Faculty & Staff

Director of Research & Education

Mithriel MacKay, PhD

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University (Galveston and College Station) and Texas A&M University Corpus Christi

Master of Marine Resources Management from Texas A&M University (Galveston and College Station) 

Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science – Medical Technology from Simmons College, Boston and Lynn Hospital School of Medical Technology

Research Area: behavioral ecology of marine mammals with a strong evolutionary biology influence. Particular interests include connecting intra and inter species behaviors with anatomical and physiological adaptations in order to understand and predict  ecological shifts in marine environments being impacted by anthropogenic activities and accelerated climate change.

Focal Research: Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeanglie) and Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Ecology in the Greater Antilles of the Caribbean Sea; Marine Mammal Occurrence Patterns in the Greater Antilles; Comparative Coastal Ecology Through Microscopic Analysis of Sand Sampling

Educational Expertise: teaching a broad spectrum of marine biology, ecology, resources management, anatomy and physiology, clinical laboratory science, behavioral ecology, and marine mitigation.

Media and Outreach: Scientist featured in National Geographic, OceanX, BBC Natural History productions, The Nature of Things on CBC Canada, NOVA PBS, and FlyingFish Exhibits.

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center was founded by Dr. MacKay as a means for creating opportunities for people to experience marine conservation.


Nicole Daigneault

Faculty Advisor for Wildlife & Fisheries Science

Education: Texas A&M University

Residence: Tampa, FL


I am the proudest member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 2005! I graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, specializing in vertebrate Zoology.


I have traveled to South Africa to study nature-based tourism, done fieldwork in Mississippi working with small herps, small mammals, and performing vegetation sampling, and been a chimpanzee caretaker at a sanctuary in San Antonio, Texas. I was also a Veterinary Technician for seven years – working with both small and large animals, as well as some exotics. More recently, I was a research associate for a company that provides marine mammal and protected species observers for marine construction, oil, and seismic companies. Currently, I am a GIS technician, as well as an active member on the Board of Directors for MCERC.


Growing up – it was hard for me to decide between herpetology and marine biology. Now I get to be involved in both! I have enjoyed working in many different areas in my field and like challenging myself and learning new skills.

Holly Kelchner

Degree: Master of Science, Renewable Natural Resources

Education: Louisiana State University

Residence: Michigan, USA

Citizenship: USA

Language: English


I received my Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, AK in May 2017. I later received my Master of Science in Renewable Natural Resources with a minor in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences from Louisiana State University in May 2020. During my time at LSU, I spent a summer in Tofo, Mozambique, where I studied primary productivity and was the first to study the presence of a harmful biotoxin, domoic acid.

Teaching Experience:

During my final semester of undergraduate studies, I assisted in teaching a marine biology class at a local high school, where we articulated two juvenile killer whale skeletons, call the DEMBONES project. During graduate school, I was a graduate teaching assistant for various undergraduate courses at LSU, such as Intro to Natural Resource Conservation, Limnology, and a field-intensive course with topics in marine and coastal ecology. While living in Mozambique, I gave lectures to volunteers and university students on plankton ecology, marine debris, and marine megafauna conservation.

Research Interest:

I have a wide background of research interests. While living in Alaska, I became involved with many different opportunities, including working with crustaceans, seaweed mariculture, and marine mammals. I also designed an independent study course to study marine debris in Puerto Rico with MCERC, which I later continued in Juneau, AK. While in graduate school, I studied plankton ecology and harmful algal blooms. My work primarily focused on Pseudo-nitzschia spp. and domoic acid in Mozambique. I currently work for the University of Michigan, with the NOAA-Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory with the Harmful Algal Bloom team – monitoring the annual summer blooms of Microcystis and subsequent biotoxin production on Lake Erie.


My city of origin is the Twin cities of Minnesota, however, I grew up with frequent visits to the east coast and the Great Lakes. I grew up camping every summer and loved to kayak with my family often, which further developed my appreciation for the environment. In my free time, I love to rock climb, kayak, bike, hike, and SCUBA dive. In the future, I hope to learn how to sail and surf. Eventually my goal is to sail around the world, learning about new cultures, languages, healthy food, and to spread my love for the oceans in any way that I can!

Heidi Malizia

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology

Education: University of Missouri

Residence: Texas, USA

Citizenship: USA

Language: English


I attended the University of Missouri with a bachelor degree in biology, and a minor in captive wildlife management. I participated in a study abroad program in Queensland, Australia after my second year at U of M, where I developed and conducted three experiments involving the marine ecology along Australia’s east coast. After my study abroad, I was a fish and invertebrate intern at the aquarium in the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska where I enjoyed working with sharks and rays. Following graduation from university, I was a research assistant on the Bosphorus Dolphin Project in Istanbul, Turkey where I participated in surveys from land and boat platforms aimed at determining the impact of marine vessels in the Istanbul Strait on three cetacean species.

