The MDC Team

Chad Truxall

Chad Truxall

Executive Director

email: chad@marinediscoverycenter.org

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
Julie Barrs

Julie Barrs

Finance & Accounting

email: julie@marinediscoverycenter.org

I am from Ohio, came to Florida in 1988 and started at MDC in June 2011 as an Office Assistant in the old trailers. You might say my first passions are Christmas and my grandchildren. I have 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren and 3 cats with no plans for anymore additional. I enjoy Bootcamp at least twice a week and walking with friends other days. I also enjoy yard sales and thrift stores on my off days.

  • Certified, Intuit QuickBooks
  • Certified, Tax Preparation
  • Notary, State of Florida
Mallory Brooks

Mallory Brooks

Welcome Center Associate & Education Assistant

email: mallory@marinediscoverycenter.org

Working at an environmental organization like the Marine Discovery Center is something I dreamed of as a kid growing up playing in the surf and exploring the gulf beaches. I knew that I loved animals and the environment and I wanted to do everything in my power to protect these precious things. Following my passion for the protecting the environment, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science, with a minor in Communication and Media Studies from Stetson University. While at Stetson I played Division-1 Softball, worked at the Reptile Discovery Center and Volusia County’s Environmental Management Division. I started my career at the Marine Discovery Center in 2015 leading Project H2O in the initial year to bring together environmental organizations, non-profits, universities, and businesses to protect the Indian River Lagoon. Currently, I am a pursuing a Master’s of Science in Integrated Environmental Science from Bethune-Cookman University in NOAA’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems. While in school, I assist with the Welcome Desk and get to speak to people about the Marine Discovery Center and how we work to save the Indian River Lagoon. When I am not working or in school, I enjoy playing volleyball, going to the beach, kayaking, hanging out with family and my pup, Finn.

  • B.S. Environmental Science – Stetson University
  • M.S. Candidate Integrated Environmental Science – Bethune-Cookman University, NOAA CCME Assistantship
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • Hubbs-Seaworld and Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team
  • Volusia County Manatee Watch Observer
  • First Aid and CPR Certified
Wendy Castino

Wendy Castino

Administrative Assistant & Welcome Center Associate

email: wendy@marinediscoverycenter.org

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
Roger Dix

Roger Dix

Boat Narrator & Kayak Guide

email: roger@marinediscoverycenter.org

Before coming to Florida, I had spent the previous twenty years teaching English as a Second Language on the international circuit, mainly working in North East Asia.  The first week after I moved to New Smyrna Beach I “Discovered Amazing” at the Marine Discovery Center where I joined as a volunteer, assisting in the Education Department, with Shoreline Restoration, Invasive Plant Removal, and with the Discovery boat’s maintenance and upkeep, just to name a few of the many programs and projects that are part of the Center’s everyday activities that I have been a part of. I have also done extensive volunteer work for Volusia County and Brevard County tracking and monitoring manatees and gopher tortoise, and I am a member of the Volusia Sea Turtle Conservancy team (formerly the New Smyrna Beach Turtle Trackers), where I help with turtle nest surveys and monitoring along Volusia’s beaches.

I grew up in Maryland and Virginia where I spent most of my childhood summers along the lower Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay fishing, crabbing, swimming and boating. After learning the art of canoeing as a young man living in New England, I had the wonderful opportunity to canoe some of the many creeks, rivers and lakes of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, along with a month-long trip canoeing and boating through Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. During my years in North East Asia where the waters are very deep, very cold and very treacherous, I decided to take up mountain trekking, where I trekked many of the largest summits in South Korea, Japan, and on one very fortunate occasion ‘The Great Wall of China’ (not the whole length of wall, of course).

As I have enjoyed working with all the people at the Discovery Center, I look forward to continue working with them, learning from them, and hopefully helping them in educating the community and visitors, alike, about Florida’s natural environments.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Intercultural Communications and English Studies from the University of Maryland Systems
  • Certified to Teach English as a Second Language
  • Advanced Master Naturalist & Florida Land Stewart Certificates
  • USGC certificate of Boat Safety and Basic Navigation
  • Member of the American Canoe Association; Certified in Canoe and Kayak Safety and Rescue
  • CPR and first aid certification
Noelle Dunbar

Noelle Dunbar

Office Manager

email: noelle@marinediscoverycenter.org

I started as a Volunteer at the Welcome Center in 2012. I was then hired as the Welcome Center Manager the following year and eventually became the Office Coordinator. I am a third generation Florida native who attended the University of North Florida and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. Working with the many volunteers, staff and visitors has been enjoyable and sometimes challenging, but it has been a wonderful learning experience. In my personal time, I keep busy with my two children and husband. We are geeks at heart and love going to sci-fi conventions dressed as favorite characters. I love making costumes, crafts and playing board games. I also love going to the beach looking for shark teeth.

