Women in Reefing Part 2: A Trail Blazer, A Love Story, A Content Creator, A Whisperer, A Writer
Written by Kat Dhawan (MetroKat)
I had no idea that Part 1 of our Women in Reefing blog would become the most shared blog on this website. In a time of disheartening news, focusing on the good in the world, and on ladies that bring that good in their own way to everyday people has been a journey of self discovery for me. It has taken longer to write Part 2 because I wanted to be sure to do justice to the incredible ladies that have allowed me to peer into their personal and professional lives.
We begin with a Trail Blazer, the incredible Dr. Amanda Vincent.
Amanda Vincent: World's Top Conservationist Prize Winner
In May 2020, Dr. Amanda Vincent became the first marine conservationist to win the prestigious Indianapolis Prize. Cataloging Amanda's extensive experience needs more than one article but hopefully this truncated blog about her accomplishments will inspire our readers to learn more about her work. It's an honor to feature this trail blazer.
The Indianapolis Prize is the world’s leading award for animal conservation. Every other year, the Indianapolis Prize recognizes animal conservationists whose heroic work has helped save vulnerable and endangered species from extinction. The Indianapolis Prize Winner receives $250,000, and five Finalists are each awarded $10,000. Since 2006, the Indianapolis Prize has administered more than $1.3 million in unrestricted cash awards to support the work and livelihoods of animal conservationists around the world.
Amanda is the director and co-founder of Project Seahorse, an international organization committed to conservation and sustainable use of the world's coastal marine ecosystems. Project Seahorse is an alliance of University of British Columbia and the Zoological Society of London and represents a lot of people; collaborators in countries across the world, students and volunteers. Everyone has a constant desire to build the number of people involved in conservation by exciting and influencing projects in 6 continents.
Amanda holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and a Hons. B.Sc. from the University of Western Ontario. She was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, England and on faculty at McGill University, where she was named a William Dawson Scholar in 2000. The same year, Amanda was named a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, the world’s pre-eminent award in that field.
Amanda considers this prestigious award as the closest she can come to a Nobel Prize so she is absolutely thrilled to be the recipient of the "biggest best boldest prize for animal conservation". She feels happy to be able to have a platform to talk about ocean conservation issues. Seahorses are riveting subjects - a story of male pregnancy and gets your attention. Seahorses are flagship species for the ocean, according to Amanda and Project Seahorse. What threatens them threatens everything, and consequently, what saves seahorses, saves everything. They have a saying at Project Seahorse; Save the seahorses to save the seas, save the seas by saving the seahorses.
Amanda is most proud of the collaboration in the Philippines with social workers and biologists that has resulted in 35 marine protected areas under community management. These are 'no take zones' and fish are recovering their populations.
Another proud accomplishment has been getting the United Nations convention, CITES, to regulate the global export for marine fishes. CITES had categorically refused to get involved in marine fishes. With persistence, Dr. Amanda and her team have now got 182 countries committed to regulating the export of seahorses, limiting it to levels that will not damage wild populations and that are legally sourced.
That breakthrough opened more doors to a new international instrument that allows sharks, rays, European eels, and other reef fish that are now experiencing the same controls so that there is global sustainable export.
Amanda was the first to study Seahorses under water and has set the standard of conservation for people all over the world that care about the animals in our oceans. When asked what she would do with the prize money, Amanda replied, "I want to swim with the Seahorses."
“Dr. Amanda Vincent’s determination to protect our oceans and the species that inhabit it is nothing short of heroic. Dr. Vincent brings a collaborative, culturally sensitive and solutions-focused approach to ocean conservation.She inspires people to action and drives positive outcomes for marine species. It’s our privilege to recognize and reward her for her immeasurable impact on ocean conservation and the future of seahorses around the world.”
-Dr. Rob Shumaker, President/CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society
Felicia McCaulley: A Writer Extraordinaire
Felicia is a long-time aquarium hobbyist who has been working in the industry for 15+ years. Her experience working in retail, wholesale, aquarium maintenance, aquarium photography, fish and coral aquaculture and livestock purchasing gives her a 360 view of the hobby and the industry that powers it. This hobby has been her raison d’etre for most of her life (besides her children). She started her journey in the hobby in 2001 working at a PetSmart in Pittsburgh. Felicia got her "big break" working for Kevin Kohen at Liveaquaria first as a customer care agent in 2006, and then as the Diver's Den photographer and marine life identifier in 2008.
