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The MaST Team


Kaddee Lawrence
Executive Director, Instructor of Life, Ocean and General Science Department at Highline College

Kaddee began working for Highline College at the MaST Center in 2000 teaching Oceanography and Marine Biology. She became Executive Director at the current facility in 2010. Kaddee first received a BA in Biology from Colgate University then worked for 3 years in a neurobiology laboratory at Albany Medical College where she discovered a true passion. Upon recognizing her unvarying interest in neurobiology, Kaddee chose to go back to school, and received her PhD in Neurobiology from the University of New Hampshire. Her love of Washington began during her time in grad school, while carrying out research on Melibe leonine (Hooded Nudibranch). As Executive Director, Kaddee guides the MaST Center's development in line with the HC/MaST Center mission statement by working with members of the community, higher education partners and corporations to provide accessible science outreach opportunities that focus on the marine environment of the Puget Sound. She has also been an avid SCUBA diver for 30 years and often assists in marine life collections and research. Time away from HCC and the MaST Center is most often spent outdoors, hiking and exploring new areas of Washington. Her favorite marine creature is the Melibe leonina (Hooded Nudibranch).

Rus Higley
Manager, Instructor of Life, Ocean and General Science Department at Highline College

Rus has worked as Manager at the Marine Science and Technology Center since its opening in 2003. He is a native Alaskan, but grew up in Des Moines and graduated from Western Washington University with a B.S. in Marine Biology. He then went on to get his M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction from Old Dominion, and Master of Marine Affairs from the University of Washington. As well as managing the MaST Center, Rus also teaches classes at Highline College in Marine Biology, Environmental Sciences and Oceanography.  When not teaching, or overseeing operations at the MaST Center, Rus enjoys spending time in the water as he is a certified SCUBA master diver and river rafting tour guide. Rus is an essential component to our team as he makes sure everyone's needs are taken care of, and all processes in the building are running efficiently. Rus' favorite marine creature is Eumicotremus orbis (Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker).

Matt Wilson
Aquarist, Supervisor

Matt is a native Washingtonian, and has been involved in the MaST for almost 5 years. He dedicated over 2,300  volunteer hours before being hired at the MaST Center as the Lead Biologist. After volunteering with the Arroyo Gray Whale in 2011 Matt became a regular around the Center. With help from MaST Alumni Bri Gabel, Matt quickly became our go-to-guy on the Jelly Team, but now spends most of his time taking care of the 200+ species in our aquarium. He has an Associates in Biology at Highline College, and continues to put in his free time to assist with the jellyfish program. Matt oversees all aspects of the aquarium, manages the tanks and pumps, medicates ill critters and serves as a role model for our volunteers. Matt's favorite marine creature is the Cyanea capillata (Lion's Mane Jellyfish).

Eugene Disney
Education Coordiantor, NOOPS Lead


Eugene began at the MaST Center as an intern in 2013. While still only volunteering, he developed a research project that monitored the changes in nudibranch populations in the MaST Center aquarium. He presented his findings at the Salish Seas Conference in May 2014 and again at the Northwest Aquatic Marine Educators Conference in July of 2015. In June of 2014, he secured a grant to expand his project and founded the MaST Nudibranch Observation of Populations Study (NOOPS), a citizen science volunteer program that continues the efforts of his original research project. After spending over half a year at the MaST and becoming a Discovery Day supervisor, he is now the Education Programs Coordinator. He schedules school group visits (K-12) to the center, facilitating informal education programs that fit to current Next Generation Science Standards. He received his BS in Marine Biology from the University of California - Santa Cruz, and is actively pursuing a Masters of Environmental Studies. Eugene's current favorite marine creatures are Janolus fuscus (Orange and White Tipped Nudibranch) and Navanax inermis (California Aglaja Nudibranch).


Kay Vallejo
Volunteer Supervisor


Our longest committed volunteer; Kay has worked over 4,000 hours at the MaST Center in the last 10 years. She has an AA in education from Highline College and was named Student Employee of the year in 2007. She worked as a Para-educator in special education in the Federal Way public school system for 14 years. Now retired, Kay spends a lot of her time here at the MaST Center working with volunteers to maintain our aquarium and general facility. She also supervises extracurricular events and is thoroughly involved in summer camps. Kay is perhaps the most well-known face at the MaST Center and is an irreplaceable member of our team.  Her favorite marine creatures are the Enteroctopus dofleine (Giant Pacific Octopus) and the Anarrhichthys ocellatus (Wolf Eel).

