Lauren Taneyhill, Founder and President

Lauren comes from strong ties to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Severn River saltwater runs through her veins, cracking open a blue crab is instinctual, and sand is her preferred footwear. On top of her connection to the Chesapeake, Lauren's particular story has led to a sense of urgency in empowering and supporting other women. The combination of environmentalism and gender equity as core values led her to create HerChesapeake. 

Lauren believes in organizational leadership that provides managers and members the authority and flexibility to run with ideas, and aims to enable the HerChesapeake team by providing guidance on organization direction and future vision, facilitating project management, assisting managers in respective work, and ensuring HerChesapeake's activities are responsive to its membership.

Lauren's professional experience includes coordination, facilitation, policy, governance, partnerships, and communications for local to national scale environmental nonprofits and public agencies, as well as small business administration. Lauren has a Master of Natural Resources in Leadership for Global Sustainability from Virginia Tech, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Economics and Policy from the Pennsylvania State University.

Stephanie looking at a bird.jpg

Stephanie Smith, Vice President

Stephanie is a communications and outreach professional focused on environmental science and restoration. A native of the Midwest, she first connected with the Chesapeake Bay while serving as web content manager for a Bay-focused nonprofit. Today, her work focuses on a different coastal area, but she still spends as much time as she can visiting the Chesapeake region's wetlands and forests, hoping to spot a bird or two.

As Vice President of HerChesapeake, Stephanie supports the President, other officers, and members in whatever ways she can, from coordinating meetings to brainstorming field trip ideas.


Catherine Krikstan, Historian

Catherine is a web writer, editor, and digital strategist who provides communications support for a unique regional partnership that drives positive change in the Chesapeake Bay. She is a lifelong Girl Scout who was raised in the Anacostia River watershed and lives in Washington, D.C.

As Historian of HerChesapeake, Catherine maintains our organization's records and meeting minutes and helps facilitate EmpowHERment discussions around issues and experiences that call for feedback and advice. 


Melissa Merritt, Membership and Recruitment Director

Melissa is an environmentalist with a degree in Environmental Science, a background in theater, and an interest to get people involved with the Chesapeake Bay. Originally from West Virginia (which is still part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed!), where Melissa worked for the state to create projects to keep the local waters clean, Melissa currently lives in Annapolis where she’s expanding her skills to communicate the science of the Chesapeake Bay. In her free time, Melissa enjoys spending time around the water or at home with her three cats. 


Joan Smedinghoff, Communications Director

Originally from Chicago, Joan was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. After graduation, she headed further down the watershed to Maryland, where she now works in communications as a web content specialist for the Chesapeake Bay Program. When she’s not exploring the DMV area or cheering on the Cubs, she’s working on becoming fluent in German.

As the Communications Coordinator, Joan manages the website, updates Facebook, and pulls together the newsletter.