About

Our Story

Inspiring aquariums connect people to nature in meaningful ways.

At Aquamoon we believe many people go through their days immersed in stress and disconnected from nature. Inspiring aquariums offer a source of relaxation and imagination. They represent a window to connect with nature, escape from reality, and a source of education.

Potential clients who seek an aquarium often do not have the time, knowledge, or desire to overcome the challenges of maintaining a thriving aquarium. Many times, the amount of research and physical labor needed to maintain an aquarium comes as a surprise and results in the aquarium experience being full of headaches, stress, and failures.

Aquamoon provides a solution to those seeking professional aquarium services. Our staff is passionate, dedicated, creative, and has the expertise to create a thriving slice of nature that allows the client to unimpededly enjoy the benefits of an inspiring aquarium.

Aquamoon is a diverse team each with a unique background and a story to tell. We draw upon our eclectic backgrounds and expertise to create and maintain beautiful, balanced aquatic environments. While our backgrounds vary, a shared passion for our work — natural art and aquatic life — allows us to operate as a team with care, skill, and integrity to meet the high standards of large commercial retailers, public institutions, and private residential clients.

Leadership

Bob Van Valkenburg

Principal

Bob Van Valkenburg

Principal

"What we can accomplish together is greater than what we can do individually. Aquamoon is a collaborative team of hardworking and talented individuals committed to continuous improvement and ready to transform the aquarium care industry."

One of the founding members of Aquamoon, Bob has a deep understanding and appreciation for natural systems. Bob is a well-respected husbandry expert with a proven track record of leading teams of animal keepers, veterinarians, facility operators and designers to achieve success, all with the business acumen required to keep projects on time and within budget.

After completing a degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois, Bob began working at the world-renowned John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. During his 17-year tenure there, he worked in the Animal Health Department, most recently as the Director of Animal Health. Bob created and implemented an animal information management system (AIMS) to manage the care of 32,500 animals, designed preventive care systems, and oversaw the staff, equipment and operations of the 5,600-square-foot animal hospital.

Bob maintains a high standard of excellence, and his work strives to improve the relationship between the viewer and nature.

As a complement to his passion for living systems, Bob has trained in the techniques of the ancient Japanese art of bonsai. The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer, and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower. Bob’s exploration of the aesthetics of nature through bonsai has informed his study of the effects of the built environment on health, wellness and productivity.

Jim Torelli

Principal & Director of Life Support Operations

Jim Torelli

Principal & Director of Life Support Operations

"What I’ve enjoyed most about working in the aquarium industry are the relationships I’ve developed over the years. The aquarium profession is filled with wonderful and passionate people who care deeply about their work, and I love to share ideas with — and learn from — all of my colleagues."

Jim is a founding member of Aquamoon and a well-known leader in the field of aquatic plumbing and life support systems with more than 20 years of experience in commercial, industrial, and residential sectors. He is a licensed plumber who also holds a State of Illinois RPZ Backflow Prevention License, and is a PADI Rescue Certified Diver.

Having operated life support systems for decades, Jim brings an end-user focus to his projects. Jim’s technical mastery and reputation for quality and integrity have led to opportunities to work on a variety of unique and remarkable projects. He has worked with Animal Interaction Design Group and Living Exhibits as a design and installation consultant, and he currently works on staff at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago as the Director of Base Building and Life Support. In this role, Jim is a key member of exhibit design, construction, and maintenance teams.

Jim’s comprehensive skills and knowledge span all aspects of construction and design. In fact, his recent restoration of an 1800s mansion on Chicago’s South Side highlights his skills with plumbing and electrical systems as well as with a multitude of historically sensitive aspects of design. Jim is committed to continued education and has completed coursework at the Building Owners and Management Association.

You can often catch Jim in the act of appreciating and enjoying nature as he makes his daily commute on Lake Michigan via his portable kayak.

Brian Gauger

Director of Animal Care

Brian Gauger

Director of Animal Care

"It’s rewarding to work with a team of individuals who are consistently striving for excellence. Our aquarists are committed to learning from our experiences every day and continuously improving our service program."

With a passion for scientific thought and environmental conservation, Brian Gauger has dedicated his career to understanding and applying biological processes. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Illinois, Brian completed internships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Sanctuaries division of NOAA.

