Newsroom - Our Experts

Our Experts

Look below for background information on key staff and members of the leadership team at the Georgia Aquarium. Please note that the Aquarium has a large variety of other team members on staff that are experts on different animal husbandry and aquarium related subjects. Please contact the Communications department for more information.

Bernard Marcus

Bernard Marcus
Benefactor,
Chairman of the Board,
Chief Executive Officer

David Kimmel

David Kimmel
President &
Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Greg Bossart, V.M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Greg Bossart, V.M.D., Ph.D.
Chief Veterinary Officer &
Senior Vice President

 

Mark Schafer

Mark Schafer
Chief Financial Officer &
Senior Vice President

 

Carey Rountree

Carey Rountree
Senior Vice President,
Sales and Marketing

Beach M. Clark, Jr

Beach M. Clark, Jr
Vice President,
Information Technology

Brian Davis

Dr. Brian Davis
Vice President,
Education and Training

Scott Higley

Scott Higley
Vice President,
Marketing and Communications

Timothy Mullican, DVM

Timothy Mullican, DVM
Vice President,
Zoological Operations

Heather McKeen

Heather McKeen
Vice President,
Facilities and Operations

Will Ramsey

Will Ramsey
Vice President,
Group Sales

Joe Handy

Joe Handy
Vice President,
Visitor Services and Guest Programs

Dr. Bruce A. Carlson

Dr. Bruce A. Carlson
Science Officer Emeritus

Dr. Tonya Clauss

Dr. Tonya Clauss
Chief Veterinarian

Dr. Alistair Dove

Dr. Alistair Dove
Director, Research and Conservation

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Bernard Marcus

Benefactor, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer

Bernard Marcus

Bernard Marcus is co-founder of The Home Depot, Inc., the world’s largest home improvement retailer. His company revolutionized the home improvement business with its warehouse concept. He served as chairman of the board until his retirement in 2002. He remains director emeritus and Home Depot’s largest single stockholder.

From 1972 to 1978, Marcus was Chairman of the Board and President of Handy Dan Improvement Centers, Inc., a home center retail chain. Prior to Handy Dan, Marcus was President of O’Dell’s, a manufacturing conglomerate, and Vice President of Hard Goods Merchandising for Vornado, Inc., a retail chain.

Marcus’s personal civic involvement has been translated into the creation of The Marcus Foundation where he serves as chairman of the board. His areas of focus include Jewish causes, children, medical research, free enterprise and the community.

A centerpiece of his desire to give back to the community is Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. This $290 million dollar attraction is dedicated to the people of Georgia and the associates, customers and shareholders of The Home Depot. With a total of 550,000 square feet and eight million gallons of water, it is the largest aquarium in the world and houses more than 100,000 animals from 500 species.

In 1991, he and his wife Billi established The Marcus Institute, which provides programs for children and adolescents with disorders of the brain and their families. An additional commitment in 1998 led to a national expansion when The Marcus Institute joined forces with the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

Among his important philanthropies is the founding of the Israel Democracy Institute located in Jerusalem. This non-partisan and non-political think tank serves as an important resource and change agent, dealing with the complex issues facing Israeli democratic society. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz serves as Honorary Chairman.

Marcus serves in numerous leadership roles including The Shepherd Spinal Center, The City of Hope, The Marcus Jewish Community Center, and Business Executives for National Security.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Marcus received his B.S. degree in Pharmacy from Rutgers University.

David Kimmel

President, Chief Operating Officer

David Kimmel

As President and Chief Operating Officer of the world's largest aquarium, David Kimmel is responsible for overseeing all operations within the building. Kimmel has played an integral role in the Aquarium's history having joined benefactor Bernie Marcus' team three years before the facility opened in 2005, leading the corporation that was instrumental in designing and building the Aquarium.

With more than 34 years of significant experience in providing comprehensive program management, Kimmel has worked with both public and private sectors providing services for many diverse institutions. His seasoned work with varied organizations and departments provides him with a broad-based understanding of large-scale public facilities. His past experience ranges from pre-design project management through engineering problem resolution, to full-range program management responsibilities.

Kimmel, most recently served as VP, Director of Program Management for Heery International, a full-service architecture, interior design, engineering, construction management and program management firm. Under Kimmel's leadership, Heery was the Aquarium project management company retained to develop the specifications and contracts for all firms associated with the project and to oversee all phases of construction. During this time, Kimmel also oversaw Heery's Sales and Marketing team with gross revenue of more than $8.5 million. Kimmel and Heery were engaged again in 2007 to be the Program Manager/Owner's Representative for Georgia Aquarium's new dolphin expansion, scheduled to open November 2010.

