The MDC Team

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Chad Truxall

Chad Truxall

Executive Director

email: [email protected]

I have more than 17 years of experience as a biologist, educator and non-profit manager.

I came to the Marine Discovery Center in 2004 as its Director of Education and now serve as the Executive Director, responsible for the long range vision, mission and strategic direction for the organization. This involves a strong community presence and the implementation of hands-on, feet-wet education, restoration and stewardship programs focused on Florida’s coastal ecology.

I have a B.S.A. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation with a specialization in Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida. I am a Florida Master Naturalist instructor and coordinate the Florida Coastal Naturalist program. I serve as the coordinator for the Florida region of the Association of Nature Center Administrators and believe that in the future, nature centers will play an increasingly important role in the community. I have more than 9 years of experience as a Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team Member and recently completed a six-month study circle through the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation.

  • B.S. Wildlife Ecology and Conservation – University of Florida
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program, Lead Instructor
  • USCG Certified Crew
  • Lifeguard/First Aid/CPR
  • Boat Safety Course
  • Open Water Diver

COORDINATORS & OFFICE STAFF

Lindsey Anderson

Lindsey Anderson

Education Specialist

email: [email protected]

Growing up in Central Florida, I was on the beach since before I was able to walk. We lived about an hour and a half from either coast and were there every free day we had. The rest is history, and I believe this is what sparked my passion for the ocean. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was always “Marine Biologist” without any hesitation.

I followed my heart and dream, and received my Bachelors of Science in Marine Science from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2017. My last summer of college, I interned with Sea World’s Summer Camp program educating campers of all ages on the resident animals, and on what they could do in their everyday lives to promote ocean conservation and sustainability. My first job post-graduation was a Naturalist within the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island where I conducted Nature & Sea Life tours. I fell in love with the combination of working on the water and education of conservation of marine ecosystems. I really loved watching guests of all ages walk away with that new appreciation and understanding.

I unfortunately had to leave the ocean world for a few years as a devastating Red Tide occurred, causing the loss of work. This meant I needed a new job just to pay the bills. It was going on 3 years and my heart yearned to be back on the water. We moved to the East coast in 2021 and had to start over with work as a retail associate to gain footing in a new town. Through applying to different jobs, my resume was sent to the Marine Discovery Center for this Educator Specialist position and I couldn’t be happier and more excited to be working here. I am so excited to be able to not only be around my passion of all things Marine Science but education, research and community stewardship as well.

  • B.S. Marine Science – Florida Gulf Coast University 
  • PADI Open Water Diver
  • CPR and First Aid certification
Wendy Castino

Wendy Castino

Volunteer Coordinator & Events Specialist

email: [email protected]

I bring 30 years of client service experience with me to the Marine Discovery Center. For the last 20 years I have been in the insurance and financial planning industry with a focus on client service management as well as seminar and event coordinating. I am a firm believer that “people can tell when you’re smiling, even over the phone”. My goal is not only to meet a client’s expectations, but to exceed them.

I moved to New Smyrna Beach three years ago and began volunteering at MDC to obtain a better knowledge of “what is floating and living in the river in front of my house”. My family boats, kayaks and paddleboards regularly on the Indian River and we want to make sure it is taken care of so others can enjoy it for years to come.

  • Vocational degree in Travel Planning
  • 30 years Client Service experience
  • 6 years Seminar and Event Coordinating
  • CPR and First Aid certification
Gwen Comfort

Gwen Comfort

Guest Services Specialist

email: [email protected]

I was blessed to grow up in New Smyrna Beach, which seemed a lot like growing up in paradise. Weekends with my family and friends were often spent fishing, boating and skiing on the Indian River Lagoon. Summers were spent at the beach with my friends. I have always loved nature, and I am thankful for the vision of the Marine Discovery Center in shining a light on the importance of protecting our shorelines and waterways.

