school of fish in background
Skip to page Header home about your sanctuary visiting your sanctuary education science management news and events protecting resources image library document library Get Involved advisory council partners NOAA logo - a circle with a stylized seabird in flight; background is dark blue above the bird and light blue below the bird.

blank spaceFind us on Facebook

     Follow @fgbnms on Twitter


About Your Sanctuary
Skip to Main Content
About Sanctuary Home    History    Regulations    FAQs
Sanctuary Staff    Natural Setting    NW Gulf Banks
Species List    Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems
Research Vessel    Sanctuary Encyclopedia
20 Things to Love   NOAA Corps Staff


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) 356-0383


Irene Arthur, Administrative Program Specialist
(409) 356-0393

Education & Outreach

Shelley Du Puy, Education & Outreach Coordinator
(409) 356-0382

Kelly Drinnen, Outreach Specialist & Web Coordinator
(409) 356-0388


Dustin Picard, Vessel Operations Coordinator
(409) 356-0395

Research & Monitoring

Emma Hickerson, Research Coordinator
(409) 356-0390

John Embesi, Research Specialist
(409) 356-0385

Michelle Johnston, Research Ecologist
(409) 356-0392

Marissa Nuttall, Research Specialist
(409) 356-0391

Travis Sterne, Research Specialist
(409) 356-0387

Raven Walker, Research Specialist
(409) 356-0384

Sanctuary Advisory Council

Leslie Clift, Advisory Council Coordinator
(409) 356-0386

Southeast Region - National Marine Sanctuaries

Bill Kiene, Regional Science & Policy Analyst
(409) 356-0394

Irene ArthurIrene Arthur
Administrative Program Specialist
(409) 356-0393

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.

Leslie CliftLeslie Clift
Advisory Council Coordinator
(409) 356-0386

Leslie Whaylen Clift joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team in July 2015. As the Sanctuary Advisory Council Coordinator, she serves as the primary contact for the Advisory Council and facilitates all aspects of council-related activities. Leslie also assists with the sanctuary expansion review process. Leslie began diving in the sanctuary in the 1990s, as a volunteer fish surveyor while working for the state of Texas as an Aquatic Scientist. After moving to the Florida Keys, she returned occasionally to FGBNMS to lead and instruct groups of REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) divers and conduct fish assemblage surveys. Leslie returned to Galveston in 2012.

Kelly DrinnenKelly Drinnen
Education Specialist
(409) 356-0388

Kelly Drinnen joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary team in August 2004. As Education Specialist, she is responsible for public communications such as the sanctuary website, social media, email lists and informational flyers and brochures. She also conducts workshops and presentations. Prior to working for the sanctuary, Kelly worked in informal science education at Moody Gardens and Sea World of Florida, as well as two years as a 4th grade teacher in South Houston. Kelly is also part of the sanctuary dive team.

Shelley DuPuyShelley Du Puy
Education & Outreach Coordinator
(409) 356-0382

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.

John EmbesiJohn Embesi
Research Specialist
(409) 356-0385

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.

Emma HickersonEmma Hickerson
Research Coordinator
(409) 356-0390

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.

Michelle JohnstonMichelle Johnston
Research Ecologist
(409) 356-0392

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.

Bill KieneBill Kiene
Regional Science & Policy Analyst,
Southeast Region
(409) 356-0394

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




Marissa NuttallMarissa Nuttall
Research Specialist
(409) 356-0391

Marissa joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary research team in 2007. She manages the long-term monitoring program at Stetson Bank, supports mesophotic ecosystem research both within and around the sanctuary, and leads GIS support for research and management activities. Marissa also serves as the Unit Diving Supervisor for the FGBNMS dive unit and has coordinated and led multiple research expeditions utilizing SCUBA and remotely operated vehicles. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University at Galveston and holds a M.Sc. in Marine Biology. 

Dustin PicardDustin Picard
Vessel Operations Coordinator
(409) 356-0395

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.

G.P. SchmahlGeorge P. Schmahl
(409) 356-0383

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.

Travis Sterne diving with a camera setupTravis Sterne
Research Specialist
(409) 356-0387

Travis Sterne originally came aboard as a volunteer AAUS scientific diver from Texas A&M in 2013. After graduation in 2015, he joined Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as a Research Specialist and has been supporting the goals of the long-term monitoring projects within the sanctuary ever since. He previously spent a handful of years working abroad as a SCUBA diving instructor in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Western Samoa before returning to Texas to combine his passion for the ocean with conservation and management strategies. Travis returned to Texas A&M in the fall of 2016 to fulfill a Master's degree in Marine Resource Management while continuing to aid the sanctuary's research efforts. As a graduate research assistant, he is specializing in predictive habitat modeling for mesophotic ecosystems in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. His work is supported by NOAA's Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program.

Raven WalkerRaven Walker
Research Specialist
(409) 356-0384

Raven Walker joined the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary staff in 2016. She obtained her B.S. in Marine Sciences and M.S. in Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG) and is currently pursuing her PhD in Marine Biology. Raven has done research in tracking consumer-driven declines in historical marine animal populations of the Chesapeake Bay, but currently works on developing consumer-markets for the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. As a sanctuary research specialist, she provides support to various research projects, as well as the ongoing long-term monitoring program. She is a TAMUG scientific diver and recently became a NOAA diver.

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.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves