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Meet our team

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 serves on the board of directors for the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce 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.

Dr. Amy Bonka

Chief Conservation Officer | UAB Alumnus 

Click here to view latest research publication

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.

Maribel Fraire

Director of Finance

Maribel began working with Sea Turtle Inc as a contractor in 2021 and joined us as our Director of Finance in December 2023. She brings more than 20 years of finance leadership and experience in the insurance, retail, and hospitality management industries. As Director of Finance, she will help Sea Turtle Inc’s next chapter of growth as the organization continues to successfully scale its operations.

Most recently, she served as Chief Financial Officer for a nonprofit healthcare organization in the Rio Grande Valley. Maribel received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree summa cum laude from Southern New Hampshire University and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Accountancy degree. She is a native of Brownsville, TX and is fluent in Spanish.

Sanjuana Zavala

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

Sanjuana currently serves as the Director of Marketing & Development at Sea Turtle Inc., having transitioned into this role in 2021 after four years as the organization’s Marketing & Public Relations Manager. In her capacity, Sanjuana spearheads the development and marketing strategies aimed at advancing Sea Turtle Inc.’s mission and vision. Her focus includes cultivating new revenue sources, diversifying funding avenues, and ensuring cohesive messaging across all organizational platforms.

With a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector, Sanjuana’s career highlights include a significant tenure in an international collegiate volunteer organization. Her impactful contributions were recognized when she was named a White House Champion of Change in 2012.

A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Sanjuana is fluent in Spanish and holds a degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville. She is deeply committed to community service and believes in the transformative power of effective communication. Sanjuana is dedicated to leveraging her expertise to expand the global impact of Sea Turtle Inc.

Residing in Port Isabel with her husband and two daughters, Sanjuana balances her professional endeavors with a strong personal commitment to conservation and community engagement.

To view Sea Turtle Inc.’s media coverage click here.

Victoria Salinas Guerra

Director of  Education

Victoria joined Sea Turtle Inc. in 2024 as the Director of Education. 

Throughout her career, Victoria has actively contributed to environmental education and research. She has served as an educator at the Gladys Porter Zoo and the UTRGV Coastal Studies Lab, where she engaged students and the public on marine species and conservation practices. Her commitment extends beyond formal roles, as she has volunteered at Sea Turtle Inc. since her undergraduate years. Additionally, Victoria is a Texas Master Naturalist, further demonstrating her dedication to environmental stewardship and community involvement.

She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism, focusing on Parks and Conservation. Building on this foundation, she earned a Master’s in Earth, Environmental, and Marine Science from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) in 2022. Her graduate research culminated in a thesis dissertation on the growth and reproduction of Black Corals, both in situ and in aquaculture.

Hailing from Brownsville, Texas, she has always been connected to the environmental issues of the region. Victoria is also a certified Rescue Scuba Diver, leveraging her skills in underwater exploration for conservation efforts.

 

Chris Gorman

Director of Animal Care

Chris joined Sea Turtle, Inc as an intern in 2018 and has been moving up leadership roles at Sea Turtle, Inc. since. Most recently, his hands-on sea turtle care work and a keen eye for animal care exhibit enhancements have gained him the Director of Animal Care role. He has always had a passion for working with wild animals.

His previous roles include working at the Oakland Zoo with baboons, elephants, tigers, tortoises, sun bears, and giraffes as a commissary/night keeper intern has been his stepping stone. Before moving to Texas in 2018 to pursue an internship at Sea Turtle, Inc., he worked for Ducks Unlimited for two fall seasons. Chris was part of the animal care team that cared for five sea turtle species and directly contributed to the largest recorded cold stun in U.S. history by caring for over 5,500 sea turtles in eight days. He received a Bachelor of Science in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity from the University of California, Davis.

Katherine Martinez

Giftshop Manager & Buyer

Kathryn is a seasoned retail professional and buyer. Driven by service, she takes pride in providing the best shopping experience possible. As the gift shop manager, her goals include attracting conscious-minded buyers and displaying sustainable products for purchase that directly supports Sea Turtle, Inc’s mission. In addition, she brings many years of retail and sales experience that has become integral to the facility giftshop’s growth and the online store. She immensely believes in the conservation of our lands and our coastal ecosystem. After 20 years in retail/customer service, she has finally found an opportunity to contribute to both her passions.

