Senior Vice President of Animal Care and Health
Tim Binder is the senior vice president of animal care and health; overseeing all aspect of The Florida Aquarium’s world-class animal care including a large team of biologists and veterinarians. With the symbiotic relationship between animal care and operations, Tim also administers Engineering, Water Quality lab and Dive Safety Operations.
Despite growing up far from the oceanic world in Rapid City, South Dakota, Tim has been a respected leader in animal welfare, husbandry and conservation for over 40 years. He has led world renowned organizations, pioneered new animal care practices and much more through outstanding leadership, depth of experience and strategic vision.
In high school, Tim worked at a roadside attraction on the road to Mount Rushmore. This small aquarium cared for seals, sea lions and dolphins. That experience sparked his passion and led to a distinguished 40+ year career in animal care that continues to make an impact in the zoo and aquarium world today.
In his early 20s, Tim joined the staff of the highly regarded Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, where his skills earned him a senior leadership position. After a long tenure at Mystic, Tim became one of the first people hired by the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. At the time of its opening in 2005, it was the largest aquarium in the world. Among his most notable accomplishments was ensuring the welfare of the whale sharks; making Georgia the only facility outside Asia where you can see these animals.
In 2008, he left Georgia to consult on various projects to improve care and welfare practices in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central and South America. A year later, he joined Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium to become executive vice president of animal care. There he formalized and expanded the animal rescue and rehabilitation program; calling on his 16 years of experience in stranded marine mammal rehabilitation of numerous seal and cetacean species in southern New England.
Among Tim’s most notable accomplishments is the key role he served in developing and implementing animal handling procedures and protocols to do health assessments – over a multiyear period – on free ranging beluga whales in a remote area of southwest Alaska.
With his steep tradition and deep passion for conservation, attracted by the Aquarium’s vital efforts, Tim joined The Florida Aquarium in 2018, citing the tremendous opportunities to have a direct impact on significant conservation issues in very unique and exciting ways.
During his tenure in the zoo and aquarium sector, Tim has served in leadership and advisory roles for a variety of industry organizations and committees. A member of the American Humane Association’s Scientific Advisory Committee, Tim helped develop the association’s humane conservation certification program that certifies humane treatment of animals in human care at zoological facilities. As a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) task force, he worked collaboratively for the development animal welfare standards for cetaceans in AZA accredited facilities. He has also served on the AZA’s Honors & Awards and Annual Conference Program committees.
Senior Penguin Biologist
Maegan is a senior biologist at The Florida Aquarium overseeing the Animal Ambassador team. Her role includes healthcare and behavioral husbandry for a variety of species highlighted in educational experiences with a focus on African penguins.
Growing up, Maegan always knew animals were going to play a large role in her career path. While attending the University of Florida, Maegan developed an affinity for training and behavioral studies, ultimately graduating with a degree in psychology with a concentration in behavior analysis. Upon graduation, she secured an internship at The Florida Aquarium. During her tenure with The Florida Aquarium, the animals in Maegan’s care have varied but her focus on animal behavior has remained her priority.
Among continued concerns for the future of the endangered African penguin, The Florida Aquarium has elevated its efforts in penguin conservation. Maegen recently traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to help rehabilitate wild African Penguins with SANCCOB- The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.
Eric is an associate curator at The Florida Aquarium, specializing in the care of shark species. Nicknamed “the shark guy,’’ Eric has been involved in hands-on care of sharks for over 26 years and was instrumental in the opening of The Florida Aquarium in 1995. Hovland takes the Aquarium’s conservation education mission seriously and relishes the opportunity to enlighten children and adults about the Blue Planet. Eric’s mind is a wealth of remarkable scientific facts, and he is a favorite of local television stations, particularly during shark week.
