Meet the Staff


Douglas Austen
Executive Director
ext. 208, [email protected]

Doug Austen has been Executive Director since 2013, but has been involved with AFS since the early 1980s as an undergraduate student at South Dakota State University. He served as president of the Illinois Chapter and North Central Division, wrote articles for several AFS journals and books, and also served as an associate editor for the North American Journal of Fisheries Management.  Prior to AFS, Doug was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national coordinator for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and worked for 10 years each with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Natural History Survey. He has a Ph.D. from Iowa State University and an M.S. from Virginia Tech. When not at AFS, Doug provides taxi service for his two teenagers and fishes, hunts, runs, bikes, and kayaks in Pennsylvania or wherever travels take him.

Beth Beard
Senior Communications Manager
[email protected]

Beth has been working for AFS since 1999. Before becoming Senior Communications Manager, she was the managing editor of Parks & Recreation magazine. Prior to that, she spent 11 years at AFS as the managing editor of Fisheries. Beth has also worked in public relations and publications in the wood products industry and the zoo and aquarium fields. She has a BA in public communication from The American University. As a lifelong world traveler, her hobbies include travel photography. She is married to longtime AFS member Doug Beard.

Areas of responsibility: Social media management, website maintenance, marketing, graphic design, writing and editing, and photography.

Staff Liaison for: Communications Committee




Ashley Berniche
Education Program Coordinator
[email protected]
Rachel Bruce
Meetings Coordinator
[email protected]

Rachel joined AFS in 2021, right after graduating college. Rachel grew up in Maryland and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Salisbury University with a BS in Management and minors in Communication and Psychology. During her years at Salisbury, she interned for two years at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) in their Office of Scientific Meetings and Conferences. She also volunteered every summer at non-profit conferences, similar to AFS annual meetings. During her free time, she loves traveling—Thailand and France being her favorite locations! As one of the newest and youngest AFS staff members, she is excited to grow deeper in her role and connect with the AFS members!

Areas of Responsibility: Provides general support to various AFS meeting activities and exhibitions. Provides support to the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting (JASM) and AFS Annual Meeting communication committees.

Staff Liaison for: Meetings


Daniel Cassidy
Deputy Executive Director
ext. 214, [email protected]

Daniel Cassidy joined AFS in 2015 and oversees administration, fundraising/development, professional education and meetings. He has spent the majority of his career in association management and has worked for scientific and education associations.  He has a MBA in Finance and is certified as a public accountant. While not working, you will find him outside on the baseball field, gardening, or chasing his two Chihuahuas around the yard.

Areas of responsibility:   Administration/HR, Fundraising/Development, Education/Professional Development, Finance, Meetings, Membership, Technology

Staff Liaison for: Audit committee, Investment committee

Caroline Davis
Journals Production Coordinator
ext. 215

Caroline Davis (they/them) joined AFS in 2021 and genuinely loves publishing. Caroline graduated from UMBC with a BA in Linguistics. They’ve previously worked in language-nerd capacities, in both the AI start up space and in corporate marketing. Caroline is an accomplished copyeditor and has lent their expertise to a wide variety of projects, including diversity consulting and book editing. Outside of work, Caroline loves to spend time with their cat and their houseplant jungle. Caroline lives in Baltimore and loves exploring architecture and local green spaces.

Areas of responsibility: Production for all AFS journals, promotion of journals content,

Staff Liaison for: AFS editorial boards, authors, copy editors, and the AFS publishing partner

Mia Ferguson
Membership Coordinator
[email protected]


Jenna Hanks
Development Manager
[email protected]
Laura Hendee
Publications Director
ext. 227, [email protected]

Laura joined AFS in 2006. In 2011, she assumed day-to-day management of the journals program and helps to produce multiple journals. Laura graduated with a BA in English from the College of Wooster in 2005. She grew up fishing on family vacations in Wyoming and Colorado, but spent most of that time falling into various lakes and streams and usually ended up happily reading instead. Outside of the office Laura enjoys concerts, beer gardens, vineyards, road trips, and reading fiction. 

Areas of responsibility: Production of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, the North American Journal of Aquaculture, the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, and Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science.

