About the Leadership Intern Program

After participating in REEF’s Marine Conservation Internship, exceptional participants may be offered an extended opportunity to participate in the Leadership Intern program. Lead Interns gain in-depth experience and hone their career skills in a specific area while working closely with a REEF staff mentor throughout the duration of their internship. They provide training and support for incoming Marine Conservation Interns and also gain experience in nonprofit management and operations by participating in projects that support REEF’s overall mission and marine conservation initiatives. 

Professional development is a focus throughout the program. The program includes opportunities for guidance on resume and other career planning documents, creating measurable goals and objectives for skill development, and recurring evaluation sessions with supervisors for constructive feedback.

**As of 2022, the Leadership Intern Program was replaced with the REEF Marine Conservation Fellow Program. Visit the Conservation Fellow Program webpage for more information.

Highlights of the Leadership Intern program include:

  • Opportunities to meet with and learn from leaders in marine conservation
  • Working with a REEF staff mentor to develop and master skills in a program area at REEF (Education and Outreach, Communications and Events, Volunteer Fish Survey Project, Invasive Species Program, etc.)
  • Assisting with the Marine Conservation Internship program
  • Professional development opportunities including resume and portfolio building, goal setting and evaluation sessions

*Lead Intern positions are extremely limited and are available by organizational invite only.

The Leadership Intern Program is a 40-hour per week commitment ranging from six months to one year. Program hours are typically Monday through Friday, from 9am to 5pm. Lead Interns may often have responsibilities for participating in evening and weekend events.

Past Lead Interns

Sierra Barkdoll - Conservation Science Lead Intern -- May 2021 – May 2022

Sierra graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the spring of 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Geography, a Biology minor, and a GIS certificate. During college, Sierra got involved in sailing and SCUBA diving clubs, from which she became enamored with the open ocean. Joining an undergraduate research lab, she spent a summer in North Andros, Bahamas, studying threats to the critically endangered Bahama Oriole. Through this experience, she gained a desire to pursue a career in marine science research.  As the Citizen Science Lead Intern, Sierra organizes fish ID webinars, engages with REEF members involved in the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, and assists with event planning for major programs and events. Through her time with REEF, she is really looking forward to developing professional skills and connections in the marine science field.

Lauryn Magno - Conservation Science Lead Intern  -- January 2022 - April 2022

Lauryn graduated from Oakland University in April 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations. After eight months spent interning remotely for the U.S. Embassy’s Pacific ESTH Hub in Suva, Fiji, she fell in love with marine conservation and marine policy. Lauryn joined REEF in August 2021 as a Marine Conservation Intern, in which she helped plan the Quiz Out of Water Trivia Night and completed her PADI Open Water Certification! As a Conservation Science Fellow, Lauryn supports the Invasive Species Program including helping coordinate the Lionfish Derby Series, assisting with conservation science research, and facilitating outreach events. Lauryn is really looking forward to continue working with REEF and exploring her interests in community outreach and marine conservation!

Riley Zoldi - Education and Outreach Lead Intern -- September 2020 - August 2021

Riley attended North Carolina State University and graduated in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science with a concentration in Biological Oceanography. Riley first came to REEF in the spring of 2020 as a Marine Conservation Intern. During her internship, Riley helped implement Fishy Hours by creating multiple Fish Jeopardy games for REEF members to play while staying safe at home. Prior to her lead internship, Riley worked for New Logic Marine Science Camp, where she taught outdoor environmental education to children on the coast of New Jersey. She loves encouraging people to appreciate their local marine environments in hopes that they will try to protect the biodiversity found there. As the Education and Outreach Programs Fellow, Riley will be assisting with the Explorers Program by scheduling, prepping, promoting and teaching educational programs at the REEF campus and offsite. Riley cannot wait to engage with the local Key Largo community, visitors at the REEF Campus, and REEF members, both locally and worldwide, through education and outreach to spread marine conservation awareness.

Maddi Piascik- Events and Communications Lead Intern (June 2020 - April 2021)

Maddi graduated from the University of South Carolina in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science and a minor in Advertising and Public Relations. Her love for the ocean uniquely blends with her passion for design. While in college, she conducted an independent research study focused on phytoplankton and served as the Design Director for USC’s Dance Marathon. Maddi merged her two passions by administering a week of sustainability engaging those on campus and throughout the community with interactive exhibits highlighting various environmental issues. In May 2019, she spent a month scuba diving as a Marine Conservation WTSA Volunteer in Sodwana Bay, South Africa where she contributed to local citizen science projects. She then continued to explore the world’s oceans by spending a study abroad semester in Australia at James Cook University. Maddi’s travels instilled a passion in her to spread awareness about the many threats facing our oceans. In January of 2020, Maddi joined REEF as a Marine Conservation Intern to effectively combat environmental threats and advocate for healthy oceans. She implemented her creative communication skills and underwater experience to design marketing materials such as social media graphics, educational displays, and promotional products for REEF events. REEF’s Fellowship position allows Maddi to apply her visual communication skills to inspire the public and preserve marine environments worldwide.


