Stephanie Polito - Volunteer and Membership Coordinator

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My love for the ocean developed at a very young age. My parents could never seem to keep me out of the water. Curious to learn about the ocean and all of its entities, I took up surfing and scuba diving. Knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in Marine Biology, I enrolled at California State University Monterey Bay. While attending school, I took on three very different roles; an assistant at CSUMB Residential Housing, a marine biology instructor at Camp Sea Lab, and a lead at the City of Laguna Hills in event and program planning. After graduating from CSUMB with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science Technology and Policy, with an emphasis in Marine and Coastal Ecology, I accepted a position with Sea World San Diego as a Residential Zoological Education and Conservation Counselor. Not too long after, I was blessed to receive an offer to work for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center as the  Volunteer and Membership Coordinator. At PMMC, I am able to incorporate my interests in education, community outreach, public relations, event planning, animal husbandry, and my genuine interest in ocean conservation. My favorite quote reads, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Confucius

Wendy Leeds - Animal Care Coordinator

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Originally an Animal Care Volunteer, Wendy has been associated with Pacific Marine Mammal Center for over 20 years. Wendy is responsible for coordinating and facilitating rescue calls, as well as completing the very-lengthy required reports on each animal. She is the point-person for maintaining PMMC's whale disentanglement gear, as well as responding to and coordinating whale rescues as directed by NOAA staff. Wendy goes into the community and provides informational training to local life guards and junior life guard programs, and acts as PMMC's liaison to local sheriff and park ranger authorities.

Lindsey VanSchoick - Animal Care Supervisor

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Starting out as a young volunteer, Lindsay has been with PMMC for over 20 years.

"I'm here because I love it and all the labor that goes into rehabbing an animal. I enjoy taking an animal that needs intervention, figuring out and meeting the needs of that animal, then watching them regain strength and health and sending them back to the wild." 

Ramiro Barbuzano, Jr. - Education Coordinator

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"Hey guys, my name is Ramiro Barbuzano, Jr.  I was born in Santos, Brazil and moved to Long Island, New York when I was 6 years old. I received my Bachelors of Science from the University of Miami in Marine Science and Biology. I worked as an assistant dolphin trainer at Dolphins Plus in Key Largo and then as a dolphin trainer at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. I recently just finished my Masters of Professional Science from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Marine Mammal Science and Geographic Information Systems. I’m very excited to be the new Education Coordinator for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. I hope to revamp the education program with fun and innovative learning experiences."

Krysta Higuchi - Events and Public Relations Coordinator

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Krysta Higuchi has always been drawn to the ocean and it’s creatures. After moving from Colorado to California, she was immediately attracted to the vision and mission of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. She began as an animal care volunteer in 2009 and moved to the roll of rescue coordinator in 2015 to help with the influx of sea lion patients during PMMC’s unusual mortality event (UME).

After graduating in 2017 from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelors in Communications, Public Relations, Krysta transitioned to her current role as Events and Public Relations Coordinator, combining her knowledge and passion for marine life into a career.

Amy Williams - Office Manager


Amy possesses over 20 years experience directing and managing non-profit organizations. Amy has expertise in budget management, project management, regulatory compliance and grant writing. 

At PMMC, Amy is responsible for general office management as well as human resources and payroll.

Away from PMMC, Amy actively supports local dog rescue organizations as she never met a dog she didn't like.

Christine Aegean - "Treasure Trove" Gift Shop Manager

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"I’ve always been passionate about wildlife and the ocean, especially seals and sea lions. In 1998, after moving from LA where I volunteered in the B.A.T. (baby animal trailer) at the Wildlife Way Station, I became a volunteer for four years in animal care at Friends of the Sea Lion, A.K.A Pacific Marine Mammal Center. In 2014, I found myself volunteering again, but this time, in the gift shop. I am happy to say, that I now work for seals and sea lions as the gift shop manager and I work with an incredible team who share my passion for these animals and their environment. I am grateful for the opportunity to utilize my experience in retail, wholesale and display to visually engage our visitors and provide them with a variety of memorable, educational and fun merchandise."     


Alexandra Stumpf - Animal Care Supervisor

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From a young age, Alexandra has had a love for the ocean and animals. This has been expressed throughout her life including her Girl Scout Gold Award project where she taught a summer special day class about seals, sea lions, pollution and the ocean. She started in marine mammal rehabilitation as an animal care volunteer at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur in March of 2008 where she advanced from volunteer to intern to husbandry assistant. Alexandra became an Animal Care Supervisor at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in January 2016. She received her BA in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Long Beach “Go Beach”. In her free time she loves to spend time with her family, go hiking and swim.

