About

The AQUAMOON Story

In 2006, Bob Van Valkenburg and Jim Torelli were co-workers at the world-renowned John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago when they decided to combine their unique skills and knowledge to launch Aquamoon.

With Bob’s deep understanding and appreciation for natural systems and Jim’s mastery of aquatic plumbing and life support systems, the company soon flourished, expanding to 16 markets nationwide.

Aquamoon now employs over 30 people, each with a unique background and a story to tell. We are animal care experts, but are also artists, engineers, and life support specialists. 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.

Each aquarium is a beautiful and technically involved composition that is truly magical if created and maintained correctly. At Aquamoon, we specialize in delivering this magic.

Who We Are

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.

Regional Leads and Special Projects

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

Midwest - Chicago

Dennis Gorman

Midwest - 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.

Matt Harris

Matt Harris

Aquatic Projects

Matt Harris

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

South - Louisiana & Mississippi

Sean Hewitt

South - Louisiana & 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.

Ryan Pratt

Midwest - Peoria and Central Illinois

Ryan Pratt

Midwest - Peoria and Central Illinois

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.

Aneta Tyminski

Field and Training Coordinator

Aneta Tyminski

Field and Training Coordinator

Growing up in and around Chicago, Aneta was always interested in the flora and fauna surrounding her. At a local aquarium store, she worked alongside many hobbyists who inspired her to get into the field. At the University of Tampa, Aneta earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science with a dual minor in Marine Science-Biology. She concentrated her passion on water quality, volunteered at a local primate sanctuary, and gained insight in coastal restoration both in school and with a conservation corps. These experiences led Aneta to Aquamoon.

In her spare time,  Aneta enjoys reading and going on adventures with her dog Moki.

Keith Wernert

Eastern Midwest - Michigan and Ohio

Keith Wernert

Eastern Midwest - Michigan and Ohio

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.

Animal Care – Aquarists

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.

Nate Blumhoefer

Nate Blumhoefer

From his earliest memories, Nate has harbored a deep curiosity about what lurks beyond the waters’ surface. It was this fascination with the aquatic realm that inspired Nate to jump into the world of professional aquarium care, first as a volunteer at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory and later at the Great Lakes Aquarium as a volunteer diver where he still performs maintenance dives to this day.

Nate has also worked at Sea Life Aquarium in the Mall of America where he was a guest services educator and acted as Snorkel Master for their interactive guest experience. Recently, he branched out of his home state of Minnesota and spent a summer volunteering his dive services at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida.

In his spare time, Nate enjoys tending to his 7 home aquariums and cultivating his ever-growing army of breeding Corydoras catfish.

George Brandtner

George Brandtner

George discovered a love of diving several years ago, and since then has earned his Master Diver and Rescue Diver certifications.  While his passion is for shipwreck diving, he never misses an opportunity to dive in and explore what’s under the surface.  He especially loves sharing his love of the water with others.  Before joining Aquamoon, George was a volunteer diver at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth where his favorite memories include interacting with the guest through the glass with a game of rock-paper-scissors; guess which hand, or just giving high-fives. 
George’s life experiences are varied.  With 11 years already under his belt, George is a full-time 9-1-1 dispatcher, where he maintains his calm and passes it on to others while assisting them through intense and often-times traumatic events. 
When not working on an aquarium or keeping his cool at the dispatch desk, George can usually be found under the water exploring some of the amazing shipwrecks found in Lake Superior, relaxing at home with his cat, or playing computer games.

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.

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.

Cherilyn Chin

Cherilyn Chin

Starting with a few goldfish won at a school fair, Cherilyn has kept fish most of her life. At the University of California at Berkeley, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences with an emphasis in Biology. She has worked as an Aquarist and Water Quality Technician at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where she held a 3-day-old sea otter in the palm of her hand.

She is an avid hiker and SCUBA diver. Her favorite SCUBA memory is diving with whale sharks off Baja California, Mexico where the crew of the expedition vessel actually named one of the females after her!

Cherilyn also enjoys writing children’s books about ocean animals, and has a blog titled “Ocean of Hope.”

https://protecttheoceans.org/wordpress/

Jenny Curtis

Jenny Curtis

Jenny joined Aquamoon with nearly 15 years of aquatic animal care experience in public aquariums. She began her career as an aquarist in Virginia, working with local Chesapeake Bay species which included loggerhead sea turtles in a head-start program. After graduation from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in the environmental science, Jenny moved to Washington D.C. to work at the Smithsonian National Zoo where she cared for saltwater invertebrates as well Amazonian fish and mammal species.

Always searching for a new adventure, Jenny later moved to the city of Chicago to continue her career with the Chicago Zoological Society at Brookfield Zoo. Here, she eventually led a team of talented aquarists working with a broad variety of aquatic life, from leopard sharks and jellyfish to Acropora corals and Solomon Island leaf frogs.

