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Marine Ecologist and Conservation Biologist
Dr. John Bruno is a marine ecologist and conservation biologist. His research is focused on understanding and conserving the structure and dynamics of marine communities. Dr. Bruno works in a variety of marine habitats including coral reefs, coastal wetland and sand dune plant communities, oyster reefs and seagrass beds. Current projects in the Bruno lab include investigations of the link between rising ocean temperatures and regional-scale coral disease epidemics, the importance of predator biodiversity in food webs, and the dispersal and meta-community dynamics of marine plants and animals. Dr. Bruno earned his Ph.D. from Brown University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University.
National Media Coordinator
National Marine Sanctuary Program
An accomplished public relations and marketing communications professional with more than 20 years of domestic and international experience, Lou has worked for and provided consultation to leading corporations and organizations. Before joining NMSF, Lou left the corporate world and his own communications consulting business to work for the International Fund for Animal Welfare were he traveled the world helping to rescue animals in distress and was noted for his work handling media relations and rescuing animals in New Orleans and Texas after hurricane Katrina. He also is a trained marine mammal stranding responder, having rescued and released dozens of stranded dolphins off the beaches of Cape Cod. In addition to being an award winning writer, video producer and strategic communicator, Lou is an experienced SCUBA diver, published photographer and boating enthusiast. Lou holds a M.S. from Columbia University, a B.S. in Science from Lehman College and an executive certificate in Communications Management from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
National Marine Sanctuary Program
Paul Chetirkin helps to spread the National Marine Sanctuary Program message by producing outreach videos. As Multimedia Coordinator, he works with NMSP staff on a range of products highlighting the diverse work at the Sanctuary Program. Paul was born in San Francisco and has lived primarily in Florida and California. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in History & Russian Studies from the University of Central Florida and a Master's Degree in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. His focus was on coral reef biodiversity studies and marine protected areas. Paul grew up tide pooling along Monterey Bay's coast, volunteering at the Florida Keys Sanctuary, and diving for many years in the Monterey and Keys Sanctuaries. Prior to coming to the National Marine Sanctuary Program, Paul worked in non-profit for animal and environmental awareness.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Craig graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1971 with a BS in biology. Following graduation he worked for New Jersey Fish and Game doing trout hatchery and fisheries work, and also the U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife working on an anadromous fish project on the Delaware River. In 1973 Craig traded fresh for salt water and attended the Ocean Corporation, a six month commercial diving school. After serving his apprenticeship as a tender with Taylor Diving and Salvage, he then worked for that company until he retired after 11 years of commercial diving. In 1984 he went to work for the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation as an underwater bridge inspector. During his eight years with NCDOT he became acquainted with the NURC program at UNCW due to an attempt by the state of NC to produce a diving manual for all divers working for the state. It was through this meeting that UNCW offered Craig the chance of a lifetime in late December 1990 when they acquired the Aquarius habitat. As Operations Director, he focuses on program development and cooperative relationships with other agencies and groups, such as the US Navy and NASA. Craig is still involved with all Aquarius missions and other activities, serving as support diver, CG licensed Captain, Diving Medical Technician, and on board habitat technician during missions, paralleling that of the other ten staff making up the Aquarius support team.
Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF),
Leda Cunningham runs the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), a non-profit organization that engages scuba divers and snorkelers in marine conservation and citizen science. Based in Key Largo, Florida, REEF links the diving community with scientists, resource managers and conservationists through marine life data collection and related activities. Its flagship program, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, has trained and involved more than 10,000 divers and snorkelers to collect in situ population and distribution data, resulting in one of the largest marine life databases in the world, with more than 107,000 surveys conducted to date. Resource managers and scientists increasingly use this information to address a variety of questions. REEF also organizes outreach and education activities for a wide audience of non-divers, including students, fishermen and "armchair explorers." Prior to REEF, Leda worked on the Conserve Our Ocean Legacy campaign at the National Environmental Trust in Washington, DC to mobilize the U.S. diving community in support of sustainable fisheries policies. Leda holds an MBA and a Masters in Global Environmental Policy from American University. She was the 2005 recipient of the Dolores E. Fisher Award for marine conservation.
