Board of Directors
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Tom is a retired Washington, D.C., lawyer who spent most of his career representing airlines and railroads in labor and employment matters, including extensive experience translating scientific experts for lay decision-makers. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the Harvard Law School.
His environmental activism included a decade fighting water pollution with local riverkeeper organizations on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In 2013, seeing the Andromeda Galaxy for the first time with his naked eyes from atop Kitt Peak rekindled an interest in astronomy and a desire to eliminate light pollution.
Currently residing in Northern Virginia, he and his wife Chris travel extensively in the Western United States seeking dark sky locations. For several years he has assisted DarkSky as a volunteer on legal and public policy issues at the national level.
Nalayini holds a Master of Science degree in astronomy from Swinburne University in Australia. She is currently the president of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand and is the chair of AstroNZ, a registered charity that is the country’s leading distributor of astronomical equipment and an important charity for the promotion and education of astronomy and dark skies.
With a Master of Science degree in finance from London Business School, University of London, she is also a qualified Chartered Accountant and holds a Financial Studies Diploma in banking from the Institute of Bankers, U.K.. Having previously worked for Kuwait Asia Bank, the Bank of New Zealand, and Citibank where she was a Vice President, Nalayini is presently Executive Director of Vinstar Consulting, one of New Zealand’s leading economic and financial advisory service providers, which has government clients in 35 countries worldwide.
Nalayini was instrumental in the successful effort to establish Aotea / Great Barrier Island as a certified Dark Sky Sanctuary. She also co-leads the promotion of New Zealand’s journey to become a dark sky nation. She has spoken at Dark Sky conferences and workshops around the world.
As senior research engineer with Musco Lighting, Brad has worked closely with DarkSky for many years helping to establish benchmarks and best practices for exterior lighting that align with DarkSky’s purpose and goals.
Brad has helped spearhead Musco’s decades-long mission of controlling and applying light in ways that significantly reduce glare, spill, and sky glow. Brad is a firm believer that the best outdoor lighting systems are designed in a way that’s equally focused on preserving darkness as on illuminating the intended area. Lighting at night, when necessary, can co-exist with protecting the enjoyment of observing the dark nighttime skies.
Ken Walczak is the Senior Manager of Far Horizons, a scientific research and engineering program at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. The program engages students, volunteers, and the public in hands-on, participatory research projects. These projects include over 140 stratospheric balloon missions, an underwater meteorite retrieval craft, and orbital nanosatellite missions.
He has helped design and utilize innovative instruments for light pollution research and has co-authored numerous papers on the subject. He helped lead the successful designation of the world’s largest Urban Night Sky Place, The Palos Preserves, southwest of Chicago.
He owned a lighting and furniture design company and is a trained photographer, an avid public policy advocate, and an experienced science and astronomy communicator.
Fernando Avila Castro
Fernando Avila was born in Nogales, Mexico. His bachelor and graduate studies were in physics, with a specialty in astrophysics.
A big proponent of science outreach, Fernando Avila has done public talks, public astronomy observations, interviews and news articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV for over 25 years.
Fernando is currently employed at the National Astronomical Observatory of the Astronomy Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. At the observatory he is in charge of the Dark Skies Law Office where he has put his outreach experience to educate about the issues of light pollution and how it can be reduced without compromising safety.
A big part of his work at the Dark Skies Law Office is working closely with the three levels of Mexican government, promoting laws and ordinances to reduce light pollution. Among his results are two updated city ordinances (Ensenada and Mexicali, Baja California), one new city ordinance (Tijuana, Baja California), one new state law in Baja California, and another in Sonora, and an update to a federal law that included artificial light at night as pollutant. He has also helped promote laws in the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, and Quintana Roo, which are advancing every day. At the moment, there are two states with applications to host a Dark Sky Park (Hidalgo) and a Dark Sky Sanctuary (Baja California), both of them promoted by Fernando.
From 2014 to 2016, he collaborated as technical advisor in a project to replace the public lighting system in the city of Ensenada from 17,000 HPS semi-cutoff luminaires, to 25,000 LED full cutoff luminaires. The project had a moderate success due to budget constraints. Still, the city’s night sky became darker by around 0.8 magnitude, and the city had significant savings in the energy consumption, even though there were 50% more light fixtures.
Fernando Avila is also the DarkSky representative in Mexico, has been part of the DarkSky education committee, and participates in the DarkSky Mentor Program. He also has helped to translate DarkSky outreach materials into Spanish. In 2016, DarkSky gave Fernando a Dark Skies Defender Award.
