Our Executive Council



Gordon Tribble, Director, U.S. Geological Survey, Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center

Gordon Tribble received a BS in Biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1979 and a PhD in Marine Geochemistry from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1990. He has worked as a hotel desk clerk, fisheries technician, and aquarium fish collector. He started working for the USGS in 1988 as a laborer on a drill crew. He has authored over 30 scientific papers on subjects such as ground-water contamination, seawater chemistry, underwater volcanism, and coral reef ecology. He has worked on hydrologic studies in Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Mariana Islands, and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. After more than 10 years as the Director of the USGS Pacific Islands Water Science Center, Gordon became the Director of the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center in May 2010.




Sharon Ziegler-Chong, Director for the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Research and Community Partnerships Office

Sharon Ziegler-Chong focuses projects and staff on efforts that bridge community, research, partnerships and cultures across the Pacific to build stronger and more resilient island communities. Her office works with projects ranging from community outreach, K-12 education, conservation workforce and leadership development and research collaborations, including being Unit Leader of the Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit, lead coordinator for University Consortium efforts of on the USGS Pacific Islands Climate Science Center at UH Hilo, and Director of the Hawaii-Pacific Islands Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit. Ms. Ziegler-Chong serves on several advisory and steering committees with state and regional groups related to natural resources career pathways, conservation, and community resiliency. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell College, Iowa, and a master’s degree in biology from the University of South Carolina, and is pursuing a PhD in Human Sciences with a leadership specialization from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and worked with Peace Corps training programs for many years. She started working with the University of Hawai’i in 1992 as a coordinator for Pacific Island extension programs with UH Sea Grant.



Chairperson Emeritus

Ric Lopez, Director, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry

Ric Lopez is the Director of US Forest Service’s Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry in Hilo (http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/locations/hilo/).  His prior post was in Forest Service Headquarters in Washington DC, as Assistant Director for vegetation ecology across the National Forests of the US.  During his prior tenure with both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ric led the development and application of field-based and geospatial approaches for solving theoretical and applied vegetation, wetland, and aquatic ecology issues. This body of work includes monitoring and assessment of invasive/opportunistic plant species; multi-scale indicators of sustainability; and solutions to risk-based environmental issues.

Ric’s experience as an environmental scientist spans numerous geographic areas, specifically in the fields of wetland ecology and landscape ecology.  Ric earned his B.S. in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution at the University of California San Diego, and his Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Environmental Sciences at the Ohio State University, with an emphasis in Wetland Ecology and Landscape Ecology.

A native of Santa Barbara, California, Ric has always loved the sea and so he enjoys an occasional kayak paddle around Hilo Bay whenever he can.  Ric spends his downtime traveling to new places around the world with his wife of 22 years, Debra, and biking in their home community of Kea`au, Hawai`i.




Jonathan Ching, D. Arch  Land and Property Manager, Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Jonathan Ching is the Land and Property Manager at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and oversees all of OHA’s Legacy and Programmatic lands that include conservation and agricultural properties.  His background lies in Architecture, Planning, and Cultural/Natural Resource Management.  Jonathan earned his Doctorate in Architecture at the University of Hawaii. His doctorate project explored how the built environment in rural communities benefit from a holistic understanding of that environment, and how sustainability and adaptation strategies are informed through incorporation of culture, a sense of place, and truly understanding the needs of the community.





John Marra, NOAA Regional Climate Services Director, Pacific Region

John is the NOAA Climate Services Director for the Pacific Region, based in Honolulu, HI.  He is a co-author of the Hawaii and Pacific Islands Chapter of the National Climate Assessment (NCA) report as well as the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) report which formed the basis for the NCA report.  For over 20 years he has been working to bridge science, policy, and information technology to address issues related to natural hazards risk reduction and climate adaptation planning.  His particular area of expertise is the development and dissemination of data and products associated with coastal inundation and erosion.


Dave Helweg


Dave Helweg, Director, USGS Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

Dave is the director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center, headquartered at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. He was the deputy director of the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center for more than ten years. Since 2002, Helweg has put his expertise in multidisciplinary science and experience with strategic program development to work on terrestrial, coastal and nearshore resource management issues. Before joining the USGS, Helweg held positions at the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.  He is an expert in behavioral biology, ecology, bioacoustics and signal processing.