Meet our Staff

Wendy Knight

Chief Executive Officer |  Top 10 Most Successful CEO’s of 2021

Wendy joined Sea Turtle Inc. in 2020 bringing 25 years of corporate experience as an executive in the insurance and financial services market, specializing in acquisitions, sales, revenue building, marketing and operational execution. As a former Chief Operating Officer and Vice President Wendy brings a new level of depth and structure to the organization as we prepare for the next phase of growth and advancement of the mission at Sea Turtle Inc.   

Wendy and her husband Mark relocated to South Padre Island in 2016 and are actively involved in supporting island businesses and the city government.   

 Wendy received her undergraduate degree cum laude from The University of Texas at Dallas.  Also, she holds insurance designations and licenses in 14 states, including a Managing General Agency license in Texas.  Wendy attended the Executive Education Program at Darden University School of Business. She graduated with distinction from the University of Texas at Dallas with an MBA in Global Business and Leadership.   

Amy Bonka, Ph.D.

 

Chief Conservation Officer | UAB Alumnus 

Amy was named Chief Conservation Officer for Sea Turtle Inc. in 2020. With extensive sea turtle nesting, sea turtle research, and community building experience, Amy will play a significant role in sea turtle conservation.  As the organization’s first Chief Conservation Officer, she will lead the conservation and rehabilitation of sea turtles and grow Sea Turtle Inc.’s research program. 

Before the call into the nonprofit role, Amy excelled in academia. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in marine science. Following graduation, Amy spent several nesting seasons working with Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. Inspired by this work to focus on the Kemp’s ridley during graduate school studies, she obtained her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research has focused on the ecology, biology, and conservation of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, Texas’s state sea turtle! Her research interests include the dynamics of arribada nesting, the mass nesting events that occur in Kemp’s ridley (and Olive ridley) sea turtles, as well as hatchling biology.

Sanjuana Zavala

Director of Marketing & Development | Facebook & Google Ads Certified Marketer |  Media Inquiries 

Sanjuana joined Sea Turtle Inc. in 2017 and was hired as the Marketing & Public Relations Manager. She recently transitioned to Director of Marketing & Development in 2021. Sanjuana spearheads the development and marketing strategy for Sea Turtle Inc. Her priorities include developing new revenue streams, diversifying funding opportunities, and aligning messaging across the organization. Sanjuana has ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector. Before working with Sea Turtle Inc., she was a leader in an international collegiate volunteer organization and inducted as a White House Champion of Change in 2012.

Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley and a Spanish speaker, Sanjuana attended the University of Texas at Brownsville. She believes fiercely in giving back and that issues can be solved with proper communication skills. She wants to utilize those skills to help maximize the efficiency of Sea Turtle Inc’s global reach. She currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Brownsville.

Nina Nahvi, LVT 

Director of Animal Care | IMATS RGV STEMINIST

Nina initially joined Sea Turtle Inc. as a summer intern in 2012 and was subsequently hired as our Licensed Veterinary Technician in 2016 and named Director of Animal Care in 2021. Nina is in charge of all of our animals’ daily care and husbandry, including our resident sea turtles, sea turtle rehabilitation patients, and fish. She works closely with our off-site veterinarian, Dr. Tom deMaar, at the Gladys Porter Zoo to coordinate the care and treatment of these animals.

Nina received a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Conservation from Humboldt State University in 2011 and an Associate’s Degree in Veterinary Technology from Cedar Valley College in 2015. After obtaining her Veterinary Technician License, she spent a field season working with nesting hawksbills in Hawaii, interned at the Dallas Zoo, and started her career in sea turtle rehabilitation as the Lead Vet Tech the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys before returning to Sea Turtle Inc.

Nina also recently graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management from the University of Houston. She plans on remaining in the nonprofit sector for the duration of her career.

Hannah Catherman

Director of Education | Certified Interpretive Guide (NAI) 

Hannah joined Sea Turtle, Inc. as the Director of Education in 2021. She has always had a passion for educating people on the importance of conservation and what they can do to help the environment. After graduating from Coastal Carolina University in 2015 with her M.S. in Coastal Marine and Wetland Studies, she began her professional career as an environmental educator. Since then, she has had the opportunity to work in various settings, from outdoor ecological education centers to aquariums. Her previous experience involves managing a small education team focusing on the development and implementation of children’s programming, school group programming, and public programming. This allowed her to mentor individuals new to the field of environmental education and helped them hone their professional skills. As a Certified Interpretive Guide through NAI, she has been able to expand her teaching techniques and develop new program delivery methods. She is excited to share her passion for sea turtle education with the community and introduce future generations to the importance of conservation.
 

Rachel LeCates

Environmental Educator | Certified Interpretive Guide (NAI)       Media Inquiries

My name is Rachel LeCates and I was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I moved to York, Pennsylvania when I was eight years old. My love for science and the environment started at an early age. I distinctly remember reading Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in 7th grade and deciding, “I gotta do something about this!” I graduated with a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. One of those semesters I studied in the Galapagos Islands; this experience cemented my passion for conservation and transformed my perspective on the relationship between humans and their environment. In 2019, I was both a summer and winter intern here at Sea Turtle Inc. I was then hired as a staff member in the education department in January of 2020. I am delighted to continue working with sea turtles and this amazing organization!

