Panel Discussions

Social Media as a Tool to Communicate Marine Mammal Science and Policy: Advantages, Challenges, and Future Applications

Allison Garrett

Communication Specialist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries/U.S. Department of Commerce

With more than 25 years of experience both in front of and behind the camera, Allison began her career as a television news reporter and anchor, before moving into advertising and public relations. She has media trained CEOs, scientists, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, small business owners and leaders of non-profit organizations. Her background includes crisis communications and government relations. Allison’s former clients include McDonald’s, Walmart, Armor Holdings, Jacksonville Transportation LLC, First Student, Florida 511, Shands Hospital and the Jacksonville Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

Currently Allison works as a Public Affairs Officer for NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office and Southeast Fisheries Science Center. She handles media requests, social media and strategic and crisis communications. 

 Allison is from Richmond, Virginia and has degrees in journalism and public relations.

Katie Hogge

Digital Outreach Manager, Ocean Conservancy

Hailing from Norfolk, Virginia and growing up on the Chesapeake Bay, Katie Hogge serves as Digital Outreach Manager for Ocean Conservancy. An experienced writer and editor, Katie has worked in digital marketing and public relations and received her BA in Communication Studies with a minor in Leadership Studies from Christopher Newport University. With a passion for marine wildlife, Katie strives to use words to educate others and ignite curiosity about ways to protect and admire the ocean.  

Kelly Richmond

Communications Director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

Kelly Richmond is the communications gladiator and scientific translator aka communications lead for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI). FWRI is the research division within FWC consisting of approximately 700 staff housed at 28 locations statewide. FWRI conducts monitoring and research associated with Florida’s freshwater and marine fisheries, wildlife and habitats throughout the state in partnership with dozens of state and federal agencies, universities, nonprofit organizations and private industry partners.

Kelly has nearly 20 years of experience as a science communicator for natural resource organizations at the local, state, federal level, dedicating her career to learning complex subjects then translating that information into plain language. She serves on multiple scientific collaboration groups and leads a national award-winning team that is responsible for developing communication strategies that help to advance the mission of the research institute using the power of storytelling to inspire, educate and empower. Whether its communicating staff efforts or standing shoulder-to shoulder in whale remains, it continues to be her greatest privilege to work alongside some of the most dedicated biologists.

Rachel Hale

Director, Rachel Meets Planet

Rachel has worked alongside animals for 15+ years, following a dream she developed at 3 years old. In exploring her end-goal, Rachel prepared for veterinary school by graduating with honors from Purdue University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Her previous work with domestic animal behavior drew her interests elsewhere, where she started working with marine stranding and rehabilitation before launching her career in the field of animal training and behavior. Rachel has worked with several dozen species of animals and currently learns from her favorite coworkers, the great apes. 

After a training video went viral, Rachel garnered a large social media audience, and since then has used this platform as a means to communicate animal science, behavior, and most importantly conservation. With these fields encompassing a variety of viewpoints, Rachel stresses the importance of discovering ways to work together for the greater benefit of our planet and how to harness the power of social media to do so.  


Daniel Padilla-Ochoa

Florida Conservation Partnerships Manager, Ocean Conservancy

Daniel Padilla Ochoa, based in Miami, works for Ocean Conservancy as the Florida Conservation Partnerships Manager. Daniel helps to implement strategic partnerships with municipal/local governments in the state, helping develop the marine conservation non-profit’s outreach and education priorities on Florida marine conservation issues, and works on increasing brand recognition in South Florida and statewide. Shores Forward, the first municipal partnership, is a marine conservation platform that asked the city of Miami to commit to improve five key areas: Clean Water, Carbon Pollution, Plastics/Trash Pollution, Marine Wildlife, Education & Outreach.  

Daniel is a native of Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Miami. He completed his undergraduate studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst and obtained a Master of Urban Planning from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, with a focus on environmental and urban design. Daniel worked for Americorps as well as a non-profit called Found-in-Translation aimed at workforce development for low-income bilingual women. He also worked for the Harvard University Center for the Environment on issues related to climate change resilience, adaptation investment, and post-natural disaster infrastructure development projects.

