Meet Our Staff

Jeff George, Executive Director

No one person could have ever filled Ila Loetscher's shoes running Sea Turtle, Inc. but I was given the opportunity in 2000 after volunteering for 8 years. It is only through a team effort that we continue Ila's legacy and grow as a non-profit organization. The dedicated staff, volunteers and interns make Sea Turtle, Inc. a success and my job a pleasure. Trained as a mathematician and a retired steel industry manager, working with these beautiful animals is a childhood dream come true.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Kemp's ridley; it is our native species and we can proudly say that we were involved in its recovery as an endangered species.










KatKat Lillie, Assistant Curator


I am proud to be the Assistant Curator for Sea Turtle, Inc! I was born and raised in Indiana and have a BS in Wildlife and a BA in Spanish Languages and Literature from Purdue University. I had my first experience working with sea turtles in North Carolina in 2008. After I saw my first nesting turtle (a 350 pound loggerhead), I knew that I wanted to continue working to conserve these amazing animals. I’m so proud to be a part of an organization that dedicates itself to this cause. I think the best part of my job is watching people react to seeing sea turtles for the first time. Education is my passion and I hope that my work here will inspire a new generation of environmentally-conscious sea turtle protectors!


Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I will always have a soft spot for the feisty yet lovable loggerhead sea turtle. They are the first sea turtle I ever worked with! After a summer on Bald Head Island seeing nesting mommas and helping hatchlings down to the ocean, it’s easy to fall in love with them!

Dr. Thomas deMaar, Attending Veterinarian

Dr. Tom

The attending veterinarian for the turtles is “Dr. Tom” deMaar, Senior Veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX.  Dr. Tom became a veterinarian to dedicate his life to wildlife and ecosystem conservation. Dr. Tom is a graduate of the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts.  His experience includes wildlife and zoological medicine, international agriculture development, environmental research, wildlife rehabilitation, and conservation education in the USA, Mexico, Uganda, Pakistan and Kenya.

Favorite Sea  Turtle Species: Dr. Tom likes all sea turtles; he was “green” before green was fashionable and sea turtles are definitely green.

Karen Pfeiffer, Gift Shop Manager


I'm so stoked to be a part of the Sea Turtle, Inc. family! I've been a local since 1978 and raised two beautiful children here! You will rarely find me at the facility without an armload of t-shirts & stuffed animals! When I'm not working, I'm either surfing, fishing, or keeping up with my baby Melo, the Double Yellow Headed Amazon.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I love the Loggerheads because one day when I was surfing, there was a big Loggerhead following me on my board. It kept popping its head up for air and I kept trying to paddle away but it stayed right behind me. I was in awe of how big its head was! They sure do live up to their names!

Nina Nahvi, Licensed VeterinaryTechnician

I graduated from Humboldt State University in 2011 with a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management. After graduation, I visited the big island of Hawai'i and ninaswam with green sea turtles. That experience led me to pursue working with these incredible creatures. It was during my internship at Sea Turtle, Inc. in 2012 that I realized what I wanted to do with my life - obtain my Veterinary Technician license so I could one day make a living by medically treating and rehabilitating wildlife.

In the time that has lapsed since my internship, I went to Vet Tech school, interned at the Dallas Zoo, spent a nesting season working with Hawksbills in Hawai'i, and worked at a sea turtle hospital in the Florida Keys. Now everything has come full circle as I am back on the island where it all started, and I am so happy to be a part of the Sea Turtle, Inc. family again.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Atlantic greens. They are the most chill and the only species that can all hang out together in one tank and get along. I think humans could learn a thing or two from greens!

Adam Chance, Aquarist

Adam Chance_AquaristI grew up in Colorado, but at the age of 6, my grandmother introduced me to the ocean near San Diego, CA. I fell in love with the ocean that day. I fed my love of the aquatic environment through the years by keeping aquariums of all shapes, sizes, and environments (fresh and saltwater).  That love and passion led me to pursue my degree in biology while working and volunteering at Denver's world-class aquarium. There I learned large-scale aquarium husbandry while working with freshwater and marine species.

I had the amazing opportunity to study marine science at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia where I was introduced to my first sea turtle while taking a beach hike. This green sea turtle had become stranded in a mud flat during low tide. I stayed with her for the next 4 hours keeping her cool while the tide came back in.

