Melissa joined the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary family in October of 2017, Prior to arriving at Seaside, she was an intern at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where she worked intensively with raptors & other avian species. Melissa also trained with the center’s Avian Ambassadors, speaking at public events & schools to educate the community & to raise funds. After having the honor of successfully hand-raising a Belted Kingfisher nestling to release, she knew that wildlife rehabilitation was her passion.
After returning to Florida she mentored under Kris Porter who is a highly regarded retired zoologist from Busch Gardens, and licensed rehabilitator in the Tampa Bay area. Melissa was one of Porter’s first volunteers, and helped to create Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, all the while she continued to rescue and triage patients while finishing her Integrative Animal Biology degree.
After graduating from the University of South Florida with her B.S. in Integrative Animal Biology, she returned to Vancouver Island for a second internship at the beginning of 2016, and then was accepted for a six-month fellowship at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel Island. During her fellowship, Melissa worked intensively under CROW’s veterinarians & acquired advanced veterinary technician skills while working with a variety of wildlife species including birds, mammals, & sea turtles.
Following her fellowship at CROW, Melissa decided to expand her experience with animals by working at the Pinellas County Animal Services as the Veterinary Medical Assistant. During her time at the shelter, Melissa took on several of the shelter’s “project dogs,” and successfully rehabilitated them for adoption.
Director of Operations
Nutrition & Habitat Specialist
The Sanctuary is staffed by a small group of experienced employees, and assisted by dedicated volunteers who all share a common interest... love and compassion for the birds that they care for.
Listed below is a list of the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary Staff and volunteers:
Diane is the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary’s Gift Shop Manager and Volunteer & Event Coordinator.
Diane has been with the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary since it formed in 2016. Prior to Joining the Seaside family, Diane was the Gift Shop Manager and Volunteer & Event Coordinator for the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, who she‘d been employed with from 2014-2016.
Diane has over 30 years of retail management and customer service experience.
Cressida Shoosmith Susan May Demos Youman Roger P. Matt Saurs
Outdoor Avian Care Outdoor Avian Care Outdoor Avian Care Outdoor Avian Care Outdoor Avian Care
Amy is a compassionate individual who simply loves nature, and loves helping all living creatures. There is no better example of this than by looking at Amy’s past work experience. Amy has been with the Sanctuary since its founding in 2016. Prior to Seaside, Amy volunteered at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary from 2014-2016. Prior to dedicating her life to wildlife rehabilitation, Amy worked as a lifeguard. As a Lifeguard, Amy learned how to react quickly during a medical emergency, and how to remain calm during a crisis. Both qualities would eventually become great attributes to her while performing her duties in the Sanctuary Hospital.
After working as a Lifeguard for 10 years, Amy decided the medical field was where she wanted to be. Amy worked as a Medical Assistant for five years, and then as an Ophthalmologist Technician and Surgical Assistant for ten years.
When not working, Amy loves dedicating her free time to her two passions… nature photography and bird watching. Amy's compassion and gentle nature is a perfect fit for the Sanctuary's hospital. She especially loves working with baby songbirds, black skimmers, and Eastern Screech Owls.
In addition to her duties at the Sanctuary, Amy also volunteers with the Audobon Society. Amy takes part in a team of dedicated Audobon volunteers who monitor the Black Skimmer colonies who nest on the Gulf Coast beaches every year.
Kayla Wilkins Joann P. Marty R. Kyle Kim
Gift Shop / Tours / Events Housekeeping / Tours Greeter / Tours Rescue Team Rescue Team
Avian Hospital Specialist
Paul joined the Seaside family in January of 2018. Paul joined the sanctuary's Rescue Team as a volunteer Rescuer.
Paul was hired four months later in May of 2018, working in the sanctuary's hospital.
Justin joined the Seaside family in January of 2018, volunteering in the sanctuary's hospital. He was hired four months later in May of 2018.
Prior to coming to work for Seaside, Justin had been volunteering at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium since 2017. At the Aquarium, Justin worked in their hospital assisting with the rehabilitation of sea turtles.
