The dedicated staff of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center come from a variety of backgrounds, educational histories, and experiences. But they all have one thing in common: a passion for wildlife conservation, research, rehabilitation and education.
Terry Norton, DVM, Diplomate ACZM
Director and Veterinarian
Terry Norton, DVM, Diplomate ACZM is the Director and Veterinarian for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. He earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 1986 and completed a residency in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at the University of Florida in 1989. He became a Diplomate in the American College of Zoological Medicine in 1992. He has provided veterinary care for White Oak Conservation Center, Riverbanks Zoo, North Carolina State Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s St. Catherines Island Wildlife Survival Center. He developed and implemented the Georgia Wildlife Health Program, which has evaluated the health of many state and federally listed species including sea turtles, alligator snapping turtles, diamondback terrapins, Barbour’s map turtles, gopher tortoises, box turtles, eastern indigo snakes, eastern diamondback and canebrake rattlesnakes, eastern king snakes, American alligators, American oystercatchers, brown pelicans and marine mammals. Currently, he provides veterinary care for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the Turtle Survival Alliance’s Turtle Survival Center and St. Catherines Island Foundation programs. He is the Director and Founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. He has published numerous articles for referred journals and book chapters. He is Adjunct Professor at the University of Georgia, University of Florida, North Carolina State University, and Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Norton is the Vice President of the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network. He is a graduate of the 2009 Institute of Georgia Environmental Leadership (IGEL) program. He was the Chair of the Conservation Planning Committee for Jekyll Island. Dr. Norton has worked around the world on several projects including Indonesia for the Bali mynah reintroduction project, Madagascar for lemur health assessments, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for Flamingo health related work, Panama for Capuchin monkey and sea turtle health assessments, several Caribbean countries for avian and sea turtle health related work, and most recently Costa Rica for sea turtle and other wildlife conservation efforts.
AmeriCorp & Volunteer Manager
The GSTC Reservations Team
Our team is here to help with all your school and group reservation needs! If you have trouble reaching us by phone, please email us – we are delighted to assist you.
Breanna Ondich graduated from the University of Tampa with a B.Sc. in Marine Science-Biology and a minor in Environmental Science in 2010. While living in Florida, she was employed as a Divemaster at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa and volunteered at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for two years. Her first introduction to marine biology in the field was in the British Virgin Islands studying the behavior of foureye butterfly fish (Chaetodon capistratus). As an avid traveler, she has lived in Australia, studied tropical conservation biology in Costa Rica, and has conducted coral reef research at the Roatan Institute of Marine Science, Honduras. In March 2011, she moved to Georgia and began working with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) as a Conservation Research AmeriCorps Member, studying nesting ecology of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). In her time at the GSTC, she has had the privilege of working with the GSTC’s international collaborators while traveling to St. Kitts and Nevis to tag leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and working as a research field assistant for three field seasons in Costa Rica tagging olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and pacific green (Chelonia mydas agassizii) turtles. Wildlife ecology and education, SCUBA diving, computer science, traveling, working with animals, and digital photography are among her most integral personal and professional interests. In the future, she hopes to pursue graduate school, as well as become a SCUBA instructor. As Research Specialist on Jekyll Island, her primary responsibilities include sea turtle nesting beach management and maintaining field-based education programs.
Michelle came to us from Chattanooga, Tennessee where she earned her B.S. at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. During her four years of studies, she participated in research on the Tennessee River Gorge assessing population surveys of fresh water turtles. Through college and beyond she worked at the Tennessee Aquarium for seven years. She started out as an Educator for the Aquarium, and then became the water quality lab technician. While in school, Michelle completed a herpetology internship and an aquarist internship. After graduation, Michelle became an Aquarist, then an Aquarist II. Her background is in fresh and marine teleostei (fish) with concentrations in elasmobranches (sharks/rays) and chelonian (turtle) husbandry along with life support system operation and water quality monitoring. She is currently working toward her veterinarian technician’s license. At the Georgia Sea Turtle Center Michelle is responsible for the administrative and management duties of the veterinary staff and overseeing the day to day operation of the hospital and pavilion.
Stephanie grew up in The San Francisco Bay Area. She began her work in veterinary medicine in the fall of 2000, working as a veterinary assistant at a small animal emergency practice. It was at Foothill College in Los Altos, CA where she earned her degree in veterinary technology and became a registered veterinary technician in spring of 2006. Shortly thereafter, she branched out into small animal specialty medicine working as an ICU and internal medicine technician. She began working with wildlife in 2009 at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA working to rehabilitate harbor seals, elephant seals, and sea lions. In October of 2010, she had the opportunity to volunteer for a sea turtle nesting program in Costa Rica with the organization Pretoma. This experience became a pivotal time for Stephanie. This opportunity to be directly involved with the conservation of sea turtles was the catalyst for a new branch in her veterinary career. In the fall of 2013, Stephanie moved from The San Francisco Bay Area to Southwest Florida to gain experience working with wildlife and more specifically sea turtles. She began volunteering as a veterinary technician in the veterinary hospital at The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel Florida. It is here where she gained much of her experience working with critically injured sea turtles in addition to many species of birds. In the winter of 2015, she completed an internship with the Aquatic Health Department at New England Aquarium in Boston, Ma where she expanded on her work with sea turtles as well as gained experience with many other aquatic species.