After graduating from NSB Senior High School, which was on the property where the Marine Discovery Center now sits, I went to UCF and stayed in central Florida for the majority of my career. I moved back to NSB full time in 2012 and soon thereafter discovered the Florida Master Naturalist program offered at MDC. I also have volunteered for many events and programs through the years, and I am honored to be part of such a great team!

  • B.S. Computer Science, Mathematics Minor – University of Central Florida
  • Florida Master Naturalist – Coastal, Freshwater, Upland Systems Certified. Additional special topics – Coastal Shoreline Restoration, Habitat Evaluation, Marine Habitat Restoration, and Wildlife Monitoring
  • New Smyrna Beach Marine Turtle Conservancy Volunteer (Turtle Trackers)
  • New Smyrna Beach Citizens Academy Graduate
  • ACA Volunteer League Member
  • NSB Residents’ Coalition Leadership
Guy Flick

Guy Flick

Boat Operations & Facilities Coordinator

email: [email protected]

I am a retired restaurant executive with 31 years’ experience spent managing a 150 unit multi state territory. Upon retirement, I renewed my Captains license and started down a completely different path. First, I started working for several local venues including being an airboat captain for Black Hammock Fish Camp and a Seatow captain locally at Ponce Inlet. I also spent two summers in Alaska as a guide at Yesbay lodge and will continue to go back on a limited basis. I eventually obtained my Florida Master Naturalist – Coastal certificate and worked part time for both Turtle Mound Eco tours and Marine Discovery Center. I came aboard full time at MDC in September 2016 to manage the Boat / kayak operations and facilities management.

  • Vice president Captain D’s Seafood Restaurants 9 years
  • 31 years restaurant experience
  • Master Captain for 5 years
  • Seatow Capt.
  • US Power boat instructor
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • Fishing Guide NSB and Alaska
Abby Frey

Abby Frey

Conservation Specialist

Ever since a kid, I have been captivated by the ocean and everything it has to offer. My entire life has been spent in and surrounded by the water. I was a competitive swimmer for 17 years, worked 5 years as an ocean rescue lifeguard, and grew up by the ocean. I decided to continue my swimming career and follow my dream of becoming a marine biologist by pursuing my degree. I made the move from my hometown, Virginia Beach, VA, to Winter Park, FL when I started at Rollins College. I finished my swimming career and graduated in May of 2023 with a dual degree in Marine Biology and Environmental Studies.

I fell in love with the education field and decided to combine by passions for marine biology and education into a career. I started with the Marine Discovery Center as a camp counselor for the summer camp. After 12 weeks, I joined the naturalist team to continue educating the public about the magic of the Indian River Lagoon.

Aside from work, I love exploring, hiking, surfing, making seashell jewelry.

  • B.A. Marine Biology and Environmental studies – Rollins College
  • PADI Advanced Open Water Diver
  • Ocean Rescue Lifeguard – CPR and first Aid certified
Trey Hannah

Trey Hannah

Director of Programs

email: [email protected]

Growing up locally I had the opportunity to enjoy many of the wonderful activities that the area has to offer. I have always enjoyed being outdoors especially anything that has to do with the water. Previously I worked as an educator developing and leading education programs throughout Volusia County to familiarize residents and visitors about the importance of our conservation lands, along with all the wonderful flora and fauna of the area. Outside of work I love taking my family snorkeling, fishing, surfing, kayaking, and showing them all the great things the lagoon has to offer and why it’s so important that we protect it.

I have a master’s in biology from the Miami University (Ohio), a B.S. in Biology from the University of South Florida, and I have been an instructor for the Florida Master Naturalist Program for the past 9 years.

