The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station’s staff is composed of highly-qualified, award-winning science educators and administrative staff who bring with them professional experience, in-depth knowledge, and a broad range of skill sets.
Our instructors are highly passionate about marine biology and the study of coastal ecosystems. We love sharing this passion with curious children who have also discovered both the excitement and importance of marine life.
Charlene Mauro - Director
Charlene Mauro is the Director of the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station. Through Pensacola State College, she teaches Marine Biology and Oceanography to area dual enrollment students who in turn educate young children that attend programs on site. In addition to serving as the Director of the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, she serves as the first ever Science Specialist for the Santa Rosa County School District. Mrs. Mauro has successfully written grants to completely transform a vacant ranger station into a fully functional science field station. Since its official opening in August 2009, the station has been host to over 8,000 students and community members for programs concerning the local marine environments.
The award winning programs provide hands-on, feet-wet curriculum that educates and challenges participants of all ages how to be stewards of our marine environment. Knowing the immense positive impact that scientific research and teacher professional development has made on her career, Mrs. Mauro makes at least two professional presentations annually at local, state, and national levels. Past honors include National Marine Educator of the Year, Outstanding Florida High School Science Teacher of the Year, University of Florida Distinguished Educator, EPA’s Presidential Award, Gulf Guardian Award, Navarre area Citizen of the Year, University of West Florida Outstanding Young Alumnus, 2016 Johnette D. Bosarge Memorial Award, and a finalist for Florida Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Mauro is an active member in professional and community groups including the Gulf Coast Ocean Observation Systems (GCOOS), Florida Association of Science Supervisors, National Marine Educators Association, National Science Teachers Association, and Rotary. By example, Charlene encourages her students to find their passion, seek opportunities, make a difference, and always continue to learn.
Anne Laurenzi, Program Coordinator
Anne Laurenzi has been a Florida science teacher for over 10 years and was an Escambia County Teacher of the Year in 2018. A New York native, she has lived in Florida for much of her life. She has her Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a chemistry minor from Simmons University in Boston, MA and a Master of Science degree in Ecology from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, FL. Her graduate coursework and research focused on global climate change and long-term human environmental impact and took her to biodiversity hotspots such as the Andes mountains in Peru and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
In addition to traditional classroom teaching, she has educated students in marine science in the Bahamas and in rainforest ecology in Costa Rica eco-educational programs. With a passion for conserving the environment, she feels she can have the most positive impact on the world through education. She especially enjoys teaching students in natural settings "where their textbooks come alive." "There is simply no substitute for teaching students about the environment than out in nature," she says. Through environmental outreach and education, she desires to inspire others to make positive, ecologically-minded changes in their lives. Her mission is to create the next generation of environmental stewards and problem-solvers that will find solutions to our most pressing environmental problems.
Dr. Steve Shippee - Scientist, Instructor
From training dolphins for the military in Hawaii to teaching water quality testing techniques the Station's Aquatic Care Team in the Santa Rosa Sound, Dr. Shippee's teaching scope seemingly has no bounds! Dr. Shippee has been a Station staple for many years in the roles of scientist, educator, grant writer, organizer, and short and long-term planner. His favorite part about being a part of the Station is "the opportunity to share [his] knowledge and love of science with students." Dr. Shippee started working with marine life at the Gulfarium after getting his scuba certification at age sixteen. After that high school experience hooked him, he went on to earn his B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida and a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology from the University of Central Florida. In addition, Dr. Shippee has a resume decorated with scientific publications and real-world experiences that make him an incredible asset to our team.
The majority of his career and research has focused on dolphins, and while this work took him to places such as Hawaii, Alaska, and California, he is also very active in our local community organizations. He has studied our local Gulf of Mexico dolphin populations and, with his master grant writing skills, found grant funding to support marine mammal stranding activities in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia counties in Florida. As the Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator, he would organize and execute efforts to save stranded animals as well as perform necropsies on the animals who did not survive. He was especially involved in this process following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and served as the environmental representative on the Okaloosa County Deep Water Horizon RESTORE planning committee. Additionally, he is a member of the International Marine Animal Trainer's Association (IMATA), a Fire Commissioner for Florosa Fire Department, served as a judge during the 2019 Destin Fishing Rodeo, and runs a successful short-term rental property business.
As a recreational boater and fisherman, Dr. Shippee is passionate about the proper management and development of our communities in such a way that humans and wildlife can both thrive. What he wishes for visitors to the Station to leave with is "knowledge and respect for the scientific method, and the enthusiasm and tools for the enjoyment and conservation of natural habitats," values that are very evident in his teaching. Dr. Shippee lives locally and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, grown step-children, and his pets (dogs, cats, turtle, fish, and lizard).