Doug is a strategic advisor for Barker & Scott Consulting, which assists leading regional, national, and international nonprofit organizations with leveraging the power of information technology for organizational advancement and mission success.
He is passionate about helping nonprofit organizations use the art and science of fundraising to connect more deeply with donors and achieve greater impact. Prior to cofounding Barker & Scott, Doug was vice president and chief information officer for The Nature Conservancy. Before that, Doug was the nonprofit industry lead for the consulting practice of Arthur Andersen in Washington, D.C.
Doug resides in D.C., where he is active in local environmental causes, including advocating for reducing light pollution. He loves nature, night skies, travel, hiking, canoeing, biking, and gardening.
Kevin Gaston Ph.D.
Kevin is Professor of Biodiversity & Conservation at the University of Exeter, U.K. He has more than 35 years of research experience in environmental issues. He has been working on the biological impacts of artificial nighttime lighting since 2006, when he became intrigued by what was causing European robins still to be singing when he emerged from late-night visits to the cinema. Since then, Kevin has conducted studies on the spatial and temporal variation in artificial lighting, the wide diversity of biological impacts that this has, and means of mitigating these effects.
Kenya / Slovenia
Samyukta is an astrotourism consultant and the director of Noctia Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of natural dark skies. With a background in science communication, outreach, astrotourism, and experience design, Samyukta is interested in an interdisciplinary approach to dark sky conservation that integrates science with cultural and environmental preservation.
Sergio Montúfar Codoñer
Sergio was a 2020 Dark Sky Defender, is a multi-award-winning science communicator artist, and a stargazer since childhood. He served as the Official Astrophotographer of La Plata Planetarium of the National Astronomical Observatory of La Plata, Argentina, and was recognized by Forbes as one the most creative minds in Central America.
Sergio serves as national astrotourism coordinator in Guatemala for the National Institute of Tourism, INGUAT, and collaborates with the Ministry of Tourism and Protected Areas of Chubut Province in Argentina. As a dedicated light pollution activist, his goal is to understand cultural dynamics and best practices in his visited sites. He produces light-out science outreach events and has exhibited his space-art in more than 16 countries to bring together audiences such as artists, communicators, scientists, students, engineers, architects, political leaders, institutions, and business organizations as an educational and sustainable strategy to promote dark sky behaviors in society. He is also leading projects with cultural astronomers and indigenous communities in Latin America to value and preserve astronomical heritage.
Since 2010, Sibylle Schroer has been scientific coordinator of the working group Light Pollution and Ecophysiology at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin, Germany. Among other projects, she has coordinated the COST-Action Loss of the Night Network (ES1204, 2012 to 2016) and contributed to developing guidelines for environmentally friendly outdoor lighting.
Today she is transferring this knowledge into practice within the project “Species protection through environmentally friendly lighting.” Since 2022, she is the coordinator for sustainability and freshwater biodiversity research at the IGB.
Sibylle is an active member in the global science network Future Earth. Her research focus is the protection of insects and their habitat. She has studied biological alternatives for chemical pesticides in projects at the German Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI) and at the University of Florida (Fort Lauderdale, U.S.).
Sibylle Schroer holds a doctorate in agricultural science and has studied horticultural science.
Mike Simmons has been an amateur astronomer for almost 50 years and loves sharing the night sky with others. He is past president of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and was co-founder and president of the Mount Wilson Observatory Association. His organizing efforts went international after his first trip to Iran for the total solar eclipse of 1999, and a later trip to Iraq, where he found enthusiastic but isolated amateur astronomy communities.
He co-chaired the 100 Hours of Astronomy Cornerstone Project for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and is the founder and past president of Astronomers Without Borders. Mike is retired from a career in medical research at UCLA.
Paulina hails from the Atacama Desert in Chile — the driest, brightest, and starriest place on Earth. In 2005, she founded DIAV, an architectural lighting design practice based in Santiago, Chile, and developed Conceptual Design for Singapore. Her lighting design work has been awarded in Europe, Asia, and the United States.
In 2012, Paulina founded Noche Zero, an initiative to change the paradigm for urban lighting planning, promoting the importance of lighting design and incorporating ecology, human health, and light pollution control. Noche Zero received the Dark Sky Defender Award in 2012 and was nominated for the Award at Large in PLDC Copenhagen.
