Animal Training & Research International

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Current Staff

Michelle Jones - Head Trainer

Michelle has had a love for animals since a young age. She realized her passion for marine mammals after a Dolphin Encounter experience at Discovery Kingdom. Originally from San Jose, CA, Michelle moved down to Monterey to pursue a Marine Science degree from CSU Monterey Bay. She found out about SLEWTHS through a friend and immediately applied. Michelle joined the SLEWTHS family in 2010 and reached the Head Trainer level in December of 2016.

Michelle is excited to learn from the SLEWTHS family and gain experience to pursue her dream of becoming an animal trainer.


Alex Tyrell - Senior Trainer Level 2

Originally from Wildomar CA, Alex moved to Monterey in 2009 for the opportunity to attend California State University Monterey Bay on a water polo scholarship. She has spent her whole life in the water and as an animal lover so SLEWTHS was a perfect fit. In December 2015, Alex entered into the Senior Trainer position and everyday looks forward to her future interactions with the staff and animals.


Jessica Simpson - Senior Trainer Level 1

Originally from Valley Springs, CA, Jessica has had a passion for animals since before she could remember. Throughout high school Jessica was involved with Future Farmers of America (FFA), during which she was allowed the experience in raising chickens and lamb every year to show at the annual county fair. In 2010, Jessica moved to Monterey to pursue a Marine Science degree from Cal State Monterey Bay. Shortly after the start of her third year of college, Jessica discovered the SLEWTHS project. In November of 2012, Jessica joined the SLEWTHS project in hopes to further her knowledge of marine mammals and learn all of what it takes in caring for them. Jessica moved up to Assistant Trainer in December of 2013. She feels blessed for all the opportunities and knowledge she has already obtained while working with a group of such inspiring people and animals. Jessica is looking forward to her future involvement at SLEWTHS and is excited for the opportunities this project will bring her.


Melodie Lynn - Senior Trainer Level 1

From the small town of Grass Valley, California, Melodie has always dreamed of working with marine mammals. After graduating with an A.S. degree in Natural Sciences from Sierra College, she transferred to CSU Monterey Bay in 2011, majoring in Biology. After hearing about the SLEWTHS project in 2012, she became part of the SLEWTHS family in December 2012 and has now obtained the position of Senior Trainer in December 2016. She loves every moment working in the lab and is excited about learning new things in animal behavior and husbandry.


Austin Raymond - Senior Trainer Level 1

From a small town in the Central Valley, Austin did not know where his future would lead him. He had many pets growing up and he was unaware of how this early foundation would grow into a passion to learn and work with animals. Austin found the SLEWTHS project and joined the team in July of 2013. In June of 2017 he moved into the Senior Trainer position. Since joining the SLEWTHS project, he has seen how much this project has impacted his life and taught him so much. He is so excited to continue working with SLEWTHS and see where this knowledge and experience will take him


Jana Martin - Trainer

Jana was raised in Santa Cruz, CA and developed a deep love of animals and the ocean at an early age. Participating in a dolphin trainer-for-a-day program in her early years helped her make the decision to pursue a career in the marine sciences and animal behavior fields.  Jana graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.S. in Marine Biology and is now working on gaining the experience that will help accomplish her goal of working in the animal world.  She happened to stumble upon the SLEWTHS project in June of 2014 when taking an animal training course taught by the director of the project.  After interning for a week, she knew that SLEWTHS was exactly where she needed to be.  She is honored to now be a part of the SLEWTHS family and is excited to create such positive, trusting relationships with these animals now and in the years to come.


Kerissa Eslick - Assistant Trainer

Kerissa came from a military family originally stationed in Virginia, then settled in Tucson, Arizona when she was 7 years old. She grew up riding horses and was a competitive gymnast for 15 years. When in Virginia her family would spend every weekend on the water which is where her passion for the ocean and marine mammals brewed. Once in Arizona they took a family vacation to SeaWorld and Kerissa fell in love with the dolphin shows. She then put gymnastics and animals together and made the decision she wanted to train dolphins! After an injury that ended her gymnastics career and military entrance, she moved to Monterey Bay to obtain a degree in Marine Science.