Kimmel holds a Bachelor of Science Civil Engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with graduate course work in Civil Engineering from the University of South Carolina. He and his wife, Lorraine, have one daughter.

Mark Schafer

Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President

Mark Schafer

Mark Schafer, Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President, is responsible for all financial and fiscal management aspects of Georgia Aquarium operations. He is responsible for accounting, treasury, budget, information technology, purchasing, risk management, and human resources.

Mark is an excellent addition to the team, bringing with him a tremendous amount of experience. He spent the last 15 years at Disney and, before that, 10 years at SeaWorld.

Schafer joined Georgia Aquarium in 2013.

GREGORY D. BOSSART, V.M.D., Ph.D., Diplomate ECZM (Wildlife Population Health)

Senior Vice President
Animal Health, Research and Conservation

Dr. Greg Bossart

Dr. Gregory Bossart has spent the last 30 years working in clinical domestic, marine mammal and avian medicine and wildlife pathology on a national and international basis. He has over 150 peer-reviewed scientific publications focused primarily on the pathologic basis of disease in wild animals.

His undergraduate degrees in biology and physical geography are from the University of Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a comparative pathology resident and National Institutes of Health fellow in the Department of Pathology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. In 1995, he completed his Ph.D. in immunology at Florida International University. Dr. Bossart is a Diplomate of the European College of Zoological Medicine (Wildlife Population Health). He has been in private veterinary practice and is a clinical veterinary consultant at facilities in the US, Latin America and Asia.

Presently, he is Senior Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta Georgia where he oversees the animal care, research and conservation programs. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Affiliate Professor at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University and on the graduate faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina. His recent published research has documented re-surging and emerging diseases in manatees, whales, dolphins, and birds. He has helped characterize the first viral disease in manatees and was responsible for developing the first immunohistochemical technique for diagnosing brevetoxicosis (red tide poisoning) in marine mammals and birds. He is particularly interested in the application of aquatic species as sentinels for the effects of global climate change, ecosystem and human health.

Dr. Bossart was awarded the Dean’s Clinical Research Award for his work at the University of Miami School of Medicine and the Alumni Award of Merit from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. He has had collaborative research projects with the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Ocean Service, Florida Wildlife Research Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Office of Naval Research. Examples of his research can be found in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinary Pathology, Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, Veterinary Record, Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, Toxicologic Pathology, Marine Mammal Science, Experimental and Molecular Pathology, Aquatic Mammals, Florida Scientist, Journal of Raptor Research, Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, Oceanography, Journal of Wildlife Diseases, Environmental Science & Technology, Journal of Parasitology, Aquatic Toxicology, Veterinary Microbiology, Diseases of Aquatic Organisms and Nature.

Carey Rountree

Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Carey Rountree

Carey Rountree, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing is responsible for the development, implementation and management of all sales, marketing, communications, advertising, membership and development strategies and programs for Georgia Aquarium. He is also responsible for the coordination of all promotional events, retail partnerships and the development and implementation of the Group Sales Program. In addition, Rountree manages the marketing and sales of and serves as key liaison to the Wolfgang Puck Catering and Restaurant Associates teams. He carries out these responsibilities with more than 38 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Rountree’s start in the hospitality industry began in 1974 as a sales manager with the Marriott Corporation where his innovative thinking and desire to improve quickly moved him through the ranks. In 1983, he became Regional Director of Sales and Marketing and increased southeastern revenue from $80 million to $285 million. In 1988, he became the Resident Manager at the Atlanta Marriott Northwest and improved guest satisfaction scores 15 percent in only one year.

In 1989, he joined the Stormont-Trice Corporation, an Atlanta-based hotel development and management company, as Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Using his experience from the Marriott Corporation, Rountree tripled the number of hotels in the company’s portfolio and increased the sales and marketing department from six to 45 employees.

In 1992, Rountree went to work with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing until 2002 and Executive Vice President until 2005. While at the ACVB, Rountree created new and innovative ways to increase tourism and convention traffic in the metro Atlanta area. Rountree helped business development by the ACVB grow from $2 million in 2002 to $6 million in 2004.

In 2005, Rountree joined Hi-Tech Rental and Staging as Vice President of Business Development. He helped the 18-year-old company move from a third-party supplier of audio and visual equipment to a customer-direct rental service. Before moving to the Georgia Aquarium in 2007, he hired a Vice President of Sales and a Vice President of Operations to implement the initiatives he set in motion.

