Meet our staff!

MarineLab is very proud of its staff. They're the best part of MarineLab!

Jessica Pulfer, Education Director | Sarah Egner, Research Director | Chris Olstad, Habitat Operations Director | Tommy Paige | Christopher Driver| Brittany Parker
| Shaun Swartz | Breege Boyer | Chelsea Conley | Katy McGinnis | Lauren Breza | Darien Bush | Courtney Cox

Ginette Hughes, Senior Vice President | JoAnn Smenda, Business Manager & Treasurer | Liz Wood, Administrative Assistant | Dan Shingledecker, Maintenance Director

Jessica began her MarineLab career in 2005 as a Marine Science Field Instructor. Now the Director of Education, she is ultimately responsible for the day to day MarineLab operations, including overseeing our dive program. (more...)

Director, Research & Development
Sarah is Director in charge of our Research & Development programs. Sarah is also an Assistant Director for MarineLab and is in charge of our curriculum, in addition to standing in when Jessica is not available. (more)

Habitat Operations Director
Chris is our Habitat Operations Director but also takes a turn now and again in our MarineLab program as an instructor. Chris has been with MarineLab the longest, having started in 1985. (more...)

TommyTOMMY PAIGE, Field Instructor, Lead Captain

After graduating college in 2008, Tommy has worked in several different places in the Keys and the mountains. First he worked at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute (NHMI) as an instructor, but then he moved back to the mountains to teach at The Mountain Institute. He camped with students for at least a week in the Monongahela National Forest. The Keys called him back, however, and he came back to work on a dive boat in Key West. He also had a job as a tropical fish collector, capturing and transporting fish, sharks and stingrays throughout North America. Most recently, he was the SCUBA Director at NHMI/SeaCamp before landing here at MarineLab. Tommy has a BS in Environmental Science from Davis & Elkins College. He hails from West Virginia.

Chris DriverCHRIS DRIVER, Field Instructor
While in college, Chris served in many internships and labs through his school. He studied oceanography at the University of Southampton in England, worked with Sea Turtles at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital and Rehab Center in Topsail Island, NC, and participated in research projects under his professors.  Chris worked as a lifeguard and a swim coach for many years. After graduation he guided children as a field instructor and a summer camp counselor through one of South Carolina’s National Forests. He introduced them to their first-time experiences with barrier islands, marine life, and boating activities. It was through these experiences that Chris decided to educate students about their local marine ecosystems. Chris has a BS in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina - Wilmington.

Brittany ParkerBRITTANY PARKER, Field Instructor
Brittany is another instructor who hails from a landlocked state, this time in Ohio. However, she went to school at the University of Tampa and holds a BS in Marine Biology & Biology. She has studied in Roatan and worked for Newfound Harbor Marine Institute on Big Pine Key and for the Sanibel Sea School in Sanibel, FL. She helped create a nature center at their Captiva campus. Brittany is now one of our USCG Master Captains in addition to being a MarineLab Field Instructor.

Shaun SwartzSHAUN SWARTZ, Field Instructor
Shaun has a BS in Biology from Hampden-Sydney College. He grew up surfing in Virginia and North Carolina, and studied in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef. He has worked as a marine educator for several organizations, including the Sanibel Sea School. Shaun is also very interested in photography and social media. He is now taking care of MarineLab's Facebook and Instagram pages.

BreegeBREEGE BOYER, Field Instructor

Chelsea ConleyCHELSEA CONLEY, Field Instructor

Growing up fishing, boating and swimming on the coast of Central Florida, Chelsea quickly grew a love for marine organisms and knew she wanted to become a marine biologist at a very young age. She earned a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the University of South Florida. During college, she studied brittle star populations in the Tampa Bay, and she studied the dermal denticles, or scales, of the shortfin mako shark. Chelsea also interned at the Florida Aquarium in the Husbandry Department. After graduating, Chelsea has been able to combine her love for marine science and for teaching through different classroom, coaching and outdoor education positions. She has coached gymnastics and worked as a summer camp counselor for over 6 years. More recently, she has worked as a teaching assistant for children with special needs, a marine science instructor at Seacamp, and an environmental educator at Camp Thunderbird. Chelsea has a BS in Biology with a concentration in marine biology.

Katy McGinnisKATY MCGINNIS, Field Instructor

Katy attended Arcadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada for two years and then transferred to Plymouth University, in Plymouth England where she received her Bachelors of Science honors degree in Environmental Science.  Katy’s love for the ocean started in Newport, Rhode Island, her hometown, surfing with her two brothers and sister.  She was a competitive swimmer in high school qualifying for the state championships and swam for two years in college. As an intern on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 155ft Delaware II Research Vessel she collected data on plankton and assisted with water and salinity scientific experiments.  Katy enjoys turtles: in high school she worked four weeks in Grenada with Leatherback Sea Turtles conservation nonprofit and later in college for six weeks in the summer at San Pablo, Mexico with Olive Ridley Sea Turtles. Prior to MarineLab Katy was working in Stamford, CT at SoundWaters living, sailing and teaching onboard an 80 foot three masted sharpie schooner. Katy has a BS in Environmental Science from Plymouth University, Plymouth, England.

LAUREN BREZA, Field Instructor DARIEN BUSH, Field Instructor
COURTNEY COX, Field Instructor  

Senior VP, Program Services
MarineLab Coordinator

Ginette has been with MarineLab almost since its inception in 1985. She joined in 1986 as the "booking secretary" and has since expanded her duties, and title, to include overseeing all Marine Resources Development Foundation operations, not just the MarineLab program. Currently, she is responsible for coordinating the day to day activities of the Foundation, including computer resources, human resources, and marketing/public relations, in addition to supervising the program development, planning, and coordination for all programs. She is also responsible for long range program planning for the Foundation, including financial forecasts and budgets. She attended Ohio Wesleyan University before earning her Bachelor's of Business degree from Florida International University. Ginette is a native of New Jersey but has been in the Keys for longer than she was in NJ. She is a diver and a racing and cruising sailor.

JoAnn JOANN SMENDA, Treasurer & Business Office Manager
Ms. Smenda joined the Foundation in 1989, after a succesful 16-year tenure with AT&T in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio. Currently Treasurer and Business Manager, her past job functions at the Foundation have included Assistant to the President as well as Coordinator of the TEEC facility in South Carolina. Currently, she is responsible for all accounting and payroll functions, expense control, employee benefits, donations, and is instrumental in the overall day to day business operations of the Foundation. JoAnn earned her AA in Business Administration from the University of Cincinnati.  A native of Cleveland, Ohio, she is an avid Indians and Browns fan.


Administrative Assistant
Liz joined the team in 2008. As the MarineLab administrative assistant, she is responsible for billing, collecting forms, and coordinating the cafeteria and housekeeping services needed by MarineLab programs. Liz is a native of Texas but has lived all over the West and Midwest.

Director of Maintenance

Dan is responsible for MarineLab's entire facility, including our boats and motors! He is an experienced maintenance supervisor and trained electrician and Mercury service technician. Dan supervises a staff of two maintenance workers. He is a native of Michigan but moved to Florida long ago.  



Proud Pro Purchase Partner
Disney Conservation Fund
Grant Recipient



Ocean Reef Conservation Association Grant Recipient