  • Bachelor of Business Adminstration in Management/Marketing — University of North Florida
  • Master of Human Resource Management — University of North Florida
Guy Flick

Guy Flick

Boat Operations and Facilities Coordinator

email: guy@marinediscoverycenter.org

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
Traci Gardellis

Traci Gardellis

Marketing & Volunteer Coordinator

email: traci@marinediscoverycenter.org

My career path has been a winding, curving, interesting road on which I’ve toured people 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’m also a widow who has been lucky enough to find amazing love again, and I spend absolutely as much time as I can with my fiancé, Scott. I am also currently a mommy to 2 birds and a cat. I am a lover of theme parks, camping, music, history, and exploring interesting and quirky places. For the most part, though, if you can’t find me I’m very likely with Scott either wandering around EPCOT or at home laughing hysterically at episodes of MST3K.

  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • B.A. History, B.S. Recreational Therapy
  • “Certified” Mermaid – Sirens of the Deep Camp, Weeki Wachee
  • First Aid/CPR
  • USCG Certified Crew
Walt Hangen

Walt Hangen

Boat Captain

email: walt@marinediscoverycenter.org

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
Therese Hlavin

Therese Hlavin

Welcome Center Associate & Grantwriter

email: therese@marinediscoverycenter.org

I moved from Chicago to New Smyrna Beach last year, after retiring from Northeastern Illinois University. I spent my entire career in higher education as a an administrator of grants and programs aimed to support equal opportunity and access for disadvantaged college students. I have a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a M.A.L.S from DePaul University. I started volunteering at MDC last year and now work part-time as a docent. I also am working to identify and write grants for MDC. In my free time, I sing baritone with the Harmony Sound Waves barbershop chorus in New Smyrna Beach. I also love to garden, read, bake, and take walks along the Smyrna Dunes Beach with my dog, Daisy.

Charity Jackson

Charity Jackson

Boat Narrator & Kayak Guide

email: charity@marinediscoverycenter.org

As a native of Volusia County, I have watched this beautiful community grow and change for many years. Working at the MDC has given me the opportunity to educate others about our area’s uniquely diverse coastal ecosystem, and it is a privilege to further the organization’s mission to protect and restore the place my family and I call home.

My background is diverse and includes a lot of community volunteer work and teaching in a variety of settings. In my younger years, I completed a BA in Psychology and then returned to school about 15 years later to complete a MS in Biology. At present, I am educating my own three children at home, which has been the source of many unusual family adventures. I stay busy caring for my ever-expanding family, comprised of 5 humans, 2 cats, 2 birds a rabbit named Nibbles and a tank full of jelly fish. Hobbies include traveling, SCUBA diving, and beach combing.

  • MS Biology, Western Kentucky University
  • BA Psychology, University of Central Florida
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Certified in Coastal Systems, Freshwater Systems, Upland Systems, Environmental Interpretation, Conservation Science, Habitat Evaluation and Wildlife Monitoring
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program Associate Instructor
  • Advanced PADI Open Water, Nitrox and Rescue Certified
  • Adult and Pediatric First Aid / CPR / AED
  • USCG Certified Crew
  • Boater Safety Course
  • Hubbs-Seaworld and Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team
Gary Kessler

Gary Kessler

Boat Captain

email: gary@marinediscoverycenter.org

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 professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where I teach cybersecurity, a field in which I have been involved since the late-1970s (and it continues to be a growth industry).

  • USCG Licensed Captain (50 GT Master Inland Water/OUPV Near Coastal and Tow Assist)
  • 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
Lisa Mickey

Lisa Mickey

Kayak Coordinator & Copy Writer

email: lisa@marinediscoverycenter.org

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 Program – Coastal Systems Certified, Freshwater Wetlands Certified, and Upland Systems Certified.
  • 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
Dan Moore

Dan Moore

Boat Captain

email: dan@marinediscoverycenter.org

“I feel privileged to have been Born, Raised, and Grown up, in Central Florida…and that’s a fact”.

