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The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary office is co-located with the NOAA Fisheries Lab at historic Fort Crockett in Galveston, Texas.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
4700 Avenue U, Bldg. 216
Galveston, TX 77551

Phone: (409) 621-5151
Fax: (409) 621-1316



G.P. Schmahl, Sanctuary Superintendent (409) 621-5151, ext. 102


Irene Arthur, Administrative Program Specialist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 100

Education & Outreach

Shelley Du Puy, Education & Outreach Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 106

Kelly Drinnen, Outreach Specialist & Web Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 105


Dustin Picard, Vessel Operations Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 104

Research & Monitoring

Emma Hickerson, Research & Permits Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 111

Ryan Eckert, Research Assistant
(409) 621-5151, x126

John Embesi, Research Specialist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 124

Michelle Johnston, Research Ecologist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 127

Marissa Nuttall, Research Assistant
(409) 621-5151, ext. 108

Southeast Region - National Marine Sanctuaries

Bill Kiene, Associate Science Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 109

Photo of Irene ArthurIrene Arthur
Administrative Program Specialist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 100

Irene Arthur joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team in 2001. As the sanctuary's Administrative Program Specialist, she is responsible for providing primary program support in the areas of administration, budgeting, procurement and fiscal planning for the FGBNMS. Specifically, she develops annual budgets, tracks and verifies budget status, prepares periodic status reports, analyzes and manages fiscal year procurement actions and prepares acquisitions for technical contract services. She manages administrative record-keeping and prepares travel arrangements for sanctuary staff. She is a 1988 graduate of Texas A&M University having earned a BS in Psychology and Accounting.

Photo of Kelly DrinnenKelly Drinnen
Education Specialist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 105

Kelly Drinnen joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team in August 2004. As Education Specialist, she is responsible for developing, revising and maintaining many of the communication tools used to share sanctuary information with the public. She also conducts workshops and presentations. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from James Madison University and has over 13 years experience with informal science education from Moody Gardens and Sea World of Florida, as well as two years of experience in a 4th grade classroom. Kelly comes from a family full of educators and likes to say she has "teaching in her genes." This, coupled with her love of the ocean, and wildlife in general, led her to a career in informal education where she gets to share her interests in two languages and meet people from around the world. Kelly is also a certified SCUBA diver and former Down Under, Out Yonder workshop participant.

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Photo of Ryan EckertRyan Eckert
Research Assistant
(409) 621-5151, x126

Ryan joined the sanctuary staff in 2009.



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Photo of John EmbesiJohn Embesi
Research Specialist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 124

John Embesi joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team as a Research Specialist in 2009. As a Research Specialist, his responsibilities include continuing the long term monitoring of the banks within the sanctuary and providing support to the FGBNMS research team and partners on various projects. Prior to joining the FGBNMS team, he spent ten years as a Research Specialist and Diving Safety Officer with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Artificial Reef Program.

Photo of Shelley DuPuyShelley Du Puy
Education & Outreach Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 106

Shelley Du Puy joined NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team in 1994. As the sanctuary's Education & Outreach Coordinator, she is responsible for coordinating all education, outreach, public relations and non-research volunteer activities for the sanctuary. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science from Texas A&M University at Galveston and has over 30 years of experience with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in areas ranging from fisheries data collection to wetlands conservation to environmental education. While working as a Fisheries Biologist, Shelley observed that many people had little or no concept of how activities on land and in coastal areas affected the larger ecosystem. This was the motivating factor in her decision to focus her career on the education aspects of natural resource management.

Photo of Emma HickersonEmma Hickerson
Research Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 111

Emma was born in Sydney, Australia, and moved to Texas in 1984. She was initially trained as a diver in 1990, and since has logged more than 1250 dives. She has held the position of Research Coordinator of NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) since 1997. During this time she has contributed to over 40 scientific publications relating to the marine environment. Emma has served as the Unit Diving Supervisor for NOAA’s FGBNMS dive unit since 2005, and has supervised over 5000 dives during more than 155 sanctuary research cruises. She has coordinated and led research utilizing SCUBA, remotely operated vehicles, and manned submersibles.  She is not only passionate about studying the marine environment, but also interpreting science through multimedia, including photography, videography and art.

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Photo of Michelle JohnstonMichelle Johnston
Research Ecologist
(409) 621-5151, ext. 127

Michelle joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary research team in 2011. As a research ecologist and NOAA science diver, she manages the sanctuary’s long-term coral monitoring project and battles invasive lionfish! Michelle has previously been a scuba dive team member at the Living Seas Aquarium in Florida, a sea turtle field biologist in South Carolina, and a marine educator and surf instructor in North Carolina, Australia, the Bahamas and Hawaii. Michelle's academic studies started at UNCW in marine biology where she rehabilitated sick and injured sea turtles, and continued at the University of South Carolina where she completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Environmental Health Science researching bacterial pathogens in coastal waters. After graduate school, Michelle was awarded a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy fellowship with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

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Photo of Bill KieneBill Kiene
Associate Science Coordinator,
Southeast Region
(409) 621-5151, ext. 109

Bill came to Galveston from Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in October 2007.




Photo of Marissa NuttallMarissa Nuttall
Research Assistant
(409) 621-5151, ext. 114

Marissa joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team in 2007 as a research assistant. Her research involvement at the sanctuary includes the cataloging, visual identification, and passive acoustic tracking of manta rays; image analysis for the Long-Term Monitoring of Stetson Bank; and image analysis and GIS mapping for Deep Fish Habitat Characterization. She is currently a graduate student at Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) and holds a B.S. in Marine Biology from TAMUG. Marissa is also an AAUS scientific diver and NAUI Dive Master.

Jamie ParkDustin Picard
Vessel Operations Coordinator
(409) 621-5151, ext. 104

ENS Dustin Picard, a NOAA Corps officer, joined Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in January 2016 after two years aboard the NOAA Ship RONALD H. BROWN. During that assignment, he was fortunate to travel throughout the Pacific, and served as Navigation Officer, Damage Control Officer, and Dive Master. Dustin graduated from the University of Maryland - College Park with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy, concentrating in marine and coastal management. The VOC position combines his professional experience and passion for marine conservation. 

Photo of George P. SchmahlGeorge P. Schmahl
(409) 621-5151, ext. 102

G.P. Schmahl has been the manager of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary since March 1999. Prior to that he served for eight years as the Lower Keys Regional Manager of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Key West, Florida. As sanctuary manager, he is involved with a broad array of Marine Protected Area management issues including research, education and resource protection. Since obtaining a graduate degree in Zoology from the University of Georgia, G.P. has held a variety of positions relating to marine research, coastal management, resource planning and environmental regulation. His primary interest is the ecology and management of coral reefs and associated ecosystems, and he has a specific interest and expertise in the biology and ecology of marine sponges.

weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Small, knobby corals in foreground; boulder of brain coral in background.  Long, fingery branches of purple sponge anchored in knobby corals and standing upright.
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