  • M.A. Biology – Miami University
  • B.S. Biology – University of South Florida
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program, Lead instructor
  • USCG Certified Crew
  • UAG Drone Certified
  • Level 1&2 kayak instructor
  • Rescue diver certified.
  • Marine Mammal Rescue 11 years’ experience, Prescott Level I & 2 trained
  • Boaters Safety Course
Robin Mansfield

Robin Mansfield

Guest Services Coordinator

email: [email protected]

In joining the team at Marine Discovery Center, it feels like my professional life has come full circle. I began my career as a biology teacher in the Philadelphia area. Some personal experiences in my life changed my path for a while and I entered the nursing field. I am licensed RN and Nurse Practitioner and have worked in the fields of cardiology, geriatrics, college health and administration.

I grew up, not at the beach, but in the mountains, lakes and rivers of Pennsylvania, my family camped, boated and fished together. I truly had a hands-on feet-wet childhood. I moved to NJ after getting married and expanded my love of nature by exploring the Jersey shore and Delaware river.

We became full-time residents of New Smyrna Beach in 2021, but it has been our second home for over 20 years. This bond began when we would visit my mother-in-law who spent the winter months here. We purchased a condo and spent every opportunity we could to get away and enjoy the beaches and waterways in the area. I always knew I would live in NSB and that MDC would be part of my story. My family has taken advantage of everything MDC has had to offer on our visits including sending my son to summer camp. I began volunteering at the welcome center; then in the summer of 2021, I was hired as the EcoArtist camp counselor. Now I am back in the welcome center as part of the staff, which allows me to share my love the Indian River Lagoon, and the mission of education and conservation with all those who visit MDC.

  • B.S. Secondary Education/Biology – Temple University
  • Registered Nurse, A.D. – Helene Fuld School of Nursing
  • Nurse Practitioner, MSN – The College of New Jersey
  • New Smyrna Beach Turtle Trackers-Volunteer
Brent Meister

Brent Meister

Aquarist

email: [email protected]

I have more than 5 years of experience working in the aquarium field both as an animal trainer and as a water quality expert.

I came to Marine Discovery Center back in 2006, not as a staff member but as a camper. I was thirteen years old, and Chad Truxall was my camp counselor. From that program the love of nature and the natural environment was instilled in my brain. All through school that is all I wanted to do – science – so much so, that I pursued a Bachelor of Science in Aquatic and Marine Biology from Stetson University with a minor in Chemistry and a focus in Environmental Chemistry. From this I came up with two published research projects under my name. My first research was on the “Anthropogenic Sources of Noise Pollution in the Indian River Lagoon” that I presented at the first S.H.O.R.E symposium. My second research was “A Biodiversity Study on Fouling Benthic Organisms at the North Ponce Inlet Jetty”.

During my college time I came back to Marine Discovery Center as an intern, teaching people all about the exhibits and their inhabitants as well as spreading information on just how important our estuary is. Upon graduation I found myself working in the aquarium field at Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL. My time there was fun as I trained whitetip reef sharks and giant southern stingrays. The system altogether was 1.3 million gallons of salt water that housed seven thousand animals, 150 different species, and required constant water quality measurements. However, something was missing, and it was the Indian River Lagoon. I have always found myself connected to the lagoon and to Marine Discovery Center, and I am happy to be at a place I can call home.

  • B.S. Aquatic and Marine Biology – Stetson University
  • PADI open water diver
  • CPR and First Aid Certified
  • Sea Trek Guide Certified
  • Wilderness First Aid Certified
  • Eagle Scout
Carley Metcalf

Carley Metcalf

Education Coordinator

email: [email protected]

Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, I spent summers volunteering at Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and fell in love with everything at the water’s edge and beyond. While earning a B.Sc. in Marine Science and certification in sustainability from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, I held multiple environmental education positions including kayak tour guide and summer youth leader. Upon graduation, I was selected for an internship at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts with the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Team. During my time in the Atlantic Northeast, I contributed to data collection efforts on basking shark diving habits, North Atlantic right whale feeding ecology, and the Bay of Fundy water chemistry analysis at the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station. I have worked as a biologist on species conservation projects with a primary focus on the threatened West Indian manatee and the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. I have further worked as a protected species observer promoting coexistence between wildlife and human activity. In my travels, I found myself captivated by the endless diversity and wonder within each of Florida’s many ecosystems. I am elated to be part of an organization that strives to bridge the gap in understanding and reverence between humans and the natural world we inhabit.