Brian furthered his education at the University of San Diego, earning a Master of Science degree with a focus on marine aquaculture. Brian continued his work as a research assistant with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego, where he helped establish novel culture techniques on commercially significant fish species, explored the use of alternative proteins in broodstock diets, and co-authored peer-reviewed scientific literature.

His diverse experiences in the field, laboratory, and classroom have contributed to Brian’s recognized expertise in animal care. As Director of Animal Care for Aquamoon, he oversees the training, support, and quality assurance of our animal care programs across the country.

Brian’s belief in meticulous attention to detail and a holistic approach to re-creating environments helps guide Aquamoon’s world-class professional standards. He ensures that Aquamoon’s professionalism and expertise exceed client expectations by nurturing an atmosphere of continuing education, diverse experiences, and unparalleled support.

In his downtime, Brian enjoys spending time with his family and escaping the city to go hiking, diving, and practice landscape photography.

Alyssa Forward

Dangerous Animal Safety Officer

Alyssa Forward

Dangerous Animal Safety Officer

Alyssa has always had a passion for animals. While earning her B.S. in Biology from the University of West Georgia, she worked on stream surveys with the University and volunteered at the Georgia Aquarium. These early experiences solidified her desire to pursue a career in animal care.

After graduation Alyssa was hired by Georgia Aquarium where she worked in the Aquarium’s Acquisitions and Quarantine Department as well as the Ocean Voyager gallery caring for fish, reptiles, invertebrates and elasmobranchs. She has spent the last several years in Florida working at Bass Pro Shops and is Aquamoon’s lead keeper for American alligators and wild hogs.

In her spare time Alyssa enjoys being outside, traveling as much as possible, and visiting with family and friends.

Olivia Gaiser

Dive Safety Officer

Olivia Gaiser

Dive Safety Officer

With a love of aquatic life and a passion for SCUBA diving it only made sense for Olivia to pursue a career as an aquarist. And after earning her bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Northern Iowa, Olivia immediately joined the Aquamoon team. During her years at UNI she completed internships at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island as well as the local nature center. She also worked at a SCUBA shop which solidified her love for diving.

In her spare time, you can find Olivia at the local dive shop working towards getting her SCUBA instructor certification.

Dennis Gorman

Regional Manager - Chicago

Dennis Gorman

Regional Manager - Chicago

Dennis has deep roots in Chicago. He grew up in its south suburbs and frequently visited the city’s zoos and aquarium. His passion for the sciences led him north to Michigan’s untamed upper peninsula where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from Northern Michigan University. A love for animals remained after graduation, so Dennis worked in the Toxicology Department for the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for six years prior to joining Aquamoon.

When he’s not taking care of aquatic animals, Dennis enjoys cheering on his favorite local baseball team (hint: it’s not the southsiders!) and spending time in his picturesque Chicago-style bungalow with his wife, their two children and three dogs.

Ryan Pratt

Regional Manager - South

Ryan Pratt

Regional Manager - South

Ryan has always been an animal lover. Growing up in central Illinois surrounded by rural landscape, Ryan was raised with a strong appreciation for nature. He left home to study business at Illinois State University, but made a hobby out of caring for aquariums. While putting his degree to work in a career in management, Ryan’s true passion remained with animals, specifically aquatic species. The strong pull to care for animals brought him to Aquamoon, where he eventually took the leap into a full-time aquarist position.

Ryan feels extremely lucky to be in a field he loves, following his passion on a daily basis.

Keith Wernert

Regional Manager - East

Keith Wernert

Regional Manager - East

Keith has worked all over the United States, most extensively in Wisconsin, Texas, and Mississippi, studying animals, insects, and fish in their native habitat as well as in the lab utilizing Good Laboratory Practices (GLP). Through his travels and with his degree in Environmental Policy and Analysis from Bowling Green State University, Keith has gained a wide variety of knowledge in both science and art, which he is able to apply in his role at Aquamoon.

Keith enjoys trivia in all forms, and he brings that knowledge, and an enduring curiosity to learn more, with him whenever he goes.

Aquarists and Supervisors

Sarah Fabbricotti

Field Supervisor - Minnesota

Sarah Fabbricotti

Field Supervisor - Minnesota

Originally from Massachusetts, Sarah grew up spending most of her summers at the beaches along the east coast and has always had a fascination with marine life. After completing her bachelor’s degree in biology at Boston University, Sarah pursued a career in animal care that brought her to Minnesota where she has worked with a variety of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Wanting to further develop her career and put her diving experience to good use, she joined the Aquamoon team.

