Advisory Board

Rick DeVoe joined the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in 1980, its inaugural year, and has served as its Executive Director since 1997. Rick is also a member of the Marine Biology Council of the Graduate Program in Marine Biology atRick the College of Charleston, and the Board of Advisors for the Center for Marine and Wetland Studies at Coastal Carolina University. In 2016, he was inducted into The Citadel Academy of Science and Mathematics. Rick serves as Co-Chair of the Board on Oceans, Atmosphere, and Climate of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, and is a member of the Sea Grant Association’s External Relations Committee, the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association Board of Directors, the S.C. Regulatory Task Force for Coastal Clean Energy, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition Think Tank, and the Charleston Resiliency Network Steering Committee, among other appointments and affiliations. Rick’s professional interests focus on coastal and marine resource policy, state and regional coastal ocean planning and policy, ocean observing, marine aquaculture policy, coastal resiliency, science-to-application linkages, and science communication and education. He earned his undergraduate degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in marine biology and his graduate degrees in biological oceanography from the CUNY/City College of NY and in geography and marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island.


Martin Erbele is a dedicated and passionate public servant working as a Program Analyst and Mitigation Planner.martin.jpg for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IV office in Atlanta, Georgia. He supports state, tribal, and local governments develop and implement mitigation plans to assess natural hazard risk and prioritize strategies that reduce the impacts of future events on people, property, and the environment.

Previously, he served as a FEMA contractor in the private sector as well as a local government official in Charleston County, South Carolina promoting long-term planning, sustainability, and community engagement.

Martin is a proud alumnus of the Graduate School at the College of Charleston, earning a Master of Public Administration degree and an Urban and Regional Planning certificate in 2013. He is a former board member on the College’s Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and as a graduate student, Martin served as president of the Graduate Student Association and founded the Urban Studies Club. He earned his Bachelor in Business Administration from the University of North Georgia in 2011.

Martin and his partner Taylor now live in Georgia.


Debra J. Gammons

Debra J. Gammons is the Director of the Office of Diversity Initiatives and holds a Distinguished Visiting Professor position at the Charleston School of Law. She earned her bachelor of arts in English from the College of Charleston and her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. Debra’s phenomenal leadership skills and initiative are evident from her involvement in student government as an undergraduate and in law school. Debra served as president of Student Government at the College of Charleston and president of the Student Bar at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Debra has continued her service in volunteer and professional work as a director on several boards. Her previous leadership roles include serving as a member of the Board of Trustees at the College of Charleston, the S.C. Bar Board of Governors, and president of the Greenville County Bar Association.  She continues to actively practice law.


Paula Keener

Paula Keener is a Marine Biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Ocean Acidification Program and Director of the Education Program for NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Paula received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston and her Master of Science Degree in Marine Biology from the University of Charleston. She conducted extensive larval and adult fish research off the Southeastern coast of the U.S. and was a research team member in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Western Atlantic Mangrove Program off Belize, Central America. She works to fulfill NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program research plan, including collaborations at the interagency and international levels. She also leads teams of scientists and educators in reaching out in new ways to educators, students, and the public through NOAA ocean exploration expeditions to enhance ocean sciences literacy through educational products and professional development at national and international levels.

Paula is serving as a Lead Reviewer on the first United Nations World Ocean Assessment, is a member of the European Union-United States Joint Consultative Group, Marine Working Group, and is the Interagency Team Lead for Ocean Exploration for the National Ocean Policy. She served as a member of The President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration and as a member of the National Research Council Committee on Exploration of the Seas. She is a Past-President of the National Marine Educators Association and founding member and Past-President of the South Carolina Marine Educators Association. She served as a member of the National Science Foundation’s Steering Workshop Committee and Implementation Committee for the Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) and serves on the National COSEE Advisory Council. She served as a member of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Ocean Hall Statement of Purpose Team and is a member of the NOAA Education Council. She serves as a writer and editor for scientific and technical publications. She has spent over 300 days at sea studying the ocean and its inhabitants.

Just prior to her position with NOAA, Paula served for nine years as the Director of the National Science Foundation-funded South Carolina Statewide Systemic Initiative Math & Science Hub located at the College of Charleston.


Paul Sandifer

Dr. Paul Sandifer is a part-time Research Associate (Professor) in the School of Sciences and Mathematics at the College of Charleston where he conducts research and advises graduate students.  He is a coastal ecologist with a broad background in research, natural resource management, science policy, and the intersection of marine ecosystem health and human health.  His prior career includes nearly 12 years in NOAA, where he served as a Senior Scientist, Science Advisor to the NOAA Administrator, Chief Science Advisor for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, and was responsible for development of NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Program.  Before NOAA, he worked 31 years with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources where he served in numerous science and management positions including as agency director.  Recently, he led establishment of a NOAA-wide effort in ecological forecasting, initial stages of development of NOAA’s RESTORE Act Science Program for the Gulf of Mexico, creation of NOAA’s highly regarded scientific integrity policy, and played key roles in the development and implementation of the National Ocean Policy. He served on the National Academy of Sciences’ Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability as well as the National Academy of Medicine’s Roundtable on Environmental Health Science, Research and Medicine.  Dr. Sandifer also was Co-Chair of the Ocean Science and Technology Interagency Policy Committee of the National Ocean Council, and has been a member of numerous other boards, committees and commissions including the US Commission on Ocean Policy, Marine Board of the National Research Council, U.S. National Committee for the Census of Marine Life, and Founding Board of Directors of the South Carolina Aquarium.   He is an Honorary Life Member of the World Aquaculture Society, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a NOAA Research Fellow (retired), Fellow of the Ecological Society of American, Emeritus Member of the National Association of Marine Laboratories, recipient of the Order of the Palmetto (South Carolina’s highest civilian award), and was named Alumnus of the Year by the College in 2003.  Dr. Sandifer has been an active participant in the Marine Biology MS program since its inception and also in the Master’s program in Environmental Studies. Other service to the College of Charleston includes two terms on the Board of Directors of the College of Charleston Foundation, two years as Director of the Graduate Program in Marine Biology, and membership on the Advisory Board for the Graduate School since its establishment.


Robbie FreemanRobbie Freeman is the Managing Partner of the City Marina Company, the Bristol Marina, and the Charleston City Boatyard. A College of Charleston graduate, he earned his BS in Biology in 1978 before graduating from an engineering program at the University of South Carolina in 1985. Robbie has served on numerous local boards including the College of Charleston Foundation, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Robbie and his wife, Berta, reside in Charleston and have four children - two of which are CofC graduates - and four grandchildren.