Taking his commitment to the profession beyond the workplace, Rountree has served on the board of directors for many professional and international marketing and exhibition associations including the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. He is an active member of the Professional Convention Management Association, the American Society of Association Executives, Meeting Professionals International and the Georgia State University Marketing Roundtable.

He is involved in many community organizations including the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Helping Hands division of Hands-On-Atlanta and the Atlanta Kiwanis Club. He has been a guest lecturer on the subjects of marketing, hospitality and exhibition management at schools such as Georgia State University, Emory University and the University of Georgia.

Rountree graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in political science in 1974. He and his wife, Janet, have four children and six grandchildren.

William Hurley

Senior Vice President & Chief Zoological Officer

William Hurley

As Senior Vice President and Chief Zoological Officer, William Hurley leads all Zoological Operations at Georgia Aquarium.

Hurley holds a bachelor’s degree in Marine Environmental Biology from Auburn University. While beginning his career at an aquarium in Florida, he was recruited to work for the University of California Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory. From there he went on to become the General Manager of Dolphin Quest, located in Hawaii and Oahu, before being promoted to Corporate Director of Husbandry and Training for the global company (including Bermuda and French Polynesia).

William Hurley joined Georgia Aquarium from Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center, where he served as General Manager and Vice President of Animal Management. Hurley had acted as a consultant for several months on Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Expansion.

Hurley is heavily involved with the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association (IMATA) as the former President. Hurley is the current President for the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquarium (AMMPA), as well as an active member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), participating on the Governmental Affairs and Wildlife Conservation and Management Committees. Hurley has released several posters, papers and presentations, which focus primarily on marine mammal care and training, as well as the field projects in which he has participated.

Beach M. Clark, Jr.

Vice President, Information Technology

Beach Clark

As the Vice President of Information Technology, Beach M. Clark, Jr. oversees multiple aspects of Georgia Aquarium’s technological operations. His position encompasses point of sale, ticketing, telecommunications and overall management of the Aquarium’s web site.

Clark is an Atlanta native, having graduated from North Springs High School before earning his bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va.

After working for several years in the hospitality industry as a manager of hotel and restaurant properties, Clark returned to Georgia State University to earn his Master’s degree in accounting. Upon completing his degree, Clark took a position with Andersen Consulting where he began his career in information technology.

Clark worked with clients in a number of industries including healthcare, telecommunications, technology, finance and manufacturing. He has also specialized in the implementation of advanced technology solutions.

The Home Depot recruited Clark in 1991 to design and implement their network architecture. Over the next 12 years at The Home Depot, Clark managed a number of functions in networking, application development and technical support.

Since joining the team at Georgia Aquarium in July of 2004, Clark has enjoyed the opportunity to work with multiple organizations and his extended responsibility over several areas within information technology, including Georgia Aquarium’s web site and databases.

Clark has three sons, Beach III (Trip), Tyler and Hagen. He and his wife Cheryl live in Smyrna, a suburb of Atlanta.

Brian Davis, Ph.D.

Vice President, Education and Training

Brian Davis

As vice president of education and training, Dr. Brian Davis is in charge of developing educational programs for both guests and employees at the world’s largest aquarium. With over 19 years of experience, he believes that scientific literacy and cultural enrichment are both vital in successfully educating students and society as a whole. He implements this belief through educational experiences at Georgia Aquarium that reflect the interconnectedness between scientific literacy and our daily lives.

Dr. Davis earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental science at Rutgers University and both his Master’s and Ph.D. in science education at Georgia State University. Before joining the Georgia Aquarium team, he held curriculum development positions with the Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation in New York, Zoo Atlanta, Georgia State University, and Cobb County School District. In Cobb County, he also taught science at several middle schools before being promoted to Magnet Coordinator and then Assistant Administrator for Kennesaw Mountain High School and Pine Mountain Middle School. Outside of these roles he served as a consultant for National Science Foundation through Georgia State, Kennesaw State, and Southern Polytechnic Universities.

Since coming to the Aquarium, Dr. Davis has worked to develop educational programming that meets state and national curriculum standards and has also served as the liaison between Georgia Aquarium and all educational institutions in the state. He has also worked with local universities to incorporate training in informal educational institutions as an additional component of teacher preparation.

