Executive Director

Tonya Wimmer is a marine mammal biologist and the Founder and Executive Director of the Marine Animal Response Society in Nova Scotia, Canada.

With over 20 years experience studying a variety of cetacean species, starting with her graduate research at Dalhousie University and then working as a consultant with various government, industry, and non-government organizations, Tonya’s primary focus has always been on protecting marine species and reducing impacts from human activities. To do this she has enjoyed working side-by-side with other researchers, government, industry, First Nations, and within communities. Tonya is a strong believer in building relationships and is proud of her partnerships in the fishing industry, shoreline communities, as well as the global research community.

Tonya strives to help MARS achieve its goal to provide effective and safe response while contributing valuable data and research to assess and mitigate the impacts from human activities to marine animals. In 2017 and 2019, Tonya helped lead the response to and investigation of the mass mortalities of right whales in Eastern Canada. Tonya is a member of the Canadian Right Whale Recovery Network, a board member of the Right Whale Consortium, a Steering Committee Member for the Entanglement Working Group of the Canada-US International Advisory Committee for Right Whale Recovery and a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Stranding and Bycatch Initiatives. Tonya was proud to be one of the hosts of the 22nd Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in 2017 which brought more than 1700 marine mammal researchers and colleagues from non-government organizations, industry and government agencies to Halifax from around the world.

“To understand and protect these incredible species requires hard work and dedication from all people who study and manage them and those that use our oceans. MARS has always been a proud member of local communities and the global network of marine mammal response and research colleagues, who all strive to reduce impacts to these species from any threats.”

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Response Specialist

Born and raised in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Andrew graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in marine biology.  He stayed at Dalhousie, working in the Department of Medical Neuroscience where he has studied the human and dolphin brain as well as Alzheimer’s disease and how it might be diagnosed earlier in life.

Initially joining the Marine Animal Response Society as a volunteer, Andrew has been with the organization since 2004.  During this time, he has been a jack of all trades, fulfilling the duties of financial manager, response coordinator, volunteer coordinator, stranding trainer, etc.

Over the years he has participated in many interesting whale incidents throughout the Maritime Provinces.  These have included the 2009 Christmas Eve pilot whale stranding near Port Maitland (NS), the 2013 refloatation of a live stranded fin whale in Jersey Cove (NS), the 2015 disentanglement of the North Atlantic right whale “White Cloud”, the 2016 release of a pod of river entrapped Atlantic white sided dolphins in Lameque (NB) and the 2018 New Years day refloatation of a stranded pilot whale on Rainbow Haven Beach (NS).

“Working with local communities and colleagues in government and non-government organizations has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of this work. The good will and effort shown by Maritimers has always been incredible.”

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Communications Specialist

Jarrett has always felt a deep connection to the ocean and the coast despite growing up in Stratford, Ontario. Although he has a passion for all wildlife, it was his fascination with marine animals that first inspired him to delve into marine conservation and communications. He continues to pursue his passion as Communications Specialist for MARS both behind a computer and camera documenting wildlife and conservation issues.

“I’ve always been more comfortable behind the lens of a camera catching that special moment. Being outside, working with my hands and exploring new places is what inspires me.”

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Special Projects Lead

Originally from Eastern Ontario, Coburn has called Nova Scotia home for over 23 years – she came for university and stayed, unable to imagine herself anywhere else!  Coburn holds two degrees from Dalhousie University (in psychology and marine biology) and always knew she wanted to pursue work that contributed to the conservation of our oceans and in particular, marine mammals.  Coburn spent 15 years working with WWF-Canada alongside a team of talented people dedicated to ocean conservation and during this time, she developed her appreciation for the administrative and operational side of things.  After leaving WWF to spend more time with her young family, Coburn is now thrilled to be able to contribute her extensive skills and experience in program development, operational management, fundraising, and financial administration to MARS.

“Working alongside this small group of people who are putting their heart and soul into making a real difference in marine conservation every day, is truly inspiring and I’m honoured to contribute in any way I can!”

When her head is not buried in spreadsheets and funding proposals for work, Coburn is busy ‘managing’ her family and their busy schedule…  Most evenings you can find her, tea in hand, at the soccer pitch, the rink, or the running trails with one of her 3 kids, cheering them on all the way.

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Volunteer Coordinator

Danielle always knew she would be working with marine animals. Raised in central Canada, her passion for the marine world led her to Nova Scotia where she earned her BSc in Marine Biology and Environmental Sustainability from Dalhousie University. Ever the adventurer, Danielle moved to South Africa where she worked as a Field Specialist and Principal Investigator with Oceans Research in Mosselbay, focusing on great white shark research and, in collaboration with MARS, established a Marine Mammal Medic training program at the research station. Returning to Canada, Danielle worked on acoustic analysis of whale species with Jasco Applied Sciences, as well as an at-sea, multi-species identification database for WWF-Canada. Danielle recently completed her Master’s Degree in Wildlife Health and Conservation from Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. As part of her Master’s program, she spent the summer of 2018 rehabilitating marine animals at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. She is the newest addition to the MARS team, working as their Volunteer Coordinator. When not at work, Danielle can be found playing with her rescue husky, Aayla or creating intricate costumes (cosplay) for sci-fi conventions with her husband, Warren.

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