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Staff

Chris OlstadChris Olstad
Habitat Operations Director
BS Biology, Lynchburg College
AS Underwater Technology, Florida Institute of Technology

Chris is a biologist and underwater technician, with considerable experience in undersea research. As a marine biologist he worked as a benthic invertebrate taxonomist. He worked as a diver/scientist on several oceanographic cruises to the Flower Gardens Bank (Gulf of Mexico) using water quality arrays, bottom sampling and underwater photographic techniques to assess oil rig impact on the nearby coral reef. As a submersible mechanic he has worked on manned and unmanned systems rated from 1,000 to 20,000 foot depths, including diver lock-out subs, remotely operated vehicles, and hyper-hypobaric saturation complexes for the offshore industry and shore based physiological research facilities. As a commercial diver he is experienced in underwater cutting and welding, inspection, search and recovery. Chris has been working with MRDF since 1984, refurbishing the lab in Ft Lauderdale prior to its emplacement. During the summer of 1984 he became the On-site Director while the habitat was in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef Turning Basin, and became Operations Director when it moved to its permanent home in the MRDF lagoon. He has directed over 500 scientific and educational missions involving more than 1000 aquanauts. Scientific missions have involved NOAA, NASA and the University of Pennsylvania (Institute for Environmental Medicine) researching the effects of saturation diving. He has co-authored and published scientific papers on this topic in the Journals of Applied Physiology and Undersea Biomedical Research.

Jessica PulferJessica Dockery
Education Director
BS Marine Biology, University of West Alabama

Jessica was appointed Director of the MarineLab Education programs in 2009. She is in charge of the entire MarineLab education program, which serves over 4000 students per year, and supervises 11 staff field instructors. Jessica's duties include training and monitoring staff, curriculum development, and supervising everyday MarineLab operations, in addition to her previously held responsibilities of Dive Program supervisor and senior captain. Jessica began her marine science career soon after graduating by working as a Fisheries Observer aboard various commercial fishing vessels in the Bering Sea and Gulf and Alaska. She collected biological data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Jessica has previous experience as a marine science instructor from Seacamp on Big Pine Key and as an environmental educator at the Wahsega 4-H Center in Dahlonega, GA.

She is a PADI SCUBA Instructor and a USCG Captain. Jessica currently sits on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Board.

Sarah EgnerSarah Egner
Research Director
BS Biology, Wake Forest
MS Marine Science, University of South Florida

Sarah became Director in charge of our Research & Development programs in 2013. Sarah is also an Assistant Director for MarineLab and is in charge of our curriculum. She studied abroad as an undergraduate on South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. As a graduate student, Sarah was in the Marine Sensory Ecology Lab. Her thesis project was on the hearing capabilities of coral reef fish and the possibility for pelagic larval fish to use reef sounds as a biological cue for orientation towards the reef for settlement. All of her research for her project was conducted in the Florida Keys. While in graduate school she spent her summers teaching marine biology for the Oceanography Camp for Girls and Action Quest in the British Virgin Islands. When she returned to the US, she took a position as an Environmental Specialist at Biological Research Associates in Tampa, FL, then positions with the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the Florida Wildlife Legacy Initiative. Sarah is published in various scientific journals and has written articles for the Divers Alert Network magazine, Alert Diver.