Sonnet Kekilia Coggins
Intertwined interests in literature, objects, and stories of place brought Sonnet to the Conservancy in 2018. She spent her childhood in Virginia, making frequent visits to family on Oʻahu and Kauaʻi. After completing a Masters degree in Education at the University of Virginia, Sonnet moved to France, where she worked in the wine industry and delighted in learning about place names and terroir. She then completed a Master of Arts in French Language and Literatures, with a focus on cultural history and interpretation of historic sites. Sonnet’s interests led her to a career in museums, first at the Denver Art Museum, and then at the Williams College Museum of Art, where she co-curated The Field is the World: Williams, Hawaiʻi, and Material Histories in the Making. Her life and work are guided by a deep curiosity about the world, storytelling about place, creativity, and the arts.
Director of Programs and Communications
Sara has been a champion of Maui’s well-being since 2004. Born and raised on a different island (Long Island, NY), she graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in psychology and before moving to Maui, worked for 8 years as a film and television producer in Los Angeles. On Maui, she has consulted for dozens of small businesses and nonprofits, co-produced three TEDxMaui conferences for more than 3,000 attendees, and co-founded Plant a Wish, a project that planted native trees with communities in all 50 states. Sara lectures in marketing and entrepreneurship at the University of Hawai‘i and has been part of The Merwin Conservancy team since its founding, joining the staff full time in 2015. She is a recipient of the Mālama I Ka ‘Āina award, given to Maui residents who further the protection of native habitats, serves as a board member at Montessori School of Maui and Nā Koa Manu Conservation, and is a member of Hālau ʻŌhiʻa, studying Hawaiʻi lifeways with Kumu Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻole. Sara advocates for remembering our ancestral connections to nature, and enjoys gardening, reading, playing music, and learning from the wilds of Maui with her family.
Joannah was born and raised primarily in Alaska, on a small island in Sitka Sound. In 1983, her father moved to Maui and became the caretaker of an avocado orchard. Joannah spent her youth working in the orchard on Maui and commercial salmon fishing in Alaska – two wild jobs that taught her to have deep respect and love for the land and sea. Joannah has traveled extensively and lived all over the world, while always feeling the perpetual call of her beautiful homelands, inviting her to return. She earned her International Baccalaureate at a small school in Wales and then a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Studies and Documentary Film from Pomona College in California. After college, she spent a decade working in documentary film, media, advertising, and technology, before returning to Maui to put down roots. On Maui, she has founded and run three small businesses that serve the local community. She brings her deep love for the land and for poetry to her work at The Merwin Conservancy. Joannah spends her time on Maui learning about the land, building community, teaching her son about the world, gardening, reading, writing, swimming in the ocean as much as possible, and hiking the Haleakalā crater on the full moon.
A native of Palos Verdes, CA, Chuck left home for the bright lights of Philadelphia where he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, then heading to Japan to teach English. After 6 years in local education, he started his hotel career as a bilingual concierge at southern Japan’s Hotel Ocean 45, then moved to the Big Island in 1998 and Maui in 2000. He spent 20 years with the Grand Wailea in various capacities, and happily retired in 2020. After a Merwin garden tour in April 2021, he knew that his work background combined with his interest in sustainability would be a great match with the mission of the conservancy. In his free time he can be found in his garden with his dog, cat, and chickens, as well as hiking and spending time with friends. An avid traveler, he has visited all 7 continents and looks forward to seeing them all in more depth in the coming years.
Programs and Communications Coordinator
Danny’s passion for serving the community as a storyteller and activist was ignited in his early years in Cleveland, Ohio. Since earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, he has contributed to multimedia projects advocating for endangered wildlife protection, civic engagement, civil rights, community education, and the arts. Danny has supported a diverse array of creative projects on Maui since 2011, with a focus on contributing to Hawai‘iʻs vibrant artist communities. He has worked with multiple local, national, and international nonprofit organizations. Danny is a soul surfer, wanderluster, yoga instructor, LGBTQ rights advocate, and a tree planter.
Olin Erickson, MauiScapes, LLC