When she’s not working, Sarah enjoys taking care of the reptiles in her own home as well as knitting and crocheting.

Eric Goebel

Field Supervisor - Chicago

Eric Goebel

Field Supervisor - Chicago

Eric grew up on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin. He’s spent his life in the city, small towns, and everywhere in between, all the while carrying his passion for learning about the natural world. He pursued his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at U.W.-Platteville and gained fundamental experience in matters of field ecology, animal husbandry, education, and outreach. While attending, Eric split his time between field/lab research in stream ecology and working at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, IA. Eric’s time spent cultivating his education and skills in Wisconsin brought him to work in the environmental service & public health industry, where he worked around the Midwest for years to ensure the health & safety of our local waters as well as to communicate the importance of their management to the public. Eric has since returned to focus on the inspirational & educational tools aquariums offer us all by joining the team at Aquamoon. You’ll find Eric devoting much of his free time to his interests in music, exercise, botany, and being outdoors.

Matt Harris

Matt Harris

Coral Lead and Aquatic Projects

Matt Harris

Coral Lead and Aquatic Projects

Matt became fascinated with the oceans by watching Jacques Cousteau documentaries as a child and began caring for aquatic life before he was 10 years old. His involvement in the hobby grew over the years and eventually led him to pursue a career as an aquarium professional. He worked for more than a decade performing aquarium maintenance for a few local Chicago companies before joining Aquamoon. Matt has a broad range of husbandry knowledge and specializes in reef environments. He is mechanically inclined and is particularly passionate about designing, installing and upgrading filtration systems.

When he’s not working on aquariums, Matt enjoys doing home improvement projects on his cottage-style home.

Sean Hewitt

Field Supervisor - Louisiana and Mississippi

Sean Hewitt

Field Supervisor - Louisiana and Mississippi

Sean’s husbandry expertise is diverse, and throughout his career, he has cared for a wide range of animals, including various fish species, reptiles, waterfowl and mammals. Before joining Aquamoon, Sean was an aquarist and SeaTrek diver at the Miami Seaquarium. While earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Ecological and Environmental Science from Southeastern Louisiana University, Sean gained valuable experience at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, where he spent six years in the Husbandry Department as a volunteer and intern.

In his spare time, Sean can usually be found tinkering with computers, traveling to Israel to visit family and actively learning Hebrew.

Andrew Messersmith

Field Supervisor - Central Illinois

Andrew Messersmith

Field Supervisor - Central Illinois

Andrew was born and raised in and around Peoria, IL. He has always been interested in biology and all life sciences. Andrew has kept aquariums as a hobby since has was a teenager. He majored in biochemistry at Illinois State University and has 10 years of laboratory science experience. In 2015 he moved to Colorado but returned to Peoria in 2020 after his son was born. Currently, he keeps numerous reptiles and amphibians, as well as fish. The specialties of his interest are slider turtles and axolotls. Andrew looks forward to combining his passion for animal care with his career.

Paul Poeschl

Field Supervisor - Wisconsin

Paul Poeschl

Field Supervisor - Wisconsin

Paul joined Aquamoon with nearly two decades of professional experience in aquatic animal care. He began his career as a fish husbandry technician at LiveAquaria, a division of Drs. Foster & Smith and one of the largest online sources for sustainably raised freshwater and saltwater fishes. At LiveAquaria he worked with various delicate, rare, and unusual fish species. Paul also managed a retail aquarium store and was an assistant curator for a zoo and aquarium subcontracting company. Most recently Paul was an aquarist with Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay where he cared for sharks, arapaima, and golden crocodiles.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Management from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. As a testament to his passion for all things aquatic, Paul always has his hands wet…even in his spare time. His favorite hobby is fishing for bass, panfish, walleye and muskie.

Naomi Balogh

Naomi Balogh

Naomi has a deep appreciation and respect for animals. During a trip across Australia with her grandfather, she vividly remembers admiring the unique and diverse wildlife. While still in high school, Naomi started working at a horse stable and throughout the years she has completed internships at three different zoos. Prior to joining Aquamoon, Naomi worked in the aquatic pet care industry for a large national retailer.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. In her free time Naomi loves exploring. You’ll often find her hiking, camping in the mountains or horseback riding.

