Session Chairs

Biosurveillance and Molecular Techniques

Nancy Denslow

Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Florida

Nancy Denslow’s research involves developing and using molecular biomarkers to evaluate changes in gene expression depending on stress or exposure to contaminants. For environmental species, molecular approaches, including microarray analysis and proteomics, were developed for several non-model species, including fish, gastropods, and coral. Fish swim in waters that are contaminated by superfund chemicals and emerging contaminants of concern and, thus, provide a direct measure of effects of the contaminants in vertebrates. Nancy recently served on a Blue Ribbon Panel to assess contaminants found in reused water in California.

Margaret (Maggie) Hunter

Research Geneticist, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey

Margaret Hunter attended the University of Florida where she received a B.Sc. in Microbiology and Cellular Sciences and minored in Chemistry and Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology. Following her bachelor degree, she received a PhD in Veterinary Medical Sciences researching Sirenia (manatee and dugong) cytogenetics and conservation genetics. Margaret’s affiliations consists of USGS Sirenia Project USGS Genetics and Genomics Research Courtesy Assistant Professor, University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences Affiliated faculty member, University of Florida Aquatic Animal Health Program Affiliated faculty member, University of Florida Genetics Institute.


Gordon Bauer

Experimental Psychologist
New College of Florida

Gordon is an experimental psychologist at New College of Florida. During his time at New College, Gordon established a manatee research project at Mote Marine Laboratory in 1998. The Mote Marine Laboratory and New College of Florida continues to conduct research about manatees and their habitat until this day.

Iske Larkin

Lecturer, Education Coordinator, and Interim Director, Aquatic Animal Health Program
University of Florida

Iske Larkin’s position focuses on coordinating and developing new educational opportunities within the Aquatic Animal Health Program and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research activities are only a small portion of her efforts but include monitoring the effectiveness of online learning strategies ranging from upper level undergrads, graduate students, veterinary students and professionals. Iske’s scientific research includes the study of manatee reproduction, physiology and behavior. Her previous work consists of developing and validating steroid hormone assays for various species, including mammals and birds. Currently, Iske studies male manatee reproductive anatomy at the gross and histological level.

Entanglement and Rescue – Rehabilitation: Program Techniques and Response

Claire Erlacher-Reid

SeaWorld Orlando

Dr. Claire Erlacher-Reid graduated veterinary school from the University of Georgia. Since graduation she has completed a one year small animal medicine internship at Hollywood Animal Hospital in Florida, a one year aquatic animal medicine internship at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, and a three year residency program in aquatic animal medicine at the University of Florida. Dr. Erlacher-Reid became a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine in 2014. She began working as a veterinarian for SeaWorld Parks in 2014, first in San Diego, and now in Orlando where she currently resides and serves as co-director for the University of Florida Aquatic Animal Health Residency Program. She has been involved in marine mammal health assessments, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts in Florida since 2004.

Michael Walsh

Clinical Coordinator and Clinical Associate Professor, Aquatic Animal Health Program
University of Florida

Mike Walsh is a former veterinarian at SeaWorld in Florida. Mike currently works at the University of Florida as a Clinical Associate Professor and a Clinical Coordinator for the Aquatic Animal Health Program. His research interest varies from preventive medicine program development, conservation and endangered species research in sirenians, cetaceans, and sea turtles. Mike’s current research projects include nutritional evaluation and components in cetaceans, manatees and sharks, whole blood element analysis in marine animals as a diagnostic tool, manatee milk analysis, and use of thermography as a diagnostic tool.

Health Assessments

Martine deWit

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Martine de Wit graduated from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where she started her career in exotic animal medicine. Since 2004, she has been working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in the Marine Mammal Pathology Lab that responds to calls of manatees in distress and researches manatee health through necropsy and live animal health assessments.

Craig Pelton

Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, Aquatic Animal Health Program
University of Florida

Dr. Pelton has been working with marine mammals for 30 years as a trainer, researcher, stranding response coordinator/rehabilitation director. For the past 11 years, Dr. Pelton worked as veterinarian for several marine parks, stranding response organizations, and the University of Florida. His seven-year involvement with dolphin and Sirenian health assessments include the Health and Environmental Risk Assessment program in the Indian River Lagoon and Charleston Harbor, and the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program in Sarasota Bay. He also was involved with manatee health assessments throughout Florida and Alabama, and dugong work in Moreton bay, Australia.

Infectious Diseases, Toxoplasmosis and Zoonotic Diseases

Thaís C. S. Rodrigues

Postdoctoral Researcher, Wildlife and Aquatic Veterinary Diseases Laboratory
University of Florida

Thaís C S Rodrigues is a DVM, Masters in Veterinary Sciences and PhD candidate in Veterinary Sciences at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU - Brazil). She has a background working on wildlife infectious diseases, focusing mostly on zoonosis. She was a research scholar at the Amazonian Aquatic Mammal Research Group, Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development (Mamaq/ISDM - Brazil), researching on Amazonian river dolphins and Amazonian manatee’s infectious diseases. Currently she is a Postdoc associate at the Wildlife and Aquatic Veterinary Diseases Laboratory, University of Florida (WAVDL - UF), supporting the WAVDL and the UF Aquatic Animal Health Program in the discovery and characterization of emerging aquatic animal pathogens.

Thomas Waltzek

Research Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Aquatic Animal Health Program
University of Florida

Thomas Waltzek is a current Assistant Professor at the University of Florida and a Research Coordinator for the Aquatic Animal Health Program. His interests include the characterization of emerging aquatic animal viruses (EAAVs), the development of diagnostic methodologies to track EAAVs, and aquatic animal zoonoses. Thomas enjoys fishing, hiking, traveling, snowboarding and racquetball.

Water Quality and Indian River Lagoon

Duane De Freese

Executive Director
Indian River Lagoon Council

Duane DeFreese is the Executive Director for the Indian River Lagoon Council. DeFreese has worked for over three decades in Florida to educate people about economic and environmental values associated with the protection of Florida’s land, freshwater and marine natural assets. Nationally recognized, DeFreese puts forth his efforts to promote ocean and coastal scientific research, conservation and technology development in Florida.

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Upcoming Deadlines

Hotel Reservation Deadline
March 5, 2018

Regular Registration Deadline
March 26, 2018

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