Meet some of the WDC team from around the world.
Regina Asmutis-Silvia, Senior Biologist (as in Status, not Age), Vessel Strike Program Lead
Regina has worked with the Whale Adoption Project since 1990 and moved to WDC in 2005. Working primarily on large whale issues such as risks from fishing gear entanglements and vessel strikes she also dabbles in education and other stuff. Regina has a conservation seat on the federally appointed Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Team, Harbor Porpoise Take Reduction Team, Atlantic Trawl Gear Take Reduction Team and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council where she advocates for whales, gets migraines, and nurses them with tequila. She is most thankful for her family (Dave, DJ and Evan), friends, indoor plumbing and would rather be captaining the boat.
Karsten Brensing, Conservation Manager Germany
Karsten is WDC Germany’s scientist. Before joining WDC in 2005, he worked at the Free University of Berlin for his doctoral degree in behavioural biology, concerning the interaction between humans and dolphins and dolphin assisted therapy. His current role at WDC is focused on pollution, especially noise pollution, captivity issues and bycatch. Karsten studied marine biology at the University of Kiel and conducted several research projects in Florida and Israel. He worked as a lecturer in behavioural biology at the Free University of Berlin and guided several masters projects. In his spare time he worked as a marine mammal observer in the North Sea and the Pacific and as a lecturer onboard the German cruise ship Astor. Karsten loves the sea; he is an ambitious sailor and a diving instructor.
Vicki Brown, Science Assistant
Vicki has both volunteered and worked in conservation since graduating from University. She has worked for the Wildlife Trusts since 1999 and has volunteered on various overseas research projects including bird ringing in Canada.
In 2002 Vicki joined WDC as a volunteer for the Science and Policy teams working on a wide range of projects including helping to develop areas of the website, campaigning on a number of issues, writing scientific articles, admin work and volunteering at the Scotland office to name a few. Her skills in field research also saw her use her holiday time each year to volunteer on WDC cetacean research projects in Wales and Scotland. In 2008 Vicki joined WDC as a member of staff.
Sarah Dolman, Head of Scottish Policy
Sarah Dolman has an Honours degree in Electrical and Communications Engineering and a Masters in Marine Fisheries Science. Starting as a volunteer for WDC back in 1996, Sarah has been lucky enough to contribute to marine science in such far flung places as Antarctica, Hawaii, the Canary islands, as well as closer to home now in Scotland, where she is based.
Sarah now leads WDC’s Scottish policy work and is Noise Pollution Campaign Manager.
Pine Eisfeld, Conservation officer
Pine has Master degrees in marine biology and marine mammal science. From 2004 to 2006 she worked in Germany on an EU Conservation Plan for North Sea harbour porpoises under ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic and North Seas).
Pine joined WDC as a consultant in the summer of 2007 to carry out a behavioural study on a solitary dolphin in Kent, and subsequently as a policy and science assistant before taking on her role as conservation officer.
Pine’s main work areas are UK legislation (e.g. Marine Bill, UK BAPs, EU Habitats Directive) and science fieldwork (e.g. outer Moray Firth surveys). In her free time, she is a keen sportswoman, enjoying activities such as running, kickboxing, cycling, trampolining, tai chi, yoga, squash and salsa dancing. She is also an accomplished violinist, having been playing since age 4.
Erich Hoyt, Marine Protected Areas Programme Leader
Erich Hoyt is a cetacean researcher, marine conservationist and author. He leads WDC’s Global Marine Protected Areas programme and is Co-Director of the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP/ WDC).
In 2006, he was appointed to the Cetacean Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (5-year term). He is also Director of Marine Mammals for the non-profit educational resource www.MarineBio.org, has served on the nominating committee of the Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation and is an expert advisor on marine protected areas for ACCOBAMS, the whale and dolphin agreement in the Mediterranean and Black seas.
Erich has written 15 books and more than 400 scientific and popular articles; he investigates and writes about cetaceans, as well as other environmental topics.
Dr. Cara Miller, Pacific Islands Programme Lead
Cara has been involved in cetacean research for the last decade including: documenting humpback whales on their calving grounds in Tonga, some of the first spinner and spotted dolphin surveys in Papua New Guinean waters, and observations of fin whales in the Bering Sea. Her undergraduate studies focused on animal behaviour and marine biology, whereas her Master’s degree in Applied Statistics examined population models and field survey design for marine species. A four-year project investigating habitat and abundance of a small resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico served as her PhD research.
Cara joined WDC Australasia in 2004 and then at the start of the 2006 began working on the Pacific Islands Programme. Within this programme she has had the exciting opportunity to work with many researchers and staff across this region in building local capacity, conducting research surveys, and progressing cetacean conservation under the Convention of Migratory Species Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region. In addition, she has served on the Australian Government’s science delegation at the International Whaling Commission for the last three years.