Felicia has been interested in breeding marine fish and propagating corals for many years. With the help of Kevin, Steve Krogh, and Paul Poeschl, she started breeding and raising H. erectus seahorses in 2009. In 2011 Felicia was one of the first to raise the Clingfish species Gobiesox punctulatus, which was documented in the March/April 2012 issue of CORAL magazine. She has successfully kept more than a dozen species of Syngnathids, and kept or worked with nearly every saltwater fish species available in the aquarium hobby today - even the rare Dr. Seuss fish and some little known oddballs like Red Brotulids Dipulus caecus and other coldwater or subtropical species.
Felicia has been an aquarium photojournalist for over 10 years, providing content for magazines like CORAL magazine and websites like Reefs.com. She has been a writer for CORAL magazine since 2012 with 12 articles published. You may have read some of them like Hats off to Monti Caps (Sep 2018), We are not Plecos (Mar 2012), Hardy Sea Fans (Nov 2019) to name a few. Her articles have also been published in other magazines like Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and a college level microbiology textbook.
Felicia’s specialties are aquarium husbandry, seahorses, taxonomy/identification, disease treatment, and chemistry. She has managed or worked in 8 different local aquarium shops, most notably House of Fins in Greenwich, CT in 2013 where Robert Bray graciously let Felicia experiment with her aquatic medicine knowledge with a generously sized quarantine and hospital system in the basement. She teamed up with friends to form a facebook group dedicated to hobby fish and coral disease diagnosis and treatment called "Fish Doctors Reef and Aquarium Health." She has continued to experiment with different medications advocating for proper quarantine and prophylactic Cryptocaryon treatment.
Felicia enjoys attending reef shows and conferences. She has worked in the booths of Boyd Enterprises, CoralVue/ICP- Analysis, CORAL magazine, and Iconic Aquariums as well as given presentations to many aquarium clubs about seahorses and photography. She has spoken in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York City, Virginia, Connecticut, and Texas. Felicia was also part of Bob Fenner's Wet Web Media Crew about 10 years ago.
Felicia is currently a part of the Marine Depot family and works in the customer care department helping customers solve technical problems. She also writes articles and video scripts for Marine Depot. She co-authored Part 1 with me and continues to be a part of this blog series. She considers herself lucky by being able to turn her passion into a career that has changed her life. Felicia’s passion and love for the aquarium hobby only grows with time.
“I had the pleasure of working with Felicia as her manager and mentor for several years. Her passion, enthusiasm and fascination with Syngnathids, unique invertebrates and unusual fishes was inspiring. I always went out of my way to point out unique hitchhikers and other unusual marine life which she appreciated, as we would then research the genus and species of animals not seen very often.” Kevin Kohen, Live Aquaria
Hilary Jaffe: Educational Content Creator
Hilary is the thoughtful woman behind the educational content for @Waterlogged1313 on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Even at a glance, her wealth of information and knowledge spans many topics and yet her heart belongs to the aquatic animal industry. She is passionate about aquatic ecosystems and teaching others how to protect and care for them. Her training and experience have paved the way for her to work in animal training.
Hilary graduated from the Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC. As a Marine Biologist, Hilary was able to bring the ocean with her when she left the coast and moved inland to Charlotte, NC. Using her degree and the experience she gained as a hobbyist she worked as a service technician and a social media manager for Fintastic, a local fish store before moving to Nevada and becoming a fisheries biologist. Hilary currently works as a biologist at an aquarium where she takes care of nearly 25 systems.
Hilary was one of the speakers at the first Women in Reefing meeting at MACNA 2018. She has been a familiar face at reef shows and enjoys the chance to meet people that she has interacted with online. She has worked professionally in the industry as a social media manager and as a biologist. She has trained animals such as fish, stingrays, sharks, and...a pig! She has an inherent instinct for animal training but learnt a lot from amazing trainers like Lara Joseph from The Animal Behavior Center to train her pet pig, Piggles. Hilary applied the same principles and techniques to working with other animals.
Initially she started working with a Spot Fin Puffer- Diodon hystrix. When the other species of puffers were becoming aggressive and biting the divers, Hilary brought them into the training routine and rapidly saw the biting behavior disappear. Because of her success, she was selected to train stingrays for different feeding techniques. Her training not only provides enrichment for the animals, but it also helps to build trust and during the training sessions, allows the public a glimpse into how intelligent animals can be.
