Our Mission:

To foster marine and coastal conservation through integrated research and education.


Staff

Michael Bresette – Executive Director

Michael’s love for the marine environment began in his early teens during a summer class with Dr. Peter Auger studying diamondback terrapins on Cape Cod. Michael went on to attend the Florida Institute of Technology in Jensen Beach, majoring in Oceanographic Technology. He has designed and implemented various projects including mangrove habitat restoration, fish mark and recapture studies, and a wetlands conservation educational program for grade school children. He began working with sea turtles in 1992. His interest in the status of marine turtles in the southern Indian River Lagoon System was the impetus for the creation of Inwater Research Group. Michael is a founding member of Inwater Research Group and as you will see below is fortunate to be surrounded by some of the brightest and most dedicated marine biologists in the field.

Jeff Guertin

Jeff graduated with a B.S. in Biology from George Washington University in 2005 and an M.S. in Biology from Florida Atlantic University in 2010. During graduate school, he explored the regional differences in migratory activity by hatchling loggerhead sea turtles and the effect of reciprocal nest translocations between nests deposited on Florida’s east and west coasts. He joined the IRG team in 2010 and is interested in animal behavior and biological interactions between marine species.

Cody Mott

Cody has worked with sea turtles since 2006 on projects ranging from raising leatherback hatchlings to training a juvenile loggerhead for a documentary film. Cody’s research interests focus on animal behavior, nearshore reef ecology, and understanding the effects of anthropogenic stressors on sea turtles. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biology from Florida Atlantic University (FAU). Cody worked as a Research Assistant at FAU and as a Marine Turtle Specialist for the City of Boca Raton, Florida before starting with Inwater Research Group in 2010.

Rebecca Mott

Rebecca received her Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida in 2005. After school, she began as a K-5 classroom teacher, eventually moving to informal education where she could combine her two greatest interests: science and education. Since 2014, Rebecca has spearheaded programs at Inwater Research Group, creating equitable and experiential education initiatives for students across the world.  She firmly believes the future of conservation is kids, and uses sea turtles as a conduit to bring STEM alive in the classroom. Rebecca now serves as our Director of Education.

Ryan Welsh

Ryan Welsh received his BA in Biology from Earlham College in 2003 and a Master’s degree in Biology at the University of Central Florida with the Marine Turtle Research Group in 2019, where he is currently pursuing his PhD. He has been a part of Inwater Research Group since 2012 and maintains a United States Coast Guard Master Captain’s license. His work has included collaborations throughout the Gulf of Mexico and into the Caribbean with the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, Mote Marine Laboratory, and Sea Turtle, Inc. Ryan’s research interests focus on in-water mark-recapture projects, vessel-based transect surveys, and spatial modeling.

Ness Michaels

Ness started her journey at Coastal Carolina University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science in 2017. She then went on to graduate from the University of Miami with a Master of Science in Marine Conservation in 2018 working at the Dry Tortugas National Park. Ness joined the Inwater Research Group team in 2020 and has since been an integral part of both the research and education departments. She assists with multiple sea turtle research projects around the state of Florida and shares IRG’s mission through our social media pages.

Yasmeen Bruno

Yasmeen received her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina in 2017. She continued her education to obtain a Master of Arts in Teaching in the Biological Sciences from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 2021. She has experience as an educator at aquariums and nature centers in Florida and South Carolina. In her roles, she created and conducted programs and outreaches to promote collaboration for wildlife conservation initiatives within the community. She has field experience conducting research along Hutchinson Island on Leatherback and Loggerhead sea turtles. Before joining the team at Inwater, Yasmeen was an educator teaching Marine Science and Biology to local high school students. Currently, she is working as our Outreach Coordinator, helping to foster our connection to the community.

Andie Fisher

Andie received her B.S. in Marine Biology and Ecology from Bowling Green State University in 2018 and began working with sea turtles in 2016 while interning at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Following that summer, she conducted research focusing on the impact of artificial light and coastal development to loggerheads nesting on Florida’s Gulf Coast, working with Sand to Sea Inc. and Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and receiving her M.S. in Conservation Biology from the University of South Florida in 2021. Since then, she has collaborated with Key West National Wildlife Refuge, Padre Island National Seashore, and The Leatherback Trust, working on seabird and sea turtle conservation projects in the Florida Keys, Texas, and Costa Rica before joining Inwater Research Group in 2023.

Aaron Garstin

Aaron graduated with a B.S. in Zoology from Michigan State University in 2009 and an M.S. in Natural Resource Management from the University of the West Indies in 2015, where his focus was on elasmobranch bycatch in Guyanese trawl fisheries. He has collaborated with Sea Turtle Inc., the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Gulf Coast University, and the University of the West Indies on sea turtle conservation projects throughout the US, Caribbean, and Africa. Before coming to Inwater Research Group, he supervised sea turtle relocation trawling that coincided with US-based dredging projects.

Cadey Nolan

Cadey began working with sea turtles in 2019 as an intern at Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Science in Conservation Biology and Global Studies from St. Lawrence University in 2020. After graduating, Cadey pursued her interest in sea turtle conservation by collaborating with Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation and Sea Turtle Inc. Before joining Inwater Research Group in 2023, she assisted in the management of a field response station for the manatee management program of FWC.