Dr. Davis is a member of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), Georgia Science Teachers Association, National Science Teachers Association, National Marine Educators Association, Georgia Association of Marine Educators, and many organizations. He has also served on the National Science Teachers Association Committee. Dr. Davis was recognized as an outstanding first year teacher when he was the recipient of the Sallie Mae Award of Cobb County School District.

Will Ramsey

Vice President, Sales

Will Ramsey

As the Vice President of Sales for Georgia Aquarium, Will Ramsey is responsible for developing and implementing the sales program within the Aquarium Marketing Plan. In addition, he oversees the sales of the catered event program for the Aquarium, including all event services staff and the Wolfgang Puck Catering team.

Ramsey brings over 20 years of guest relations and group sales experience to Georgia Aquarium. As Guest Relations Supervisor at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, Ramsey led and motivated a staff of 15 guest relations representatives. He was responsible for revenue taken and tickets sold; he supervised the season pass operation as well as the sale of group tickets.

At the Florida Aquarium, Ramsey served as the Events Coordinator, Group Sales Representative, and Group Sales Manager. In his nine years with the Florida Aquarium, his responsibilities ranged from the coordination of all aquarium special events to directing a group sales staff that was responsible for generating special event and all group sales revenue.

At the Georgia Aquarium, Ramsey works closely with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau on in-market site inspections and out-of-market sales calls to maximize convention group revenue potential. Directing a group sales and services staff of 13, he also oversees the catering sales operation of Wolfgang Puck Catering to ensure successful events.

Timothy Mullican, DVM

Vice President, Zoological Operations

Timothy Mullican

As Vice President, Zoological Operations, Timothy Mullican, DVM, oversees the daily activities of all animal related departments including the Animal Commissary, Water Quality Lab, Life Support Systems, Dive Operations and the Dive Immersion Program. He also serves as liaison for interactions with other departments within the Aquarium such as Public Relations, Guest Programs and Education.

Dr. Mullican graduated from the University of Dayton with a bachelor’s degree in biology and continued his education at Purdue University, where he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. During his time in school, he also studied at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to receive his AQUAVET certification.

Dr. Mullican is veteran of a wide variety of veterinary and business positions over his 25 year career. His public aquarium experience began in 1997 at the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky where he served as consulting veterinarian. Maintaining veterinary oversight, he was tabbed as Executive Director in 2002, a position he held until 2005. He then served as a consultant for developer Colliers International on the never-built Puerto Rico National Aquarium project.

He has held a variety of positions with Georgia Aquarium since arriving in 2008. Dr. Mullican's research interest is giant manta rays. He holds the position of Adjunct Professor at University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Tonya M. Clauss

Director, Animal Health

Tonya Clauss

As the Director of Animal Health at Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Tonya Clauss serves as the head clinical veterinarian. She supervises a team of 7 staff and manages daily operations in the veterinary diagnostic laboratory and hospital.

Clauss received dual bachelor’s degrees in Animal Science and Wildlife Ecology & Conservation from the University of Florida in 1996 and 1997 with a minor in chemistry. In 2003, she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine and received the Learner Family Wildlife Conservation Award for excellence in wildlife and zoological medicine. In 2004, she finished a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering Sciences with a focus on Wetland’s Ecology.

Clauss’ veterinary medicine career began in 1994 when she started working as a veterinary assistant for the Williston Veterinary Clinic in Florida. She also worked as a veterinary and research assistant at the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine from 1995 - 2002. After graduation from veterinary school in 2003, Clauss accepted a position as staff veterinarian at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. In early 2004, she was hired as director of veterinary services for Pelican Man’s Bird Sanctuary, a wildlife rehabilitation facility also in Sarasota. While at this position, Clauss became a research affiliate at The Florida Aquarium in Tampa, a position she held until December 2007. In February 2005, Clauss began working at the Georgia Aquarium as an associate veterinarian and assistant manager of veterinary services. She was promoted to Chief Veterinarian and Manager of Clinical Services in 2007. In January 2012, she was promoted to Director, Animal Health.

Clauss has received specialized training in numerous areas such reptile critical care, immunology for aquatic animals and aquatic invertebrate medicine. She teaches veterinary courses at institutions such as University of Georgia, University of Tennessee, University of Florida, Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and MARVET at St. Matthews University in Grand Cayman. Clauss is an author or coauthor on numerous scientific articles as well as two book chapters. She has participated in or directed numerous scientific studies with animals including sea turtles, sharks and penguins. Based on her accomplishments since graduating from veterinary and graduate school, she was awarded an Outstanding Young Alumnus award from the University of Florida in 2009.