We become what we pay attention to – Sue Monk Kidd

  • B.Sc. Marine Science – Coastal Carolina University
  • Certification in Sustainability, Coastal Carolina University
  • Aviation Survival and Egress Trainign ASET 1
  • CPR and First Aid Certified
Julia Petersen

Julia Petersen

Conservation Specialist

email: [email protected]

Growing up on Long Island, New York gave me a firsthand view of the changes our coastal ecosystems have faced over the years. I have always been passionate about protecting wildlife and I always knew that is what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I got my degree in Ecosystems and Human Impact from Stony Brook University, where I interned with Global FinPrint and the Peterson Marine Community Ecology Laboratory.

After moving to Port Orange in 2020, I worked remotely for a nonprofit organization but soon found myself wanting to get back outside. I came across an AmeriCorps program with the Florida Conservation Corps called Project A.N.T. (AmeriCorps Nonnative Plant Terminators.) During my 11-month service term, my cohort and I treated 315 acres for invasive plants in Tomoka Basin State Parks. We also participated in prescribed fire and other resource management efforts in state parks throughout the district. Upon completing our service term, the district offered us both positions at the park to continue our work. Coming to the Marine Discovery Center brought me back to the coastal ecosystems that I have always called home. I am so excited to be a part of the team!

  • B.A. Ecosystems & Human Impact – Stony Brook University
  • Graduate Certificate Wildlife Forensic Sciences & Conservation – University of Florida
  • PADI Open Water Diver
  • S130/S190/L180 Wildland Firefighter
  • CPR and First Aid Certified
  • Florida Master Naturalist – Habitat Evaluation Certified
Tess Sailor-Tynes

Tess Sailor-Tynes

Conservation Science Coordinator

email: [email protected]

Since sophomore year of high school, I strived for a future in marine conservation. I made the move from San Antonio, Texas to Florida in 2013, when I started at Rollins College. During my collegiate career, I took an internship with the Marine Science Center as a part of their Artificial Reef Research Team. Additionally, I was involved in NCAA athletics as a Cross Country runner, was a member of Eco Rollins, and worked on projects that were dedicated to urban farming and sustainability. I graduated in May of 2017 with a degree in Environmental Studies, with a focus in Marine Conservation.

My journey with Marine Discovery Center started in May of 2018, when I accepted a position as a Summer Camp Counselor. After completing 11 successful weeks of Summer Camp exploration, I joined the Boat and Kayak Guide team to expand my passion for educating the community about conservation efforts in our local ecosystems. Each excursion on the IRL is different and I never get tired of seeing all of the incredible species that call this place their home.

When I’m not at work, I spend time working on photography projects, cooking up new recipes, or running on the beach. I love being outside and I’m so fortunate to have a job that allows me to combine lifelong learning with personal gratification.

  • B.S. Environmental Studies
  • Project WET Certified
  • First Aid & CPR Certified
Megan Sepulveda

Megan Sepulveda

Education Specialist

email: [email protected]

Born and raised in Central Florida, I went to New Smyrna Beach every weekend. I grew up with the love of the ocean and everything in it that calls it home. New Smyrna specifically held a special place in my heart because it was the favorite place of my grandmother who passed away. Science has always been in my bones, from when I was a child collecting a multitude of rocks all the way through my time at college. I earned my B.S. in Biology with a special interest in conservation and sustainability with a minor in Environmental Studies. While in school I worked as an Educator at SeaWorld which made my passion for marine mammals sky-rocket. My time there coincided with the recent unusual mortality event in manatees, this caused me to see first hand how changes in the environment can lead to detrimental issues.