TJ Balogh

TJ Balogh

Growing up TJ knew his career would lead him to animal care. He interned with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in high school and attended college at Humboldt State University for a degree in Wildlife Biology. While in college, he could always be depended on to do whatever it took to get the data needed, from conducting research in heavy rain to being in the water observing fish. This commitment eventually led to an opportunity to lead his own research project in his hometown of Tracy, CA.
While not at work, he can be found playing boards games with family or exploring all the sights and locales of Central California.

Madison Banta

Madison Banta

Though a proud born and raised native of Louisiana, it was childhood trips to the white beaches of Florida and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado that instilled and cultivated a deep love of nature in Madison.

This love led her to Louisiana State University where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a concentration in Marine Science. While pursuing her degree, Madison participated in a study with the Wise Laboratory of Toxicology (Portland, ME) on the damaging effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on marine life in the Gulf, later interning at their lab. This experience gave her a deeper concern for environmental preservation and awareness which continues today.

Madison finds her creative outlet in her music, writing songs, and learning whatever new instrument she can get her hands on.

Pedro Barnes

Pedro Barnes

Graduating from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Biology and a minor in chemistry,
Pedro has been fascinated by animals for as long as he can remember, and known he wanted to work with them for a living just as long. Starting with invertebrate research at the university of Akron and volunteering to assist with Sea Turtle conservation in Costa Rica, Pedro eventually found himself working as an intern with the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. The internship gave him valuable knowledge and experience working with aquatic life that he has since used on his own home aquariums and eventually as an aquarist with Aquamoon.
In his spare time, Pedro enjoys board games, hiking, and amateur carpentry.

Kristopher Breland

Kristopher Breland

Kristopher has diverse background in animal husbandry and has cared for many different animals such as reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and more. Before joining Aquamoon, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Western Illinois University and worked as a manager at a local Petco where he gained valuable husbandry experience by caring for both freshwater and saltwater fish.

Kristopher’s passion for aquatic life stems from growing up on the coast in his home state of Alaska, where he would spend his summer days outdoors. In his free time, he is likely to be found playing basketball, caring for his many different pets, or enjoying nature.

Allen Brooks

Allen Brooks

Allen developed a strong passion for animals early on, surrounded by various creatures throughout his childhood. Allen proudly served in the US Army for eight years, where he honed his leadership skills, discipline, and commitment to excellence, along with finding a passion for aquatic life and activities like diving. After completing his military service, he pursued a higher education and obtained a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. Currently residing with his wife and daughter, Allen’s love for animals continues to thrive to this day.

Sommer Brosio

Sommer Brosio

Sommer’s fascination with aquatic life & biology started at a young age. She has family ties to Florida and made frequent trips to the beach as a child. Among her fondest memories are the times when her family rented a pontoon boat and spent the entire day snorkeling and free diving.

Sommer is a graduate of Trinity Christian College and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She plans to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology in the coming years. Prior to joining Aquamoon, she worked for a large pet retailer and an exotic veterinary clinic. She also volunteered at a local wildlife rehabilitation center. 

Fun fact about Sommer: While in college, Sommer lived on Shedd Aquarium’s research vessel for a week & helped collect data on corals, predation, and queen conch populations for various research projects.

Jessica Carter

Jessica Carter

Jessica’s mentor was the late great Steve Irwin. From a young age she aspired to be like him. Her first education goal was to become a Herpetologist but as she grew older her aspirations grew wider and she became interested in the ocean as well. This led to her earning her Bachelor’s in Marine Biology and Advanced Open Water and Nitrox scuba certification.

In her personal time, You can find her reading paranormal romance novels, working on her family’s 114 acre farm, and catching and releasing various species of snakes found in the area.

Dave Crews

Dave Crews

Dave grew up in eastern Nebraska where his parents fostered a love for the outdoors and all things living at a very early age. He spent those formative years volunteering anywhere that would have him. Dave started keeping fish, reptiles, and amphibians at home in the early 80’s. Since 1992 he has worked at one capacity or another in the aquatics/exotics industry at retail stores, breeding facilities, service outfits, or zoos. When Dave is not servicing aquariums he loves to hike, fish, and camp with his family and dogs.