Associate Science Coordinator
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Scott Donahue was raised in Pinellas County (City of Dunedin), Florida, and throughout his childhood engaged in various marine activities such as fishing, snorkeling, and boating. After graduating from Clearwater Central Catholic High School in 1987, he attended the University of South Florida (Tampa) and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1994. With degree in hand, Scott applied for various science jobs throughout the State of Florida, but gravitated towards those related to marine science. The value of his Bachelor's degree was realized when the Florida Marine Research Institute hired him as a staff scientist at their Marathon field laboratory (Florida Keys), where he was a team member of a research group studying Caribbean spiny lobster ecology. After three years with the Institute, Scott went on to pursue his Masters degree with Dr. Mark J. Butler, IV, at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, studying sponge ecology in the Florida Keys. Once his thesis research was complete, Scott applied for a job vacancy with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and was hired as coral reef Damage Assessment and Restoration biologist. Scott now serves as the Associate Science Coordinator for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Associate Science Coordinator
National Marine Sanctuary Program's Southeast and Gulf of Mexico Region
Born in Minnesota and raised by two Midwesterners that get seasick just looking at a boat, Sarah did not seem destined for a life in and on the ocean. Fortunately for her, the Fangman family escaped to the Caribbean one particularly frigid Minnesota winter and Sarah discovered her passion for the ocean (as well as her inherited tendency towards seasickness). While studying biology and environmental studies at Middlebury College (in Vermont), Sarah arranged to spend part of her junior year in the Virgin Islands taking courses on coral reef ecology. This experience solidified her desire to make a career of matters marine. After college, Sarah traveled to Seattle for graduate studies at the University of Washington. While in graduate school, Sarah began working for NOAA at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. After graduating from UW in 1997, she transferred to NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, where she served as Research Coordinator for eight years. She is now the Associate Science Coordinator for the National Marine Sanctuary Program's Southeast and Gulf of Mexico Region (which includes Gray's Reef, the Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuaries). This is the third Aquarius mission in which Sarah has participated. She was a saturation diver in Mission 5 in 2002 and Mission 6 in 2005. During "If Reefs Could Talk" Sarah will serve as a topside diver.
PhD Student, Marine Sciences
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Patrick Gibson is a PhD student in Marine Sciences at the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His student career began at the
University of Miami in Coral Gables where he received a BS in Marine
Science and Biology. While at Miami, Patrick took part in several
unique opportunities including UM's intensive Saltwater Semester program
and a semester abroad at James Cook University in Australia where he
focused on coral reef ecology. After graduation he worked as crew on an
Atlantic crossing of the sailboat Invictus and subsequently took a job
as lab manager of the Southeast Environmental Research Center's
Microbial Ecology Lab at Florida International University in Miami. He
pursued his MS degree in biology at FIU by investigating the flux of
nutrients between the protected ecosystems of Florida Bay and the
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary became involved with the NSF
funded Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
program. Patrick is currently focusing on biogeochemestry of South
Florida Ecosystems, biological processes of sponge communities, and
general ecosystems ecology. He has worked in several related
disciplines, including an oceanographic research cruise to the tropical
Pacific to study ocean acidification, and participating in two workshops
at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis for
ecosystem-based management and ecosystem service valuations. He has
worked in all aspects of South Florida ecology over the last ten years
and will participate in his first Aquarius saturation mission in October.
Dr. Steve Gittings
Science Coordinator, National Marine Sanctuary Program
It has always been about water for Dr. Gittings. He swam not long after walking, through high school and college, and still does after nearly 50 years. Dr. Gittings studied marine science at land-locked Westminster College in western Pennsylvania. He went to graduate school at Texas A&M University and was taken on boats, ships, submarines, and helicopters to study and learn what it meant to protect sensitive ecosystems from undue harm caused by careless people. As a professional, he has been one of the lucky ones who continues to make a living doing what he loves. He works with scientists all over the country who work to understand what makes the oceans tick. Mostly he works with the national marine sanctuaries to figure out what types of creatures are in them, how abundances are changing, what natural processes affect their condition, and what can be done to reduce human impacts on the oceans. On this mission, Dr. Gittings will lead a team that will assess the condition of corals, sponges, algae, and fish on Conch Reef. He has done three missions in Aquarius in the past, each time doing this type of work.
Letise T. Houser, PhD
Government Relations Manager and Education Coordinator
National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Born and raised in Chicago, Letise's first exposure to the ocean was through programs on PBS and Discovery Channel and many visits to the Shedd Aquarium. Plus, growing up, the vastness of Lake Michigan was "ocean" enough for Letise. Her mother says she recognized her fascination as young as the age of four, and by the time she was 11 or 12 years old, her mother encouraged Letise to research how she could apply it. That was still before the internet craze, so Letise actually had to go to the public library and gather piles of reference books. After a couple trips, she was sure it was the life in the ocean that excited her most, which made her realize she wanted to be a marine biologist. Many years later, she is still awestruck by the ocean and its many inhabitants and dynamics.
