Peter Chang - Chief Executive Officer


Peter Chang is the Chief Executive Officer at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Peter comes to the organization after serving as Executive Director of Child Creativity Lab, an Orange County-based nonprofit focused on fostering problem-solving, critical thinking, and education skills in children. Prior to that, his background was in strategic planning and marketing in Corporate America. Peter served as an appointed member on the Orange County Child Care & Development Planning Council and a board member for the Orange County chapter of the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC). He graduated with a BS degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, an MBA in Business Administration from the University of Rochester, and an MPH in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Keith Matassa - Director of Zoological & Conservation Programs

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Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Biology, St. Francis College/University of New England (1985)

Keith came to PMMC in early 2013 with 25 years of marine mammal center experience, most recently at the Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center in Biddeford, Maine. Keith had a passion for marine life from childhood. Keith has lived by the ocean much of his life and has a deep understanding of the connection between our oceans and human survival. Keith is a marine biologist with many published papers to his credit. He has been involved in marine mammal organizations for over 30 years and has worked in many capacities including marine animal care and husbandry, educational outreach for the oceans, research on wildlife diseases and fundraising to support the needs of his organization.  With his experience and background in biology and animal center management, Keith is an excellent choice to lead PMMC's animal care, research and collaborative efforts and to expand throughout the scientific community.


Michele Hunter - Director of Animal Care

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With 27 years of experience in marine mammal rehabilitation, Michele Hunter provides strong leadership for Pacific Marine Mammal Center.  Joining the organization in 1989 as an Animal Care volunteer, she progressed from Team Leader to Animal Care Supervisor in 1994.  Michele was promoted to Animal Care Director in 1999, overseeing all care provided to the Center’s marine mammal patients.

Michele’s areas of expertise include marine mammal transport, sample collection and lab analysis, preliminary diagnosis and treatment regimen development, wound care management, neonatal delivery and care, as well many other animal health technician skills, animal welfare regulations, and training development for volunteers and supervisors.  Based upon her reputation for success in hand-rearing newborn California sea lions, she is often approached for assistance and advice by institutions in need of marine mammal husbandry training. Michele is internationally known and respected for her skills in hand rearing sea lion pups and has assisted the curator at the Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, Netherlands when intervention was needed to successfully hand rear three sea lion pups.

 In recent years, Michele has been collaborating with the Caron Laboratory at University of Southern California, providing samples and data for research into harmful algae blooms.   Michele is a Co-Author on the publication, Domoic Acid Causes Reproductive Failure in California sea lions featured in Marine Mammal Science.  












Daniela Moore - Director of Development & Marketing

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Daniela graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a BA degree in Political Science, International Relations. 

Daniela possesses over 20 years of fundraising experience in the non-profit industry.  She previously worked as a Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Stars & Stripes Tournament, interacting with various children’s and military charities.   Her strengths are in corporate development, marketing, community outreach, and donor relations.   

"Pacific Marine Mammal Center has afforded me the amazing opportunity to blend my nonprofit experience with my passion for the ocean and love for these animals that call the ocean their home.  I’m proud to be a part of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and the team that works to give our marine mammal patients a second chance at life."

Kirsten Donald - Director of Education

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Kirsten Donald is a marine mammal scientist whose career started in 1996. Kirsten earned her Master's degree in Marine Mammal Science from University of Wales in Bangor, Wales UK.

Kirsten began her career at Dolphin Research Center, where she served in various capacities including Education and Animal Care and Research.  She served as the Director of Education and as the Director for the College of Marine Mammal Professions. Kirsten holds true to a philosophy of ‘experiential education’, the belief that hands-on experience with and around marine mammals and their environment creates a strong connection that results in better stewardship. Kirsten has served on the Education and Population Management Task Force Committees of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA). She has given presentations at AMMPA Education workshops, National Marine Science Educators’ Association, the Florida Marine Science Education Association conferences, as well as the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association conference. Kirsten was thrilled to join the PMMC family in 2015. The opportunity to expand the educational mission of the center and to contribute directly to conservation and research efforts keeps her continuously motivated.

Dr. Kristen Sakamaki - Veterinarian

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Kristen Sakamaki attended Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences from 2011-2015 with an emphasis on small animal and exotic animal medicine. During her university years, she completed externships at SeaWorld, the Marine Mammal Center at Los Angeles, and overseas at Obihiro University in Japan. Following graduation, she completed a one year-rotating internship in Emergency Medicine at Southwest Veterinary Specialists in San Antonio while rotating through the San Antonio Zoo and SeaWorld San Antonio.

Dr. Sakamaki has a passion for preventive care medicine with an emphasis on nutrition and dental polyphyletic care. Dr. Sakamaki also has a passion for marine mammal medicine which lead her to move from Texas to California to work with marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation. She also works part-time at the Marine Mammal Care Center of LA rescuing and rehabilitating seals and sea lions. Dr. Sakamaki also spent many years overseas in Japan and enjoys speaking conversational Japanese with her friends and clients.

In her free time, your will find Dr. Sakamaki hiking, baking, singing karaoke, and practicing Japanese with exchange students

Wendy Leeds - Animal Care Coordinator

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Originally an Animal Care Volunteer, Wendy has been associated with Pacific Marine Mammal Center for over 20 years. Wendy is responsible for coordinating and facilitating rescue calls, as well as completing the very-lengthy required reports on each animal. She is the point-person for maintaining PMMC's whale disentanglement gear, as well as responding to and coordinating whale rescues as directed by NOAA staff. Wendy goes into the community and provides informational training to local life guards and junior life guard programs, and acts as PMMC's liaison to local sheriff and park ranger authorities.