Dr. Jenny Litz

Research Biologist Marine Mammal Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries/U.S. Department of Commerce

Jenny Litz is a Research Fishery Biologist with NOAA’s Marine Mammal Program at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center. She received her doctorate degree from the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School examining the social structure, genetic structure and organic pollutant levels in resident bottlenose dolphins inhabiting Biscayne Bay, Florida. She has over 20 years of experience in marine mammal research in the southeast U.S. including research on marine mammal health, contaminants in the marine food chain, marine mammal stranding trends, and population structure. She served as the onsite coordinator for the Northern Gulf of Mexico Cetacean Unusual Mortality Event following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and was a member of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Technical Working Group assessing the injury to marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico. She is currently the Program Manager for the Marine Mammals portion of Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (GoMMAPPS). 

Dr. Jill Richardson

Program Director and Senior Lecturer, Department of Marine Ecosystem and Society, University of Miami – Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Executive Director of Research and Education, Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder

Dr. Jill Richardson graduated from UC San Diego with a dual degree in Biology and Anthropology and joined the PhD Program at RSMAS in 1997.  Following graduation, she became the Director of Research and Education at a zoological facility and was then offered a full-time faculty position at the U in the fall of 2007.  She is a pathologist by trade, with her earliest research focused on coral diseases, and now studies complex health issues in marine mammals as sentinels of ocean health.

As Director, she helped develop the Master of Professional Science Program. Jill was nominated as University of Miami’s Outstanding Program Director two years in a row, as an Outstanding Faculty Member at the UM Apple Polishing Ceremony, named an honorary member of the Golden Key International  Honour Society – acknowledged as “an advocate for student success and for an outstanding job in the capacity as an educator” –, the recipient of the Excellence in Programming Award for the Ocean Kids event,  and a scientific advisor and on screen scientist for the Emmy Award Winning children’s show “SciGirls” to promote young women in science.

Aside from teaching and inspiring the next generation of scientists, her greatest joy is being a mom to two, incredible little boys.

Kirk Linaje

A representative from the Marine Order for Research and Action through Environmental Stewardship (MORAES)

Kirk is a born and raised Miamian with over 20 years of knowledge and experience in cetacean biology, marine animal rescue, local ecology, and environmental science. Kirk is committed to the protection and improvement of our natural resources through enhancing local research and continued environmental education.  He has years of experience in front of a classroom as an instructor for the Florida Master Naturalist Program.  Kirk holds a bachelors degree in Environmental Studies from Florida International University and a Master of Science degree in the field of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University. 

Dr. Mike Walsh

Clinical Associate Professor-Aquatic Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Florida

Dr. Walsh is a marine animal veterinarian/clinical researcher. He is an adjunct with the Nature Coast Biological station with IFAS and consults with Atlantis-Bahamas and Clearwater Marine Aquarium. He is internationally recognized as an innovative marine animal clinician and researcher in particular in the areas of cetacean and manatee medicine, behavior, diagnostic development and therapy. He has been with the University of Florida since 2007 and has worked on stranded animals suspected with hearing loss, barotrauma, sonic damage and parasitic migration with a number of facilities.

Dr. Walsh’s current research focuses are lipidomics in common bottlenose dolphins with Dr. John Bowden, emerging contaminants in marine mammals with Dr. Nancy Denslow, and a pilot project evaluating traumatic brain injury biomarkers with Dr. Laura Burns and Dr. Wang. Infectious disease concerns such as leptospirosis in manatees, virtopsy-imaging techniques, and development of a hundred-year multigenerational archive for manatees with USGS and NIST are also priorities.

Victoria Cornish

Energy Policy Analyst/Alaska Native Liaison, Marine Mammal Commission

Victoria Cornish focuses on the effects of offshore oil and gas and renewable energy activities on marine mammals and their environment, as well as the enhancement of scientific research, monitoring, policies, and programs to better understand and minimize those effects. She also serves as the Commission’s liaison on Alaska Native issues, with an emphasis on enhancing co-management of marine mammals. She holds a B.S. in biology from the University of California at San Diego and an M.S. in biological oceanography from the University of Miami. Prior to joining the Commission, Ms. Cornish served as Director of Marine Wildlife Policy for the Ocean Conservancy, where she led the organization’s efforts to conserve marine mammals and endangered species by providing scientific and policy expertise on fisheries bycatch, marine debris, vessel strikes, ecotourism, and Endangered Species Act listing actions. Ms. Cornish also worked for 15 years at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Marine Fisheries Service, where she was involved in the development and implementation of the 1994 amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). She represented the agency on several take reduction teams, initiated the National Observer Program, and served as the Marine Mammal Branch Chief for the agency’s Southeast Regional Office in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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