail in winter with his partner and their dog.

Based in Oregon

Amanda Parkes, Bookkeeper
Amanda Parkes

Amanda joined ELAW in 2020 and provides meticulous bookkeeping and financial management support to help ELAW maintain and manage our financial systems. They work closely with our external auditors to continually improve our systems and helps the Team and the Board exercise effective and efficient oversight.

Based in Oregon

Matt Pugh, Staff Web Developer
Matt Pugh
IT Coordinator

Matt provides tech support to ELAW’s team and partners. He joined the team in 2012, bringing broad experience from server engineering to web development. Matt received bachelor’s degrees in computer science and biochemistry from the University of Oregon. Matt enjoys backpacking, nature documentaries, and electronic music.

Based in Oregon