I am excited to be a part of the team at MDC and look forward to doing our part in protecting and restoring Florida’s coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems.

  • B.S. Biology with minor in Environmental Studies
Laura Stapleton

Laura Stapleton

Guest Services Specialist

email: [email protected]

I grew up on Long Island in New York and always had a love for nature and the outdoors. I stumbled upon Marine Discovery Center when I moved to New Smyrna Beach in 2017 and began taking the Florida Master Naturalist Classes in 2018. Volunteering at MDC was just a natural progression and I’ve loved every minute of it.

My real passion is turtles, all species of turtles. When I moved to New Smyrna Beach I began to volunteer with the New Smyrna Beach Turtle Trackers and now I help conduct the daily surveys and document the nesting activity on our local beaches during the nesting season. I feel privileged to work with this outstanding group and contribute to the data collection of these endangered and threatened species.

I’m very excited to join the MDC team and bring my passion and experience to help our visitors and locals learn about all the wonders of nature here in Florida.

  • Advanced Florida Master Naturalist / Land Steward – certified in Coastal Systems, Freshwater Systems, Uplands Systems, Environmental Interpretation, Habitat Evaluation, Conservation Science, Wildlife Monitoring and Shoreline Restoration
  • Founder – Volusia Friends of the Florida Master Naturalist Program
  • New Smyrna Beach Turtle Tracker Volunteer
Traci Trusler

Traci Trusler

Communications & Data Specialist

email: [email protected]

My career path has been a winding, curving, interesting road on which I’ve toured guests around historic homes, driven sightseeing trolleys through St. Augustine, welcomed visitors at Walt Disney World, and instructed people to stretch and bend themselves into various yoga poses. A native Ohioan who was fortunate enough to grow up with a second family home in New Smyrna, I moved to Florida permanently in 2012 and began volunteering and then working at MDC. I do have my official duties of course, but if you happen to see a chick in a mermaid tail around here, that’s probably me too. In fact, some people know me first and foremost as Mermaid Traci.

In addition to the above I am a mommy to a feline furbaby and a tankful of freshwater fishies, and I spend absolutely as much time as I can with my husband, Scott.  I am a lover of theme parks, camping, music, movies, history, and exploring interesting and quirky places. Odds are if you can’t find me I’m very likely with Scott either people-watching somewhere or at home laughing hysterically at episodes of MST3K.

  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • B.S. Recreational Therapy – Western Carolina University
  • B.A. History – Miami University
  • “Certified” Mermaid – Sirens of the Deep Camp, Weeki Wachee
Dan Turkasz

Dan Turkasz

Facilities Specialist

email: [email protected]

Born and raised in Buffalo, New York and after high school I joined the Navy to volunteer for Submarine Service. I obtained a technical background in operation and maintenance of various electrical equipment while on board my submarine including the operation of the nuclear reactor. Leveraging this education in the military I was fortunate enough to be able to continue my experience in nuclear power by being employed for over 33 years at South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC) outside of Houston.

My wife Billie is originally from Sanford and our dream was to retire here in New Smyrna Beach. Our dream came true in 2021, and I actively wanted to add more by volunteering here at Marine Discovery Center (MDC). I was so excited about the vision and mission of MDC that I decided to commit further time as a Facilities Specialist and recently graduated from the Florida Master Naturalist Program Coastal Systems course. I’m looking forward to making the Marine Discovery Center a destination point for our community and visitors.

  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified

NATURALISTS

Bob Creedon

Bob Creedon

Lead Naturalist

After 30 plus years in Corporate America, I have retired and finally made more time to pursue my passion: Nature. In my prior careers, I worked at a large corporation, both in finance and IT roles, with the last 20 years in leadership positions.

I grew up on a lake in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where I spent countless hours on the water and hiking through the woods, and that has been my passion ever since. I have lived full-time in New Smyrna Beach for the past five years. I am an avid kayaker and hiker, and love exploring new trails, and have spent many afternoons on the waters of the Indian River Lagoon.

