Dr. Moby Solangi is the President and Executive Director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. He founded the organization in 1984 to promote marine research, conservation and education. Dr. Solangi received his Ph.D. in marine biology from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1980. He has conducted pioneering research on dolphins both in the wild and under human care. His research experience includes work in pathobiology, disease diagnoses and control, aquaculture, water-quality management, marine ecology, and marine mammal behavior, husbandry and veterinary care. In addition, Dr. Solangi serves as adjunct faculty at multiple universities and accordingly has supervised graduate students conducting research on marine mammals. His professional associations include membership in the International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine, Society for Marine Mammalogy, and the International Marine Animal Trainers Association. Dr. Solangi has an extensive list of publications ranging over multiple scientific disciplines.
Ms. Samia Ahmad is the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Institute. She received her BSBA in Finance with an emphasis in Personal Financial Planning from the University of Southern Mississippi. Ms. Ahmad has been instrumental in creating an awareness of the Institute and its mission within the local community and with federal, state and local government agencies. She also assists with the research and application process involved in securing funding and financial support for IMMS and its various programs and projects. Additionally, Ms. Ahmad serves as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations and in that capacity, she has worked to enhance public knowledge of marine mammals through the creation of educational panels, pamphlets, brochures and the development of an informative website for IMMS.
Mr. Luqman Ahmad joined the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in May 2008 as a Project Manager. He oversees the IT systems, assists senior management in strategic decision-making, procures goods and services, writes binding contracts, and participates in budget planning and construction audits. He has undergraduate degree in Economics from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario and masters degree in Economics from University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition, he holds a Financial Risk Manager designation from Global Association of Risk Professionals.
Dr. Delphine Shannon is the Assistant Director of Research for the Institute. She is a physician by training and received her M.D. from the University of Southern California in 1999. She also holds a B.S. degree in developmental psychology from Cornell University. Dr. Shannon began her career in the marine mammal industry by working for the company known as Marine Animal Productions, a former affiliate of IMMS, at two of the Southern California satellite facilities no longer in existence. There she assisted with animal training at the facilities both before and during her attendance at USC Medical School. At IMMS, Dr. Shannon is responsible for overseeing research projects and other logistical and administrative activities of the Institute. She also serves as a co-coordinator of the IMMS stranding team.
Mr. Tim Hoffland is the Stranding Coordinator and Director of Animal Care for the Institute. He holds a B.S. degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin. Mr. Hoffland has more than 16 years of experience in animal training, and is an expert in techniques of marine mammal care, training, husbandry and facility design and management. Mr. Hoffland was the Director of Training for Marine Animal Productions from 1996 to 2005, and managed all aspects of staff training and animal care for approximately 50 marine mammals located in Gulfport and around the country. He currently supervises the training of new IMMS stranding team members as well as the activities of the stranding team, and the care of all stranded animals. Mr. Hoffland is also involved with several of the IMMS research projects and manages the operation and maintenance of all water crafts and associated equipment.
Dr. Mystera Samuelson is both a Behavioral & Population Ecologist, and Director of Education at IMMS. She earned her Ph.D. in Brain & Behavior Science at The University of Southern Mississippi, where she studied marine mammal behavior, and her M.S. in Natural Resources at The University of Idaho where she examined human dimensions of wildlife conservation. Mystera has diverse experience studying the behavior, ecology, and conservation of marine mammals, sea turtles, non-human primates, terrestrial carnivores, and other species. At IMMS, Mystera leads ongoing wild marine mammal research and works closely with stranding and veterinary staff on research aimed at evaluating sea turtle biology, behavior, and ecology. Future interests include human-wildlife conflict, including the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine life, as well as the evaluation of marine mammal and sea turtle feeding behavior in the Mississippi Sound. In her role as Director of Education, Mystera works to coordinate and design new educational materials for the public.
Mr. Mike Mashburn is the Director of Public Programs at the IMMS Center for Marine Education and Research. He received his B.A. and M.B.A. degrees from St. Edward's University. Mr. Mashburn also serves as the IMMS webmaster and volunteer coordinator. Before joining IMMS he was employed for 25 years in areas of Information Technology including, requirements analysis, system planning and implementation, project management, technical documentation, user training and support. A former Peace Corps volunteer he served at Nepal's Tribhuvan University as an Adjunct Lecturer in Commerce and conducted studies in rural economic development. In his spare time he has volunteered as a Habitat Steward for the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, with the Bethel Free Health Clinic for I.T. support, and assisted the IMMS veterinary staff in the necropsy lab. He is a member of the Mississippi Science Teacher's Association and the National Marine Educators Association.