Cara is currently a Visiting Fellow at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji and in addition has a research appointment at Flinders University in South Australia.
Alice Walters, Scottish Conservation Officer
Alice Walters joined WDC in 2007 as a research associate, a post managed in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen and funded through Knowledge Transfer Partnership. Based at our Scottish wildlife centers, she explored the potential of using research techniques and technology to bring specialised scientific expertise to a wider audience and to encourage visitors to become stewards of the marine environment.
In early 2009, Alice fully took on the WDC role of Scottish Conservation Officer and is now managing the expansion of shore-based cetacean watching along the NE Scottish coast through the Shorewatch Project as well as managing other research initiatives carried out through the Wildlife Centers.
Courtney Vail, US Policy Officer/Caribbean Programme Manager
Courtney has worked within the wildlife conservation and animal welfare field for nearly 20 years, and has been with WDC almost ten of them. With a diverse background in biology, law and environmental policy, Courtney focuses her time across the spectrum of issues for WDC, providing leadership for its Caribbean program and a variety of domestic and international educational and outreach initiatives. Courtney is currently based in Arizona and spends her free time hiking, playing sand volleyball and loving her daughter, Sierra.
Vanessa Williams-Grey, Responsible Whale Watch Programme Manager
Vanessa joined WDC as Office Manager in 1990 and remembers the organisation when it employed just a handful of people, housed in a basement office in Bath! She took on the role of Publications Manager in 1992 before leaving in order to travel around the globe, working as a volunteer on various cetacean projects, including orca research off British Columbia, Canada, and a whale stranding team in Eastern Australia. She then worked as a freelance for WDC, including writing a report on captive orcas, before rejoining WDC in 1997. Vanessa has developed WDC’s Responsible Whale Watching programme and now oversees colleagues working across our global network of offices to promote best practice. Initiatives have included offering training workshops to whale watch operators and naturalist guides; funding impact research; working with official agencies to produce regulations and codes of conduct, and educating the public about responsible viewing practices.
Cathy Williamson, Captivity Programme Manager
Cathy runs WDC’s international programme of work against the capture, trade and keeping of cetaceans in captivity and has done so since January 1999. She has a Masters degree in Environmental Science, Policy and Planning. Cathy is directly responsible for the work that is undertaken by WDC’s Captivity Programme, representing it in international governmental fora and producing comprehensive information resources, aimed at a wide range of stakeholders, including detailed reports, meeting briefings, scientific papers, articles, press releases and internet-based materials. Cathy works with a huge number of stakeholders from members of the public, grassroots activists around the world, other NGOs, civil servants, scientists and representatives of the tourism industry to bring about an end to captures and trade and improve the conditions of cetaceans already held in captivity.
Alison Wood, Policy Manager
Ali has worked with the WDC policy team for almost 20 years on various programmes but, its river dolphins that have always been her passion. River dolphins are also amongst the most endangered of all whales and dolphins and need our help. WDC has recently launched a new river dolphin programme and Ali considers herself lucky enough to be heading it up. Ali also works with the WDC team focused on the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS). When Ali is not working……… she has four young daughters at home to keep her on her toes. Life is a bit of a juggle run at a frantic pace to look after them. Ali’s dream is to take them all to the Amazon to see a river dolphin!
Nicola Hodgins, International Projects Manager
As WDC’s International Projects Manager, Nicola oversees a portfolio of research projects around the world. A marine biologist by trade, and a conservationist at heart, prior to joining WDC Nicola was working to reduce the unfortunately, ever-growing illegal trade in wildlife. With research experience (and much travelling) from around the world, including Hong Kong, India, Italy and Borneo, Nicola has a fondness for Asia, Africa, the Indian Ocean and generally just the warmer parts of the world! Although spending a large proportion of her time focusing on issues outside of the UK and working with researchers from developing countries, Nicola maintains her involvement in fieldwork at home in Scotland, both in the Moray Firth and on the West coast. (You can take a girl out of Scotland, but never Scotland out of a girl!). Any spare time is spent ensuring WDC’s canine research assistant doesn’t study the sheep too avidly, travelling, spending time with family and friends and generally loving life!
Kila, WDC’s Canine Research Assistant
Specialising in UK whales and dolphins, Kila has extensive field experience from time spent in the Outer Hebrides, West coast of Scotland, the Moray Firth, Cornwall and Wales. An advocate of land-based watching, Kila believes in keeping her carbon footprint to a minimum. In her spare time Kila has a passion for sticks, balls, rabbits, sheep – basically anything that moves and looks as if it would be fun to chase. Good observational skills are a must and the secret to her success is eating well, sleeping lots and playing as much as possible.