In her spare time Jenny enjoys exploring the local fauna of around her Floridian home!

Logan Doran

Logan Doran

Logan graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science & Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Before joining Aquamoon, Logan gained valuable experience as an intern aquarist at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. It was during this internship that Logan fell in love with caring for aquatic animals and working in and around aquariums and made the decision to pursue it as a career.

In his spare time, Logan enjoys playing hockey, rugby, and most importantly learning about sharks, his lifelong passion.

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.

Alyssa Forward

Alyssa Forward

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.

Stephanie Gebhard

Stephanie Gebhard

Stephanie’s passion for aquatic animals started early on in life while she was surrounded with aquariums. She attended a vocational high school that had an animal care and science program and that is where she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in aquatic science. She participated in a Future Farmers of America (FFA) state competition for aquarium science and won 1st place in the state.
Professionally Stephanie has worked at local aquatic shops, the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, and most recently at a veterinary hospital specializing in exotic animals.
In her free time, Stephanie likes to spend as much time on the water either paddle boarding, SCUBA diving, or kayaking. She is also enrolled and an online aquarist course continuing her education in the field. When not around water she is spending time with her Great Dane.

Cat Harris

Cat Harris

Cat has worked with animals in a variety of different ways, beginning with work as an educator at the Waikiki Aquarium while studying Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. From there she went on to assist in coral reef ecosystem research with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and worked as a veterinary technician at a small animal clinic. She also completed a short apprenticeship at the Belle Isle Aquarium where she still assists in educational programs and animal husbandry duties.

Originally from Michigan, Cat enjoys all things water related and was even a synchronized swimmer in high school. On her days off she enjoys outdoor related activities and takes yearly trips to the Upper Peninsula for camping, hiking and blueberry picking.

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.

Chris Jacobs

Chris Jacobs

Born and raised on the coast of Florida, Chris has always possessed a strong connection to wildlife and the outdoors. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the Florida State University and has completed animal husbandry and water quality internships at Florida Aquarium and Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Chris has also volunteered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) where he helped install artificial reefs and survey shark populations in the Gulf of Mexico. Prior to joining Aquamoon, Chris worked as an aquarium service technician and managed the livestock at local saltwater fish stores.

When not at work, Chris enjoys traveling around the world, diving, fishing, and hunting. At home, he aquacultures coral in his two reef tanks as well as raises Silkie chickens.

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.

Laura McMillan

Laura McMillan

Laura is originally from Portsmouth, England and has been living in California for the past 7 years. She began scuba diving in 2010 and became a divemaster in Utila, Honduras. After many years of working in a corporate role, she decided to change careers and make her passion for scuba and animal care a profession. She completed a degree in Biology at San Jose State University, is currently working towards a masters in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health with the University of Edinburgh and belongs to the American Academy of Underwater Scientists. 

During her studies she volunteered as a diver at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco, maintaining two saltwater exhibits, where she enjoyed target feeding the sharks and bat rays. She cares for her own freshwater aquarium at home and volunteers with the Marine Mammal Center in Moss Landing. In her spare time, she enjoys paddle boarding with her Labrador and visiting local wineries with her husband.

Allison McWhirter

Allison McWhirter

As a child Allison found joy in experiencing nature firsthand and understanding the animals within it. Fortunately for her, growing up in Central Illinois gave her plenty opportunities to explore and learn about the natural world. Allison earned an associate degree in Science from Illinois Central College and a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Illinois State University. Before joining Aquamoon, Allison worked as a naturalist at Wildlife Prairie Park. Currently she also works part time as the Medical Assistant to the Curator at the Peoria Zoo.

In her free time Allison enjoys activities with her family, specifically hiking and observing animals in their natural habitat. She also enjoys actively planning for her future. (Her goal is to one day open her own wildlife rehabilitation center!)

Tyler Miller

Tyler Miller

Tyler’s passion for scaly animals was ignited by watching Steve Irwin’s program as a child. Growing up with multiple aquariums also influenced his desire to make aquarium science his career. He graduated from Aurora University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Physiology. Before joining Aquamoon, Tyler worked as a manager at a local aquarium pet store and volunteered at Shedd Aquarium. 

In his free time, Tyler enjoys creating realistic and bioactive enclosures for his seventeen pet reptiles and amphibians along with his ever-expanding jungle of house plants. 

Andrew Moorhead

Andrew Moorhead

Andrew had a broad range of husbandry expertise. Throughout his career, he has cared for a wide range of animals including various fishes, sea turtles and mammals. While earning his bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology, Andrew gained valuable experience at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas where he spent a year in their quarantine facility. He also has an abundance of experience working with nesting sea turtles and rehabilitation of injured and sick sea turtles.