Favorite sea turtle species: I truly love them all but I have a soft spot for greens only because they’re the first species I encountered in the wild. I also particularly enjoy their adorable, grumpy faces. 

Kathryn Martinez

Assistant Giftshop Manager | Media Inquiries

I was born in Holland, Michigan and raised in Port Isabel, by a single father. I’ve known South Padre Island’s waters all my life. I have always had a fascination with the wild life this area has to offer as it is very diverse. 

After graduating high school I moved northward to Dallas, Texas where I lived for twelve years and though I loved it, home always calls you back. I am extremely happy that my son and daughter will gain great enjoyment from this area as I did. Nothing beats a walk on the beach and sea turtles hatching nearby.

I immensely believe in the conservation of not only our lands but also our coastal ecosystem. After 20 years in retail/customer service, I finally found an opportunity to contribute to both my passions. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of something that makes a difference to wildlife and connecting with people. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but have you ever looked deep into a sea turtle’s eyes? 

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I have never been able to choose a specific turtle. I have always been fascinated with all species, but I do believe the Kemp’s Ridley holds a special place in my heart as it is the turtle we grew up coming in contact with. FYI, did you know that the Kemp’s Ridley females nest in South Padre Island? 

Mariana Devlin

Conservation Coordinator | Media Inquiries

I had the honor of being an intern for Sea Turtle, Inc. in the summers of 2009 and 2010 as I worked for my Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Texas A&M University in College Station. After my graduation, I worked in Costa Rica as a research field assistant in the Osa Peninsula where I fell in love with sea turtles even more. Upon my return to the US, I lived in Corpus Christi for 2 years while I obtained my Master’s degree in Environmental Science from TAMUCC, and I spent another 2 years working as a 7th grade Life Science and 8th grade Biology teacher. I love my job at Sea Turtle, Inc and always look forward to nesting season.  

 Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I love all sea turtles but I will always have a soft spot for the Kemp’s ridley and Olive ridley since I have been directly involved in their conservation efforts.

Mary Duncan

Volunteer Coordinator | Media Inquiries

I am from St. Louis, MO, and have wanted to work with sea turtles since I was in first grade! I have my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from NWMSU which included classes in Mexico and Australia to learn more about the sea turtles and marine life. Since then I have worked with the sea turtles in various places around the world, and I am super excited to share my experience with all of you here!

Favorite Sea Turtle: Leatherbacks are my favorite! Their anatomy and physiology are the most interesting, allowing them to migrate the farthest and dive the deepest. Though the leatherbacks are my favorite, I am super excited to be in the home of the Kemp’s Ridley, the most critically endangered of all the sea turtles!

Christopher Gorman

Rehabilitation Specialist | Media Inquiries

I graduated with a B.S. in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity from UC Davis. I’ve always had a passion for working with wild animals and knew from a young age that I would follow my dream to make it a career. 2016 was an amazing summer when I worked at the Oakland Zoo as the commissary/night keeper intern. I worked with some truly amazing animals including baboons, elephants, tigers, tortoises, sun bears, and giraffes, as well as many other species. The fall seasons of 2016 and 2017 were spent working for Ducks Unlimited out in the Sacramento Valley. I started at Sea Turtle, Inc. in the summer of 2017 as a summer intern, and continued through the winter as a rehabilitation intern. Since being at Sea Turtle, Inc. I’ve been able to work with Kemp’s ridleys, Atlantic greens, Hawksbills, Loggerheads, and even a Leatherback! I’ve had some amazing adventures here at Sea Turtle, Inc. and I love my position in the hospital as the rehabilitation specialist.

 Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Kemp’s ridley. They are the feistiest of the turtles and look like modern-day dinosaurs. I love watching them hunt blue crabs (their favorite live prey).

Maria Watson

Aquarist | Media Inquiries

I was born and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina. My family immersed me into the coastal lifestyle (shrimping, crabbing, fishing, watching native wildlife, and doing beach clean ups), which is where I grew my love for our ocean and environment. That love continued as I received my Bachelors degree in Marine Science in Jacksonville University, Florida. During college, I pinpointed that I wanted to work in a rehab setting, particularly with sea turtles. My affinity for sea turtles grew when I became a rehab intern at Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in NC. That internship changed my life internship, I started the “I Skip the Straw” campaign from Ocean Conservancy on my campus and now our campus is completely straw free, excluding one of the outside restaurants! (All for the turtles & spreading awareness!) 

After college, I started my career at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens in education. I interned through their manatee rehabilitation which deepened my passion for rehab. I then became an Aquatics Keeper, where I was in charge of 4 species of stingrays and Lionfish. 

Favorite Sea Turtle: I am beyond excited to be here as the new aquarist and spending my days around the sea turtles and coworkers that carry the same love for them too! My favorite sea turtles has to be the loggerhead. I think the patterns on their heads look like cinnamon rolls and that is what makes them so sweet!

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