Avian Hospital Specialist
Giftshop Manager &
Keith has been with the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary since the organization was founded in September of 2016. Originally the Hospital Manager in the Sanctuary’s Dr. Marie L. Farr Avian Hospital, Keith took over as the Director of Operations for the Sanctuary one year later in September of 2017.
Prior to Seaside, Keith had been working in the field of wildlife rehabilitation since 2010, volunteering for various organizations including Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary, Friends of Strays, and the SPCA. In January 2015, Keith started volunteering for the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, and eventually became their Hospital Supervisor later that same year. When Suncoast moved out of their facility, and Seaside moved in, Keith was hired on by Seaside to run their hospital.
Though originally from Detroit, Keith has lived within 5 miles of the Sanctuary for over 30 years. Due to this, Keith has a strong love for both the area and the community he lives in. As a former owner and operator of a promotions company, Keith has devoted many years to planning local events that helped raise money for charitable causes such as Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary, the SPCA, Friends of Strays, and many more. Keith also currently sits on the board of directors for Friends of the Pelicans, inc., a non-profit wild bird rescue organization based out of Bradenton, Florida.
A professional public speaker since the age of 17, Keith represents the Sanctuary by putting on educational demonstrations at local schools and special events. Due to his longstanding commitment to educating the public, Keith was made an Honorary Educator of the Lakota Boys and Girls of St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota in 1998.
Keith holds United States Coast Guard STCW certifications in Crowd Management, Crisis Management & Human Behavior, First Aid & CPR, Fire Prevention & Fire Fighting, Personal Safety & Social Responsibilities, and Personal Survival Techniques.
Ria Warner joined the Seaside team in January 2019. She comes with a diverse background that has prepared her to take on a leadership role at the sanctuary. She has experience in both traditional and non-traditional education settings, non-profits and for profits, as well as at both grassroots organizations and large AZA accredited facilities.
Ria grew up in nature and has always been dedicated to the conservation and protection of the wild animals that call it home. Her first experience working professionally with animals was with Busch Gardens Tampa as an educator working with their programs team, though she was cross trained in several areas of the zoo as well. In early 2015 she was introduced to Kris Porter who had just formed Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, another local state and federally permitted wildlife rehabilitation organization. Ria was one of the first volunteers and quickly became a keystone in the foundation of the organization where she continues to serve on the Board of Directors as the Director of Education and Outreach, and a lead rescue and emergency care specialist working with Florida native mammals, reptiles, and migratory birds. She then met Patrick Bradley the director for the Bird of Prey program at George C. McGough Park in Largo and joined his animal care volunteer staff. There she is a senior trainer and assists in the husbandry and training of more than 20 educational birds of prey while mentoring new volunteers.
When Seaside posted a position for a Marketing and Education Coordinator both Kris and Patrick knew that Ria was made for the job. She is excited to be able to bring her belief of a CommUNITY for Conservation to Seaside Seabird Sanctuary and be an agent for positive change as we renovate and grow to make the inherited facility truly our own.
Avian Hospital Director & Licensed Rehabber & Office Manager
In her free time Melissa is an avid birder who also enjoys wildlife photography, as well as making the most of Florida’s outdoor activities. Melissa is a certified wildlife rehabilitator with the IWRC, and is state licensed in Florida. Melissa also currently sits on the board of directors for Friends of the Pelicans, inc., a non-profit wild bird rescue organization based out of Bradenton, Florida.also sits on the board of directors for Friends of the Pelicans, inc.
Chris has been with the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary since its founding in 2016. Chris first started working in the field of Avian rehabilitation in 2011 when he was hired by the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.
Chris has proven to be a dedicated, hard working employee here at Seaside. Chris maintains all the outside pools & pens that houses the 100+ permanently disabled birds that reside at the Sanctuary. In addition, he also carefully prepares all the food for the birds, and monitors their diet and feeding habits.
Chris feels that working in the animal rehabilitation field, and working directly with the birds as he does, has given him a clear outlook on life... An outlook that he never would have experienced had he never gotten into the field so many years ago..
Avian Hospital Specialist
Marketing & Education Coordinator
phone: 727-391-6211 ext 105