  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Certified in Coastal Systems, Freshwater Systems and Upland Systems
  • President of the Friends of the FMNP – Volusia County
  • Southeast Volusia Audubon Society – Board Member 2022-2023
  • Nature Editor for NSB Guide website
  • Volunteer for the Volusia County Washback Watchers (Sea Turtles)
  • Created the Sugar Mill Ruins guided nature trail
  • Self-proclaimed Epiphyte expert and fanatic
Jeannie Asby

Jeannie Asby

Naturalist

As a Florida native, I grew up loving all things “nature.”  After graduating from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, married life detoured my college path.  When 4 sons came along I couldn’t even see the path!  I home-educated our sons, frequently using the outdoors as our classroom, and watched their fascination and appreciation for nature grow.  When they all graduated I returned to school and received my Nursing degree, but after working as an R.N. for just over a year I went back to my first love.  I completed the Florida Master Naturalist core classes, where I finally met other “nature nuts” like me.  With an empty nest, my husband and I quit our “real” jobs and we are following our passions.  For him, music; for me, nature.

I’m constantly amazed by this incredible world we’ve been given and I love to share the discoveries of creation with others, especially children (my grandkids included)! I believe the first step toward conservation and preservation is education.  When people experience nature, they connect to it, and they want to take care of it.  MDC is all about those same things!  Come join us!  I can’t wait to see all we can do TOGETHER to be good stewards of the Indian River Lagoon, a place of beauty, fascination, and tranquility for us… and the next generation.

  • Florida Master Naturalist – certified Coastal, Freshwater, and Uplands. Special topics pending
  • Florida’s Natural Element, LLC, owner
  • FWC – Project WILD Facilitator/Trainer
  • Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network, member
  • Space Coast Regional Chapter of Florida Master Naturalists, member
  • Registered Nurse, A.S. in Nursing, Daytona State College
  • American Canoe Association, member
  • ACA Level I and II Kayak Instructor Certification
Bob Hazelton

Bob Hazelton

Naturalist

I count myself as a Native Floridian courtesy of my dad being in the US Navy and me being born in Jacksonville. Since then, I have been in-and-out of Florida 6 times and have lived in 9 Florida cities.

My introduction to the Marine Discovery Center happened when I took the Coastal Systems course on my way to completing my Florida Master Naturalist certification. I remember sitting in the classroom and thinking that working for the MDC would be a lot of fun.

I spent nearly 40 years working for software companies and am very fortunate to have been able to change careers at 59 ½. My training in public speaking and instruction really became a labor of love when I began volunteering for the US Forest Service and the National Parks while living in southern California. Being a volunteer is the best job you’ll never get paid for.

After moving to the area, I was excited to see an opening for a Kayak Guide. I am thrilled to have been hired and take pride in doing all I can to support the mission of the Marine Discovery Center.

  • Florida Master Naturalist – Coastal, Freshwater, Upland Systems. Special topics – Conservation Science and Coastal Restoration
  • Certified Interpretive Guide via National Association for Interpretation
  • Florida Water Tours & Florida Water Warriors, First Mate/ Interpretive Guide
  • Leave No Trace Master Educator
  • Leave No Trace State Advocate – California
  • Anastasia State Park, volunteer Bird Steward
  • US Forest Service, Wilderness Ranger and Trail Boss (volunteer)
  • National Park Service, Volunteers In Parks – Joshua Tree National Park, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (Historic Weapons Crew) and Fort Matanzas National Monument
  • Served on the board of directors for several local and national nature-based organizations
Lisa Mickey