Hilary is also a content creator for her website along with her channels on YouTube and Instagram. Some of the well known people that Hilary has interviewed include Dr. Jamie Bursa about her research on Weddell Seals in Antarctica. Josh Munoz, a photographer and videographer, who studied and sailed through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Dr. Margaret Miller Research Director at SECORE and most recently, Warren Carlyle founder of the largest octopus fan club - OctoNation.
A freshwater puffer fish captured her interest nearly 15 years ago. Since then she has had a mix of saltwater, brackish, and reef tanks. In addition to the tanks she takes care of at work, Hilary personally has 5 saltwater tanks including a nano reef and FOWLR system that is home to her comical cowfish, Frank.
Hilary’s advice to hobbyists is not to be afraid to fail or to admit you don’t know something. The times she has experienced failure are the times that she has learned the most. This field is full of amazing people who are always willing to help teach you- take advantage of that.
"I have had many people that reach out to me for various help over the years. One that truly stands out to me is Hilary. She was bit uncertain in regards to putting herself on social media platforms. Through our conversation, I saw how passionate and knowledgeable she was. In my opinion, her personal educational blog called waterlogged is easily one of my favorite blogs in our hobby. Her live streams with museum professionals has brought a different perspective of reef keeping that was sorely missing until her arrival. I am extremely happy and blessed to call her a friend and I am excited to see how she continues to educate and inspire other people with her love of animals and our oceans" - Richard Back
Kristine Turnier: A Typical Love Story
Kristine grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Feather River College to work with horses, where she met Chris Turnier and this love story begins.
Kristine has been fortunate to be a part of this industry in so many aspects over the years. She followed Chris to Los Angeles in 1996 for his first job out of college, working for a fish and coral transhipper before they were married. Just by luck, a new company, Flying Fish Express, the first online fish and coral retail store, was renting office space above the transhipper and within about six months both Chris and Kristine started working for Flying Fish Express. She knew nothing about saltwater aquariums back then, but she learned on the job and did everything from customer service over the phone, to packing orders, to picking out fish at the local wholesalers. Flying Fish Express pioneered the WYSIWYG and Cleanup Crews, and Kristine wrote the shipping and return policies, which became standard in the industry and are still commonly used today. After a few years, the company was purchased several times and eventually dissolved.
The Turniers moved back to Southern California and opened Reefer Madness, an online coral website, in partnership with Walt Smith International. The business was small but well known for their WYSIWYG corals and beautiful photography. At Reefer Madness, in addition to managing the office, online orders and shipping, Kristine also glued frags of some of the most beautiful Acroporas. Kristine credits her husband for starting the trend for crazy coral names.
By then the Turniers had known Walt and Deborah Smith for years through visiting the local wholesalers to pick out fish and corals for Flying Fish and Reefer Madness. When the manager of Walt Smith International’s supply station in the Fiji Islands left, Chris was offered the job, and the family moved to Fiji. The farm at Walt Smith International was truly impressive, with dozens of racks of aquacultured frags growing up into larger corals that were then exported to the US. As Kristine did not hold a work permit, she home-schooled her kids; Bryce who was five when they moved there, and Roxy, who was three. Kristine continued to learn about corals and aquaculture as she had many opportunities to visit the farm and see the process first hand.
Living in the Fiji Islands was an adventure. The highlights of her time there was snorkeling in pristine, dense coral reefs, getting her SCUBA certification, and swimming with a Manta Ray. Fiji had many challenges too, such as hurricanes and tropical depressions, water shortages, power outages, feral dogs barking all night, and the chore of shopping for food in high heat and humidity. Kristine then worked for the Smiths’ for a short time filing paperwork and helping with billing for Walt Smith International.
After four years in Fiji the family moved to Tennessee and then Florida where she was offered a position to manage Reef-A-Palooza Orlando and New York as Chris began working for World Wide Corals. Her position has expanded and grown and now also includes managing the new Chicago show. She is the friendly face that exhibitors see as soon as they approach the desk for their badges. Her work includes helping exhibitors sign up for booths, working with the web and graphics designers to create sponsorships, print and social media graphics, make arrangements with the hotel and expo companies, manage ticket sales, and keep every aspect of the show organized and moving forward.
