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.
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, the education department, and other logistical and administrative activities of the Institute. She also serves as a co-coordinator of the IMMS stranding team.
Sharon H. Walker, Ph.D. is the Director of Education and Outreach at the Institute and serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency-Gulf of Mexico Program. In this capacity, Dr. Walker supervises the development and implementation of all IMMS’ education/outreach programs. She holds a B.S. degree in Zoology from Millsaps College, a M.S. in Marine Science from LSU, and a Ph.D. in Administration and Supervision and Marine Science from USM. Dr. Walker has served in a leadership capacity in regional and national collaborations and professional organizations since 1987 in precollege, formal, and informal ocean sciences, coastal processes, and climate change education projects. Dr. Walker’s extramurally-funded education research has successfully “bridged the gap” between ocean sciences and coastal processes research and the relevance of those data to precollege teachers, students, and the general public. Over the last two decades, she has successfully written grants totaling approximately 17 million dollars and routinely makes at least 10 presentations annually at the local, state, regional, and national levels. Dr. Walker served as the full-time Director of Education for the MS-AL Sea Grant Program from 1984-1987 and part-time from 1988-2009. Dr. Walker was the Coordinator of Educational Programs at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium in 1988 and 1989—then appointed to the position of Administrator from 1990 through June 2006. Dr. Walker was also a Professor within the Department of Coastal Sciences from 1998-2006 and Professor Emeritus from 2006-2010 at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, administered by the USM.
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.
Mr. Chris Breazeale is the Assistant Director of Education and Outreach at IMMS. He holds a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM)—Long Beach and a Master’s degree in Science Education from USM—Hattiesburg. Mr. Breazeale started his career in marine science as a volunteer in 1987 at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center at Pt. Cadet in Biloxi. He has worked at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, LA and the Sooky Goldman Nature Center in Beverly Hills, CA focusing on environmental and marine education. At IMMS, Mr. Breazeale works to revise and/or develop new and exciting education programs. Mr. Breazeale is a member of the Mississippi Science Teachers Association, National Marine Educators Association, and the Southern Association of Marine Educators (SAME); he is the President-Elect for SAME.
Dr. Connie L. Clemons-Chevis is the Attending Staff Veterinarian for the Institute and manages the veterinary care for all stranded marine mammals 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 started working with marine mammals in 1993 as the Attending Veterinarian for Marine Life Oceanarium and managed all aspects of care for the dolphins, sea lions, 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. Heidi Zurawka is a full time staff veterinarian for the Institute. She specializes in zoo and wildlife medicine. Dr. Zurawka received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997, followed by a small-animal internship in Tampa, Florida. Specializing in zoo and wildlife medicine and research, she completed a wildlife medicine and rehabilitation internship in Seattle, Washington, a zoo and wildlife medicine residency at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bronx, New York, and has experience working as a wildlife veterinarian and postdoctoral wildlife researcher with the California Department of Fish and Game. Dr. Zurawka also previously worked as a veterinarian at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska, obtaining extensive experience with diverse collections of terrestrial and aquatic species. She most recently attended the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine as and is in the final stages of completing her Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine (MPVM) program.
Dr. Jenny Ladnier is the Assistant Staff Veterinary for the Institute. A graduate of Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Ladnier received her doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2006 and later specializing in exotic wildlife and aquatic medicine. During her studies, Dr. Ladnier worked in several veterinary clinics along the coast and also assisted the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center in Ocean Springs, MS. At the Institute Dr. Ladnier will assist our current veterinarian Dr. Connie Chevis in routine procedures involving dolphins, turtles, birds, bearded dragons, and fish.
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. Rick Kastner is the Senior Biologist for the Institute. He received his Ph.D. in aquaculture from Auburn University in 1994 and has conducted aquacultural research at several universities including the University of Washington, Mississippi State University, Auburn University, and the University of Southern Mississippi. While serving in the Peace Corps, Dr. Kastner worked on fisheries projects in Niger, West Africa. Before joining IMMS, he was a curator at the J.L. Scott Aquarium in Biloxi, Mississippi. As Senior Biologist, Dr. Kastner is currently involved with the design, procurement, and care of the living fish and invertebrate exhibits, water quality management, and the educational programs at the Center for Marine Education and Research.
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 wildlife ecologist at IMMS. He received his Ph.D. 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 a B.S. in zoology from Auburn University. Jonathan is now leading ongoing wild dolphin and habitat restoration research at IMMS. Future interests include examining wild dolphin feeding ecology and evaluating the effects of several prevalent forms of habitat restoration in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
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 master's 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.
Ms. Johnette Bosarge is an Administrative Assistant for the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) and the National Marine Educators Association. Ms. Bosarge has more than 30 years of clerical experience and office support at marine science centers/laboratories and holds an Associate of Science degree from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Before joining IMMS she was employed by the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory-J.L. Scott marine Education Center. As an IMMS Administrative Assistant, Ms. Bosarge provides administrative support for the education programs at IMMS and the national office of the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA). Ms. Bosarge is also a member of the NMEA and the Mississippi Science Teachers Association Boards and the Southern Association of Marine Educators.