He is a technically trained scuba diver certified in mixed gas diving and decompression diving methods with thousands of hours of diving under his weight belt. When he’s not underwater, he’s sharing shark conservation stories to those who will lend an ear. Eric has a passion for travel and incredible sense of adventure. He has traveled the world’s oceans seeking diving adventures and enjoys sharing tales of the Aquarium to those near and far.
Debborah Luke, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President of Conservation
Dr. Debi Luke is an internationally recognized leader in the zoo and aquarium world with over 25 years of marine and environmental conservation leadership experience. She serves as the Aquarium’s senior vice president of conservation, expanding The Aquarium’s dedication to understanding and conserving aquatic species and ecosystems. She oversees the Aquarium’s internationally recognized Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach, managing the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center and the Coral Conservation Program.
Previously, Dr. Luke served as senior vice president of conservation and science for nearly a decade at the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). She successful launched the field conservation programs that supported SAFE, AZA’s premier Saving Animals from Extinction program. In addition, Dr. Luke intimately understands the workings of an aquarium, having served as the director of education & research at Sea Life Park in Hawaii, and as the director of manatee care & research (along with other various roles) during 10 years at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.
Dr. Luke is no stranger to Tampa, having earned both her Doctorate and Master’s degrees in cognitive neuroscience and marine science from the University of South Florida and an undergraduate degree in psychology from New College in Sarasota.
Senior Coral Scientist
An interest in coral reefs that began for Keri O’Neil during childhood snorkeling trips to Florida led her to The Florida Aquarium and groundbreaking work in coral conservation.
The senior coral scientist at The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach, FL, Keri oversees the daily care of corals rescued from the spread of Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease in Florida. She also oversees the Aquarium’s induced spawning lab – the site of the world’s first induced spawn of the threatened pillar coral in a laboratory setting. She and her team at The Florida Aquarium have spawned and raised 10 species of coral native to Florida and have worked with partners to outplant thousands of coral recruits onto Florida’s Coral Reef. While continuing to work to induce spawning of new coral species, Keri is dedicated to improving the process of coral spawning and rearing with the goal of efficiency, reliability and widespread dissemination of the techniques.
Keri earned her B.S. in biology from the University of Maryland, where she began studying corals. After college, she spent nearly a decade at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD. She went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in marine biology and environmental science in 2009 at Nova Southeastern University, where she raised corals for reef restoration projects on the east coast of Florida.
Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center Manager
As the manager of the Sea Turtle Conservation Program at The Florida Aquarium, Ashley directs the management and specialized care of sea turtles from rescue and admit to rehabilitation. She also oversees the development and advancement of new sea turtle conservation projects and initiatives. A graduate from St. Petersburg College with an A.S in veterinary technology, Ashley continued her education; receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. She in the process of obtaining her Master’s Degree. Over the course a 20+ year career as a certified veterinary technician, Ashley has gained extensive veterinary medical and management experience as well as marine animals rescue and rehabilitation. Her experience thus far has contributed to one published article on teleost medicine.
Stephen Schwanebeck is The Florida Aquarium’s senior horticulturist, caring for a vast collection of Florida native species found in and around the Aquarium; most notably the mangroves and large native trees within the wetlands dome. Stephen is helping to create a world-class conservation site at the Aquarium’s Center for Conservation in Apollo Beach with habitat restoration and more.
Stephen has been a nature enthusiast his entire life. As a Tampa native, he attended every zoo camp possible at Busch Gardens. Making a strong impression, he was hired for a work-study program at Busch Gardens at just 14 years of age. His career continued as a stage manager and production assistant with the Anheuser-Busch Co. while simultaneously touring with Sigfried & Roy Productions. In 1998 while attending Valencia College and working as a Disney ambassador during the 25th anniversary celebration, Stephen was invited to join the opening team of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Stephen initially joined The Florida Aquarium in 2015 as a member of the Learning Department. His extensive knowledge gained the immediate attention of the long-tenured and original horticulturist, and he was quickly recruited. Less than a year later, following his mentor’s retirement, Stephen was promoted.