Ms. Denise Reinke is the Assistant Director of Public Programs at the IMMS Center for Marine Education and Research and serves as the Summer Camp Coordinator. She holds a B.S. degree in Business Education from the Louisiana State University and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of New Orleans. Ms. Reinke began her career at IMMS as a volunteer assisting in educational programming, marine strandings, and animal care in 2009. She became a part-time employee as a member of the educational staff a year later. In addition to providing educational assistance at the Center for Marine Education, she has participated in community outreach programs, research projects, scheduling, summer camp, and special projects. Ms. Reinke is a certified scuba diver and a member of Mississippi Science Teachers Association.
Dr. Debra Moore is the attending veterinarian for IMMS. She is a 1987 graduate of Tuskegee University, School of Veterinary Medicine. She studied at the University of Puerto Rico in the graduate department of Marine Science, Woodshole Oceanographic Institute, Aquavet program, the University of Florida's Aquatic Animal Health Program and has done externships at Sea World of Florida. She also owned and operated her mixed animal practice in Puerto Rico for 21 years where she worked with domestic animals as well as exotic species. She served as the veterinarian for the Caribbean Stranding Network and consulting veterinarian for the Puerto Rico Department of Environmental and Natural Resources for over 15 years attending cases of manatees, cetaceans, and sea turtles in the Caribbean. She is an adjunct professor at Mississippi State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and enjoys teaching, mentoring students and research. She manages all aspects of health care, necropsies, surgeries, and diagnostics for the dolphins, pygmy killer whales, sea lions, sea turtles, and avian species at the Institute's veterinary hospital and facility. Dr. Moore has numerous publications and brings her experience, passion, and desire to educate the public about our aquatic resources.
Dr. Connie L. Clemons-Chevis is a consulting veterinarian for the Institute and assists with the veterinary care for all resident animals and stranded marine mammals and turtles to which IMMS responds and/or rehabilitates. She received her D.V.M. from Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine in 1986. Dr. Chevis is certified in Acupuncture and Tuina through Chi Institute in Gainesville, FL. She also holds a M.S. degree from the University of Kentucky and a B.S. degree from the University of Montevallo in Alabama. Dr. Chevis has extensive experience in marine animal medicine and husbandry, having begun her career in 1993 as the Attending Veterinarian for the former marine park, Marine Life Oceanarium. There she managed all aspects of care for the dolphins, sea lions, seals, sea turtles, sharks, fish and various avian species that were housed at the facility. Over the years, Dr. Chevis has been involved with many research studies and scientific collaborations conducted by the Institute.
Dr. Joey Kaletsch is the Attending Veterinarian for the Institute and manages the veterinary care for all resident animals and stranded dolphins and sea turtles to which IMMS responds and/or rehabilitates. He received his D.V.M. from Louisiana State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In 2003, Dr. Kaletsch opened Beatline Oaks Veterinary Hospital in Long Beach, MS where he practices small animal and exotic animal medicine and surgery. He has a special interest in aquatic animal medicine and reproduction which led to his involvement with IMMS where he began as a relief veterinarian in 2006. Dr. Kaletsch has substantial experience in sea turtle rehabilitation and surgery, dolphin stranding response, examination, and necropsy, and played a vital role during the organization's BP oil spill response. As the attending veterinarian, he manages all aspects of care for the dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, fish, reptiles and various avian species that are housed at the facility and enjoys teaching marine animal medicine to veterinary students completing externships with IMMS. Dr. Kaletsch is also involved with several research studies conducted by the Institute.