Dominic was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and moved out west to Oregon at a young age. He grew up in the small town called Albany, where he went to school and graduated in 1986. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and went into the field of communications. He completed his basic training at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina as one of the last groups to train on "Tank Hill". After basic Dominic continued with his communications training at Ft. Gordon, Georgia until early 1997. He then went to Kitzengen, Germany to complete his enlistment for the 3rd Infantry Division in a Field Artillery Battalion. In 2003 the opportunity arose for a position at NOAA's Undersea Research Center where Dominic is now applying his skills in this unique opportunity with Aquarius. Next month will mark his 4th year with NURC.
Dr. Niels Lindquist
Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Early outdoor adventures set in motion a desire to study what factors influence the ways in which organisms interact, particularly coral reef organisms. As a student at the University of Florida, the goal of Dr. Lindquist's studies, which focused on chemistry and zoology, was to apply chemical knowledge and tools to ecological studies, a general research area known as chemical ecology. After graduating with a degree in chemistry from UF, he moved to La Jolla, California to begin graduate studies at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. My Ph.D. research examined the secondary metabolites produced by sea squirts and the ecological roles of these small organic molecules, many of which proved to effectively protect these reef creatures from predators. Dr. Lindquist had the great fortune as a graduate student to collect sea squirts from coral reefs in the Bahamas, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and the Seychelles Islands. From Scripps, he moved back to the East coast and established his research base at the UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences. He has continued his research in marine chemical ecology and has expanded his studies to include investigations of larval ecology, marine symbioses, and the impact of sponges on the chemical environment and nutrient dynamics of coral reefs.
Christopher S. Martens
Distinguished Professor of Marine Sciences
Department of Marine Sciences
University of North Carolina
Christopher grew up in south Florida and the Florida Keys. He won a scholarship to Florida State University and moved to the frigid northern realms of Florida. At Florida State he immediately went to work for a marine sponge biologist. Christopher majored in Chemistry but learned to study and enjoy diverse subjects. Chemistry, biology, physics and geology had all became relevant as he finished his senior year as an undergraduate. In 1972, Christopher moved to Yale University to complete two years of postdoctoral study and to be a junior faculty member before joining the faculty of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1974. The project at Aquarius developed from exciting new discoveries concerning the possible importance of marine sponges as sources or sinks of nitrogen to coral reef ecosystems.
Dr Prager is an experienced marine scientist and author of popular science and children's books. She has done several missions in Aquarius and was a safety diver for its predecessor, Hydrolab. She conducted research in the Florida Keys while with the U.S. Geological Survey, is the former assistant dean and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, was contracted by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy to help write their report to Congress and the President in 2004, and served as chair of the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel for the federal government. Dr. Prager has appeared on The Today Show, CNN's Larry King, ABC's Good Morning America, on the Discovery Channel, FOX News, CBS Nightly News and more, is a frequently requested public speaker, and her new book about fieldwork and ocean science will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2008. She grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a suburb west of Boston and began diving while working as a lifeguard in high school. In college, when she discovered a career where she could combine her love of scuba diving and nature with her strength and interest in science she was hooked on marine science.
National Dive Coordinator
National Marine Sanctuary Program
Mitchell Tartt is a physical scientist for NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program specializing in marine ecology. He is stationed in Silver Spring, Maryland near his home town of Washington D.C. Growing up climbing and fishing the mountains of the east coast and the Rockies, Mitchell began his college career studying terrestrial ecology, but after a single course on coral reef ecology that all changed. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Colorado in 1991 and his Masters of Science in Marine Ecology from the University of Maryland in 1998. Mitchell's focused his graduate studies on coral reef systems and specifically the impact of nutrient loading on the algal communities of those systems. Today, Mitchell is a member of the Technical Services Division at the NMSP head quarters office and supports the conservation science program. He also serves as the National Dive Coordinator for the NMSP.
National Education Liaison and project lead of OceansLIVE
National Marine Sanctuary Program
Kate Thompson is a National Education Liaison and project lead of OceansLIVE for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Sanctuary Program. She bring's her knowledge of live dive programming, and distance learning to this exciting Aquarius Mission to ensure the message "If Reefs Could Talk" is communicated through the mission's live programming on the OceansLIVE.org portal. Kate has worked for the program at both the site and national level coordinating education and outreach for projects, programs and expeditions to better ensure protection and stewardship of our national marine sanctuaries' natural and maritime heritage resources. She is a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Working Diver and a certified underwater archaeologist which enables her to bring the experiences of diving and the underwater world to the public and into the classroom. She has worked with teachers and students a like in bringing the preservation and conservation ethic to the education world. She received her Master's of Science degree in Park, Recreation Tourism Management with a specialization in Cultural Resource Management from Michigan State University.