Stephen proudly continues his passion for conservation and enthusiasm for the world of plants. He can be found inside the wetlands dome and around campus meticulously caring for the Aquarium’s trees and plants. He is tireless in his efforts to positively impact the environment and inspire future generations, taking a contributing role in habitat restoration and educational/volunteer programs of The Florida Aquarium.
Senior Coral Biologist
Rachel Serafin is a senior coral biologist working to breed, rear and outplant many endangered and threatened species of Caribbean corals. Taking great pride in her work, one of her most rewarding achievements is her participation in the groundbreaking work done in The Florida Aquarium’s induced spawning lab – the site of the world’s first induced spawn of endangered pillar coral and ridged cactus corals in a laboratory setting.
Growing up in Tampa, Rachel had a love for ocean and marine life. Following graduation from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, she returned to her hometown working at The Florida Aquarium caring for a variety of aquatic and avian species including syngnathids, elasmobranchs and pacific corals. In 2017, she jumped at an opportunity to work with corals at the Aquarium’s newly formed Center for Conservation, eagerly taking on a larger role in coral restoration efforts. Today, Rachel continues her education, pursuing her Master’s Degree part-time from the University of Florida with Dr. Josh Patterson.
Director of Marine Operations
Tim is The Florida Aquarium’s director of marine operations, overseeing all boating and diving, including the volunteer dive program as well as offsite field research. He first joined the Aquarium in June 2015 as a captain. In his role, Tim manages the eco-tour vessel and small boat research fleet operations from planning and maintenance, to crew staffing and training, to trip logistics, etc. He is also responsible for the scientific, recreation and commercial dive programs. Internally, Tim ensures the training, proficiency and safety of all divers while also providing dive support of research, habitat maintenance and animal care. His thoughtful oversight ensures the safety and entertainment of guest immersion programming. The commercial dive program includes vessel husbandry and ocean clean-up dives.
After graduating from Florida State University with a degree in criminology in 2010, Tim went to work operating vessels as part of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. Upon completion of the BP project, he worked as a private freelance and fishing captain, skippering a number of ocean-going private yachts along the East Coast of the U.S. and in the Caribbean. In 2013, he changed course and re-entered the commercial industry, leading dredging operations in the Southeast. Having travelled almost nonstop for over five years, Tim settled down in his home waters of Tampa Bay to work for The Florida Aquarium.
Tim has been boating on Tampa Bay for over 20 years. As an avid fisherman and diver, you can find Tim enjoying the water on his personal vessels, from the Gulf of Mexico Middle Grounds to the backwaters of Tampa Bay, nearly every weekend.
Dr. Lindsey Waxman
Dr. Lindsey Waxman serves as the staff veterinarian at The Florida Aquarium, responsible for the preventative, diagnostic and medical care of a large array of species including sharks and rays, sea turtles, otters, lemurs, fish and invertebrates plus reptiles and insects. Dr. Waxman and her team of veterinary professionals also provides specialized and compassionate care to the rescued animals in the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center. She obtained her B.A. in cell biology and neuroscience from Rutgers University and her doctoral veterinary degree from Cornell University.
In the course of obtaining her doctoral degree and in her postgraduate programs, she worked with a number of facilities, including Mystic Aquarium, assisting in marine mammal and sea turtle stranding responses, rescue and rehabilitation. Lindsey became an associate veterinarian at BluePearl Veterinary Partners after receiving her doctorate. She completed the Aquatic Animal Health Program Internship at the University of Florida in partnership with SeaWorld, The Florida Aquarium, Volusia Marine Science Center, Miami Seaquarium and other institutions in 2017. She continued as the associate veterinarian at Miami Seaquarium from 2017 to 2019. There she served as the primary veterinarian for the Aquarium’s marine mammal and sea turtle stranding program. Dr. Lindsey Waxman joined The Florida Aquarium team in 2019 and became the staff veterinarian in 2020.