Kayla Crump

Kayla Crump

From a young age, Kayla has been fascinated by marine life and ecosystems. She earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology with a focus on marine biology from Michigan State University. While completing her degree she had an internship at Cape Eleuthera Institute in The Bahamas helping conduct research on silky sharks and sea turtles.

In her spare time, Kayla can be found traveling with friends, hiking, or at the racetrack supporting her brother.

Alex Drzaic

Alex Drzaic

A Bay Area native, Alex has held a long fascination with wildlife. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Fairfield University, with a secondary major in Music. Since then he has worked with various species including penguins, albatrosses, sea lions, seals, and sea otters. When not caring for aquatic animals Alex likes to spend time with his dogs. He is also a whale-watching naturalist in Monterey Bay, where he can share his knowledge of nature with others.

Brandon Enger

Brandon Enger

Brandon was raised in the Chicagoland area where he acquired a deep interest for freshwater fish through many childhood trips to northern Wisconsin. His passion was further developed at the University of Arizona where he studied Natural Resource Management with an emphasis in Fisheries Conservation and Marine Science. As a student, he studied the effects of flow dynamics on endangered fish, assisted with the construction of an experimental hatchery, and volunteered at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum’s stingray exhibit.

Prior to Aquamoon, Brandon worked for the Arizona Game & Fish Department and Illinois Natural History Survey where he conducted research activities related to the management of native fish. In his free time, Brandon enjoys live music, musky fishing, and watching sports.

Amber Fonner

Amber Fonner

Amber gained rich experience in the beautiful states of Michigan and Idaho while working for a variety of federal agencies and academic institutions. Her undergraduate degree was attained through Central Michigan University in Biology, Natural Resources and she was a graduate assistant in undergraduate microbiology laboratories at Boise State University while studying aquatic ecology. She worked in Idaho for the United States Forest Service with threatened Bull Trout and for Idaho Fish and Game in their fisheries genetics lab as a technologist.

Amber enjoys being physically active and plays coed and women’s competitive soccer. She harbors a deep sense of environmental-consciousness and is a proud Girl Scout leader to her daughter’s troop. Her interest in educating the next generation about conservation issues and support of STEM education are wonderful assets to our team.

Nick German

Nick German

Nick grew up in Texas and spent most of his young life outdoors in nature developing a lifelong passion for marine life. He graduated from Brewton-Parker College with a B.A. in Biology. Nick quickly moved to Florida and spent the next 18 years working at SeaWorld with all sorts of marine animals including Polar Bears, Walruses, Beluga Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Sea Lions, Otters, Manatees, and numerous different fish species. Nick left Sea World to spread his passion for Science with the next generation as a teacher but after a year decided he missed working with animals and joined the Aquamoon team. In his free time he enjoys running, kayaking and spending time outdoors.

John Grant

John Grant

John is an avid recreational diver who has explored waters from Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. After retiring from Rural Water Association in 2022, Aquamoon offers John the opportunity to get back in the water and learn about aquarium operation and maintenance.

Casie Hain

Casie Hain

Being born and raised in Pennsylvania did not stop Casie from admiring aquatic life. Casie pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in marine law, political science, and environmental policy, focusing on endangered species to protect sea turtles. Casie has always been around aquatic systems and while growing up her father even owned and operated his own tropical fish store! This background just proved that the aquatic environment is where Casie is meant to be and where she is happiest.

 

In her spare time, Casie enjoys cooking, scuba diving, and jigsaw puzzles!

Katie Hare

Katie Hare

Katie has experience caring for not only aquatic species, but also a variety of avian and terrestrial animals. She has been a zookeeper at the Busch Gardens in Tampa as well as a marine mammals intern at Walt Disney World. While earning her Master of Science degree in Animal Behavior from University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Katie had the opportunity to study individual differences in behavior of Trinidadian guppies and to help manage a freshwater lab. In her spare time, Katie can be found hiking with her boyfriend, playing with her dog Charlie, or kayaking in a local estuary.

Matt Heyde

Matt Heyde

Matt has a built his career over two decades while caring for a range of animals including sharks, crocodiles, sea turtles and manatees.  He has been involved in aquarium projects in the United States, South America, and Europe within the disciplines of design and construction, animal training, and captive breeding.  He is also a published wildlife photographer who has also spent some time in front of the camera, including 3 seasons with the show Fish Tank Kings on Nat Geo WILD.