Lindsey VanSchoick - Animal Care Supervisor

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Starting out as a young volunteer, Lindsey has been with PMMC for over 20 years.

"I'm here because I love it and all the labor that goes into rehabbing an animal. I enjoy taking an animal that needs intervention, figuring out and meeting the needs of that animal, then watching them regain strength and health and sending them back to the wild." 

Alexandra Stumpf - Animal Care Supervisor

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From a young age, Alexandra has had a love for the ocean and animals. This has been expressed throughout her life including her Girl Scout Gold Award project where she taught a summer special day class about seals, sea lions, pollution and the ocean. She started in marine mammal rehabilitation as an animal care volunteer at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur in March of 2008 where she advanced from volunteer to intern to husbandry assistant. Alexandra became an Animal Care Supervisor at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in January 2016. She received her BA in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Long Beach “Go Beach”. In her free time she loves to spend time with her family, go hiking and swim.

Stephanie Polito - Volunteer Manager & Membership Coordinator

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My love for the ocean developed at a very young age. My parents could never seem to keep me out of the water. Curious to learn about the ocean and all of its entities, I took up surfing and scuba diving. Knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in Marine Biology, I enrolled at California State University Monterey Bay. While attending school, I took on three very different roles; an assistant at CSUMB Residential Housing, a marine biology instructor at Camp Sea Lab, and a lead at the City of Laguna Hills in event and program planning. After graduating from CSUMB with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science Technology and Policy, with an emphasis in Marine and Coastal Ecology, I accepted a position with Sea World San Diego as a Residential Zoological Education and Conservation Counselor. Not too long after, I was blessed to receive an offer to work for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center as the  Volunteer and Membership Coordinator. At PMMC, I am able to incorporate my interests in education, community outreach, public relations, event planning, animal husbandry, and my genuine interest in ocean conservation. My favorite quote reads, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” –Confucius

Krysta Higuchi - Events & Public Relations Coordinator

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Krysta Higuchi has always been drawn to the ocean and it’s creatures. After moving from Colorado to California, she was immediately attracted to the vision and mission of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. She began as an animal care volunteer in 2009 and moved to the roll of rescue coordinator in 2015 to help with the influx of sea lion patients during PMMC’s unusual mortality event (UME).

After graduating in 2017 from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelors in Communications, Public Relations, Krysta transitioned to her current role as Events and Public Relations Coordinator, combining her knowledge and passion for marine life into a career.

Christine Aegean - Retail Operations Manager

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"I’ve always been passionate about wildlife and the ocean, especially seals and sea lions. In 1998, after moving from LA where I volunteered in the B.A.T. (baby animal trailer) at the Wildlife Way Station, I became a volunteer for four years in animal care at Friends of the Sea Lion, A.K.A Pacific Marine Mammal Center. In 2014, I found myself volunteering again, but this time, in the gift shop. I am happy to say, that I now work for seals and sea lions as the gift shop manager and I work with an incredible team who share my passion for these animals and their environment. I am grateful for the opportunity to utilize my experience in retail, wholesale and display to visually engage our visitors and provide them with a variety of memorable, educational and fun merchandise."     


Stacie Capobianco - Social Media Coordinator

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An Orange County native, Stacie attended Cal State University, Long Beach where she earned a degree in communications.  After college, Stacie worked for St. John Knits in public relations and promotions, and then at Nordstrom in merchandising and management.  Once her children were born, Stacie was happy to work as a full-time mom and chronic volunteer!  One of those volunteer positions, turned full-time job, was for the Stars & Stripes Tournament in Cabo San Lucas.  Over 6 years, Stacie was involved in facilitating every aspect of the event in support of Orange County's youth and family service organizations.  In 2014, she took her event skills to Irvine based THE Breast Cancer Fundraiser - planning and executing 6 fundraisers across the country in 8 weeks.  Alas, Stacie has come full circle and currently supports a wonderful organization, right in her own back yard, The Pacific Marine Mammal Center, working in development office helping with fundraising events and social media .  Her main focus is to expand the non-profit's national and local presence through social media marketing and by curating relationships within the coastal cities they serve.

When not fundraising, you can find Stacie supporting causes closer to home: her boys!  She and husband Rob, live in Laguna Beach and are the proud parents to 2 boys.

Susan Matthews - Education Coordinator


Susan earned her Master's degree in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in Ecological Management from John Hopkins University. Susan has sixteen years of experience developing and planning environmental educational programs including leading marine education programs here in Laguna Beach CA as well in the Chesapeake Bay, Naples Beach FL, Florida Keys, Long Island Sound, coastal North Carolina, and the Prince William Sound in Cordova, Alaska. She also volunteered for ten years with the Animal Rescue Program at The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. Susan loves working with children and inspiring our next generation of ocean stewards.

Mia Giunta - Education Specialist


Mia grew up taking care of animals from an early age, starting out with horses, cows, and a pot belly pig. As she got older she spent most of her time on the water in harbors and estuaries off the west coast of Florida. She also had the opportunity to volunteer in animal care at the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Punta Gorda Florida.

Mia moved to California and started researching about the California environment to find a job that would fit her passion for conservation and animal care. She began volunteering at PMMC as a docent in 2015. Later that year she started working as a Tide pool Educator for the Laguna Ocean Foundation. In 2017 she added animal care at PMMC and cetacean lectures at Discovery Cube Ocean Quest to her schedule. After a lot of hard work and studying Mia was able to become our Education Specialist to help spread the word about ocean conservation and continues to volunteer in animal care.