  • Boat Captain
  • Diver
  • Hunter/Fisherman/Sportsman
  • Newbie Birder
  • Businessman/Salesman
Diane Prow

Diane Prow

Boat Narrator

email: dianeprow@marinediscoverycenter.org

I may no longer scuba dive or lifeguard or give swimming lessons but my love of the water will always exist. By retiring from dental hygiene in 2014 from Maine and moving to New Smyrna Beach, I have found that salt water never leaves your soul.

  • University of Pennsylvania, Dental Hygiene Degree
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • Adult & Pediatric First Aid/ CPR/ AED
  • USCG Boater Safety Course
Lois Reed

Lois Reed

Kayak Guide & Web Master

email: lois@marinediscoverycenter.org

I am a lifelong naturalist who comes from a long line of naturalists. Although I earned my degree in art, I have always had my hands in the earth.

I worked as a Wilderness Survival Instructor at Project U.S.E., as well as studying and ‘adventuring’ with Outward Bound and NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). Since moving to Florida I have earned my certification as a Florida Naturalist in Coastal and Freshwater systems. I also returned to college in 2003 to study website design, and received my certification as a web master.

I now lead Kayak Tours at MDC, create websites at Lois Reed Designs, & sell my art at local shops and galleries.

  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified, Freshwater Wetlands Certified
  • USCG Certified Crew
  • Hubbs-Seaworld and Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team
  • Web Designer at Lois Reed Designs
  • Eco Artist
  • Certified in First Aid & CPR
Logan Rohrbach

Logan Rohrbach

Education Specialist & Aquarist

email: logan@marinediscoverycenter.org

I joined Marine Discovery Center in 2016 as an Educator/Aquarist. I help with various education programs including school field trips, summer camp and archery. I also maintain all of the live exhibits and aquariums at the center. I completed my undergraduate degree at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida with a B.S. in Marine Science with a track in Marine Biology and a double minor in Mathematics and Visual Arts. After college, I moved on to southern California where I worked at 6th grade outdoor school as an outdoor educator/hiking guide, teaching students to appreciate the outdoors while learning how to explore nature. Outside of work, you can find me at my local CrossFit gym training to be a competitive CrossFit athlete and weightlifter. In my free time, I also enjoy exploring nature and spending time with friends and family.

  • B.S. Marine Science (Marine Biology track) from Eckerd College
  • Double minor in Mathematics and Visual Arts
  • USCG Certified Crew
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • USA Archery Level 2 Instructor
  • First AID/CPR
  • Member of Florida Marine Science Educators Association
  • Hubbs-Seaworld and Volusia County Marine Mammal Stranding Team
George Texter

George Texter

Boat Captain

email: george@marinediscoverycenter.org

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.

Jessy Wayles

Jessy Wayles

Conservation Science Coordinator

email: jessy@marinediscoverycenter.org

I am a graduate from University of Central Florida with a B.S. Environmental Science, and I bring over twelve years of professional and volunteer experience to the Marine Discovery Center. I expanded my interest in environmental science through a variety of volunteer work including relocating sea turtle nests, tagging and measuring sea turtles, and assisting with data collection on fresh water turtles in Florida’s springs.

My love of nature has compelled me to complete the all three Florida Master Naturalist Programs, earning myself the title of Florida Master Naturalist. I have been an interpretive ranger at Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina and am continually involved in finding ways to secure the health of the Indian River Lagoon and its habitat by being a member of the Citizen Action Committee at IRL NEP.

When I am not working to make the IRL a healthy  habitat, you can find me at the skating rink playing roller derby under the name “Spikey Wayles” or getting lost in one of Florida’s beautiful and unique ecosystems.

  • BS- Environmental Science, University of Central Florida
  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Freshwater Certified, Coastal Systems Certified, and Upland Systems Certified
  • Researcher with the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group
  • Turtle enthusiast!
Michelle West

Michelle West

Education Coordinator

email: michelle@marinediscoverycenter.org

I have been an educator for 15 years. With an undergraduate degree in Health and Physical Education from Elon University and a graduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Mercer University, working with children has always been one of my passions. I started working with summer camps at the Marine Discovery Center in 2012 and then became Field Trip Coordinator in 2015. Now as the Education Coordinator, I enjoy combining my love of teaching and the outdoors to inspire children to protect their local waters.

  • Florida Master Naturalist Program – Coastal Systems Certified
  • Level 2 USA Archery instructor
  • Member of Florida Marine Science Educators Association, League of Environmental Educators of Florida, and Association of Nature Center Administrators
  • Certified in First Aid and CPR