"Kayak Dave" Barker - The ULTIMATE Kayak Guide
"Kayak Dave" Barker has been a Station supporter since its earliest days in 2009. After seeing Charlene Mauro's enthusiasm in getting the Station started, he offered to do what he could to help make it successful - and he has been doing that ever since! Recognizing the value of his own personal educational experiences, he especially loves "the skills and knowledge the students gain by being instructors" to elementary school students on their field trips to the NBMSS. Needless to say, Kayak Dave is integral in maintaining one of the most memorable activities at the Station - kayaking!
Kayak Dave returned to Navarre in 1997 after working in a sewing factory for 14 years to pursue all-things-kayak. As a kayak ecotour guide and business owner for 20+ years, an Associate Instructor for the Florida Master Naturalist Program, and water quality analyst/volunteer for Water Watch, Dave shares a wealth of knowledge of our local environment with our students and attendees of our programs. He is also a volunteer for Santa Rosa Marine Extension, Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, and Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary. Dave is also able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Learn more about Kayak Dave in this Northwest Florida news article !
Award-Winning Summer Camp Lead Teachers
Danna Chatwell, Grades 6-8
Outdoors and animals have always been a fascination to Danna Chatwell - studying every detaul from why it moves like it does to how it acquires its food. Danna graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Elementary Educastion 1-6, General Specialist Education K-12, and received a Master of Education in Science 1-9. Of all of the grades she has taught, 7th grade has been her favorite.
Danna came to Woodlawn Beach Middle School seven years ago and loves every minute teaching science. Going to work is not only a joy, but also her hobby. When the NBMSS opened its doors, another dream came true: to spend the summers working outdoors learning about the wonderful place we live and the wildlife that surrounds us. Not only does she enjoy working near the Gulf of Mexico, she LOVES surfing it! Sitting on the outside waiting for a wave and watching the wildlife pass underneath completes her love for science.
Emily Simon, Grades K-2
Emily Simon is a kindergarten teacher at West Navarre Primary School. She attended North Carolina Wesleyan College and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education with a certification in Education K-6. Emily is a member of the Florida Marine Science Educator Association and the Florida Geographic Alliance. She was Santa Rosa County Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was awarded West Navarre Primary's 2017 Teacher of the Year.
She was born in Milton and raised in Fort Walton Beach. Her parents and grandparents instilled the love of our local waters and the importance of taking care of it while enjoying it. Emily has been marriend to Rob Simon for over 20 years and they have three children, Bobby, Emma, and Elijah. In her spare time, Emily enjoys paddle boarding and hiking.
Ginni Rushing, Grades K-5
Ginni Rushing attended University of Florida where she received her Master's degree in Elementary Education (K-6) and specialized in Early Childhood and Psychology. She is a S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) third grade lead teacher at Holley-Navarre Intermediate School, where she was honored as 2020 Teacher of the Year.
As a 25-year vetern teacher, she creates an environment where creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking are key. Having grown up as the daughter of a Coast Guard Commander, she has always lived near the coast and has a passion for all marine life. In her spare time, she enjoys snorkeling around Navarre Beach reefs, kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing.
Shelley Mann, Grades K-5
During the school year, award-winning teacher and Santa Rosa County leader in education, Shelley Mann teaches 7th Grade Career & Technical Education at Woodlawn Beach Middle School. Shelley has been involved with the Station since its earliest days by going on field trips, overnight trips, teaching summer camp, and volunteering - she does it all!
Shelley fully embraces the mission of the NBMSS and loves "assisting the rock star students" in educating visitors about conserving our marine environment. With a daughter and granddaughter who live on Maui, marine debris is a topic that she is especially passionate about. Spending her summers teaching future generations about environmental awareness allows her to make a positive impact on this important issue. Shelley wants visitors to the Station to "fall in love with any tiny piece of the sea - the coast, the wildlife, the science - just one thing." By sharing in Shelley's enthusiasm for all-things-ocean, this would be easy to do!
Casey Fearon, FYCCN/Guy Harvey Fishing Camp
When he's not giving kids unforgettable fishing experiences during the summer or entertaining local audiences with his mad bass guitar-playing skills, science teacher extraordinaire, Casey Fearon, can be found wowing his 8th graders in his Gulf Breeze Middle School classroom. As Santa Rosa County's 2008 Rookie of the Year, Casey's passion and enthusiasm for science education has been evident from the start of his career. As the husband of NBMSS Director, Charlene Mauro, Casey has been an integral part of the Station even before it opened!