Mr. Robert Bushrow is a Security and Operations Assistant for the Institute. Accordingly, he is involved in several key areas of the Institute’s operations, including security surveillance, maintenance, boat operations, and water quality management. Prior to working for IMMS, Mr. Bushrow was employed by Marine Life Oceanarium where his primary responsibilities included security, water quality management and facility maintenance. He has a military background and more than 15 years of experience in security operations, hydraulics and construction engineering. In addition, Mr. Bushrow also serves as an essential member of the IMMS stranding team, assisting with beach surveys for research projects and marine mammal stranding response.
Ms. Emma Jarvis is a Research Assistant and Marine Mammal Trainer at the Institute. She has a B.S. degree in Interdisciplinary Psychology/Biology from Southampton College – Long Island University. She began working with marine mammals as a volunteer at a satellite facility for Marine Animal Productions during her college years. Following graduation, she worked as a marine mammal trainer for Marine Life Oceanarium for 3 years, including one year at the satellite facility on Long Island, NY. As a Research Assistant for IMMS, Ms. Jarvis participates in stranding surveys, data collection and organization, educational programs, and is a key member of the IMMS stranding team and animal care staff. She has been an essential part of the development of new exhibits and programs for the Center for Marine Education and Research.
Ms. Jamie Klaus is a Research Assistant for the Institute. She has a B.S. degree in Marine Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi. Before beginning her current position with IMMS, she was a volunteer with the organization. Ms. Klaus started her career as a research technician at Louisiana State University in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. While at LSU, Ms. Klaus assisted in Coastal Restoration projects and gained experience in GIS Mapping. She also assisted on a dolphin photo ID project, as well as, a behavioral study on dolphins and manatees in Belize. Ms. Klaus spent 8 years in the Army National Guard. As a Research Assistant, Ms. Klaus participates in research projects such as wild dolphin photo ID and stranding projects.
Mr. Justin Main is a marine mammal stranding team member for the Institute. He began volunteering with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in 2007 and holds an A.A. degree in Computer Networking. Mr. Main is currently attending USM and majoring in Marine Science. He also participates in outreach programs, stranding surveys, and education programs at IMMS.
Mr. Mike Mashburn is a Senior Marine Educator at IMMS's Center for Marine Education and Research. He received his B.A. and M.B.A. degrees from St. Edward's University. Before joining IMMS he was employed for 25 years in areas of Information Technology including, requirements analysis, system planning and implementation, 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 volunteers as a Habitat Steward for the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain. Mr. Mashburn also serves as IMMS’s webmaster and assists the veterinary staff in the necropsy lab. He is a member of the Mississippi Science Teacher's Association and the Southern Association of Marine Educators.
Mr. Dennis McGrury is a Marine Education Specialist with the IMMS Center for Marine Education and Research. Mr. McGrury began his career working with animals at La Marina Rescue Center in Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, Dennis learned how to care for and handle animal species of all types. Dennis also assisted in surgeries and necropsies while volunteering. Dennis holds a B.S. degree in Zoology from Auburn University. While studying at Auburn, Dennis assisted in cottonmouth snake tracking studies and gained experience and knowledge of reptiles in the wild. Dennis is a certified stress and rescue SCUBA diver with SCUBA Schools International. Dennis is an Eagle Scout with BSA and a local Cub Scout Den Leader. At IMMS, Dennis is involved in developing and implementing new and exciting programs.
Ms. Christina Nanney is an Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper for the Institute. Ms. Nanney has more than 10 years of experience in various aspects of office administrative operations and holds an Associate of the Arts Degree from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Before joining IMMS, she was a local small-business owner and is currently working towards a B.A. degree in Chemistry. As an Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper, Ms. Nanney works to provide administrative support, and plays a key role in the handling of financial matters such as payroll, accounts payable, and tax reports. She is also involved in maintaining and running the Gift Shop at the Center for Marine Education and Research. In addition, Ms. Nanney is trained to assist the IMMS stranding team, and participate in research projects and educational programs.
Mr. Mark Praznovsky is a Security and Operations Assistant for the Institute. Mr. Praznovsky has experience in the construction and renovation of homes, as well as 19 years of experience in business operations and management. While serving in the military, he worked as an electrician for the U.S. Navy. As an Operations Assistant, Mr. Praznovsky is involved in the overall maintenance, security surveillance, and water quality management for the Center for Marine Education and Research. He is also an important member of the IMMS 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. Denise Reinke is a Senior Marine Educator at IMMS. 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.
Nancy Smith is a Marine Education Specialist 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.
Mr. Joseph (Skipper) Talley began volunteering with the Institute in 2009 soon after the Center for Marine Education and Research was completed. Before joining IMMS, he worked in processes control programming for 30 years at DuPont’s Mississippi Gulf Coast facility and pursued an education in computer science and mathematics. Mr. Talley assists with many areas of operations at IMMS including research projects, education programs, community outreach, and animal care and rehabilitation. He is also an important member of the IMMS stranding team and is dedicated to his work.
Ms. Melissa Welsh is a Marine Education Specialist at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. She graduated with honors from Northwestern State University of Louisiana with a B.S. degree in psychology. Melissa has enjoyed working with many different species of animals, both large and small, including 10 years of training and working with horses. This has aided her in understanding animal body language; this understanding has extended into the behavior and needs of IMMS’s animal ambassadors. Melissa began volunteering at IMMS in 2009, two years prior to employment in the Education Department. She has also aided in sea turtle research completed at the facility. Melissa enjoys conducting educational tours—working with children and adult audiences—and caring for the many animals that make IMMS their home.