Home   About Us   Leadership


Ben Vallejos- Executive Director


Ben has been with the Living Coast Discovery Center for 17 years, serving as the Executive Director since 2013. He was born in Hawaii and grew up in San Diego, so it should come as no surprise that he is an avid SCUBA diver, fisherman, and paddle boarder.  His passion for the ocean led to a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from SDSU following an internship in the aquarium department at the Living Coast. His previous operations experience in retail provided the business foundation necessary to successfully operate the Living Coast as Executive Director. Ben’s favorite animal is a sailfin tang.



Lori Coons- Director of Community Engagement & Development

Lori squareLori was born and raised in Chula Vista, not too far from the Living Coast.  After graduating from SDSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, Lori began a 13-year career in the hospitality industry in catering and sales positions for major hotels in San Diego. For many years, Lori spent time volunteering with various local organizations and eventually made the transition to a career in fundraising, spending five years at UCSD and then at the Living Coast since 2014. She enjoys traveling, the Walking Dead, and her favorite animal is the meerkat.



Elizabeth Argyle- Director of Education & Guest Experience 

BestShots (3)Elizabeth has been an informal educator for nearly 8 years. She started her work at the Living Coast in the fall of 2013. Originally from Orange County, college brought her to San Diego where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, from the University of California, San Diego. Her passion for science, conservation, and education led her to fall in love with this beautiful community. Elizabeth went on to complete her Master of Education from Point Loma Nazarene University. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys hiking, snorkeling, or watching her favorite animals, California sea lions, play off the coast of La Jolla.



Jessica LaFave- Development Manager

IMG_1977Jessica has been with the Living Coast since 2014. Originally from upstate New York, Jessica came to San Diego for a six-month internship in 2003 and has been in California ever since. She has worked in fundraising for a variety of non-profit organizations, including a hospital, a radio station, and a museum. In her spare time, Jessica likes to cook, practice yoga, and spend time outdoors with her husband and their dog, Peggy. Jessica’s favorite animal is the octopus.


Katharine Mathews- Facilities Manager

010df92dabdb3071a8f55798da5c563077fd8835c4Born and raised in Chula Vista, Katharine used to visit the Living Coast as the Chula Vista Nature Center when she was in grade school. While earning her bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and Sustainability at SDSU, she interned on small scale farms in Bonita, CA and Costa Rica, sparking her passion for composting and soil conservation. Katharine has been with the Living Coast since 2012 in many roles, including Development Assistant and Sustainability Specialist. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing or reading a good book outside. Her favorite animal is the elephant



Rachel Harper-  Marketing & Communications Manager

Rachel + snakeRachel grew up in the Reno/Tahoe area where she discovered her passion for wildlife through hiking, camping, and outdoor sports. After earning her Marketing degree, she moved to San Diego, working in various industries and with local and global wildlife organizations Her love of conservation and connecting people with nature led her to the Living Coast. In her free time, Rachel loves to travel, camp, SCUBA dive, and spend time with her cat. Her favorite animal is the fox.




Tina Matthias- Volunteer & Programs Manager

Tina square

Tina is a native Chula Vistan and has worked at the Living Coast since its inception, over 30 years ago. She loves all living things and prides herself on conservation and preservation. Her passion for animals carries over into her volunteer program.Tina manages over 250 volunteers, donating over 20,000 hours annually. Tina is a community leader, spearheading cleanup projects throughout the South Bay. Her unswerving dedication to conservation is always at the forefront of her daily life. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, rollerblading and other outdoor activities. Tina’s favorite creature is the beautiful and graceful dragonfly who lives a short life and knows it must live each day to its fullest.

Beth Sabiston- Animal Care Manager


Beth has been with the Living Coast Discovery Center since 2010. Originally from the Long Island, New York, Beth moved to San Diego after graduating with her Bachelor’s in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of New Hampshire. She enjoys camping, hiking, cooking, yoga and gardening on her own time. Beth’s favorite animal is her Flemish Giant rabbit named Waffles.