Today I get to share my passion for aquarium husbandry and conservation with the staff and guests at Sea Turtle, Inc.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: The Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead top the list… but how can you have just one favorite?




Sanjuana Zavala, Marketing and PR


I'm a Rio Grande Valley girl, graduate of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville. I live with my husband Bart and three year old daughter, Marbella, in Brownsville. I obviously love the sea as Marbella means beautiful ocean in Spanish. I hope to bring the passion for my beloved Valley and the sea, as well as my respect for all nature, into my work here. I also hope to make everyone smile with my baked goods!

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: My dad use to take me to see the sea turtles at Ila's when I was very young. I think I fell in love with Atlantic greens there. I cannot be sure, but I think I saw resident Gerry at Ila's almost 20 years ago. I have to go with the Atlantic green!

Jean Pettit, Administrative Assistant

Jean Pettit

After finding a nest as a volunteer foot patroller, the Kemp’s ridley captured my heart and set everything in motion. I became totally bonded to the Sea Turtle, Inc. mission and saw firsthand that conservation really does make a difference.

As a Texas Master Naturalist and Certified Interpretive Guide (NAI), I enjoy seeing the connection visitors make with our resident turtles. By helping to enrich their experience, our message travels across the country. Their joy, enthusiasm and interest in sea turtles and what we do, are making a difference on a daily basis.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: The Kemp’s ridley brought me to the “dance” but each of the five species in the Gulf of Mexico has a special place in my heart.

Khrystyne Jamerson,

Virtual Program Coordinator


For as long as I can remember, I've had a passion for wildlife and the outdoors and knew that a career in this field would be a dream come true! I grew up in Killeen, Texas and completed my B.S. in Wildlife Biology at Texas State University. I had an opportunity to go to Costa Rica in 2008 on a sea turtle volunteer program and from that moment on, I was hooked! I first came to Sea Turtle, Inc. in 2014 as an intern and experienced so many amazing things. I am excited to return as an Educator and to help spread awareness about sea turtle conservation with all of you! When I'm not working, you can find me out on my paddleboard with my dogs, Harley and Riley.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: My favorite species of sea turtles would have to be the Leatherbacks since they were the first species I ever worked with. I was able to see hatchlings in Costa Rica, and finally got to see nesting mamas in Ghana this past winter which was a dream come true!

Mariana Devlin, Conservation Coordinator


I had the honor of being an intern for Sea Turtle, Inc. in the summers of 2009 and 2010 as I worked for my Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Fisheries mariana1Science from Texas A&M University in College Station. After my graduation, I worked in Costa Rica as a research field assistant in the Osa Peninsula where I fell in love with sea turtles even more. After Costa Rica, I lived in Corpus Christi for 2 years while I obtained my Master’s degree in Environmental Science from TAMUCC, and I spent another 2 years working as a 7th grade Life Science and 8th grade Biology teacher. I am so excited to join Sea Turtle, Inc.’s family once again, I can honestly say I have finally landed my dream job.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I love all sea turtles but I will always have a soft spot for the Kemp’s ridley and Olive ridley since I have been directly involved in their conservation efforts.









Mary Laddis, Part-Time Staff Member

Mary Laddis

Mary has worked with Sea Turtle, Inc. since 1994. She began as a volunteer with our founder and has been with the organization ever since. She has stayed with STI because she is impressed with our rescue work and educational programs. Mary works part time as a staff member. Her favorite hobby is scuba diving and she has traveled all around the world volunteering and diving with almost every species of sea turtle!

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Atlantic greens are my favorite species. They are the laid back vegetarians of the ocean. It'smpossibleto not love those "cool" greens!


David Wilson, Part-Time Staff Memberdave wilson

I was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, and I have been coming to SPI for over fifty years. I am a retired agricultural pilot, and I love being outdoors and on the beach. I started volunteering here about 16 years ago. I primarily do a lot of carpentry and maintenance, but I also get to retrieve cold-stunned turtles and sometimes even get the call to rescue an ATV patroller on the beach. Like my piloting career, my work here is diverse and always full of surprises!

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Kemp's ridleys of course! That is the species that I get to see nesting on the beach each spring!



Mary Duncan, Volunteer Coordinator


I am from St. Louis, MO, and have wanted to work with sea turtles since I was in first grade! I have my Bachelor's degree in Biology from NWMSU which included classes in Mexico and Australia to learn more about the sea turtles and marine life. Since then I have worked with the sea turtles in various places around the world, and I am super excited to share my experience with all of you here!


Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Leatherbacks are my favorite! Their anatomy and physiology are the most interesting, allowing them to migrate the farthest and dive the deepest. Though the leatherbacks are my favorite, I am super excited to be in the home of the Kemp's Ridley, the most critically endangered of all the sea turtles!



Dave Cromwell, Part-Time Educator


Before retiring from television news in the 90's, I decided to find an endangered species to champion in retirement. Three summers at Tortugero in Costa Rica made that choice easy - sea turtles. A couple of years volunteering at STI and then receiving the gift of a part-time gig doing beach patrols and educational turtle talks have been a perfect fit for this old dude.

I've been with “Allison” since day one and after a bunch of failed attempts, I was finally able to write the “mostly true” story of her early years at Sea Turtle Inc. It's a pretty good story, and the proceeds from her book all go to sea turtles. I'll be happy to sign your copy.

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Obviously, the Green is my favorite turtle, because of Allison, but I do a have a very soft spot in my heart for Kemps hatchlings like the nearly 3100 I was privileged to release one beautiful sunrise with three other volunteers in July at Rancho Nuevo in 2005.




Erica Underwood, Giftshop Assistant


Shortly after completing my B.S. in Biology in St. Charles, Missouri I moved to Texas in hopes of pursuing my dreams of working with wildlife. I started at Sea Turtle, Inc. as a volunteer in 2018 and shortly after joined the staff as the gift shop assistant! On my days off I love patrolling the beach for nesting turtles, helping out with the rehab team, or hanging out with my dog, Kona, on the beach. Being able to make a difference for an endangered species is my dream and I cannot wait to continue my journey here at Sea Turtle, Inc!

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I love them all! All species are maginificient. It is impossible for me to choose just one!









Chris Gorman, Rehab Assistant


I graduated with a B.S. in Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity from UC Davis. I’ve always had a passion for working with wild animals and knew from a young age that I would follow my dream to make it a career. 2016 was an amazing summer when I worked at the Oakland Zoo as the commissary/night keeper intern. I worked with some truly amazing animals including baboons, elephants, tigers, tortoises, sun bears, and giraffes, as well as many other species. The fall seasons of 2016 and 2017 were spent working for Ducks Unlimited out in the Sacramento Valley. I started at Sea Turtle, Inc. in the summer of 2017 as a summer intern, and continued through the winter as a rehabilitation intern. Since being at Sea Turtle, Inc. I’ve been able to work with Kemp’s ridleys, Atlantic greens, hawksbills, loggerheads, and even a leatherback! I’ve had some amazing adventures here at Sea Turtle, Inc. and I love my position in the hospital as the rehabilitation specialist.


Favorite Sea Turtle Species: Kemp’s ridley. They are the feistiest of the turtles and look like modern-day dinosaurs. I love watching them hunt blue crabs (their favorite live prey).
















SPX, Nest Recovery Dog (Retired)



I am SPX, the red heeler. I have the important job of being on the Kemp's ridley nest recovery team. My owner, Dave Cromwell, trains me on the beach every day to sniff out sea turtle nests.  He uses eggshells of old nests to help keep my sense keen! My breed of dog is highly intelligent and I'm very good at what I do!  My worker's union only lets me work three days per week but I am paid in cookies!





Favorite Sea Turtle Species: By far the Kemp's ridley because when I find a turtle nest I get a cookie! I have found 15 nests!

Mama Torti, Assistant Turtle Keeper


My name is Mama Torti. I moved into Sea Turtle, Inc. in the summer of 2014. I'm a tortoiseshell cat so it just seemed natural that I should live beneath a turtle hospital. I wanted a nice, educational spot to raise my three kittens that were born in August of 2014. When my babies were ready to move out, a staff member took them home. They offered me a home as well but I told them I would prefer to live on the wild side as an outdoor cat...but I would appreciate being fed and loved on everyday. I was hired on  as full time turtle keeper in October 2014. My duties are eating mice and lizards, and keeping away a large, pesky raccoon that keeps wanting to live here. In my free time, I enjoy letting some people pet me...NOT EVERYONE but some people. I also enjoy when there is leftover shrimp after a turtle feeding. You can usually find me sunning myself somewhere in the facility. I love my turtle home!

Favorite Sea Turtle Species: I don't play favorites. My mission is to protect and serve (and get occasional belly rubs).