Dr. Andy Coleman is the Turtle Ecologist at IMMS. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in turtle ecology. He received his M.S. in environmental science and policy from Johns Hopkins University and a M.S. in Biology from Appalachian State University. He received a B.S. in biology from the University of Alabama. He is recently completed a Sea Grant Legislative Fellowship in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. He is now in charge of the turtle research at IMMS. Dr. Coleman has worked in the field of diamondback terrapin research in the Gulf of Mexico. He is interested in examining various aspects of sea turtle ecology and conservation in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Heidi Lyn is a consultant research biologist for the Institute specializing in marine mammal cognition and behavior. She received her Ph.D. from Georgia State University and is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, at the University of Southern Mississippi in Long Beach, Mississippi. Dr. Lyn has more than 10 years of experience studying animal behavior and cognition in various species, including bottlenose dolphins and primates. At IMMS, Dr. Lyn conducts and participates in ongoing research projects involving the wild dolphin population in the Mississippi Sound as well as biomedical, behavioral, and cognitive studies.
Dr. Jonathan Pitchford is a consultant wildlife ecologist at IMMS. He received his PhD in Natural Resource Science from West Virginia University where he evaluated aquatic habitat restoration and developed a spatial model for restoration site selection. He received his M.S. in biology from Appalachian State University where he studied the effects of metal pollution on aquatic bacteria and invertebrate communities, and received his B.S. in zoology from Auburn University. At IMMS, Dr. Pitchford assists with research pertaining to spatial modeling, ecology, and the restoration of the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Eric E. Pulis is a marine conservation ecologist at IMMS. He received his Ph.D. in coastal sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory where he worked on taxonomy and phylogenetics of parasites in marine animals. He received his MS in biology from the University of North Dakota, where he investigated amphibian ecology and parasitism. Eric works in the stranding, veterinary, and research departments, and his focus is on the health of marine mammals and turtles and their environment.
Rachel Amos is thrilled to be working as a Research Assistant for the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. As a Research Assistant she will be contributing to a number of different research projects being conducted as IMMS. In addition she is an active team member of the stranding unit. Rachel is originally from Columbus, Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University with a B.S. degree in Biology. After graduating college she traveled around the United States, ranging from Maine to Washington State, to obtain field experience with a variety of marine mammals. During the winter of early 2014 Rachel participated in a research internship for IMMS, at which point in time she became passionate about the process of photo identification and the many implications that can be derived from it. She is also passionate about wildlife photography and has been able to pursue that passion as a seasonal whale watching naturalist.
Ms. Hannah Bahe is an Associate Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab Specialist at the Institute. She has B.S. degrees in Marine Biology and Psychology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Before beginning her current position, she interned and volunteered with the Animal Care department for nearly three years as well as completed a marine mammal training internship at Sea Life Park Hawai'i. As a member of the Animal Care staff, Ms. Bahe participates in the husbandry and training of the resident dolphins, sea lions, and large parrots. She is a member of the IMMS stranding team and assists in educating the public about marine environments and the animals that inhabit them.
Mrs. Emily Burks is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab Specialist at the Institute. She has a B.S. degree in Marine Biology with a minor in Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. She began her career here at IMMS while in college by working with the Dolphin Programs and the Dozing with Dolphins Program. Before beginning her current position, she completed the IMMS Animal Care Internship. As a member of the Animal Care staff, Mrs. Burks participates in the daily husbandry and training of the resident dolphins and sea lions, as well as being a member of the stranding team.
Ms. Katherine Burton is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab specialist at the Institute. She has a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology. Ms. Burton has completed three different marine mammal internships where she learned about a variety of marine mammal species. She focused on learning the basic concepts of training along with how to care for marine mammals. She also spent three years volunteering in the animal care department at The Brevard Zoo while still in college. After graduating from college, Ms. Burton worked as a zookeeper at the Brevard Zoo. There she cared for a variety of animal species before beginning her career with IMMS. Here at the Institute, she participates in the daily care and training of the resident animals at IMMS as well as assisting the stranding team. On top of her training and rehab duties, she is also the Volunteer and Internship coordinator for the Animal Care department where she helps students of all ages gain greater knowledge and opportunities in the animal care field.
Ms. Alicia Carron is a Stranding/Veterinary Assistant and a rescue and rehab specialist at the Institute. Her responsibilities include responding to dolphin and sea turtle strandings, participating in the husbandry and care of the animals, and assisting with veterinary procedures as well as necropsies performed on the animals. Alicia also assists the Research department with the preparation and processing of photos and other data collected as part of IMMS’s dolphin photo identification study in the Mississippi Sound. She has a B.S. degree in Marine Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Ms. Abigail Cassel is a Marine Educator at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and serves as the coordinator for our Kayaking and Bayou Tour programs. Prior to her position in the Education department, Abigail was an intern in the research department in 2015 at IMMS. Abigail received her B.A. from Ithaca College with a focus on Bio Anthropology and has since worked on bottlenose dolphin population research out of California and on the west coast of Ireland, as well as with sea turtles on South Padre Island, TX.