Rehabilitation Technician II
Rachel Sommer grew up in Plant City, FL. Her love for the ocean and its creatures began at a very young age. It was this love that led her to attend Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers Beach, FL where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science with minors in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies. It was during a college field trip to the Florida Keys where she had hands on experience rehabilitating a spotted dolphin named Moonshine that she knew rescue and rehabilitation was her calling. After college she began volunteering with local organizations, such as Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Program and the Sea Turtle and Marine Mammal departments at Clearwater Marine Aquarium to gain some experience in this demanding field. During this time she also had a field-related job with Mote as a fisheries technician.
Following the year long position with Mote she became a member of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center family in 2010 as an AmeriCorps Night Patrol Member, where she witnessed her first nesting loggerhead female and her first “boil.” After that summer she remained at the GSTC as a Husbandry Member, learning rehabilitation procedures. She completed her AmeriCorps service in the summer of 2012 as a Research member working on the beach during night patrols tagging turtles and dawn patrols monitoring and managing nests. It was in September of 2012 that she joined our Vet staff team as a Rehabilitation Technician I. Her responsibilities include assisting with treatments and running blood samples, as well as maintaining tank systems in the pavilion, preparing diets, and helping with all other aspects of animal husbandry. Currently Rachel is pursuing a degree in Veterinary Technology through the distance learning program at St. Petersburg College in FL.
Rehabilitation Technician I
I grew up in the Midwest, living in South Dakota and Iowa for most of my life, but fell in love with the ocean during my family’s many travels as a child. This led me to attending the University of New England in Maine, where I graduated with a B.S. in Marine Science (Marine Biology concentration) in 2014. At UNE I had the awesome opportunity to work at the Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation (MARC) program for two years. There I worked primarily with seals, but did get some sea turtles experience as well. I loved every minute of my time there and realized that I wanted to work in marine animal rehab and stranding.
After graduating, I moved up and down the East Coast gaining more experience in the field. I completed an internship with Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program, did a fellowship with Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Program, and completed an internship with IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue on Cape Cod, MA. During my time on Cape Cod I also had the chance to volunteer at the National Marine Life Center. All of those were fantastic experiences and strengthened my passion for working in this field. I then became an AmeriCorps husbandry member here at the GSTC in September 2015 and was recently hired on as staff. My responsibilities include maintaining the tanks and life support systems, assisting with treatments, and helping with all other aspects of animal husbandry.
Rehabilitation Technician I
Jamie was born and raised in Holland, MI. Her fascination with animals started in 5th grade when she went on a school field trip to an aquarium and was able to touch a beluga whale. After that moment, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life. Jamie graduated from Michigan State University with a BS in Zoology with concentrations in marine biology and zoo and aquarium science in 2013. During college, she gained valuable hands on experience as a lead seasonal zookeeper at John Ball Zoo working with their stingrays and sharks. However, it wasn’t until her animal rehabilitation internship at Mote Marine Laboratory when she realized her true calling. After graduation, Jamie spent 3 years working at the Indianapolis Zoo as an Aquarist/Marine Mammal Trainer and at FACE Low Cost Animal Clinic as a Veterinary Assistant. Her primary focus is in elasmobranch, penguin, and marine mammal husbandry along with water quality and life support system operations. In December of 2016, Jamie joined our vet staff as a Rehabilitation Technician. Her responsibilities include maintaining all tanks in the pavilion, preparing diets, and assisting with all aspects of animal husbandry.
Nicki grew up in the deserts of the Southwest but has called Georgia her home since 2002. She graduated from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources with a B.SF.R. in Wildlife Management and a Master of Natural Resources in Environmental Education. Because of her passion for connecting people with nature, she has pursued additional training as a Certified Interpretive Guide and a Certified Environmental Educator. In the past, she’s worked in Alaska, and previous jobs have allowed her to travel across the US and Central America. As an Education Associate, she is responsible for organizing public outreach opportunities, maintaining the gallery and pavilion, and overseeing beach walks. On the weekends you can find her cheering on the Georgia Bulldawgs, kayaking, birding, walking her dog Tallulah, or enjoying a good book in a hammock.