Camping, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving have always been part of Casey's life. These activities, as well as a natural curiosity about how the world works, fostered in him a love of science and appreciation for the environment at an early age. What he loves most about the NBMSS is "seeing the 'light bulb moments' of kids as they gain understanding and a sense of stewardship for our environment." He also "enjoy[s] seeing the shouts of excitement when students see plankton under the microscope as they realize how much life is all around us in the Gulf."
Casey is passionate about scientific literacy and believes that everyone should spend time outdoors learning about every ecosystem they can. he says "I hope people will understand how truly connected and interwoven all the ecosystems of our planet are. Once you get a grasp on that, you realize that EVERYTHING matters."
Award-Winning Summer Camp Staff
Sam is an incredible example of the transformation from student to teacher, getting his start as a student in Mrs. Mauro's dual enrollement marine biology course in 2015 and since then becoming a volunteer superstar: racking in hundreds of volunteer hours doing outreach programs, summer camps, festivals, tours, and his favorite, Autism OdysSea. Throughout these events, Sam is a fabulous teacher and role model for students, sharing his appreciation and passion fore the ocean as he reaches multiple ages from kids to adults alike. In his role as Outreach Coordinator, Sam led private tours, worked with the Discovery Depot, and could be found at most community programs.
Sam graduated from Navarre High School in 2017, while simultaneously earning his Associate of Arts degree. He is currently attending the University of West Florida studying general biology with a minor is Spanish. He is on track to attand PA school to become a physician's assistant. A self-taught Spanish (and current Portuguese) student, Sam enjoys learning about European and Latin American cultures and aspires to be an educator upon retirement. He is very driven in his educational pursuits, but recognizes that some of his most treasured learning experiences have been informal. "In my time at the Station, I have learned a lot of life skills not taught in schools such as responsibility, interpersonal skills, and public speaking . Although, the most important thing I've gained from the Station was the rediscovery of my childhood curiosity, and for that I am forever grateful."
After taking the dual enrollment marine science class her senior year of high school in 2015, Lilly has worked as a summer camp instructor ever since. She is currently a senior at Florida Southern College majoring in business administration with a minor in biology and communication.
Lilly not only is an amazing camp instructor for our young visitors, she is a mentor for our current high school students. Her enthusiams is contagious - and is never in short supply! She says that "the Station has been, and probably always will be, my favorite job I've ever had. Working at the Station provided me with many opportunities, such as getting the scholarship to go to school. The Station has allowed me to continuously keep learning about something I'm passionate about, and to pass that knowledge on to others."
The NBMSS has played a role in Tucker's life for many years. As a kid, he attended numerous summer camps at the Station and developed a passion for the ocean and marine life. In 2015, when he was a junior at Navarre High School, Tucker had the opportunity to attend classes at the Station. He credits that experience with ignitiging his desire to become a marine biologist and is currently enrolled in the University of West Florida's marine biology program.
He is most passionate about sustainable fishing, conserving and maintaining fish populations, as they play a crucial role in the food chain. In addition to being a mentor for current high school students at the Station, he teaches the Guy Harvey Fishing Camp during the summer. Working at the Station allows him to share his love of fishing and the outdoors with others. He wants visitors to the Station to "recognize how important and fragile our coastal environments are and that we need to preserve and maintain them for the future."
In 2014, when Zak's high school guidance counselor asked him if he was still interested in the NBMSS marine science course, he said, 'yes, who wouldn't want to spend two hours of the school day at the beach?!' What he didn't know, was how much that decision would change his life. All these years later, Zak is still involved with the program because he cares about the program's mission and wants to contribute to its growth. He also wants to give back to a program that has given him so much. He explains that through his involvement at the Station, "I gained a voice. I gained the ability to speak confidently and communicate in an intelligent way. I also gained great networking opportunities."
In addition to kayaking, Zak loves teaching summer camps. "The gratification of teaching someone's child for a week and seeing them come back everyday excited to learn again" allowed Zak to discover his love of teaching which, ultimately, set him on his current career path. Zak is also a mentor for high school students at the Station. He uses these educational settings and outreach events to express to others that "every action they perform has a reaction in the environment around them. Not all positive, not all negative, but their education will hopefully help to mitigate the negative." After high school, Zak served in the Army where he received two commendation medals and was a leader, educating new scouts in their duties and responsibilities. He is currently a student at Pensacola State College and will be pursuing a degree in education at the University of West Florida.
After getting a preview of what the NBMSS was all about from her brother's participation in the program, Rachel decided to follow in his footesteps and became a marine science student in 2015 while attending Navarre High School. It has been a second home to her ever since. "I have so many great memories from the classroom my senior year to summer camps. I have some of my favorite memories here at NBMSS," she says. Rachel is an important part of our team, acting as a mentor to our current high school students and instructing summer camps. She credits the inspiration she has received from Mrs. Mauro's passion and the teaching and leadership experiences she has had at the Station with creating her desire to pursue a career in elementary education. She is currently a senior at Florida State University majoring in Interdisciplinary Social Science with a minor in Education.