In his spare time, Andrew can be found playing with his personal 200-gallon saltwater aquarium, SCUBA diving, or on the soccer field as a referee.

Amanda Pabst

Amanda Pabst

Amanda has an insatiable curiosity for all creatures large and small. She attended Grand Valley State University. There she earned a degree in Biology and gained experience working in a laboratory setting where she cared for a variety of animals including cichlids, sea urchins, hermit crabs, frogs, and mice. Prior to joining Aquamoon, Amanda worked at a local aquarium and nature center.

In her free time, you can find Amanda volunteering, hiking, reading, and gardening. She also cares for a few exotic pets of her own including a Leopard Gecko, a Crested Gecko, and an Asian Flower Mantis.

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).

Chris Perkins

Chris Perkins

Chris Perkins

Chris spent more than four years working with and photographing great white sharks in South Africa before coming to Aquamoon. While working on his degree in Marine Sciences, he completed an internship with the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT, and he continued to volunteer there in the fish and invertebrate husbandry department.

With his deep love for oceans and all the creatures that inhabit them, it’s not surprising that Chris spends his downtime freediving, scuba diving and taking underwater photos.

Paul Poeschl

Paul Poeschl

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.

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen

Josh is a Chicago native with a lifelong appreciation and fascination with animals, specifically fish and reptiles. As a child, Josh spent many weekends at Shedd Aquarium with his parents which incubated his awareness, curiosity, and knowledge of the natural world. Years later as an adult, and with a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the organization that played such a formative role in his development, Josh began volunteering his time to Shedd as a behind the scenes tour guide, a role in which he still serves today.

Josh studied at Illinois State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a minor in Business Administration. At University he also played on the men’s lacrosse club.

Professionally, Josh started his career working in software sales, but eventually made the leap to pursue work in a field that he is passionate about. Before joining Aquamoon, Josh helped bootstrap the service division for a local aquarium store and oversaw its operation.

In his free time Josh still enjoys playing as much lacrosse as possible and has his own aquariums at home. He is an avid museum visitor and on the weekends you’re likely to run into him at one of Chicago’s great cultural organizations.

Gordon Sapir

Gordon Sapir

Gordon graduated from Millersville University with a degree in Marine Biology. His experience includes field work on Chincoteague Island, Virginia and internships at the Pittsburgh Aquarium and National Aquarium in Baltimore. Prior to joining Aquamoon Gordon worked as a manager at a retail pet store which specialized in aquatic animals and herptiles.

Gordon has a successful reef aquarium at home which he cares for in his free time. He also enjoys photography and specifically enjoys photographing cars and landscapes.

Amanda Sheehy

Amanda Sheehy

Amanda has a diverse educational and husbandry background. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Biology from the University of North Alabama, received some formal education in veterinary medicine at Tufts University, and earned a graduate certificate in Aquaculture and Fish Health from the University of Florida. Professionally Amanda has gained considerable experience caring for both domestic animals and wildlife species such as fishes, reptiles, birds of prey, and mammals. In addition to her work as an aquarist with Aquamoon, Amanda is also the program assistant for the University of Florida’s Aquatic Animal Health Program where she provides support for several marine mammal projects.

Amanda is passionate about fishes, and in her spare time she is studying to complete a Master’s in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

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.

Christopher Taylor

Christopher Taylor

For as long as he can remember, Chris possessed a love and appreciation for wildlife and ever since he was old enough to volunteer, he gave time to support his dream of turning a passion for wildlife into a career. Chris volunteered four years at Brookfield Zoo with the Youth Volunteer Program where he taught Zoo guests about wildlife. He later began speaking at local schools about herptiles such as tegu, geckos, spur sided tortoise and many others. Before joining Aquamoon, Chris was also the lead volunteer keeper for exotic animals at Big Wolf Ranch.

When he is not caring for animals, Chris enjoys playing the drums for his rock and roll band and hiking outdoors.

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. 

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.

Danielle Witt

Danielle Witt

As a Chicago native, Danielle’s passion for marine life was inspired and nurtured by numerous visits to Shedd Aquarium. Turning her passion into a career began with obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. From there, an internship with the Downtown Aquarium in Denver led to a full-time aquarist position with the Houston Aquarium and finally back to Chicago as Curator for Rainforest Cafe. Danielle has had the opportunity to work with all forms of marine life as well as a variety of reptiles and birds. Of all the exhibits and animals she has cared for as an aquarist, her favorites have been a 150,000 gallon shark exhibit and a Giant Pacific octopus.

When she is not elbow-deep in an aquarium, Danielle enjoys spending her time hiking, biking, paddle boarding and salsa dancing.

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.