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Expert Bios

Meet Our Experts
Our experts are available to comment on a variety of marine mammal and ocean health issues. Please contact our PR team at to schedule an interview.


marine mammal center, jeff boehm

Dr. Jeffrey R. Boehm - Executive Director

Dr. Jeff Boehm joined The Marine Mammal Center as its Executive Director in 2008. He was formerly the Senior Vice President of Animal Health and Conservation Science at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where he worked for 16 years. There, Jeff oversaw the veterinary medical program and led and coordinated the aquarium’s conservation science division, including conservation partnerships, in-house programs, and educational and advocacy programs and partnerships.

Jeff traces his career path back to a volunteer position he held at the Center back in 1980. As is the case for many current volunteers (there are more than 1,200 on the Center’s roster) or staff members, the Center experience influenced him greatly. For Jeff, the opportunity to work with incredible wildlife in the context of conservation inspired him to pursue a nontraditional route in veterinary medicine and led him, ultimately, back to The Marine Mammal Center.

Dr. Boehm received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at San Diego and his veterinary medical degree from the University of California at Davis. He is a diplomate of the American College of Animal Welfare.


Dr. Shawn Johnson - Director of Veterinary Science

Dr. Shawn Johnson joined The Marine Mammal Center in 2012. His role as Director of Veterinary Science is to guide the science team's study of marine mammal health issues around cancer in sea lions, toxic algae poisoning effects, and harbor seal health analysis, among others.

Dr. Johnson is no stranger to the Center having completed the student extern program and later, becoming an adjunct veterinarian. He has also worked with the Alaska Sealife Center, Alaska's fish and wildlife services, the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and the Wildlife Health Center at UC Davis. He most recently worked as a clinical veterinarian with the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program.

Dr. Johnson is a graduate of Iowa State University where he received his degree in veterinary medicine, UC Davis where he received a Masters in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, and also UC Davis where he most recently completed a fellowship in anesthesia.


Dr. Pádraig J. Duignan – Chief Research Pathologist

Dr. Pádraig J. Duignan joined The Marine Mammal Center as Chief Research Pathologist in 2016. He has 28 years of experience in marine mammal diagnostics and research in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Ireland.

Dr. Duignan has published almost 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 10 book chapters, and has supervised seven Ph.D. graduates with two ongoing. Currently, he holds an adjunct professorship in wildlife pathology from the University of Calgary, membership on the Strategic Advisory Board of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and the Marine Ecosystem Health Network (Pacific Northwest). He is a research collaborator with the Coastal Marine Research Group (New Zealand) and a Research Associate of the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (Western Australia).

Dr. Duignan’s current research focuses are on the impact of climate change on ice-associated marine mammals, such as ice seals and narwhal, in the eastern Canadian Arctic, the epidemiology of morbillivirus infection in pinnipeds and cetaceans globally, dermatitis in dolphins and pathology of marine mammals in California.


Dr. Cara Field – Staff Veterinarian

Dr. Cara Field is the Staff Veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito California, and joined the staff in October of 2014, just in time for the Sea Lion Tsunami of 2015. Her primary roles include managing the care and health of our marine mammal patients, carrying out and collaborating on numerous research projects, and teaching and mentoring the veterinary intern as well as dozens of veterinary residents, students and other marine science oriented visitors who come to the Center annually to learn about marine mammal medicine and health.

Dr. Field has a long history with The Marine Mammal Center as she was an animal care volunteer for seven years and also completed an externship here during veterinary school. Dr. Field completed the dual DVM/Ph.D degree program at the University of California Davis in 2005, where she studied the effects of high pressure on blood platelets from elephant seals—the worlds’ deepest diving seal. She then worked at Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut for three years as a post-doctoral researcher studying marine mammal brucellosis, and was subsequently the intern veterinarian there.

After that, Dr. Field worked in New Orleans as Associate Veterinarian at the Audubon Nature Institute for several years, serving as the primary vet for the Audubon Aquarium and Stranding Program, and also worked in depth with the zoological caseload at Audubon Zoo and the Audubon Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (ACRES). She then accepted a position as Senior Associate Veterinarian at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, one of the largest aquariums in the world, for several years before moving back to California to work at The Marine Mammal Center.


Dr. Claire Simeone – Conservation Medicine Veterinarian

Dr. Claire Simeone is a Conservation Medicine Veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center and studies how the health of marine mammals, such as sea lions and dolphins, informs and influences both human and ocean health.

In January, 2018, Dr. Simeone was selected as a TED Fellow, the first veterinarian to receive this prestigious distinction. She joins a class of 20 change-makers from around the world who will deliver a talk on the TED stage in April 2018.

Dr. Simeone also serves as the Hospital Director of Ke Kai Ola, the Center’s Hawaiian monk seal facility on the island of Hawai`i.

Dr. Simeone graduated from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and completed an internship with the National Marine Mammal Foundation and SeaWorld in San Diego.

Read more about Claire.


Rachel Bergren – Director of Education and Guest Experience

Rachel joined The Marine Mammal Center in 2013. Rachel came to the Center from the Lincoln Park Zoo where she was the Vice President for Education, a position she held since 2008. Prior to that, Rachel was the Director of Conservation Awareness at the John G. Shedd Aquarium where she worked for 10 years.

Rachel studied marine biology at Texas A&M (Galveston) and holds a master of science in biology from Western Illinois University. Her thesis topic was “Age-Sex Composition of a Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) Breeding Colony and Mother-Pup Interactions at Hutton Cliffs, Antarctica.” Rachel is an adjunct faculty member with Western Illinois University, and has held that same position with George Mason University and Chicago’s Truman College.

She is very involved with national and international associations that shape the environmental education community such as the International Zoo Educators Association (where she is on the Board and is the North American representative) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (where she’s chaired several committees).


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