Meet our staff!

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

Jessica Pulfer, Education Director | Sarah Egner, Curriculum Director | Chris Olstad, Habitat Operations Director |
Brittany Parker | Lauren Breza | Darien Bush | Tanner Morris | Rachel Carlson | Alex Kattan | Maria Laukaitis | Billy Norfolk

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

Director, Education
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, Curriculum and Program Development
Sarah is Director in charge of our curriculum and program development. She creates lessons and program components and ensures that existing curriculum is up to date and accurate. In Jessica's absence, she is the field team leader. (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...)

Brittany ParkerBRITTANY PARKER, Outreach Coordinator & 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.

LaurenLAUREN BREZA, Field Instructor
Lauren Breza is a New Jersey native but has fulfilled her dream of living in the Florida Keys for the past year and a half. During her time in the Keys, she has worked with US Fish and Wildlife monitoring endangered species at the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge on Big Pine Key, and has worked as an Education Specialist at a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation facility in Marathon. Before moving to the keys, Lauren studied Biology with a focus in environmental education at Elizabethtown College in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Lauren has always loved the water and has found any way to get near the ocean. This includes positions with local aquariums, marine science camps, and even an extended stay in the Turks and Caicos Islands. During her semester at the Center for Marine Resource Studies, Lauren conducted a directed research project on the effects of water quality on juvenile lemon sharks. Lauren is thrilled to be calling MarineLab her new home after first attending Marinelab as a high school student! She credits Marinelab with her desire to teach students about the ocean environment that drew her to a career in marine science so many years ago! 

Darien BushDARIEN BUSH, Field Instructor

Even though she hails from the North, Darien has always had a passion for marine biology.  At 13 years old, Darien received her Open Water diving certification and her interest in oceans and marine life has only grown since then.  She graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI with a B.S. in Biology and soon thereafter moved to the Florida Keys to work at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Laboratory in their Reef Restoration internship program.  She has also previously worked at Seacamp in Big Pine.  When she isn’t exploring the oceans, you can find her crafting away – painting and practicing her calligraphy.

 Tanner Morris TANNER MORRIS, Field Instructor

Tanner developed a passion for the ocean while attending Arlington High School in which he participated in their Marine Biology club all four years. Through the club, he attended trips down to the Florida Keys to learn about marine science. Tanner participated in various programs throughout the Keys, including some of the programs offered at MarineLab! After high school, he decided to attend Eckerd College and received a BS in Marine Science. Tanner was also one of ten students in his college to be the first group of college students to conduct ecological research with the University of Havana in Cuba over the summer of 2015.  Feel free to approach Tanner with any marine science questions you may have!

RachelRACHEL CARLSON, Field Instructor
Since Rachel grew up in Wisconsin far away from the ocean, she really developed a strong interest in marine life during her first trip out to the coral reefs down in Key West. Since then she spent a summer as a Camp Counselor at SeaWorld and traveled to Australia to work for Sea Turtle Foundation. After earning her B.S. in Biology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Rachel started working for Newfound Harbor Marine Institute in Big Pine Key then went on to teach the summer camp programs at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. She started with MarineLab in September 2016.

AlexALEXANDER KATTAN, Field Instructor
After high school Alex attended the University of Florida, where he earned a BS in Natural Resource Conservation. Post-graduation he traveled to Utila, Honduras to train as a divemaster and became obsessed with marine conservation, inspired to action by witnessing the growing invasive lionfish crisis firsthand. Shortly thereafter, Alex completed a marine conservation internship with REEF focusing on lionfish and then flew halfway across the world to begin a MSc in marine science, living and working on the Red Sea. Since earning his graduate degree, Alex has continued to follow his passions for the ocean, diving, teaching, and travel by working on whale shark research-focused ecotourism with Red Sea Safaris and now as an instructor at MarineLab!
MariaMARIA LAUKAITIS, Field Instructor
Maria grew up in Bethesda, Maryland as a very active and outdoorsy child, so it was no surprise to her or her family that she naturally headed towards an environmental science career through high school and into college. While in school, during the summers she worked various internships, including the opportunity to research the political issue of marine debris at the Environmental Protection Agency and the chance to raise and work with sea ducklings at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Maria spent one semester studying abroad in New Zealand where she fell in love with its amazing variety of ecosystems as she learned and explored, and of course indulged in some thrills (climbing deep through glow worm caves, snowboarding down a volcano, and jumping out of a plane)! After graduating with her BS in Biology from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, she spent 7 months working for Newfound Harbor Marine Institute (Seacamp) down in Big Pine Key, where she became hooked on the idea of sharing her love of the natural world with students of all ages while working out in the sun and the waves.
BillyBILLY NORFOLK, Field Instructor
Billy grew up in Northern Virginia where he spent most of his time in the pool as a competitive swimmer. He swam for the University of Mary Washington where his aquatic lifestyle quickly developed into a passion for marine biology. Following undergraduate work, he attended George Mason University where he studied disease dynamics of Caribbean coral reefs. While completing his graduate research, Billy interned with the Coral Restoration Foundation working to cultivate and restore critically endangered coral species throughout the Florida Keys. In addition to coral research, Billy has worked as an environmental science instructor as well as a competitive swim coach for many years. On his days off, you can find Billy diving the local reefs, kayaking through the mangroves, or preparing for his next big swimming race.

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.


Coordinator/Administrative Assistant

Yves just joined the MarineLab team in February 2016. She has an extensive background managing hotel operations for the Air Force as a civilian services professional. Born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany by a German father and Filipino mother, she moved to the US in 2000. She spent 13.5 years in Wyoming and a year in Alaska, and decided to move to south Florida after having to shovel a foot of snow on May 1, 2013. She relocated to the Keys in September 2015. Yves is a photographer, and in her spare time she can be found on a beach somewhere taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets, or traveling around the state of Florida.

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