Staff Liaison for: AFS editorial boards, authors, copy editors, and the AFS publishing partner


Shawn Johnston
Meetings Manager
ext. 230, [email protected]

Shawn Johnston joined AFS as the Administrative Coordinator in 2007 and is currently the AFS Meetings Manager, the lead contact for managing AFS meetings and coordinating meeting contracts with Chapters and Divisions.  Shawn graduated from UMDNJ with a Bachelor’s of Science in Emergency Management, obtained his national registry flight paramedic license in 1997, and attended Rutgers University for business management. He also managed safety conferences for a large manufacturer in New Jersey for seven years. Shawn enjoys travel, biking, and jet skiing.

Areas of responsibility: Managing AFS meetings and coordinating meeting contracts with Chapters and Divisions

Staff Liaison for: Meetings

Kelly Kotche
Membership Manager
Ext. 205, [email protected]

Kelly Kotche, the most recent addition to the AFS staff, joined us in October 2021 as AFS Membership Manager. Kelly comes to the Society with more than two decades of experience working for a food trade manufacturing association, specializing in membership and engagement, She is excited about getting to know AFS members and learning more about the fisheries profession. One of her main objectives in the coming year is to get AFS members more involved in the Society’s various activities and help them take advantage of all the resources that AFS has to offer, as well as grow the Society with new members and making it stronger than ever. Kelly holds a B.S. degree in Marketing from the University of Maryland. In her spare time, Kelly enjoys crab feasts with family and friends, cheering her son on at sporting events, going to concerts, boating, camping, and taking care of her two babies – her beloved guinea pigs. She’s also proud of the fact that she’s kept the same gold fish alive for more than seven years!

Areas of Responsibility:  Membership, dues collection, retention and renewals, new member recruitment,  database and list management

Liaison for: Membership Committee

Debby Lehman
Book Production Editor
ext. 223, [email protected]

Debby graduated from Occidental College with a degree in English and comparative literature and received a master’s degree in English literature from Boston University. She has been working in the books department of the American Fisheries Society for more than 15 years. Debby enjoys reading, drawing, travel, and taking care of her young son.

Areas of responsibility: Copy edit, lay out, preparing books for publication, assisting with Fisheries magazine, and working on additional projects such as the Climate Science Center reports and the AFS policy report.

Lauren Maza
Director, Member Programs
ext. 225, [email protected]

Lauren started working for AFS in 2017. She has over 15 years of experience in the association sector, mostly in education/meetings, project management, and operations. Past organizations include the Council for Resource Development and The Obesity Society. She holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, as well as the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation. As a fan of dry feet, Lauren spends most of her time outside on land, while climbing and hiking.

Areas of responsibility: Management of continuing education. General oversight of Hutton program, certification, awards, and units.

Staff Liaison for: All AFS Units, Chapters, Sections, and Divisions; Awards Committee, Continuing Education Committee, Hutton Committee, Certification Committees


Peter Turcik
Managing Editor, Fisheries
ext. 201, [email protected] 

Before joining AFS as Managing Editor of Fisheries Magazine, Peter worked as a media specialist, grant writer, and staff photographer for the Chesapeake Conservancy and as a freelance writer and photographer. He grew up in western Pennsylvania, went to boarding school in New York, and returned to Pennsylvania for college, where he stayed until moving to Annapolis in 2014. Peter has a B.A. in English from Allegheny College. He is an avid kayak angler, as well as a fly fisherman who ties his own flies. He also enjoys outdoor and sports photography, and is big fan of rugby and hockey.

Areas of responsibility: Generating magazine content for Fisheries, copy-editing, supervising design and artistic direction, managing special projects

Liaison for: authors, magazine science editors, publisher


Kurt West
Book Production Editor
ext. 229, [email protected]

Kurt joined AFS staff as Books Production Coordinator in July 2007 after having completed his MFA in writing at American University, where he had also interned as an editor for the university’s journal of arts.  Prior to his graduate studies, he received his BA in English with a specialization in communication and technology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Kurt is a published author of a couple short stories and currently is working on a novel. When he’s not reading or writing, Kurt can be found in a theater or on a road trip.

Areas of responsibility: Kurt manages the publication process for AFS book projects and assists in everything from copy editing, to layout and design, to quality control of the final, printed product. He also assists with the organization of AFS Annual Meetings, coordinating the AFS abstract and scheduling software. In addition he provides oversight and design for Annual Meeting materials such as the mobile meeting app, printed program guides, and annual Governing Board briefing books and reporting tools.

Staff Liaison for: Various authors and editors – both AFS members and non-members – to ensure that the vision of their research is communicated through their book projects.  The Conference Exchange, our mobile app designer, Core-apps, as well as various members of the AFS local meeting planning teams and Governing Board.