Diane Schairer
Volunteer Supervisor


Diane has been volunteering at the MaST Center since November 2008, when the new facility first opened its doors. Since then she has moved up our volunteer ranks to Supervisor and coordinates the MaST Center outreach at the Des Moines Farmer's Market. She has her BS in Health Education from the University of Washington, and an M.Ed. in Adult Education from Western Washington University. Before she discovered the MaST Center, Diane led local hiking groups for several years, and was trained in mountaineering-oriented first aid. She discovered the MaST Center with her daughter as they were walking Redondo Beach, and has been with us ever since. Diane's favorite marine creatures are the Nudibranchs, especially the Hermissenda  crassicornis and  Melibe leonina (Opalescnet Nudibranch and  Hooded Nudibranch)

Cal Smith


Cal has been working at the MaST Center as a volunteer for over 6 years. As a retired civil engineer, his expertise comes in very handy around the entire facility, and we are very lucky Cal is with us. Cal received his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington,  and retired after 30 years with the Washington State Department of Transportation. He also worked for 25 years as a part time commercial fisherman trolling for salmon off the Washington coast. Not only is Cal's knowledge as an engineer extremely helpful, but his knowledge of the Washington coast, and its marine inhabitants is hard to come by. Cal does not have a favorite marine creature, as he loves all creatures of the sea! 

Randy Williams
Volunteer, Live Dive Lead

Randy is a very familiar face here at the MaST Center. He is an extremely dependable volunteer who gladly assists in any task at the facility. Randy also hosts our Live Dive events once a month on water weekends, leads marine life collections for the aquarium, and documents all the cool stuff that goes on in the facility; all using his own equipment! Randy is a retired US Coast Guard Marine Science Technician and diver. Randy has worked as a diver with the NOAA National Undersea Research Program with the Aquarius Undersea Lab in Florida. He is also a local technical diving instruction with 40+ years as an underwater explorer. Randy is known for his willingness and enthusiasm around the MaST Center, and is always ready for an adventure! His favorite marine creature is the Enteroctopus dofleini (Giant Pacific Octopus).

John Theiss
Volunteer Supervisor, NOOPS Assistant, Jelly Team Assistant

John began working at the MaST Center in September of 2013. He quickly became recognized as one of our most dedicated and dependable volunteers, and as such was named Supervisor after receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013. He is involved in various volunteer opportunities at the MaST Center including the Nudibranch Citizen Science Task Force and Jelly Team where he has proven once again his dedication and interest surrounding the marine environment. John has dedicated nearly his entire educational career traveling the state of Washington to further his knowledge on environmental and human impact studies. He received his AA from Highline College, and went on to get his BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Washington Tacoma. His goal from serving at the MaST Center is to experience and witness environmental issues involving the Puget Sound, in the first person. John's favorite marine creature is the Enhydra lutris (Sea Otter).


Lindsay Magill
AmeriCorps Service Member, Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator

Lindsay is in charge of the Marine Mammal Stranding Team. She's very excited to get started responding to marmam calls! She graduated from Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR in 2015 with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. While a student at OSU, she spent a term at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD in their Marine Animal Rescue Program and decided to pursue marine mammals as a career. She has also spent a lot of time at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR (OSU's marine lab), doing necropsies and working with the marine mammal researchers there as well. She comes to the MaST Center to expand her knowledge and experience in this area. Her favorite marine creature is the Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens).



Jillian Mayer
AmeriCorps Service Member, Citizen Science and Volunteer Coordinator

Jillian grew up in sunny Sarasota, Florida spending all of her free time in the ocean. After a four-year marine science and education internship at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in high school, she earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College in 2014. She recently moved to the Seattle area and is very excited to explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest wilderness. She seeks to work at the intersection of social justice and the marine environment, and encourages readers to begin by remembering that we are now, and always, on Native land. At the MaST Center, she manages the Jelly Team, NOOPS Team, and other volunteer programs. Her favorite marine creatures are juvenile trunkfish (Lactophrys bicaudalis) - because they are so cute!


Lindsay O'Neal
Lead Gelatinous Macroplankton (Jelly) Aquaculturist

Lindsay O'Neal is our Jelly Team Leader who moved here from Galveston, Texas about a year ago. She is a Marine Biology major and her passion lies within the Washington Residential Orca pods. She was accepted into Friday Harbor Labs marine biology program but has decided to stay at Highline to continue not only as a Jelly Team Volunteer but also works here as a biologist 1 for work study. Lindsay started out wanting to work with our stranding network but unexpectedly fell in love with our moon jellies and after only 5 months became our new Jelly Team Lead. She hopes to one day work with the NOAA and to not only educate our future generation about our wildlife but also to conserve it. Lindsay's favorite animal used to be the Orcinus Orca but she has now decided that she does not have favorite. She continues to learn and appreciate all living creatures and most recently she has been introduced to, and now loves the nudibranchia.

Wayne Branson
Assistant Gelatinous Macroplankton (Jelly) Aquaculturist

Wayne is the newest member to the LoGMA. He arrived at the MaST Center in April 2014 as he was looking to fulfill a work service requirement to obtain his STEM teaching certification. Wayne acquired his BS in Chemistry and since has had extensive experience in Environmental Sciences, research and most recently, teaching. His skill set is a great asset to the Jelly Team. Wayne's favorite marine creature is the Delphinapterus leucas (Beluga Whale).

Nudibranch Team

Jessie Smith
Nudibranch Team Participant

Jessie Smith is in her second year at Highline College and has been apart of the Noops team for just over a year. She plans to finish up her Associates degree at Highline College before transferring to a 4 University to finish her undergraduate degree in Biology with the hope of becoming a Marine Biologist.