In January 2015 she joined the SLEWTHS family and has now obtained the Assistant Trainer position. After graduation she would like to work for the Georgia Aquarium training their dolphins and eventually work towards a career with the United States Navy Marine Mammal program training either their dolphins or Sea Lions. She is very excited to see what the future has to bring for her here at Slewths!


Bree Wheeler - Assistant Trainer

Bree has always had a passion for marine mammals. Although she grew up in the small Central Valley town of Turlock, California she spent her summers growing up in Morro Bay, California where her love for the ocean environment blossomed. In high school she spent two summers attending Sea World’s Career Camp where she got to interact with various types of animals in a professional animal care and training environment. She fell in love and decided to pursue a career working with marine mammals. In 2014, she moved to Santa Cruz to go to school for Marine Biology. After hearing about the project while on a local whale watching trip, Bree was fortunate enough to join the SLEWTHS family in December of 2015.
She moved up into the Senior Animal Care position in October of 2016. Bree is thankful to be a part of the project and excited for all the learning experiences to come!


Deneille Pritchard - Assistant Trainer

Deneille grew up in the city of Temecula where her family lived on 2.5 acres. They had a lot of space so what more use of that space than to own horses and a lot of pets! Her sister was the first to want to be an animal trainer, specifically dogs, and Deneille learned that she wanted to train animals too! She has wanted to train dolphins, since they are her favorite animal, but coming to SLEWTHS she has learned that having a variety of interests is important for not limiting herself. Before she knew where she wanted to go to college, Deneille needed to know what she needed to do in order to be an animal trainer. On a family trip to Sea World, she spoke with one of the dolphin trainers and said that everyone had a Psychology degree.She then decided that Cal State Monterey Bay was the college for her and graduated in 2014 with a B.S. in Psychology. Not only did it have the major she needed, but it was right next to the ocean. There were a few people that she knew that went to CSUMB and also worked at SLEWTHS, but at the time it didn’t seem to be the appropriate time to apply. She then started working in Pebble Beach as a trail guide working with horses and it gave her the experience with animals that she needed to apply for SLEWTHS.
She joined the SLEWTHS team in June of 2015 and has already gained so much experience, and enjoyed being able to use what she has learned so far in her own job. She is excited to continue on with her experiences and enjoys the opportunity working with sea lions.


Kelsey Dodson - Assistant Trainer

Originally from a small town in the Bay Area, Kelsey had always aspired to work with animals. She grew up frequently visiting Marine World in Vallejo, California which is where her love for animals blossomed. Kelsey decided to attend Cal State Monterey Bay which introduced her to SLEWTHS. She graduated in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and shortly after joined the SLEWTHS family in August 2016. She is now an Assistant Trainer and loving every minute! Kelsey is excited to continue learning and gaining experience through this incredible project.

 


Brandy Ziriax - Assistant Trainer

Brandy and her family moved to Monterey from Bakersfield, Ca after she completed her A.S. in Biology and A.A.T. in Psychology. She has had a fascination with marine mammals since she was five and her family went to SeaWorld where she was able to meet their training teams. Her goal of becoming a marine mammal train has always guided her path and ultimately brought her to SLEWTHS. She took a break to start a family and now has an amazing supportive husband and three great boys. Brandy is now preparing to graduate from CSUMB with a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Psychology. She loves working with animals as well as children which makes SLEWTHS a perfect fit.


 Taylor Ott - Senior Animal Care

Originally from Sacramento, CA, Taylor grew a passion for working with marine mammals through annual family trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She decided to attend California State University Monterey Bay to move closer to her dream and shortly after hearing about the SLEWTHS project through the school, she was welcomed into the family in August of 2016. She moved up to the senior animal care position in June of 2017 and is excited to continue growing through the project!

 

 


Kaitlyn Kirkland