Although she is not directly working with fish and corals, she continues to learn about the industry through the companies that exhibit at the shows. Kristine says she loves helping to bring people together who all have a common interest, and it is exciting to see an entire year of planning and hard work come together for just two days of Reef-A-Palooza.
She has seen the online retail sector grow from its humble beginnings. Perhaps the biggest change she has noticed is the desire for aquacultured corals over colonies. When she started, the availability of aquacultured corals was so small. Big, bright wild colonies were all the rage. Indeed, it is amazing to see how aquacultured corals are now the mainstream, and how new varieties, patterns and colors continue to capture people’s attention and become so desirable.
Kristine has noticed more women attending Reef-A-Palooza every year which is exciting. Her advice is to utilize the resources out there, such as reefing clubs, forums, frag swaps, trade shows, and local fish stores, and to keep learning. One of the women Kristine admires is Keri O’Neil, Senior Coral Scientist at the Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation. Keri will be one of the key-note speakers at Reef-A-Palooza Orlando.
Kristine is a nature girl at heart, and she feels protecting the ocean for the health of our planet and future generations is vital. Her favorite quote is by the person she admires most, Sir David Attenborough, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”
"Kristine has an amazing affinity for coral reefs, the ocean, and all of its inhabitants. She is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever worked with. She is selfless, kind and always has the best interest of customers & co-workers in mind."
-Lou Schiavo, World Wide Corals
Kelly Delavergne: Seahorse Whisperer
If you've been searching for women that host livestreams, there aren't that many so when a livestream with Wine came into the hobby, it immediately got attention. Kelly is the fun lady behind the weekly livestream called Wine Wednesdays on YouTube channel Seahorse Whisperer where hobbyists of all experiences gather to share, help each other and promote a community atmosphere. Kelly is the founder of the Women in Reefing group that was first recognized at MACNA 2018.
Kelly grew up in a fur-baby loving family and when asked about what led her to the hobby, “In one word: Fascination. I was literally hooked before a splash of water hit my first aquarium.” Her life was changed by an Angel...fish. See what we did there. She never expected to be taken in by the first sight of her mother-in-law's seven year old Angelfish that seemed to follow her every move with her eyes and it was then that Kelly decided to keep and care for her own aquarium species.
Like many of us, her first foray into the aquatic hobby was with freshwater. After a few years of keeping planted discus aquariums and breeding angelfish, she was introduced to saltwater, coral and seahorses. Keeping difficult fish like Discus, NPS corals and macroalgae successfully provided such a sense of accomplishment that it seemed obvious to Kelly that her next steps should be to learn how to culture coral and macros and eventually to breed seahorses.
Kelly has kept various Syngnathidae like Ghost Pipefish and DragonFace pipes. The seahorses she bred were h. Erectus, h. Kuda, h. Barbouri, h. Reidi, and a hybrid erectus-reidi mix. The most difficult were fry, and breeding the seahorses. Discussions on her live stream range from all kinds of topic for seahorses and macroalgaes such as building a seahorse fry nursery, growing macros that are appropriate for seahorse tanks, setting up a dwarf seahorse tank.
Kelly was fortunate to have some amazing mentors like Cruz Arias in reefing, Dan Underwood, Tom Hornsby and Cheryl Taylor in Seahorses. She was pleasantly surprised when her macro algae tank was noticed by Reef Hobbyist Magazine. The article about her seahorse-macro tank helped Kelly realize that she could help other hobbyists who wanted to learn about these salty subjects. Ten years later, Kelly says she has been honored to share her experiences and knowledge events such as the Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI), Midwest Aquatic Convention and MACNA. Kelly creates videos and articles on YOUTUBE and FACEBOOK, to help anyone interested in keeping seahorses, macro algae or reef tanks.
Kelly considers her ultimate accomplishment to be contributing to the Women in Reefing movement. Teaming up with other great women to promote and hold the Women in Reefing events at MACNA. Seeing the number of women succeeding in the hobby and industry makes her proud. She is more determined than ever to support women who venture out into the hobby and industry.
“I have had the opportunity to work with Kelly and she is dedicated to providing state of the art information in regards to keeping and caring for seahorses and pipefish. Her dedication to helping others become successful shows in everything she does.”
Contribute to the conversation, drop us a comment to mention women in reefing that inspire you. #womeninreefing.