Capt. RICHARD RIELs
Executive Director/VP of Research and Development
Captain Rich is the Founder of SMELTS. He has BSc in Industrial Technology and a post baccalaureate degree from Western Washington University Vehicle Research Institute (VRI). Rich led a team of engineers to build an award winning hybrid electric vehicle. He attended Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA and earned an AAS in mechanical technology. He has completed Marine Naturalist training at the Whale Museum and the Center for Whale Research and is a USCG certified 100 Ton captain. Rich has completed an apprenticeship training with The Center For Coastal Studies in Massachusetts for large whale disentanglement, and with NOAA and the Vancouver Aquarium on Stellar Sea lion darting and disentanglement. Rich currently volunteers as a marine mammal stranding and entanglement responder with the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Though he is an engineer by trade, Rich’s passion has always been the wilderness, the ocean and all wild creatures. He founded SMELTS with the vision of merging his acumen for engineering with his passion for environmental stewardship, combining both to develop human interaction prevention technologies. He has teamed up with two colleagues, Daniel Greenberg and David Orsatti, bringing together a collective knowledge of mechanics, engineering, animal health, and rescue strategies. Together the team is developing a line-less crab and lobster pot with the goal of helping fishermen reduce the number of lost pots while simultaneously reducing the amount of animal injury and death from line entanglements.. He is a resident of Bellingham Washington, moving to this area from Plymouth Massachusetts 24 years ago to attend WWU.
Daniel, an engineer by trade and graduate from Western Washington University’s Vehicle Research Institute (WWU VRI), has returned to Bellingham WA after extensive work in the alternative energy field. Teaching engineering courses as an Adjunct Professor at WWU VRI and assisting development of Waste to Energy systems in Whatcom County, Daniel has utilized his disciplines to assist the community. Formerly Director of Engineering and Product Development for AlumiFuel Power Inc (formerly Hydrogen Power Inc), Director of Engineering for Applied Filter Technology (BioGas processing), working as a technician at the Freightliner Truck’s Manufacturing Engineering /Prototype Development Shop and as a Field Service Engineer at XCELLSiS/Ballard Fuel Cells, Daniel brings proven hands-on project management, technology development, systems integration and product development tools to the team.
Prior to completing University, he worked in many diverse fields including as a Long-Line Fisherman out of Montauk NY, a Union Carpenter in Seattle WA and held an internship at the NASA/Ames Research Center’s Thermal Protection Branch. Daniel currently owns and operates a boutique engineering company for alternative fuel applications and a micro distillery producing specialty liquors.
Enjoying a broad range of outdoor activities made available in the Cascade region and Salish Sea, Daniel is enjoying the opportunity to utilize his engineering skills developing new technologies which will reduce marine mammal injuries and deaths.
Director of Marine Mammal Rescue:
David lives in Bellingham Washington where he graduated from Western Washington University with an Interdisciplinary Bachelor’s Degree in Prehospital Care and Wilderness Rescue. David has worked for the National Park Service and Petroleum Industry as an emergency responder and instructor in emergency medicine, high-angle rescue, confined space rescue and search management. David also volunteered with the Chuckanut Fire Dept, Bellingham Mountain Rescue Council and the Mount Baker Ski Patrol throughout the 1990s and 2000’s. After many years of professional and volunteer work in human rescue, David has shifted his focus to marine mammal rescue and marine debris prevention.
David currently volunteers as a pinniped stranding and entanglement responder with the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He attended an apprenticeship training in large whale disentanglement at the Center for Coastal Studies and is continuing to build the knowledge and credentials required to safely help entangled whales and pinnipeds. At SMELTS, David is helping to create a rescue team and maintain a response vessel that assists with a wide range of marine mammal research and rescue. He also contributes to the design and testing of marine debris reduction technology. David is employed as an ABYC certified Marine Electrician and works for a leading marine manufacturer in design and sales of custom electrical panels. His experience in electrical design and manufacturing are utilized to help SMELTS develop new technology for debris prevention and marine mammal rescue.