In addition to his work with Aquamoon, Matt also works with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) where he assists in the rescue, rehabilitation, release and tracking of manatees.

Skyler Hogenson

Skyler Hogenson

A lifelong water lover, Skyler started her dive training at the age of 10 and received her first certification, Junior Open Water Diver, when she turned 12. Her journey continued through many Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes until she received her Advanced Open Water certification before graduating high school. That childhood joy of being in the water continued into her adulthood where she found a passion for all things aquatic.

Skyler returned to school in 2019 in pursuit of a degree in biology receiving an associate degree in 2021. Currently deciding on graduate school, she has set her sights on a degree in marine biology.

Taylor Knickerbocker

Taylor Knickerbocker

Taylor has a deep respect and admiration for the creatures with which we share our world. Her passion for caring for animals was fueled by her involvement in various local zoological programs, which eventually led to an entry level keeper position where she learned valuable and diverse animal husbandry skills. She worked as an educator at Sea Life Aquarium while obtaining her bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis in zoology and wildlife biology at Oakland University and through these experiences solidified her dream of caring for aquatic animals.

In her free time, Taylor enjoys hiking, collecting field guides, and ecotourism around the globe. She has been to 15 different countries and counting, her most cherished trips being two tropical ecology study abroad programs in Costa Rica and Ecuador where she immersed herself in the local flora and fauna.

Dennis Law

Dennis Law

Dennis Law

With experience working in multiple aquariums along the East Coast and throughout the Midwest in a wide range of positions, including aquarium diver, senior aquarist and even curator of a small aquarium, Dennis has amassed extensive knowledge of filtration systems and husbandry techniques, and is able to diagnose and troubleshoot issues quickly. He graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

Dennis is an extremely hard worker, but as a family man with two kids of his own, he’s still able to relate to young people with a childlike wonder.

Derrick Madsen

Derrick Madsen

Derrick has owned aquariums since he was a young child and enjoys the challenges and joys of caring for and maintaining aquatic life. He owns four aquariums at home ranging from 30-gallon planted aquariums with CO2, to a 150-gallon non-planted aquarium. He joined Aquamoon for the opportunity to care for larger fish in a much larger setting than he is used to. Derrick enjoys the day-to-day care of fish species that he would otherwise not be able to care for in a recreational setting. His favorite part of the job is being face-to-face underwater with fish ranging from small panfish to large 20 lbs + Striped Bass.

Derrick is currently a student attempting to become a nurse. Derrick enjoys being active outside on his bike or hiking, exercising, reading, and cooking new recipes outside of work and school.

Mallory Myers

Mallory Myers

Mallory is a North Carolina Outer Banks native, where she cultured her love and curiosity for all things marine and nautical. As a young adult, she volunteered with the North Carolina Maritime Museum, assisting with youth workshops aimed to educate coastal history – from early settlers to swashbuckling pirates to WWI and WWII attacks right off the NC coast! Her seaside hometown even provided her easy access to the banks where the wild horses have roamed for centuries and granted her frequent bottlenose dolphin sightings. Needless to say, she rarely knew boredom as a child and her love of being in the water earned her the nickname, “Tadpole”. Mallory earned her science degree at East Carolina University (Go Pirates!) and continues to further her education. Immersing herself even deeper into her love for the water, she became a NAUI Master Rescue Diver and enthusiastically offered her experiences to inspire children and adults to join the underwater adventure.

Mallory joins Aquamoon with a diverse background, including mammalian, aquatic, and reptilian husbandry. No longer a character out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, Mallory enjoys exploring, photographing adventures with her spouse, renovating her home, nautical antiquing, and, most of all, loving on her two Komondor dogs.

David Myrom

David Myrom

David grew up in Minnesota hunting and fishing with his father which turned into a love for the great outdoors. David started working for Aquamoon in the summer of 2022, as a part-time dive tender/ diver. David’s past experiences include serving in the Army National Guard, law enforcement, and working as a Community Development Technician for a small city.

Shane Paradis

Shane Paradis

Shane started his career in the industry at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, Brooklyn. While there he worked as a dive safety officer and animal keeper/aquarist as well as a diver with marine scientists on various shark and whale research projects.