Emily Sullivan

Life Support Systems & Animal Care Manager

Emily joined sea turtle Inc in February 2023, shortly after moving to the U.S.A. Growing up on the southwest coast of England, she has always been passionate about protecting our ocean.

After obtaining a first class honours degree in Zoology, Emily earned a masters by Research in Biological Sciences from the University of Exeter, England, focussing on the impact of marine noise pollution. Her research was published in the scientific journal Current Biology and was featured in multiple international media outlets. Emily went on to work at the UK’s largest aquarium as a biologist, seagrass cultivation assistant, and educator. Here her keen interest in life support systems grew, leading to her managing the research aquarium at the Marine Biological Association of the U.K.

Over the years Emily has had the privilege of working with a variety of marine organisms, including sharks, rays, octopuses, and of course, sea turtles.

Tess DeSerisy

Field Conservation Supervisor

Click here to view latest research publication 

Tess joined Sea Turtle Inc. as the Field Conservation Supervisor in 2021. Tess was drawn to sea turtles at a young age and knew she wanted to become a scientist. She spent the last few years traveling the globe working with nesting sea turtles in Panama, Australia, Cyprus, and the East coast of the U.S. A true scientist at heart, she continues to learn more. Tess is excited to continue and expand her research focus while sharing her passion for reducing and removing single-use plastics from the environment!

Tess received a Bachelor’s degree in marine science at Eckerd College, where she focused on DNA haplotypes of green sea turtles. She also holds a Master’s degree in Marine Vertebrate Ecology at the University of Exeter in England. Tess’s research focuses on the ingestion of plastic and other marine debris by green and loggerhead sea turtles.

Taylor Dunham

Supervisor of Early Childhood Education

Taylor joined Sea Turtle, Inc. as an environmental educator in late 2021. Throughout her professional career, she has had the opportunity to work within various educational settings, from outdoor education centers to residential facilities.

Her passion for creating inclusive programming has allowed her to work with underserved communities within her home state of Massachusetts. She is excited to bring that same passion to Sea Turtle, Inc. and introduce new inclusive programming to education. Her previous experience includes work for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, where she had the opportunity to serve underprivileged youth throughout the school year, and as a camp counselor in the Summer. She has also created and delivered in-person and virtual programming for adults with disabilities. These programs gave participants more real-world, hands-on environmental experience.

Taylor has a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography focusing on Environmental Studies from Framingham State University. She is excited to bring new ideas and diversity to the Education Department!

Bianca Almendarez

Education Specialist

Bianca joined Sea Turtle Inc. as an Education Specialist in early 2024. Growing up just 30 minutes away from South Padre Island, she enjoyed visiting the beach frequently and had a passion for learning about marine life. Her professional career consisted of various opportunities working with children, from being an Outdoor Camp Counselor to working in a classroom setting as a Substitute. Bianca decided she wanted to combine her two passions and educate the public about how they can play a positive role in protecting the environment.

She graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley. Upon graduating, she aimed to find a position where she could pass the knowledge she has gained to the next generation. Luckily, with Sea Turtle Inc. being so close to home, she jumped at the opportunity and is eager to perform her educational role in teaching new minds about the importance of sea turtles and the environment.

Anai Garcia

Bilingual Education Specialist

Anai started as a volunteer in 2021 and recently joined the Sea Turtle Inc. staff as a bilingual education specialist in 2022. She’s driven by curiosity towards how humans affect our marine ecosystems and a passion for educating others about what they can do to help protect our oceans.

Prior to joining the team, Anai focused on exploring her research interests She graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in marine and freshwater science from the University of Texas, Austin. One of her previous roles included travelling to New Jersey to study how a decommissioned nuclear plant affected the biodiversity of the area.