Clauss is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Zoological Veterinarians, the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians. She currently serves as a student liaison committee member for the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and is a research committee member at the Georgia Aquarium.

Dr. Bruce A. Carlson

Science Officer, Emeritus

Dr. Bruce A. Carlson

Bruce Carlson joined the Georgia Aquarium on April 1, 2002 as part of the original four-person team to design the exhibits and programs for the Georgia Aquarium. While he had significant input on all of the exhibits, his primary contribution was the design of the Tropical Diver gallery and the Pacific Barrier Reef Exhibit. Among his other contributions to the Georgia Aquarium were:

Carlson received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1971. After graduating, he traveled to Guyana, South America, where he worked as a research assistant studying the reproductive biology of freshwater fishes.

In 1972, he joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. His task was to conduct a biological survey of the marine life of the Fiji Islands and help establish a permanent collection for the university. 40-years later this collection still exists and is housed in a new, modern building.

In 1975, Carlson moved to Hawaii where he earned a doctorate at the University of Hawaii. He started work at the Waikiki Aquarium in 1976 as a student aquarist. As an aquarist, he initiated a series of new exhibits which were “firsts” in the United States, including chambered nautilus in 1976, cuttlefish in 1977 and living corals and giant clams in 1978. His research on nautilus eventually led to a successful breeding program for these “living fossils,” and in 1991 the Association of Zoos and Aquariums awarded the prestigious “Bean Award” to the Waikiki Aquarium in recognition of this work.

Carlson was appointed Director of the Waikiki Aquarium in 1990. In 1992, he began work on a $3 million renovation of the old Aquarium. Under his direction, the Aquarium operated on a budget of about $2.5 million annually and employed 38 full-time staff assisted by more than 200 trained volunteers from the community.

Carlson is an avid SCUBA diver, underwater photographer and videographer. He has published several scientific articles on numerous topics including descriptions of new species of reef fishes, telemetry work on chambered nautilus and culture methods for corals in aquariums. He retired from the Georgia Aquarium on April 1, 2011 and returned to Hawaii.

Dr. Alistair Dove

Director of Research and Conservation

Dr. Alistair Dove

As Director of Research and Conservation, Dr. Dove is responsible for carrying out research activities for Georgia Aquarium and administering collaborative research with our partner institutions; he is the current chair of the Research Committee.

Dr. Dove obtained a 1st class Honors degree in Zoology and Parasitology in 1994 from the University of Queensland, Australia, studying parasites of jacks (a predatory fish group) on coral reefs. His Ph.D. studies focused on the ecology of parasites infecting invasive fish species in Australian lakes and rivers, for which he was awarded a Deans List commendation and a University Medal. After moving to the USA in 2000, Dr. Dove served as Curator of Aquatic Animal Health at the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, Brooklyn. He then spent five years as a marine science professor for both Cornell University and Stony Brook University, where he established the first NY State marine diagnostic laboratory. From 2002-2005, he worked with many scientists and students across southern New England, researching the impacts of climate change on the health of coastal marine life, especially lobsters, striped bass, bluefish and clams. From 2001-2004 he also served as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University, teaching classes in symbiosis and coral reef ecology.

Dr. Dove joined the Aquarium team in 2006. His research interests continue on the theme of “health in aquatic animals”, with a current focus on parasites of marine life and the biology of whale sharks. Since 1994, he has been awarded 8 research grants and has published 38 scientific articles on topics ranging from parasite ecology, invertebrate diseases, taxonomy and the biological impacts of climate change. He is an active participant in the scientific community, holding committee positions for the American Fisheries Society and the American Society of Parasitologists and maintaining active collaborations with scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University and University of Georgia. He continues to teach aquatic animal health through the AQUAVET program taught annually at Woods Hole MA, and is an adjunct faculty member at UGA, Stony Brook University, and Georgia Tech.

In addition to his research duties, Dr. Dove is a passionate scientist communicator. He contributes regularly at DeepSeaNews.com, the world’s most popular marine science blogging network, and actively engages scientists and the public through Twitter from his two accounts @para_sight and @Wheres_Domino.

Scott Higley

Vice President, Marketing and Communications

Scott Higley

As the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Georgia Aquarium, Scott Higley is responsible for driving attendance for the Aquarium and building its reputation as the largest and most engaging aquarium experience in the world. Higley also serves as a spokesperson for Georgia Aquarium.