Maya Ganapathy - Education and Outreach Program Lead Intern (January 2020-April 2020)

Maya moved a lot as a child but attended high school and college in Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2019 with a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience and a minor in Anthropology. While in college Maya interned at a zoo, did Ecology research for a biology professor, and took a semester off to intern at the South African Shark Conservancy which solidified her desire to become a Marine Biologist. During her internship she participated in White Shark surveys, learned how to measure and tag a shark, and assisted in an experiment that dealt with the behavioral and physiological responses of catsharks. Along with working in the lab she was also able to observe a White Shark necropsy, dive with Blue Sharks (diving in the ocean is way different than the pea-soup like lakes of the Midwest!) and snorkel at Seal Island. After graduating in the spring Maya interned in the Fishes Department at Shedd Aquarium, which she says allowed her to learn about a wide variety of fish and the different diseases that occur in marine environments. Maya is extremely grateful for the opportunity to intern at REEF and is excited to dive, learn about non-profit management, and create/ participate in community outreach and education events.

Stacey Henderson - Volunteer Fish Survey Project Lead Intern (August 2019-April 2020)

Stacey grew up in a small town in Vermont but has always had an interest in the ocean. He graduated Wheaton College in Massachusetts in 2015 earning a BA in Biology and minoring in Animal Behavior. He became a certified diver in 2016 completing a divemaster internship on the island of Roatan in Honduras. During his internship he had the opportunity to create coral nurseries and become a certified Lionfish hunter. Having a passion for the ocean, and a love for diving, he soon became a PADI Open Water SCUBA Instructor. He began traveling and working as a Dive instructor teaching in Honduras, Malaysia, and Thailand. When he’s not teaching, Stacey enjoys underwater photography and diving in new places. On land, he enjoys hiking, fishing, and hanging out with his dogs. Stacey believes REEF’s mission to protect biodiversity and all ocean life by engaging and inspiring the public are important parts of the future of coral reefs.Stacey is currently REEF's Program Services Coordinator.

Madalyn "Moose" Mussey - Invasive Species Program Lead Intern (April 2019-October 2019)

Madalyn Mussey more commonly known as "Moose" is originally from Wisconsin, but attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. She recently graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and an emphasis area in Natural Resource Management. Moose considers herself as very adventurous and outgoing. Her hobbies include snowboarding, bird watching, scuba diving, horseback riding, and even playing rugby. She has always been passionate when it comes to conservation, but her love for the water grew when she participated in a semester-long SCUBA Theory course through her university where she attained her Advanced OW and soon after, her Advanced Rescue Certification. After thoroughly enjoying a 3-week study abroad to Thailand, where she spent a large portion of her time restoring coral reefs and recording fish species, she knew she had picked the right career field. She has had many opportunities to share her passion of marine conservation with others at places like SeaWorld Orlando and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, reaching out and educating kids about the natural world around us. Moose is currently REEF's Education and Outreach Program Manager.

Kate Dremluk - Operations and Development Lead Intern (September 2019-October 2019)

Kate Dremluk grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and she has spent most of her summers on the Jersey shore swimming, fishing, and exploring the beach and nearby marshes. She graduated early from the University of Miami in December 2018 with dual majors in Marine Science and Biology and a minor in Chemistry. While in school, Kate conducted research in the Ocean Acidification Lab and developed her senior thesis on the effects of acidification on staghorn coral. She also spent a semester in the Galapagos Islands doing field research, in addition to hiking volcanoes, swimming with sea lions, and even snorkeling alongside a whale shark. Outside of school, Kate has had the opportunity to share her knowledge and admiration for the environment with others through her involvement in teaching, community outreach programs, and volunteer positions. Her research projects have greatly contributed to her fascination of the complex effects of human activity on the environment, and Kate plans to attend law school with the ultimate goal of protecting the integrity of marine and freshwater environments. In the meantime, she’s excited to become involved in REEF’s conservation programs and take an active role in protecting Florida’s marine environment, while sharing her love of conservation, research, and education with others. 