She is currently a lighting design professor for post-graduate programs at the University of Chile and is recognized as an enthusiastic speaker. She has spoken at many conferences, classes, and seminars worldwide. Additionally, Paulina is the editor of the lighting chapter for the guide of sustainable public spaces for Chile (Chilean Chamber of Construction, Ministry of Urban Planning), a consultant for the new regulation of interior lighting in Chile, and consultant for regulatory review of outdoor lighting for Chile’s Ministry of Energy.
Connie Walker is an astronomer dedicated to dark skies education (Globe at Night, Quality Lighting Teaching Kit) as well as measurement and mitigation. Inspired from an early age by astronauts landing on the moon and the original Star Trek series, her curiosity for anything astronomy propelled her to be the first in her family to go to college and earn a Ph.D.
Connie has been with the U.S. National Observatory (NSF’s NOIRLab) for 22 years. She is actively involved with light pollution issues on the ground and more recently in space, coordinating their Office of Observatory Site Protection. She has leadership roles on dark skies protection with the American Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union. In 2020 and 2021, she co-chaired two workshops focusing on the impacts of satellite constellations and two conferences focusing on the impacts of satellite constellations and artificial light at night. As of April 2022, she has taken on the co-directorship of the new IAU Center on the Protection of the Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellation Interference (CPS).
She has a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and in physics from Smith College, an MS in electrical engineering from U. Mass Amherst, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from U. Arizona. Between the advanced degrees, she has had a couple of years of experience as an electrical engineer for a large aerospace company. For her efforts in bringing dark skies awareness to the public, DarkSky awarded her the Hoag-Robinson award in 2011. Asteroid 29292 ConnieWalker was named by discoverers David Levy and Carolyn Shoemaker for her efforts in educational outreach.
Immediate Past President
As a grassroots organizer, Diane founded South Dakota’s first and only local DarkSky chapter and continues to serve as an advisor today. She works with councils, public utilities, businesses, organizations, and federal entities to protect the night from light pollution. Diane has owned and operated night-friendly businesses, including a fitness studio and boutique hotel.
Diane has both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, yet states her best education comes from connecting with others beneath a quality night sky.
When she’s not volunteering for DarkSky, she enjoys spending time in He Sapa (a.k.a., the Black Hills of South Dakota). There she owns and operates a historic and night friendly inn where she encourages guests to embrace the night. Come for a visit and she’ll leave the lights off for you. Diane became a DarkSky International Director in 2018 and served as its Board Chair in 2021 and 2022.
Charles Lee Mudd Jr. is the founder and principal of Mudd Law. He has positioned his firm and practice at the forefront of space law and the expanding commercial space industry. Charles regularly speaks and writes on space law and policy internationally. On these topics, he also has participated in United Nations conferences, testified in Washington, D.C., and lectured at universities in the United States and Russia.
Charles is a founding member of the Internet Law Leadership Summit. He serves as a board member of NewSpace Chicago as well as General Counsel for DarkSky International. He also maintains memberships in the International Institute of Space Law, European Centre for Space Law, ITechLaw, American Astronomical Society, AAAI, AIAA, and the IEEE.
CEO and Executive Director
Ruskin champions equitable access to dark skies and quality lighting for all through DarkSky’s award-winning programs. He works closely with volunteer leaders and donors to secure increased support for our priorities around the world. Ruskin believes that experiencing a dark sky, and appreciating quality lighting, are essential to DarkSky’s mission.
Before this position, Ruskin directed and managed conservation programs that protect land, water, and ocean resources. He served as executive director of Save the Redwoods League, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and restoring the redwood forest. He also served as the president and CEO of Heal the Bay in Los Angeles and as vice president of resource development at Fair Trade USA, an award-winning social enterprise seeking to alleviate poverty worldwide.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Ruskin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge and a master’s degree from The University of East Anglia. Ruskin loves to head out on the trail with his wife and kids or cook under the stars.
Committees of the Board
The DarkSky Board of Directors appoints advisory committees to fulfill certain roles and responsibilities of the organization.
As a nonprofit organization, we deeply value the trust that has been placed in us. Our members and donors trust us to use their contributions wisely. Governments and private entities trust our science and our ability to create solutions that protect the night skies, wildlife, humans, and the planet. To preserve this crucial trust, DarkSky is committed to best practices in governance, accountability, and transparency. This commitment exists at all levels of the organization.