Top of Page
Skip main navigation

Staff Bios

Meet The MEEC Staff

Derek Burkholder

Director


Born and raised in Michigan, Derek spent a lot of his childhood exploring the woods and spending time on the water (though slightly less salty than he deals with now!).  He received his Bachelor’s degree from Albion College in 2004, and during that time was first introduced to the amazing world of marine research. Starting his work with sharks as a research scientist at Mote Marine Lab in the Florida Keys, Derek quickly expanded his research to include everything from sharks to sea turtles and even seagrass communities during his Ph.D. program at Florida International University, where he focused on the top-down control on seagrass communities.


At Nova Southeastern University, Derek is fortunate to work as the principal investigator for the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, and a Research Scientist with the Guy Harvey Research Institute and Save Our Seas Shark Center. With the addition of the MEEC, Derek looks forward to working even more closely with students and the community to expand our understanding of sea turtles and our coastal marine ecosystems.


Get To Know Derek


If you had any super power, what would it be and why?


I would have the ability to clone myself so that I'm able to take on all of my responsibilities while still having time to do all of the fun things I want in life.


If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?


I would travel to the 7 natural wonders of the world and then buy a 4WD vehicle and drive all of Australia.


If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?


I would go back in time to join Charles Darwin as he landed on and explored the Galapagos Islands.

Kelly Martin

Program Coordinator


Kelly grew up in Michigan with a love for all animals and nature. After an internship working with sea turtles, she was hooked. After graduating from Michigan State University and completing an internship with leatherbacks in southeast Florida, she took a job in animal care at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and then at Mote Marine Lab. She cared for captive loggerhead, green, hawksbill, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. While working at Mote, she completed her Master’s in Marine Science at the University of South Florida while studying the auditory and cognitive abilities of captive sea turtles. She then moved back to the east coast where she conducted nesting surveys, leatherback tagging and tracking, and lighting compliance surveys in Palm Beach County for ten years. She is currently the president of Florida Leatherbacks Inc., a nonprofit that conducts leatherback sea turtle research in Martin County. When not spending her time with turtles she loves to play with her rescue dog, Gypsy, travel, camp, hike, and volunteer with the dogs at her local animal shelter.


Get To Know Kelly


If you had any super power, what would it be and why?


I would be able to teleport so that I could instantly travel anywhere in the world because my dream is to be able to see every single place on the planet (and it would eliminate my 1.5 hour commute to work!).


If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?


I would take my parents, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and nieces on a family vacation and then travel to all of the world's most incredible natural places. I would start with Finland to see the northern lights, an African Safari, and Raja Ampat, Indonesia. 


If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?


I would travel back to the late cretaceous period to see the world during the time of the dinosaurs but particularly to see Archelon, the biggest sea turtle to ever exist (15' long and 13' wide!).

Carley Todd

Education Coordinator


Carley grew up on Long Island surrounded by the water, spending her childhood days exploring tidal pools and playing in the woods. She received her Bachelor's degree in Biology from Salisbury University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After graduating, she worked a variety of jobs until she ended up on Big Pine Key as a Marine Science Instructor at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute. She quickly realized experiential learning was a great way for students to learn while having fun. Carley then went to the west coast of Florida as a Marine Science Educator at Sanibel Sea School where she led hands on classes and programs about the marine environment. After a stint on land as an Environmental Educator, she went back home to the ocean and ended up at the MEEC as the Education Coordinator. She's excited to help inspire the next generation to fall in love with the ocean and all of its inhabitants. Carley enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, playing volleyball and doing yoga in her free time.


Get To Know Carley


If you had any super power, what would it be and why?


I would be a shape shifter so that I could change into a bird, then into a sea cucumber, then a painting so that I could do nothing for a while, and then I would return to the ocean as plankton.


If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?


I would pay off my debt along with my family's, buy a van, buy an island, buy a farm in New Zealand and disappear. And because I know how to be frugal I will make it all happen with just a million dollars.


If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?


I would travel to the 1960s because I really enjoy the rebellious atmosphere. I am an old soul and I think I was born in the wrong time period.

Taylor Apter

Volunteer Coordinator and Educator


Taylor Apter is originally from New Jersey, and learned at an early age to foster a love of the ocean at the Jersey shore. After graduating from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, she attended Stonybrook University where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Vertebrate Biology. Growing sick of the cold, she immediately moved to Florida to pursue her love of not only the ocean, but of SCUBA diving! Taylor worked as a SCUBA instructor for two years in Vero Beach, Florida, before being accepted to Nova Southeastern University’s marine science program. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science degree under Amy C. Hirons in the Charismatic Megafauna and Oceanography Laboratory. Her thesis is on the study of trophic dynamics and heavy metal contaminant levels in a threatened population of Northern Sea Otters. Taylor is very excited to combine her passion for marine creatures, outreach, and education at the MEEC. 


Get To Know Taylor


If you had any super power, what would it be and why?


I would be able to speak and understand every language, including those of animals.


If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?


I would travel to all of the world's best scuba diving sites.


If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?


I would travel to the past to stop the burning of the Library of Alexandria because I believe we would be 1000s of years ahead of our time without the loss of all of that knowledge.

Christina Manus

Gift Shop Associate


Christina is a South Florida Native and has lived along both coasts, fostering a deep appreciation and reverence for the animals and nature she’s encountered on the shores and in the Everglades. She learned to swim before she learned how to walk, spending most weekends in a pool and eventually in the rough Atlantic Ocean and smooth Gulf of Mexico; when not in the water, she was found among the marsh and mangroves. After graduating as a part of the Environmental Science and Everglades Restoration Magnet Program offered at South Plantation High School, she carried her love of the natural world into her Bachelor of Arts from Nova Southeastern University. Concentrating on Folklore and Mythology from various cultures helped her realize how one is undeniably connected to the natural world, which deepened her passion for environmental conservation and awareness. She currently works at the Marine Environmental Education Center as their Gift Shop Associate and is delighted to share her passion for wildlife and conservation with her colleagues and the public alike!


Get To Know Christina


If you had any super power, what would it be and why?


The power to grow gills like euryhaline fish/critters and the power to see underwater. I would swim for hours if I could!


If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?


Invest in feasible means to save the planet and its flora and fauna.


If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?


Both. I would love to observe evolution first-hand.

MEEC-Staff-All-Mural
Return to top of page