Shane left the cold waters of the New York Bight for the warm waters of Florida where he now resides. In addition to his employment with Aquamoon Shane works for an environmental consulting firm as a scientific technician and company dive safety officer. He has performed contract work for NOAA, the Army Corps of Engineers, several state agencies as well as educational and scientific institutions.

When he’s not underwater he can be found underground with his local cave diving group.

Jakab Pengal

Jakab Pengal

Jakab graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a specialization in Marine and Aquatic Biology. At BGSU, he was heavily involved in the student operated marine laboratory where he held multiple coordinator positions through his years at university. Most recently, Jakab was the research coordinator and worked as a teaching assistant to help fellow undergraduate students conduct coral studies.
Jakab’s passion for aquariums started as a hobbyist. At a young age, he kept and bred tropical fish and aquatic plants. Today, he is still active in the hobby and continues to keep his own personal aquarium. In his free time, Jakab also makes educational aquarium and science related videos on TIKTOK (@fishybusiness32).

Shoal Rakausky

Shoal Rakausky

Shoal is passionate about fish. His love of fish started with a love of animal life and the ocean. Together, they inspired him to go back to school for Marine Biology and Sustainable Aquaculture. Shortly after returning to the Midwest from Florida, he joined Aquamoon. He hopes to help maintain a high quality of life for any fish he works with and educate any curious passerby about aquatic life so that he might inspire a similar fascination.

Mallory Risinger

Mallory Risinger

Mallory had an interest in the natural world from an early age which led her to jobs associated with animal care such as at pet stores and petting zoos. She attended Mississippi State University, earning a B.S in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture. After graduating, she interned at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi. After shadowing the aquarists there she gained more interest in aquatic husbandry. This interest led her to Aquamoon.

Julian Rivera

Julian Rivera

Julian was born in Chicago and has always admired the beauty of aquariums. Animals in general have always held a special place in Julian’s heart. In high school, Julian was an active volunteer at their local animal shelter and now fosters cats for a local rescue. Over the last few years, Julian has gotten to work caring for dogs, cats, lizards, birds, fish, and more. Now working exclusively with fish, they have learned so much about the aquatic world and what it takes to curate these fascinating environments.

Besides animal care, Julian is very passionate about music, art, and the environment. They enjoy traveling to music festivals and concerts and creating various forms of art in their free time. Julian studies at Purdue University majoring in biology and minoring in environmental science. They are hopeful for a bright future in which they are able to make a positive impact on the world.

Amanda Schrivener

Amanda Schrivener

Amanda Schrivener is a Kansas City native who has loved animals her whole life. She graduated from university in 2023 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri. Amanda learned to dive in college, and since graduating has pursued a career in aquarium science. As an aquarium maintenance diver with Aquamoon, Amanda enjoys the opportunity to gain experience in diving and husbandry. When not caring for animals underwater, Amanda enjoys caring for her pets at home, including her dog, fish, birds, and snake. On a day off she can usually be found crocheting or playing a good video game.

Carlee Simpson

Carlee Simpson

Growing up in the Chicagoland area, Carlee has always had an admiration for the environment. With frequent visits to Florida and watching every underwater documentary she could find, Carlee became obsessed with the otherworldliness of aquatic life.

As a graduate of the University of Wyoming, Carlee sought to obtain new skills in animal care as she worked with chipmunks and bumble bees, published her own research paper, and became an outstanding graduate. Upon moving back home, she also became a volunteer at the Shedd Aquarium. Currently, she is working on getting her Master’s degree in Biology where she hopes to make a difference in the negative effects of climate change.

In her free time, she enjoys being outside, watching movies, creating art, and traveling.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith

Michael Smith is a recent graduate of the illustrious Lincoln University of Missouri. He has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture with an emphasis in animal science. Ever since he was a child, Michael has possessed a passion for animals and loved the thought of taking care of living organisms.  Even at a young age, he knew that one day his career would focus on animal husbandry. While in college, Michael worked with several different types of animals, most notably in the school’s aquaculture facility where he was employed for over 2 ½ years. This experience ignited his interest in aquatic husbandry. He hopes to learn so much with Aquamoon and is excited to see where his journey takes him.

Michael’s interests outside of work are video games and anime.

