Translational Medicine and Research Program
Meet the Translational Medicine and Research Program team.
Stephanie Venn-Watson, Director, Translational Medicine and Research Program
Stephanie Venn-Watson, DVM, MPH, directs the Foundation’s Translational Medicine and Research Program. This program was developed to help the Foundation acheive its mission to improve both marine mammal and human health through collaborative, multidisciplinary, and translational research.
As a veterinary epidemiologist, Dr. Venn-Watson has worked with the Navy’s marine mammal population since 2001 and joined the Foundation in 2007. She is Chair of the Working Group for Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events and a Board Director for the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine. Previously, she was a veterinary epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Project Director for the World Health Organization’s Global Salmonella Surveillance Network. For founding the CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People health education program, Dr. Venn-Watson received the Secretary’s Award for Innovations in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion from the Department of Health and Human Services. For founding the science community education program in South Boston, Gap Junction, she was honored an appointment as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow for Life.
Through the Foundation’s Translational Medicine and Research Program, Stephanie hopes to translate research into applicable medicine that benefits both marine mammals and humans. As part of this effort, she is actively seeking research partners and funders to better detect, prevent, and treat diseases associated with diabetes, aging, and infectious disease.
Celeste Benham, Sample and Archives Manager
Celeste graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2009 with both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in marine biology. Before joining the Foundation, she worked as a research associate for the Center for Marine Veterinary Virology at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute. In this position, she used a variety of molecular methods to discover and diagnose viral diseases in dolphins and sea lions. She currently manages the Navy’s sample archive, coordinates clinical and research testing, and is helping develop a new sample archive database. Celeste is also an active volunteer at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Look for her twice a month in the Kelp Tank Dive Show!
Kevin Carlin, Epidemiologist
Kevin Carlin, MPH, is an Epidemiologist in the Translational Medicine and Research Program. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology at California State University, Long Beach and his Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology at San Diego State University. Kevin has been with the US Navy Marine Mammal Program since 2004, starting with the Animal Care and Training Internship Program, then working as an Animal Trainer with the Dolphin Breeding Program. He joined the National Marine Mammal Foundation in 2009, and now works as an Epidemiologist investigating marine mammal health issues such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome, geriatrics and aging, and infectious diseases.
Lisa Clowers, Software Engineer
Lisa graduated from San Diego State University in 1989 with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems. She has been employed by SAIC since 1993. As a Software Engineer she has provided database administration and programming support to the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program since 2002. Lisa is responsible for increasing the Navy’s Marine Mammal database efficiency and effectiveness across several disciplines. She designs, develops, tests and implements enhancements to Veterinary Observations, and Daily Session Databases. She also coordinates, communicates, and resolves data needs for various Navy personnel. Lisa enjoys the outdoors with her family.
Risa Daniels, Diagnostic and Research Coordinator
Growing up the daughter of a San Diego Sport Fisherman, Risa developed a love of travel and all things ocean early in life. After completing her BA at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, she pursued graduate work in Aquatic Ecology and obtained a degree in Marine Technology at the College of Oceaneering with a specialty in Diving Medicine. During summers and whenever possible, she participated in conservation research, marine education, and marine mammal stranding support. Risa’s diving experience brought her to the US Navy Marine Mammal Program as an Animal Trainer in 2001. She spent her first five years supporting the Breeding Program and ensuring dive safety and excellent underwater facility maintenance. After having her own babies, her interest in health and medicine grew and for the last 6 years she has maintained her support of the animals by coordinating the Foundation’s clinical and research diagnostics. Risa is currently completing the family tree for the dolphins under our care.
Chris Hammell, Senior Analyst
Chris Hammell ensures the integrity and quality of the data going into the database and maintains the animals’ hard copy records. He also gives incoming personnel database orientation and instruction. Chris is currently working on his degree in Web Development and is hard at work on the website you see before you. Chris has been a member of Toast Masters International since 2010 and recently competed in a club level, area level, and district level humorous speech contest. In what little spare time he has left, Chris enjoys writing short stories and reading.
Laura Yeates, Marine Mammal Physiologist
Laura Yeates, PhD, is a marine mammal physiologist. She proudly served in the United States Navy as a Torpedoman’s Mate and Tomahawk missile technician for 4 years before receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of California in 1998 and PhD in Physiology from UC Santa Cruz in 2006 Her research has focused on the respiratory and cardiac physiology of diving and thermoregulation in a variety of marine mammal species, including sea otters, California sea lions, and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. She joined the Navy Marine Mammal Program as a National Research Council Associate in 2006, and executed studies that guide the Navy’s ability to safely deploy its working mammals in extreme thermal environments.
Currently, she is collaborating with Dr. Ridgway and medical experts in human health to develop a non-invasive diagnostic test to monitor the health and detect disease using the exhaled breath of the Navy’s bottlenose dolphins as well as marine mammals in the wild.