Mr. Heath Crawford is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab Specialist at the Institute. He achieved degrees in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Southern Mississippi. From there, he worked at the Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach, FL for over five years. First, he served as a diver cleaning exhibits and working with sharks, rays, and various fish species. After that, he trained, performed shows, and encounters with resident animals. Heath also performed scheduled maintenance on exhibits and life support systems. As a member of our animal care staff, he cares for and trains our resident dolphins, sea lions, and tropical birds as well as serves on the stranding team.
Mrs. Lisa Crawford is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab Specialist for the Institute. She has a BS degree in Marine Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Mrs. Crawford started her career as a SCUBA diver for Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park performing in dive shows and taking care of their resident eel, sharks, stingrays, and variety of fish. She was soon promoted to Animal Trainer where she maintained that position for 6 years, training on and performing in shows with a variety of animals as well as being the Internship Coordinator and Associate Sea Turtle Rehab Coordinator. Here at IMMS, Mrs. Crawford deals with animal husbandry and training of all kinds with our resident dolphins, sea lions, and tropical parrots as well as being a member of the IMMS stranding team.
Ms. Spring Gaines is a Marine Educator at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and serves as the coordinator for our Dozing with Dolphins and Mini Camp programs. As an offspring of two retired teachers, Spring always has viewed life as a classroom. She is an honors graduate from Nicholls State University in Louisiana with B.S. degree in Marine Biology and has a graduate degree in Marine Ecology and Environmental Management from Queen Mary, University of London. While attending university, she completed two research projects involving the methods of hearing and tooth bud recession/baleen development in Bowhead whales. After graduation, she became an informal wetlands educator with summer camps, after-school programs and in-classroom programming as part of 4-H in her home parish of St. Bernard. She brings this experience into her work at IMMS, instructing both kids and kids at heart about the variety of animals that make the Gulf Coast their home.
Ms. Quincy Goeke is a Research Assistant at IMMS. She received a B.S degree in Marine Biology with minors in Psychology and Chemistry from Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Prior to accepting a position at IMMS she interned with the Research department at IMMS, and gained further research experience by conducting research at the Laboratory for Sensory Ecology at BGSU, as well as assisted researchers as an Advanced Research Intern for the Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, CA. At IMMS Quincy engages in a wide variety of research projects relevant to the Northern Gulf of Mexico ecology and conservation efforts. She also is a member of the IMMS Stranding Team.
Ms. Alison Goetz is a Marine Mammal Trainer and member of the Rescue and Rehab team for the Institute. She earned her bachelor degree in biology with an emphasis in marine science. During internships at the Indianapolis Zoo (IN) and Newport Aquarium (KY), Alison gained husbandry and training experience with dolphins, sea lions, walruses, seals, a variety of large carnivores, otters, aquatic turtles, and exotic birds. Alison volunteered on the Aquarium's scuba diving team for 3 years to provide underwater care for marine life, maintain the exhibits, and serve as a safety diver in the shark and shark ray tank during educational presentations. Alison's varied aquatic research has involved river restoration in Michigan's Boardman River, zooplankton ecology of Lake Michigan, sea anemone survival in the Gulf of Mexico, and acoustic behavior of the Florida manatee. Alison's primary responsibility at IMMS is to care for and train the resident dolphins and sea lions.
Miss Victoria Howard is a Research Assistant for the Institute. She has a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from The University of Southern Mississippi. Before beginning her current position with IMMS, she was a Research Intern and later a Stranding Assistant for IMMS. Miss Howard has also studied dolphin training, behavior, and cognition in Honduras. Miss Howard participates in IMMS research projects such as wild dolphin photo ID, sea turtle tracking, and stranding projects. Miss Howard is an important member of the stranding team and serves as the Research Intern Coordinator.
Trevor Jensen is a Research Assistant at IMMS, with a B.S. degree in wildlife biology from Dickinson State University. He has interned with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Dolphin Research Center, and the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. Trevor is primarily interested in dolphin behavior, population dynamics, ecology, and the complexities of their social lives. Going forward he is interested in any research that will aid in the conservation of wildlife, especially species in need.