Nick Stahl

Nick Stahl

Nick Stahl

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in Freshwater Ecology and Studio Art from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, Nick joined Aquamoon in 2011.

Nick has a passion for art and a heart of gold, which lead him to spend his free time volunteering for a variety of great causes. He volunteers with R.E.S.C.U. to raise money for performers without health insurance, with Special Gifts Theatre to help students with special needs perform stage shows, and with the Bristol Renaissance Faire as a stage performer creating massive bubbles for visiting families.

Jennifer Caiharr-Stockton

Jennifer Caiharr-Stockton

Jennifer began her career during college working at a Zoo part-time for the summer. This began a lifelong passion for the care of animals. After receiving her degree in Zoo Science she began her career. Jennifer loves caring for animals and has done so in both Zoo and Shelter settings. Joining Aquamoon has been the first step in adding aquatic animals to the many different species of animals she has cared for.

In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys camping, hiking, and biking with her family.

Alyssa Thorpe

Alyssa Thorpe

Alyssa graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Zoology. During her studies, she had multiple international internships in places like the Seychelles Islands and St. John Virgin Islands where she contributed to marine research. Once she graduated, she traveled to South Africa where she lived for 3 years and gained her Dive Master Certification.

In her free time, she loves caring for her ferrets, dogs, and fish.

Molly Tillmann

Molly Tillmann

Molly attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville where she studied biology with an emphasis in zoology. While at U of W, she worked at the school’s “Animal House” where she cared for various aquatic and terrestrial animals. From a young age Molly knew she wanted to work with animals, but it was an internship in the Husbandry Department at the Great Lakes Aquarium that cemented her goal of becoming a professional aquarist and shortly thereafter she joined Aquamoon.

In her free time, you can find Molly bird watching, hiking, biking, or playing the piano. After a long day she enjoys snuggling with her two cats.

Quitney Toussaint

Quitney Toussaint

Quitney is a Baton Rouge native. He graduated from McKinley Senior High School locally and continued on to attend Southern University and A&M College where he received both his Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Business Administration. He is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and an advisory board member of the Elvin Howard, Sr. Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Foundation.
Quitney’s personal endeavors include Zou, LLC: an exotic animal concierge committed to the education, preservation, and highlighting reptiles and amphibians in schools, multimedia, and fashion. 

Michael Wen

Michael Wen

Michael Wen’s passion for animals started when a beaver built a dam near his childhood home in Illinois, creating an ever-expanding wetland in his backyard. As it grew, so did Michael’s curiosity about the ecosystem and its inhabitants who were drawn to it with the rising waters. This curiosity led to Michael obtaining a B.S. in Environmental Science at Taylor University and later enrolling at Western Kentucky University as a lab assistant, caring for chameleons.

In between academic ventures, Michael volunteers and works at numerous wildlife rehab centers and zoos in the Chicagoland area.

Whitnie White

Whitnie White

Whitnie was raised in a farming environment and was given the opportunity to care for a wide variety of animals since childhood. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Science and Mathematics with a Biology concentration from Indiana University. Whitnie cites her passion for the great outdoors, specifically aquatic wildlife, as a driving force in her career. Before joining Aquamoon she volunteered in the Oceans Department at the Indianapolis Zoo and kept several of her own aquariums as a hobby.

In her spare time, Whitnie enjoys camping with friends and family, kayaking, and scuba diving. She also loves caring for her indoor plant collection and her miniature dachshund, Fern.

Carl Wold

Carl Wold

Carl’s interest in aquatics comes from summers at the cabin, competitive swimming, and biology coursework in college. He has a background in aquatic biology from Bethany Lutheran College, Bemidji State University, and the Minnesota DNR. Aquamoon enticed Carl with an opportunity to utilize his degree, work with fish, and be in and around the water. His hobbies include hiking, board games, and motorcycles.

Administration

Carol Van Valkenburg

Office Manager

Carol Van Valkenburg

Office Manager

Carol grew up on the south side of Chicago.  Despite this, she has been known to cheer for the Cubs. 

She started working for Aquamoon in 2012 and handles the day-to-day office operations.  Carol’s past experience has included office and managerial positions with school districts, real estate brokers and construction companies.

When she’s not keeping things running at Aquamoon, Carol enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, traveling, reading and playing around with computers and other tech products.

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