Yvette Fernandez

Yvette received her B.S in Environmental Science and Policy from University of South Florida and began working with sea turtles in 2009 while interning with Mote Sea Turtle Conservation Program. In 2012, she was granted the opportunity to travel to Uruguay and take a course on Sea Turtle Conservation and Rehabilitation with Karumbé Sea Turtle Center . In 2018, in collaboration with Inwater Research Group, she co-created a unique program to educate the Spanish-speaking community in the Tampa Bay area on sea turtle conservation: Amigos de Las Tortugas. Yvette grew up in Colombia, is completely fluent in Spanish, and has over 13 years of experience in sea turtle conservation on Florida’s nesting beaches. Before joining Inwater Research Group in 2023, she supervised the nesting field work and data management for the sea turtle conservation program at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Board Members

Dave Clark – President/Director

He graduated with his B.S. in Ecology from Florida Atlantic University and his M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Florida. Dave worked with Inwater Research Group from 2007 to 2013 before pursuing a career in the restaurant industry, working his way up the ladder and securing the Chief Financial Officer position with a local restaurant group. Dave is still passionate about sea turtle conservation and will literally “jump” at the chance to help with whatever research he can.

Blair Witherington, PhD. – Vice President/Director

Blair Witherington received his BS and MS in Biology from the University of Central Florida and a PhD from the University of Florida. He has conducted work on sea turtle biology and conservation within the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and has served on numerous graduate student committees, panels, and working groups. He is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Florida, has served as president of the International Sea Turtle Symposia, and is a member of the Marine Turtle Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Blair has been appointed to the National Research Council and authored over 40 scientific articles, monographs, and book chapters. Blair along with his wife, Dawn, are the authors of the field guide “Florida’s Living Beaches”.

Dean Bagley, M.S. – Vice President/Director

Dean Bagley has 17 years of experience in handling immature and adult marine turtles with the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research group under the direction of Dr. L.M. Ehrhart. Her extensive nesting beach experience was gained while working in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. She now works regularly in five in-water sites with immature and adult turtles. She began satellite tracking juvenile green turtles in 2000. Dean received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biology from University of Central Florida

Carrie Keske – Treasurer

Carrie’s knowledge of sea turtles includes over 35 years of professional experience in marine turtle research, biology, and conservation in both the private and governmental sectors. She received her AS in Environmental Technology from the Florida Institute of Technology and a BS from the University of Central Florida. Carrie has managed field studies, technical staff, and data collection. Her management experience includes personnel training, scheduling, project planning and development, and proposal preparation.

 

Steve Traxler, M.S. – Secretary/Director

Steve Traxler received a marine biology bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology and a Master’s in fisheries from Texas A&M University. Steve worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for 8 years and now works for the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a supervisory biologist. His section focuses on Everglades restoration in Broward, Dade, and Monroe counties and Everglades National Park. Before that, Steve spent 7 years studying estuarine fish, primarily juvenile drum, and their relationship to SAV.

Anne Birch, M.S.

Originally from Massachusetts, Anne has been involved in marine conservation work for more than 30 years in her adopted home of Florida when she came here to get an M.S. degree in Marine Ecology from Florida Tech. She joined The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in 2004. As TNC’s Ocean and Coasts Strategy Director in Florida, she guides work on restoring and managing our coastal systems, with a special affinity for oyster habitat. This work includes restoration, management, and policy actions, and convening diverse stakeholders to tackle issues affecting Florida’s estuarine systems. Anne serves on the Board of the Florida Oceans Alliance and as a member of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program’s Science Technical Engineering and Modeling Advisory Committee and the Florida Oyster Science Recovery Working Group.

Rachel Smith

Rachel is a Conservation Programs Manager with Disney Conservation, overseeing sea turtle and other marine-based conservation work in Florida and beyond. She received her MS degree in Biology from the University of North Florida, and is currently in the Interdisciplinary Ecology PhD program at the University of Florida, focusing on innovative approaches to reducing sea turtle bycatch in Florida fisheries. Rachel began working with sea turtles in 2008 and has managed Disney’s sea turtle conservation and research efforts since 2012. She is passionate about sea turtle conservation, especially through the integration of ecological and social sciences to achieve greater conservation impact.

Keith Sahm

Keith Sahm is the Co-Founder of the FORCE BLUE Team, a community of Special Operations veterans that help the marine environment. He is an accomplished diver, strategist, hotelier, marketer & marine environmentalist. Before joining IRG’s board, Keith was a former board member of the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA), and the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame.

In Memoriam:

Llewellyn Ehrhart, PhD.

A loving tribute to our beloved board member. Dr. Ehrhart was a vertebrate zoologist whose research program focused on reproduction, population biology, ecologic geography, and conservation biology of marine turtles. He was awarded the Carnegie Foundation’s Florida Professor of the Year in 2003 and was a professor Emeritus at the University of Central Florida. His most recent research involved the characterization of juvenile and sub-adult sea turtle populations in coastal lagoons and over near-shore reefs, as well as long-term studies of nesting beach productivity. He was broadly interested in herpetology and mammalogy, particularly the distribution, ecology, and conservation of Florida amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. He served as Team Leader of the Southeastern Region Loggerhead and Green Turtle Recovery Team.