Kelli Barnett, DVM - Veterinarian

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"I received a BA in Biology from University of Louisville, a DVM from Mississippi State University, an MS in Molecular Pathology from UCSD, and an MBA from CSU-LA.  While in veterinary school, I was fortunate to spend a year doing externships in various zoos and wild animal parks, as well as several surgery clinics.  I participated in a giraffe necropsy, gave a penguin a blood transfusion, and helped anesthetize a rhinocerous for an endoscopy - all experiences I will never forget.  My previous work experience includes small animal private practice, high volume spay/neuter clinics, laboratory animal medicine, and shelter medicine.  I am very grateful that these varied experiences have brought me to PMMC.  Marine mammal medicine presents unique challenges that make it exciting to come to work every day.  Working at PMMC is a gift, an opportunity to give back to a world from which we take so much."

Michele Hunter - Director of Animal Care

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With 27 years of experience in marine mammal rehabilitation, Michele Hunter provides strong leadership for Pacific Marine Mammal Center.  Joining the organization in 1989 as an Animal Care volunteer, she progressed from Team Leader to Animal Care Supervisor in 1994.  Michele was promoted to Animal Care Director in 1999, overseeing all care provided to the Center’s marine mammal patients.

Michele’s areas of expertise include marine mammal transport, sample collection and lab analysis, preliminary diagnosis and treatment regimen development, wound care management, neonatal delivery and care, as well many other animal health technician skills, animal welfare regulations, and training development for volunteers and supervisors.  Based upon her reputation for success in hand-rearing newborn California sea lions, she is often approached for assistance and advice by institutions in need of marine mammal husbandry training. Michele is internationally known and respected for her skills in hand rearing sea lion pups and has assisted the curator at the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, Netherlands when intervention was needed to successfully hand rear three sea lion pups.

 In recent years, Michele has been collaborating with the Caron Laboratory at University of Southern California, providing samples and data for research into harmful algae blooms.   Michele is a Co-Author on the publication, Domoic Acid Causes Reproductive Failure in California sea lions featured in Marine Mammal Science.  












Daniela Moore - Director of Development & Marketing

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Daniela graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a BA degree in Political Science, International Relations. 

Daniela possesses over 20 years of fundraising experience in the non-profit industry.  She previously worked as a Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Stars & Stripes Tournament, interacting with various children’s and military charities.   Her strengths are in corporate development, marketing, community outreach, and donor relations.   

"Pacific Marine Mammal Center has afforded me the amazing opportunity to blend my nonprofit experience with my passion for the ocean and love for these animals that call the ocean their home.  I’m proud to be a part of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and the team that works to give our marine mammal patients a second chance at life."

Kirsten Donald - Director of Education

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Kirsten Donald is a marine mammal scientist whose career started in 1996. Kirsten earned her Master's degree in Marine Mammal Science from University of Wales in Bangor, Wales UK.

Kirsten began her career at Dolphin Research Center, where she served in various capacities including Education and Animal Care and Research.  She served as the Director of Education and as the Director for the College of Marine Mammal Professions. Kirsten holds true to a philosophy of ‘experiential education’, the belief that hands-on experience with and around marine mammals and their environment creates a strong connection that results in better stewardship. Kirsten has served on the Education and Population Management Task Force Committees of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA). She has given presentations at AMMPA Education workshops, National Marine Science Educators’ Association, the Florida Marine Science Education Association conferences, as well as the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association conference. Kirsten was thrilled to join the PMMC family in 2015. The opportunity to expand the educational mission of the center and to contribute directly to conservation and research efforts keeps her continuously motivated.

Keith Matassa - Executive Director

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Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Biology, St. Francis College/University of New England (1985)

Keith came to PMMC in early 2013 with 25 years of marine mammal center experience, most recently at the Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center in Biddeford, Maine. Keith had a passion for marine life from childhood. Keith has lived by the ocean much of his life and has a deep understanding of the connection between our oceans and human survival. Keith is a marine biologist with many published papers to his credit. He has been involved in marine mammal organizations for over 30 years and has worked in many capacities including marine animal care and husbandry, educational outreach for the oceans, research on wildlife diseases and fundraising to support the needs of his organization.  With his experience and background in biology and animal center management, Keith is an excellent choice to lead PMMC through our continued growth and success


Stacie Capobianco - Social Media Coordinator

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An Orange County native, Stacie attended Cal State University, Long Beach where she earned a degree in communications.  After college, Stacie worked for St. John Knits in public relations and promotions, and then at Nordstrom in merchandising and management.  Once her children were born, Stacie was happy to work as a full-time mom and chronic volunteer!  One of those volunteer positions, turned full-time job, was for the Stars & Stripes Tournament in Cabo San Lucas.  Over 6 years, Stacie was involved in facilitating every aspect of the event in support of Orange County's youth and family service organizations.  In 2014, she took her event skills to Irvine based THE Breast Cancer Fundraiser - planning and executing 6 fundraisers across the country in 8 weeks.  Alas, Stacie has come full circle and currently supports a wonderful organization, right in her own back yard, The Pacific Marine Mammal Center, working in development office helping with fundraising events and social media .  Her main focus is to expand the non-profit's national and local presence through social media marketing and by curating relationships within the coastal cities they serve.

When not fundraising, you can find Stacie supporting causes closer to home: her boys!  She and husband Rob, live in Laguna Beach and are the proud parents to 2 boys.