Lisa Mickey

Naturalist & Copy Writer

I was the kid who kept a cricket cage on my bedroom windowsill at night to sing me to sleep and who sometimes chased escaped box turtles under my bed. I spent an entire childhood tromping in the North Carolina woods, quietly observing wildlife from my treehouse, romping on the beaches, rappelling down mountain rock faces, crawling into caves and catching peeks from the local Audubon chapter’s viewing scopes in my teens. That was my real education in nature, formalized years later with classes and instruction that taught me the names of things I had always seen and heard. Decades later as a certified naturalist, I find that my role in environmental interpretation is still like giant “Show & Tell” from elementary school. It’s more scientific now, but the goal is the same – to explore the wonders of nature and to feel supremely blessed by sharing a planet with such living diversity. I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than sitting in a kayak on the Indian River Lagoon watching dolphins and manatees, strolling down a sun-splashed beach kissed by sea foam, riding a bike while trying to watch a soaring osprey or plant-nibbling gopher tortoise, or hiking in Merritt Island with binoculars, hoping and praying that a Florida Scrub-Jay will come say hello.

  • Florida Master Naturalist – Advanced Master Naturalist & Florida Land Steward Certification
  • Florida Master Naturalist Assistant Instructor
  • ACA Certified Kayak Instructor
  • USCG Certified Crew
  • U.S. Power Squadrons Paddle Smart certification
  • Former Adopt-An-Estuary program coordinator
  • B.A. English – High Point University, North Carolina
  • Graduate Studies in Literature, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
  • Veteran newspaper, magazine journalist
  • 3-time national award winner – Golf Writers Assoc. of America
  • Certified in First Aid & CPR
Claire Miller

Claire Miller

Naturalist

I was born in England and moved to Pennsylvania in 1976. I taught Special Education for 39 years and decided to retire. Moving to Florida and the New Smyrna Beach area awakened my passion for all marine life and ecosystems. After taking the Coastal Naturalist course I wanted to share all my new found knowledge with anyone I could.

  • B.S. in Education –  from Juniata College
  • Graduate Certificate in Autism – Penn State
  • Florida Master Naturalist – certified in Coastal Systems and Wildlife Monitoring 
Ted Shoaf

Ted Shoaf

Naturalist

As a lifelong and avid lover of all things to learn about and experience in the natural environment I am so excited to be part of an organization so dedicated to education and conservation through feet wet, hands on exploration, learning and discovery! Growing up I was always drawn to the outdoors. The enjoyment and renewal I found being in nature drew me to work as a backpacking, horsepacking and river guide in Wyoming which sparked in me a passion for sharing those experiences and any knowledge that I could with others. I am so happy to be able to continue to do so on my boat and kayak tours with MDC and look forward to facilitating fun, exciting, and educational adventures on the IRL!

  • B.S. Environmental Studies
  • M.A. Education Curriculum and Instruction
  • CPR /First Aid
  • Lifeguard
  • Wilderness First Aid
  • PADI Open Water

 BOAT CAPTAINS

Walt Hangen

Walt Hangen

Boat Captain

Having spent a good portion of my early years on an undeveloped island on the coast of New Jersey I learned about the land and sea, its inhabitants, the environment and how they related to each other. This was long before the study of Ecology became formalized. Throughout my working career with the US Public Health Service and 35 years in a Rental Equipment business I was always involved in some sort of activity around water and nature and sharing my learning and experiences with family and others. Following a move to New Smyrna Beach, I was fortunate to obtain my captain’s license, work for the National Park Service and learn about the Florida Master Naturalist Program and Marine Discovery Center. I was hooked on the chance to continue learning about the things I love and be able to share the excitement with others. I am thankful for such opportunities! I hope to be able to continue to serve in these activities for the foreseeable future.