Rachel is a Navarre native and, having lived her whole life on the water, has always been interested in the ocean environment. She considers the ocean her "happy place" and is passionate about understanding the impact we have on it and issues surrounding marine conservation. "When visitors come to the NBMSS, I want them to be able to walk away having a new-found appreciation for our local environment. With our younger visitors, I want them to be excited about what they have learned and go home and tell others," she says.
It was unforgettable ocean experiences as a child that turned into a lifelong pursuit of marine biology as a career for Kaiti Whitmire. Kaiti started as a dual-enrollment high school student at the Station in 2011, went on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology from the University of West Florida in 2016, and is now an invaluable volunteer and summer camp instructor. Teaching is Kaiti's favorite activity at the Station. Inspired by her own teacher, Mrs. Mauro, she realized the powerful impact that education can have on visitors to the Station. She says, "snowbirds, campers, parents - all of them come out because they want to learn, they're curious. The news can be so gloomy when it comes to our planet, but seeing the active curiosity of different generations, their eagerness to learn and do better by the environment - that's truly awe-inspiring. There's nothing like it." She goes on to say that "my goal is to reach as many people through my teaching as possible and, together, help the environment. I'm passionate about teaching because, at the end of the day, I'm just one person. There's only so much trash I can pick up, so many things I can recycle, and I only have one vote in elections."
Kaiti is truly leader in environmental education and is passionate about empowering others with respect to ocean advocacy and stewardship. She explains "we only get one ocean ... it's all one ocean and one world. I want [visitors] to know that they matter in our fight for ocean - especially the kids. They think they're too young to make a difference, but that isn't true. I taught a group of kids about how holes on the beach trap turtles and, on a beach walk later that day, those kids spent 20 minutes filling in a hole together becasue they knew they could change that one thing, even if they couldn't change others. Maybe one family starting to recycle is just a drop in a massive bucket labeled climate change, but it's one more drop than we had before. We're fighting an uphill battle - yes - but, the important thing is that we are fighting and, every time some leaves our Station, I want them to know there is hope as long as we keep fighting."
Emily Bagley, Outreach Coordinator
It was during Emily's senior year at Navarre High School that the NBMSS opened. In fact, she and some of her fellow classmates helped make it happen by petitioning for the repurposing of the old ranger station in Navarre Beach Marine Park to be made into a classroom by the sea at a Board of County Commisioners meeting - and look what it has become over 10 years later! Emily has been involved with the Station ever since, starting out volunteering, then working summer camps, and now as the Outreach Coordinator. She says "I love the whole vibe of the place. You are instantly welcomed - all the students, staff, and volunteers are beaming with friendly attitudes. They are so keen to share everything that they have learned with you. It's one of those places that makes you feel comfortable no matter your level of science studies. The power of a love for a shared interest is the best feeling in the whole world."
Emily loves sharing the marine science knowledge she has gained through her time at the NBMSS with others. She is passionate about helping people understand, rather than fear, the ocean. She loves the look on their faces when nervousness changes to wonder as she teaches them something new or they interact with a "scary" organism for the first time. "You learn so much and then want to share what you have learned, and to me that is the best thing you can teach," she says. She also educates people on practical things they can do to make a difference. She explains that visitors often ask what they can do to help, and "I respond by telling [them] to take more than what they brought to the beach. Take all the trash from the things you brought to the beach and pick up the extra trash." These are simple actions that Emily also teaches her two young children. It's a great example of how small habits can have a huge collective impact our marine environment.
Ronda Smith, Gift Shop Manager
Ronda has been volunteering as the Station's gift shop manager since 2011. She loves to see the visitng students get excited about the ocean - and shopping in the gift shop! She also loves to see the NBMSS high school students grow into amazing teachers over the course of a year.
Ronda came to Navarre in 2008 from Okinawa, Japan after her husband, Scott, retired from the Air Force. She is also retired Air Force and has been stationed all around the world. She and Scott have a blended family of eight kids (six are married) and seven grandkids that always make them smile. The youngest three, Kaiti, Tim, and Kim, graduated from Navarre High School. Kaiti and Tim both took the Station classes and worked summer camps. Kaiti went on to UWF for a degree in marine biology, Tim is studying biology at UWF, and Kim is attending FSU.
When Ronda's not crocheting jellyfish, stamping tile coasters, or making sea life jewelry for the gift shop, she likes to readm scrapbook, make cards, sew, quilt, and make just about any crafty thing you can imagine! We appreciate the creativity, dedication, and warm personality that Ronda brings to the Station. We are lucky to have her!