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UNCW produces a talented pool of undergraduate and graduate students who serve as lead instructors for most of our youth programs. Staff is selected for individual programs based on their content knowledge, specific skills, experience with a particular age range of youth, and positive attitude towards working with youth. Some of the UNCW students also serve as resident life assistants for the residential programs. All of our staff must pass a NC background check; have first aid & CPR training, and when appropriate, be certified in kayak instruction, lifeguarding, diving, or van driving; complete a training workshop where they learn best practices in communicating with youth and managing their behavior; and demonstrate their ability to teach specific program subject matter. Our student staff is supported by faculty mentors from different academic departments. These faculty may develop material for specific programs, serve as guest speakers, or participate in field activities.

Erin Moran, Assistant Director for MarineQuest


Erin grew up in southeastern Wisconsin where she spent her winters in the snow and summers playing on the lake.  At a young age it was apparent that Erin was always going to live near water.  Which is why to little surprise for her parents, she decided to pursue marine biology and stay in Wilmington after completing a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Masters in Marine Science at UNCW.  Erin first joined the MarineQuest family as summer instructor before becoming a permanent fixture.  She enjoys inspiring young science minds through marine science research and exploration-based activities.  She looks forward to continuing to enrich youth by providing exciting opportunities for students to experience marine science through hands on opportunities.  When Erin is not in the office you can find her enjoying coastal NC with family and friends. 


Harris Muhlstein, MarineQuest School Program Coordinator

Harris MuhlsteinHarris grew up in the south shore of Long Island where he spent his youth as a competitive swimmer, surfer and ocean lifeguard. He holds both a Bachelor of Science in marine biology and Master's degree in secondary science education from the amazing UNCW. He also earned his Master of Science in marine science from the University of Texas. MarineQuest offers Harris the ability to merge his years of relevant marine science research experience with his teaching prowess that he honed as a NC high school science educator. When not designing and administering marine science based lessons at MarineQuest, he spends his free time being active, surfing, diving and inventing marine science related dance moves.



Kimberly Cockrell, Budget Coordinator

kimKimberly spent most of her youth in Ohio and North Carolina. She is a UNCW alumnus with a Communication Studies degree and has been active in the UNCW Alumni Association. Her office duties include the fiscal and administrative aspects of Youth Programs. Kimberly brings with her experience in marketing, office management, budget management and youth leadership. She enjoys the adventure of two teenage boys, quiet time reading a good book and spending quality time with family.




Wendy Koonce, Registration, Marketing & Communications Associate

23737569_10212137185042493_479244971182776243_o1.jpgWendy grew up in West Virginia, thirty minutes north of Charleston. After receiving her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications with an advertising emphasis and graphic design minor from Marshall University, she decided to move south and live the beach lifestyle where she started a career in marketing. Wendy is excited to become apart of UNCW’s Watson College of Education, and she is passionate about growing, sharing, and living the mission of MarineQuest’s Youth Programs. Wendy seizes every opportunity she gets to travel and go on adventures, but enjoys playing beach volleyball or life on the water with her husband, toddler, and goldendoodle Murphy.


Morgan O'Connell, Research and Volunteer Coordinator

MW-Photos.jpgMorgan grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina spending as much time near the water as possible. She realized early on the appeal of a coastal lifestyle and has been immersing herself in marine science ever since. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in marine biology and a Master’s degree in secondary science education from UNCW. Morgan returns to the MarineQuest family after spending four years as an educator at Dolphin Research Center, a marine mammal facility in the Florida Keys. She is most excited that her position will allow her to teach others marine science through experiential learning in the incredible Wilmington area and brings her back science educator roots.



Patrick Kistler, Pre-K - 12 Coastal Engineering Associate

Patrick-Kistler-Photo.pngPatrick has a passion for serving the ocean for as long as he can remember. He grew up on the beaches of the South Jersey shore and moved to Melbourne, Florida in 2017 to attend college at Florida Tech. Outside of the classroom, Patrick enjoys spending early mornings surfing and finding new spots to hike and rock climb outside. He pursued a degree in ocean engineering and aims to improve the quality of coastal environments through the development of research, education, and innovation in the field. Patrick is beyond excited for all of the opportunities at MarineQuest and UNCW and happy to be surrounded by such an inspiring group of individuals!




Dr. Sue Kezios, Emeritus Director of Youth Programs

DrKPhotoedit180x240.jpgDr. K grew up on the Chesapeake Bay crabbing, oystering and fishing. She earned a PhD in Biology from Princeton University and spent the first half of her career conducting research on cell differentiation. Once her children enrolled in school she became concerned about the lack of science instruction they were receiving. This led to collaboration with the NIH to create KinderScience, a hands-on science education program for young children. In 1999 Dr. K obtained her North Carolina teaching certification and began working at UNCW. In 2006 she was named Director of Youth Programs and immediately began creating a new standards-based curriculum for MarineQuest, one that includes field research, marine technology, and diving.