top of page
Sunset Over Pier

 Our Team 



Executive Director of MERITO Foundation Inc.

Rocío has a B. Sc. in Oceanography, a M. Sc. in Marine Resource Protection and extensive experience in the areas of ocean research, conservation and sustainable tourism in USA, Mexico, Korea, Japan, and Scotland. Rocío adapted the MERITO program to southern California for NOAA in 2005 and directed it until 2013 when she co-founded the MERITO Foundation. She has reached over 10 million people through ocean conservation outreach projects, immersed over 15,000 students on Earth & ocean science and issues, and has raised the capacity of more than 300 teachers and 100 Marine Protected Areas practitioners in the areas of ocean science and resource protection in the past 12 years. She is an avid SCUBA diver, loves to see the world, and advocates tirelessly for an inclusive and diverse new generation of environmental activists.


Leslie Magaña

Environmental Education & Outdoor Recreation Specialist

Leslie Magaña is a native to Oxnard, CA, and attained a B.S in Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) from the University of California State, Channel Islands. During her 4th year, she interned with the National Park Service at the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area as an Educational Program Interpreter and there was when she discovered her passion to educate youth on environmental and conservation issues. Soon after, she worked with the Santa Clara River Conservancy, a non-profit organization, where she managed and expanded a new education and outreach program in collaboration with U.S Fish and Wildlife. By working primarily with underserved and multicultural youth, Leslie has seen first-hand the importance of being a local, bilingual Latina whom students can relate to. Her time with the MERITO Foundation has been unlike any previous opportunities and has loved working with Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties’ youth. Outside of work, Leslie enjoys spending time with family, going whale watching, riding her bike, and visiting the beach any chance she gets. She constantly thanks her parents for choosing to migrate to Oxnard from Mexico in appreciation of her community and its natural environment (especially the weather!). Being a part of the low percentage of science-educated Latinas has really driven Leslie to continue educating on and addressing the environmental injustices many communities face.


Jessie Altstatt

Citizen Science Specialist

Jessie has been the CINMS LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) coordinator since 2010. She also led the Torch Oil Spill Rocky Intertidal Habitat Protection Program which provided local community outreach and education regarding the sensitivity of rocky intertidal habitats and aimed to reduce the impacts of human disturbance on tidepools. Jessie has been an AAUS Scientific Diver since 1988 and became part of the Channel Islands Research Program team in 1990. She still works as a researcher and scientific diver in the waters and shores of the Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands with an emphasis on natural history, biodiversity, and ecological surveys. She also brings over a decade of professional experience in the non-profit sector working with community members, public agencies, and other environmental organizations, and has been an active advocate for stronger environmental protections on land and sea. A major emphasis of Jessie's work has focused on seagrasses, particularly subtidal eelgrass (Zostera pacifica) meadows around the Channel islands and offshore of the Santa Barbara mainland coast. She initiated a transplantation project at Anacapa Island in 2002 that successfully restored eelgrass habitat which continues to flourish. Jessie is happiest when on, in, or under the water. Her other interests include surfing, sailing, natural history, gardening, cooking, birds, and art. Jessie attended UC Santa Barbara earning a BA in Aquatic Biology and a MA in Marine Ecology.

Jose Serrano.jpg

José Luis Serrano

Sustainability Specialist

José Luis Serrano was born and raised in Oxnard, CA, and attained a B.S. in Natural Resource and Environmental Management with an emphasis on Coastal Ecology from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. In Hawai’i, José worked as a project engineer and field technician for a geotechnical engineering firm specializing in renewable, sustainable solutions and environmentally-conscious practices. José found his way back to Ventura County and joined the MERITO Foundation as Sustainability Specialist. José takes pride in his Oxnard roots and Mexican culture and uses that to communicate and relate to our multicultural and bilingual youth and communities, especially those under-represented and underserved. Jose’s interests include cooking, sports, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.


Roset Strong

Fundraising and Admin Specialist

Roset Strong is the Fundraising/Admin. Specialist at the MERITO Foundation. With a degree in Business Communication/Marketing, she has an extensive background in Marketing Research, Communications, and Public Relations. She has a great interest in working with non-profits and helping to improve quality of life in our community through different programs. On her free time, Roset likes to travel, spend time with her family, and explore the Channel Islands.

Taylor Lorenzen.jpg

Taylor Lorenzen


Taylor is currently a junior at Cal Lutheran University pursuing a Bachelor's in Biological Science! She is excited to be able to work with MERITO to serve her community while also completing her degree. Taylor joined our team in Ventura to work side by side with those who are just as passionate about conservation as she is. In her free time away from work, she has been teaching herself to crochet and studying for upcoming exams. But she would much rather be at the beach. Taylor enjoys surfing, hiking, climbing, and pretty much anything to keep her out of the house. MERITO plays an important role in protecting her favorite places. 

Screen Shot 2022-10-25 at 1.52.59 PM.png

Jess Flores Farfan


Jess is studying Biology, Chemistry, and Communications at California Lutheran University (CLU). Her goal for the future is to pursue a career in the medical field and serve the Latinx population. She works as a Biology Lab director's assistant on campus, scribes at the Westminster Free Clinic, and is on the executive board for three clubs at CLU. Jess chose to intern with MERITO through Americorps because she wanted to help educate the multicultural youth on important STEAM topics, as well as be more involved with a Ventura County non-profit foundation dedicated to ocean conservation. In her free time, she enjoys running, rock climbing, and reading!

bottom of page