As a first-generation Latina, Anai is a strong supporter of increasing minority representation and outreach in marine science. Her skills and experience will help make education programs more accessible and inclusive for the Hispanic community.

Kacey Stephens

Animal Care Specialist II

Kacey joined Sea Turtle Inc. team in early 2022. Growing up, she always knew working with animals would be in her future. Her love and passion for animal care led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in marine science from Huntington College.

After graduating in 2019, she began an internship with the South Carolina Aquarium, first working with birds and mammals and then transitioning into a sea turtle care position. She later moved to California to work in sea otter care at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

She attributes her success in these roles to the support of her family and professional mentors. With her diverse background and experience, Kacey brings invaluable knowledge to the Sea Turtle, Inc team.

Kelly Armstrong

Animal Care Specialist I 

Kelly joined the Sea Turtle Inc. team in early 2024. She found her love for sea turtles when she saw her first sea turtle lay eggs in high school. This led her to receive her Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology from UNC Wilmington.
During her time in Wilmington, she interned at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center where she cared for three species of sick and injured turtles. She also interned as an Environmental Educator at the Bald Head Island Conservancy. After graduation, she interned with nesting hawksbills at the Hawaii Island Hawksbill Project. When she returned to Wilmington, she worked her way up from SCUBA volunteer, to cashier, to education intern, to assistant outreach coordinator at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher. She followed her love of education back to the Bald Head Island Conservancy as the Coastal Educator. Her heart eventually brought her back to animal care where she worked as an Aquarist at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. There she worked with iguanas, frogs, fish, sharks, penguins, and more!
Finally, she received the opportunity to move down to lovely SPI to work her dream job. Every experience she had in the past is able to be applied at Sea Turtle Inc. She can’t wait to use her animal care, medical, plumbing, and husbandry experience here at Sea Turtle Inc!

Alyssa Stern

Animal Care Specialist I 

Ever since she was a kid she knew she wanted to work with animals. This lead her to Florida where she attended the University of South Florida and graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor’s in Biology with a Marine Biology concentration.

She interned at Clearwater Marine Aquarium working with their resident sea turtles and elasmobranchs. This helped her realize her desire to help with sea turtle conservation. She got her first job in New Hampshire with Asian Small Clawed Otters then moved to New York where she worked with a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and elasmobranchs. From there she made her way down to Sea Turtle Inc in February of 2024.

Sarah Guganovic

Digital Marketing Coordinator




Sarah joined the Sea Turtle Inc. team in early 2022 and brings almost a decade of experience in media and communications to the team. 
After graduating from La Trobe University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Media & Communications, Sarah worked as a freelance designer, photographer, and video editor for 6 years in Melbourne, Australia, before moving to the U.S. in 2021. 

Pursuing a specialization in environmental science communication, she obtained a Certificate of Sustainable Living from the University of Tasmania in 2021 and is currently completing an M.S. in Park & Resource Management at Slippery Rock University.

Having worked internationally with environmental organizations across Australia, Canada, and the United States, Sarah uses her creativity and technical production skills to lead digital strategy and create DEI-focused experiences. Her ambition is to bridge the gap between people and planet through digital storytelling, making environmental science accessible to everyone. 

Carlos Cuadros

Digital Marketing Coordinator

Carlos started at Sea Turtle Inc. in early 2023. He holds a keen interest in technology and digital marketing.

Graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Web Development from Texas Southmost College and a certification in cyber security. Before joining the team he worked in the nonprofit industry for several years. He’s learned how to use his photography skills in combination with social media to tell stories and raise awareness for important causes.

Carlos’ combined skills as a photographer, web designer, and digital marketing makes him a valuable asset to the team looking to create impactful storytelling, establish a strong online presence, and effectively connect with their audience.

Tom DeMaar

Wildlife/Zoo Veterinarian

[Coming Soon.]

Joe Blonigen

Facility Maintenance

Amanda Shemenski

Cashier

Kendra Embury

Online Gift Shop Manager / Accountant

Kevin Payne​

Cashier

Nick Gonzalez

Kiosk Associate

Melissa Shirley

Kiosk Associate

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