  • B.S. Science, Biology & Chemistry
  • US Public Health Service, local, regional and national positions
  • Advanced classes in Public Administration and Management
  • Owned & Operated W H Rental Corp (Tools, Equipment & Party) 35 years
  • USCG Master Captain, 50 Ton and Towing Endorsement
  • Red Cross Water Safety Instructor
  • Park Ranger, Canaveral National Seashore, NPS
  • VIP, Canaveral National Seashore, NPS
  • Certified First Aid & CPR
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
Gary Kessler

Gary Kessler

Boat Captain

My love of the ocean dates back to my childhood growing up on southern California beaches. I became a certified SCUBA diver as a teenager in the late-1960s largely due to an interest in discovering old ship wrecks. I went to college to study oceanography but got distracted by mathematics and computer science, but I have pretty much always lived near water, including 33 years on Vermont’s Lake Champlain between 1977 and 2012. I started boating in the early 1990s, eventually becoming a SCUBA instructor and USCG boat captain. I have lived in Florida since 2012 and am getting accustomed to a new type of marine life, and starting to get back into my basic diving interest of maritime history and archaeology, volunteering with the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP). I continue to love any activity that puts me on, in, or under the water.

I am also a cybersecurity consultant, educator, and researcher, a field in which I have been involved since the late-1970s (and it continues to be a growth industry). My primary focus is on maritime cybersecurity.

  • USCG Licensed Captain (50 GT Master and Tow Assist)
  • USCG Auxiliary Coxswain
  • PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer (specialties include Underwater Naturalist, Goliath Grouper, and Lionfish)
  • First Aid/CPR
  • B.A., Mathematics; M.S., Computer Science; Ph.D., Computing Technology in Education
  • Professor of Cybersecurity, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (retired)
Connie Mann

Connie Mann

Boat Captain

I’ve been a licensed captain since 2006 and have spent the last 15 years introducing students and guests from around the world to the crystal-clear beauty of Silver Springs and the Silver River in Ocala, Florida. I drove glass bottom boats at Silver Springs for over 8 years and spent 13 years as the lead captain and head of the boat program for the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center, which is part of Marion County Public Schools. What a privilege to introduce boat-loads of school children to their first alligator or manatee, and get them excited about nature and conservation.

I am also a published author and write suspense and adventure fiction, much of it set in Florida. Both my Florida Wildlife Warriors and my Safe Harbor suspense series are set in the sunshine state and help showcase the beauty and diversity of our beautiful state.

Hubby and I recently relocated to this part of Florida and I’m delighted to be part of the Marine Discovery Center’s boat program. I love the Center’s mission of exploration, conservation and education and am excited to be part of the team.

  • USCG Master Captain (25 ton)
  • Certified CPR/First Aid
  • B.A. International Ministries
Doug Marcella

Doug Marcella

Boat Captain

Having grown up on the Atlantic Ocean off Massachusetts, and buying my first boat at 12, it seemed natural to join the US Navy after graduating high school. My time serving on the USS Point Loma took me throughout the Pacific Ocean, receiving the National Defense Service Medal. I spent the next 30 years as a commercial fisherman, captaining my own boats from Gloucester Mass to the Outer Banks of NC.

After retiring from fishing in 2010, I worked as a Private Investigator for Liberty Mutual and UPS. In 2017, my wife and I sold our house and bought a 68” Hatteras in Beaufort, SC which we lived on and traveled the ICW and to the Bahamas before settling in New Smyrna Beach in late 2019. During this time, we chartered our vessel, delivered boats and did sea trials.

We really love New Smyrna Beach and look forward to working with the Marine Discovery Center.

  • USCG Licensed Captain (100 ton with Tow Endorsement)
  • FCC Radio Operator License
  • FCC Radar License
  • First Aid/CPR Certified
  • Scuba Diving Certification
  • Licensed Private Investigator
  • US Navy – Honorable Discharge
George Texter

George Texter

Boat Captain

I owned a graphics business in Buffalo NY for 34 years. I raised three girls, paid for the their education, retired and moved to Ponce Inlet, Fl. I hold a fifty ton masters license and enjoy driving for the MDC.

Our Mission:

"To protect and restore Florida's coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."