David Ehlert - Education and Outreach Lead Intern (May 2019-August 2019)


David Ehlert was raised in Lexington Kentucky. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's of Science in Natural Resources/Environmental Science with a Wildlife Biology minor from the University of Kentucky. His passion for marine science began in his youth on the beaches of North Carolina, where he played with moon jellyfish. David learned to dive at UK in Kentucky's largest ocean (the pool). During his sophomore year at UK, David took a study abroad trip to Mexico where he fell in love with reefs and the need to protect them. During his time in Mexico, David studied lionfish effects on reef fish populations, as well as assisted in coastal clean-up efforts. Because of this experience, David became passionate about lionfish and the threat they pose to marine environments. This passion led him to REEF where he hopes to learn how to protect coral reefs as well as the wildlife they support. David is thrilled to have the opportunity to join the REEF team and hopes to become fully immersed in the local community. David is currently REEF's Campus Coordinator.

Sophie Costa - Education Leadership Intern (August 2018-April 2019)


Sophie Costa grew up in in beautiful Texas Hill Country. Originally from Austin, she spent her summer days enjoying the beauty of the lakes and river systems in central Texas. Her passion for aquatic sciences grew when she began diving at the young age of 11. After graduating from Rhodes College with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Environmental Sciences and a minor in Spanish, she moved to Belize in order to pursue a career in marine conservation biology. During that time, she interacted with the community fishermen, and began discussing numerous problems occuring within the Meso-American Barrier Reef - one of the largest being the invasive lionfish species. After witnessing some of these issues first hand, Sophie was inspired to raise awareness and work towards remediation efforts in the Caribbean Sea. She greatly looks foward to working with REEF, and continuing her dedication to marine life through scientific research and outreach. 

Laura Palomino - Education Leadership Intern (May 2018-August 2018)

Laura Palomino is from Cali, Colombia and grew up in Miami, FL. Her love for the ocean began after her first visit to an aquarium when she was 9. She became interested in Marine Conservation after a Marine Biology camp in Key Biscayne, where she learned about sea turtle nesting and witnessed a hatching event! At the age of 15, she became a PADI open water diver. Ever since, she’s been diving all over the world from the Rosario Island in Cartagena, Colombia to caverns in North Florida. Laura is a recent graduate of the University of Florida, with a B.S in Interdisciplinary Marine Science (GO GATORS!). During her time at UF she became involved with the scientific diver development program and became an AAUS science diver and NAUI Dive Master. As a science diver she’s had the opportunity to work on various projects including gag grouper abundance surveys, a rhodamine dye release in Silver Springs and coral health assessments in the keys. Laura has become passionate about citizen science programs and aims to peruse a graduate degree involving local communities in conservation and policy decisions. She is very grateful for the opportunity to be an intern for REEF and is very excited to conduct Volunteer Fish Surveys, learn about conservation outreach and enjoying island life in the keys.

Gabby Magalski - Education Leadership Intern (May 2018-August 2018)


Gabby Magalski grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. During her freshman year at the University of British Columbia she became deeply interested in the ocean and the threats it currently faces. She graduated in May 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Anthropology. Having already acquired some SCUBA experience throughout her college career, after graduation she moved down to Honduras to acquire her PADI Divemaster certification. During her time in Honduras she witnessed bleaching events as well as the catastrophic effects of invasive lionfish firsthand. Gabby volunteered with various conservation associations to help preserve the Bay Island’s ecosystems and applied to work with REEF in hopes of doing more for these crucial environments. Throughout her undergraduate career, she conducted research in the microbiology and immunology department at the University of North Carolina Medical School. She hopes to integrate her past experience in microbiology with marine science research.

Kathy Ilcken - Education Leadership Intern (January 2017-December 2017)

Katherine Ilcken is a recent graduate from the University of Florida. During her time there, she studied wildlife ecology and conservation while also pursuing SCUBA diving for the first time. What she thought would be a fun elective grew quickly into a strong passion for the underwater world. In 4 years, she went from an occasional snorkeler to a NAUI dive master, trying to see it all by diving the Great Barrier Reef and in between tectonic plates in Iceland. But even in just a short amount of time, Katherine has been able to see the damaging effects of humans, invasive species, and climate change on our coral reefs and local Florida springs. This has driven her to pursue a career in making a difference for our waters, leading to an internship here with REEF! She could not be more excited to see what the future holds and to connect wih people fighting for the oceans we love. 

Ellie Place - Education Leadership Intern (January 2017-April 2017)

Ellie Place grew up in Bellevue, Washington. She spent her first 18 years climbing and hiking the Cascade Mountains and exploring the Puget Sound before moving to Providence, Rhode Island where she studied Geological Sciences and Hispanic Studies at Brown University. While in school she worked in an oceanography lab which sparked her interest in exploring oceans. She also spent one summer as a kayak instructor in the San Juan Islands of Washington State, teaching campers about their marine environment, where she began to realize the importance of sharing her love for the outdoors with others. Throughout her time in college she continuously explored the world by spending 9 weeks at a geology field camp in Montana and Wyoming and studying abroad in Costa Rica, all while competing as a Division 1 student athlete in rowing. Ellie plans on pursuing a career in outdoor and environmental education, so she is eager to work with others in the Key Largo community to learn, explore, and conserve the ocean and our unique beautiful world.