Research Interest:

My interests focus on population abundance and behavioral ecology of protected marine species in the wild, specifically cetaceans, with an aim at conservation. My background includes experience in land, vessel, and aerial based cetacean surveys. I also enjoy conducting educational outreach with the public to spark interested in conservation of our oceans.


Growing up in Missouri, it was strange for me to say I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grow up. I am happy that I never gave up on that dream. Throughout college and in the years since, I have had many amazing opportunities to study marine species in captive and natural environments all over the world, which has fueled my passion even further! I love being outdoors, especially in warm weather! I can spend hours on the beach snorkeling and SCUBA diving or days camping and hiking in the mountains.

Heidi C. Pearson

Degree: PhD, Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences

Education: Texas A&M University

Residence: Alaska, USA

Citizenship: USA

Language: English 


I received my Ph.D. in Wildife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University, and my B.S. from Duke University in Biological Anthropology and Anatomy and Biology.

Research Interest:

I have been studying marine mammals for 15 years. My major research interests lie in applying behavioral ecological theory towards: 1) understanding the evolution of social, mating, and maternal strategies in marine mammals; 2) examining social convergence between cetaceans and primates; and 3) species conservation. My study species have included dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, sea otters, lemurs, and colobus monkeys. My current research is focused on analyzing the effects of climate change and mussel farming on dusky dolphins in New Zealand, exploring potential evolutionary pathways towards social convergence between bottlenose dolphins and chimpanzees, and examining maternal strategies of humpback whales on the Alaskan feeding grounds.

Teaching Interests:

Over the past 10 years, I have taught courses in biology, marine biology, ecology, and environmental studies at Drake University, Northeastern University, Texas A&M University, and Texas A&M University at Galveston. I am currently a Lecturer at Stony Brook University in New York. I particularly enjoy teaching courses in marine vertebrate biology and mentoring undergraduate students on independent study projects.

Kerri Seger, PhD

Adjunct Faculty

Education: UC San Diego, Ohio State University

Education & Experience:

Kerri graduated from Ohio State University in 2007 with a combined degree in zoology, ecology, and music education. Her honors thesis quantified changes in the singing structure of Northern Cardinals and American Robins in different levels of anthropogenic noise environments. After founding a music education non-profit in Haiti, she began her PhD at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009.

For her Ph.D. in oceanography (specialty in bioacoustics), she mixed her passion of music and science. In Laguna San Ignacio she studied the three different soundscapes in a grey whale breeding lagoon. In Cabo San Lucas, she developed a way to measure the relative number of humpback whales in an area based on how loudly they were singing. During this time she formed the Humpback Whale Global Social Call Catalogue Working Group to document how humpback whales of all ages and both sexes communicate using calls beyond their famous songs.

As a post-doc at the University of New Hampshire, Kerri used a decade of passive acoustic data from the Bering and Chukchi Seas to pinpoint environmental factors that explained distributions of odontocete species. Her work documented three temperate dolphin species that have now expanded their habitats northward, aligned with raised sea surface temperatures the occurrence of the Bering Sea Cold Pool – both factors that are affected by climate change. Collaborations included learning new detection/classification algorithms for automatic data analysis.

As a Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Seger worked in Colombia to record the soundscape of a humpback whale Stock G breeding ground and taught at the Universidad Pontificia Javeriana.

With Applied Ocean Sciences, she is the lead bioacoustician working on projects such as modeling noise generated from pile driving, seismic arrays, and other anthropogenic sources and estimating their impacts on marine animals. The soundscape project in Colombia continues with the help of several students.

Joy Reidenberg, PhD

Adjunct Faculty

Mount Sinai Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University

Residence: New York, USA

Citizenship: USA


Joy recieved a B.A. in Animal Anatomy and Physiology from Cornell University, College of Arts and Sciences in 1983. She continued to pursue her doctorate at Mount Sinai Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and is a Master of Philosophy as well as Doctor of Anatomy.


Teaching medical school anatomy, histology, radiology, embryology.

Research Interests:

Comparative anatomy of animal adaptations to environmental extremes, particularly marine mammals (whales, dolphins), including underwater sound production and diving.

Stay up-to-date by following MCERC on social media:

Copyright and photo credit information

Copyright and photo credit information All images posted to the MCERC website are copyright protected. Images are the property of MCERC or the original photographer who has granted MCERC expressed permission in writing for use of their images. Photographs shall not be reproduced or shared for any purpose unless the owner of the images has given permission in writing.