Ms. Ashley Millan is a Research Assistant for the Institute. Before beginning her current position at IMMS, she interned for the research department. She has a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology, where she conducted an undergraduate study on cephalopod paralarvae at the Sportfish Research Institute. After graduating from college, Ms. Ashley volunteered as an Aquarium and Petting Zone Assistant at the Brevard Zoo. She has over two years of experience as an educator; she was a member of SeaWorld's zoological education department and worked as a Conservation Instructor for the Walt Disney World Animals, Science & Environment department. Ms. Millan also acts as a member of the stranding team.
Mrs. Kelly Pulis is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab Specialist for the Institute. She has a B.S. degree in Biology with a minor in Psychology from the University of North Dakota. Mrs. Pulis started her animal career at Moorpark College in Moorpark, California by attending the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program. There she spent two years learning all aspects of training with a variety of animal species. Beginning her career with IMMS, she was a regular volunteer with the organization and her first position was as the previous Education Coordinator. As a Rescue and Rehab Specialist she helps with educating our public on marine environments and their inhabitants as well as being a part of the IMMS stranding team. As a trainer Mrs. Pulis deals with animal husbandry and training of all kinds, including training with tropical parrots. On top of her training and rehab duties, she is also the Volunteer and Internship coordinator for the Animal Care department where she helps students of all ages gain greater knowledge and opportunities in the animal care field.
Ms. Jennifer Sentinella is a Research Assistant and a member of the stranding team at IMMS. She has a B.S. in marine science with a concentration in marine biology from the Richard Stockton College of NJ in Galloway, NJ. After graduation she volunteered at the Archelon Sea Turtle Rescue Centre near Athens, Greece, as well as interned in the research department at both the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys and IMMS. Before beginning her current position, Ms. Sentinella was working as an education instructor at EcoAdventures, a hands-on educational facility in Maryland that has a variety of animals including alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and turtles.
Nancy Smith is a Marine Educator with the IMMS Center for Marine Education and Research. Nancy has over 15 years experience in designing and facilitating educational and creative “hands-on” programs with students in elementary and middle schools. Nancy studied visual arts at the University of Maryland and enjoyed working previously for Children’s World Learning Centers and the Lynn Meadows Children’s Museum. Nancy also assisted on research projects in the Marine Biology Lab at the Normandeau Environmental Consultants in New Hampshire. As a former IMMS volunteer, Nancy helped the stranding team in their rehabilitation efforts with dolphin care, monitoring, and feeding stranded sea turtles. Nancy has also participated in IMMS research projects.
Mrs. Whitney Stone is a Marine Educator at IMMS's Center for Marine Education & Research. She has a B.S. degree in Mathematics from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is currently working towards a M.S. in Data Analytics from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Before joining our team, Whitney spent 3 years working for the Department of Defense Education Activity in Spangdahlem, Germany where she spent time in the classroom teaching mathematics, robotics, college/career prep, and served as assistant cross country coach. Whitney is an animal lover and nature enthusiast and loves sharing that enthusiasm with our guests.
Ms. Leah Swift is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue and Rehab Specialist at the Institute. She has a BS degree in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior for the University of Minnesota. Leah started her career training horses and dogs, while training dogs she was a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator for the American Kennel Club. During college she did an internship with the marine mammal department at Minnesota Zoo and volunteered at Como Zoo's aquatic department. After college she went on to be an Assistant Trainer in the Sea Lion department at Miami Seaquarium. Here at IMMS she participates in the daily husbandry and training of the resident sea lions, dolphins and large parrots.
Ms. Brianne Urbano is a Marine Mammal Trainer and Rescue & Rehab specialist at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. She attended the University of New Orleans where she received a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Psychology. Having started volunteering at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans at the age of 12, Brianne has spent the majority of her life working towards a career in animal training and caretaking. She completed internships at the Audubon Zoo, Oregon Coast Aquarium, Sea Life Park Hawaii, and Georgia Aquarium where she gained experience working with sea lions, dolphins, and sea otters. At IMMS, she continues to develop her animal training skills while participating in the daily care of our resident sea lions and dolphins.