Higley graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, mass communications and marketing. Throughout his early career, Higley specialized in retail marketing, sponsorship sales and public relations while working for global corporations such as Simon Property Group and Jones Lang LaSalle. During this time, he successfully created marketing programs for the opening one of the nation’s largest retail and entertainment properties, the Mall of Georgia and later served as Director of Marketing for Atlanta’s Lenox Square, managing such beloved events as the mall’s annual Fourth of July Fireworks, which draws 300,000 guests each year. He was also responsible for leading the marketing and communications team for the grand opening of Atlantic Station in the heart of Atlanta. Prior to joining the Aquarium, he served as the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Ben Carter Properties.

At Georgia Aquarium, Higley oversees the integration of public relations, promotional marketing initiatives and digital communications. He is also responsible for the ongoing development and management of the Aquarium’s brand, creative materials and advertising initiatives.

Higley is proud to serve as the Public Relations co-chair for the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums (AMMPA). He has also served as a founding member of the marketing advisory council for the Georgia chapter of The March of Dimes, and as a member of the Luxury Marketing Council of Georgia and the Georgia Hospitality and Lodging Association.

Heather McKeen

Vice President, Facilities and Operations

Heather McKeen

As Vice President of Facilities and Operations, Heather McKeen is responsible for the buildings and property of Georgia Aquarium. McKeen leads Plant Engineering, Environmental Operations, Security and Exhibits departments and oversees all capital improvement projects. In addition, McKeen is also the primary liaison to parking deck operator.

An Atlanta-area native, McKeen earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Georgia Tech in 1995 before going on to complete a master’s degree in construction management at Southern Polytechnic State University in 1998.

After earning her degrees, McKeen accepted a position at Beers Construction Company, where she worked for two years as an office engineer. During her time at Beers, she was involved with the innovative design and challenging construction of the Georgia Public Television Communications headquarters in Atlanta, which was specially built to hold the nation’s first entirely digital TV station, as well as the construction of several state prisons throughout Georgia.

McKeen continued to work in the construction industry and began working at Heery International, where she specialized in construction and program management. During her time at Heery, she rose to senior project manager and was involved with many types of projects including office buildings, hospitals, technology data centers and interior renovations.

Her connection with Georgia Aquarium began in 2002, when Heery was hired to manage the development and construction of the Aquarium. She became project manager of the team that originally designed and built Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest Aquarium, before it opened in 2005.

In 2007, Heery partnered with Georgia Aquarium once again to oversee construction of the dolphin expansion exhibit and Cold Water Quest renovation. McKeen served as Heery’s senior project manager for the $110 million dolphin expansion and $5.5 million Cold Water Quest renovation at the Aquarium. Under her direction, the dolphin expansion project, which occurred simultaneously with the Cold Water Quest renovation, was accelerated by four months to accommodate the arrival of the dolphins. After the astonishing success of the dolphin expansion and Cold Water Quest renovation, McKeen was appointed Vice President of Facilities and Operations of Georgia Aquarium in 2010. She brings with her over 13 years of experience in program and construction management.

McKeen is a LEED AP, a professional credential awarded by the Green Building Certification Institute that demonstrates her knowledge of and certifies her in sustainable building technologies.

Joe Handy

Vice President, Visitor Services and Guest Programs

Joe Handy

As Vice President of Visitor Services and Guest Programs at the Georgia Aquarium, Joe Handy is responsible for the interaction and interpretation of the guest experience while visiting the Aquarium. As part of visitor services and guest programs, Handy oversees the call center, ticketing, sales stations, plaza and gallery staff and Aquarium programs such as behind-the-scenes tours. Handy also acts as a liaison for all third party vendors.

Handy was born and raised in New York. He graduated with honors from The College of New Rochelle in New York with a Liberal Arts Degree concentrated in Political Science. While in New York, Handy worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City for nine years and assisted in opening the Rose Center for Earth and Space.

In 2005, Handy moved to Atlanta to serve as the Georgia Aquarium’s Director of Visitor Services. In late 2006, Handy was promoted to Vice President, Visitor Services and Guest Programs.

Handy is also an active member in his community. In New York, he served as an appointed representative to a Community Board in Manhattan. In 2004, he was elected to serve as a Delegate in the Presidential Election. Handy currently serves on the Baker Street Advisory Board where he and other representatives from the Centennial Olympic Park area help make critical decisions about the area’s development. He is a member of the Central Atlanta Transportation Study Downtown Transportation Committee, as well as an active member in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.