Ashley Yarbrough - Education Leadership Intern (August 2017-October 2019)

Ashley Yarbrough is a native Texan, but she was raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. It was here, through several summer camps at the Shedd Aquarium, that she discovered her passion for marine science. After two years of junior college, Ashley transferred to Oregon State University to pursue a BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Science with specialization in Marine Ecology and Fisheries Science. OSU and its Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon provided many opportunities for scientific research through independent projects and volunteering.  Some of the major projects Ashley was able to work on include the reproductive capacity of Black Rockfish in response to El Nino events and methods for aging Giant Pacific Octopus using their beaks and stylets.  During her junior year, Ashley spent a term in Chile with a study abroad program that allowed her to work at a field station studying intertidal recruitment with other international students. Ashley has served as a board member for the AFS and TWS Oregon State student chapters where she assisted underclassmen in connecting with professionals to learn about working in the field of fisheries and wildlife. During her time at OSU she also acquired multiple SCUBA certifications and is very excited about developing her scientific diving skills with REEF. In the fall, Ashley plans to pursue graduate studies in fisheries science and continue involvement with conservation of the ocean and its resources. 

Marie Diaz - Education Leadership Intern (June 2017-August 2017)


Marie Diaz was born and raised in Oakland, California, where she grew up running and playing, both in the ocean and in the mountains.  Her love for nature and the outdoors was evident early on—she wanted to be outside and dirty as much as possible.  While in high school, she was fortunate enough to travel to Baja, Mexico on a Marine Ecology research trip, where she was inspired to pursue Marine Science.  Marie is now a recent graduate of UC San Diego, where she earned her B.S. in Marine Biology.  While at UCSD, Marie had the opportunity to work in a Coral Reef Ecology Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  During her time in the lab, her love for corals grew, inspiring her to work on two projects looking at coral-algal relationships and underwater research techniques. Marie also volunteered with the education department at Birch Aquarium, where she enjoyed working with and inspiring the public to engage with the world around them.  Her love for both hard science and education and outreach is what led her to REEF.  She is so excited to not only get to dive and experience a whole new area, but to also learn about non-profit work and education.  In the future Marie hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology or Conservation, but for now she is more than excited to join the REEF team!


Anna Simmons - Leadership Intern (January 2015-May 2015)

Anna Simmons was born and raised in land-locked Indiana.  Having possessed a passion for nature and wildlife, fostered by visits to Lake Michigan and school field trips to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Anna knew her future lay in working with animals.  It wasn’t until her visit to San Francisco, California and her first view of tidal pools and marine life that she decided to become a marine biologist. In 2010, she attended Ball State University, earning a major in Biology and a minor in SCUBA diving.  Anna spent her time as an undergraduate actively involved in the Ball State Chapter of The Wildlife Society, volunteering at local rehabilitation centers, aiding fellow students with data collection, and even providing husbandry for big brown bats.  She even conducted her own research on Atlantic mud fiddler crabs in Sapelo Island, Georgia and worked on other research projects.  As an intern at the John G. Shedd Aquarium, she had the chance to expand her knowledge of the natural history and husbandry of both marine and freshwater fish species.  Anna had the opportunity to utilize this knowledge as a volunteer diver for the Shedd Aquarium’s annual Bahamas fish collection trip, where she spent a week and a half upon a research vessel conducting dives to collect fish for aquarium display in an environmentally safe and friendly manner.  Anna plans on attending graduate school to gain a Masters in marine biology and conservation and is looking forward to gaining experience in marine research, educational outreach, and sharing her passion of marine life with others. 

Amy Lee - Leadership Intern (January 2015-March 2015)

Amy Lee is REEF’s Engagement and Communications Manager. She oversees REEF’s Field Survey Trips Program and leads communication and outreach efforts. Her role serves as a link between REEF programs, surveyors, donors, members, and the general public. She works closely with REEF’s staff team and Directors to develop strategies for continued growth while creating content to facilitate engagement. An avid fish surveyor, Amy also teaches Fishinars and leads REEF Field Survey Trips. She is a proud alumna of the University of South Carolina, where she earned two degrees, a B.A. in Public Relations and a B.S. in Marine Science. She got her start with REEF as a Marine Conservation Intern during the fall of 2014, and joined the staff in April 2015. In 2019 she received the Wave Makers Award from the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA). Outside of REEF, Amy is a contributing writer for Alert Diver magazine, published by Divers Alert Network. In her spare time she enjoys diving, reading, and being with her dog, Pinecone.