The Coral World UVI Connection
Valissa M. Hodge, Office/Human Resources Manager
The color purple is often associated with intelligence and sophistication, power and a sharp eye for detail. So, we are not surprised that purple is the very favorite color of our very own Valissa M. Hodge. Coral World’s Human Resources extraordinaire.
Born and raised on the island of St. Thomas, Valissa began her career with Coral World on August 3, 1998, right after graduating from high school. She was offered the first, six-week Human Services Department Summer Employment Program working thirty hours per week. Valissa worked tirelessly to complete the 180-hour requirement for the program, all while going to school at UVI. At the end of the six weeks, Valissa was offered a part-time position and during her senior year, she was offered a full-time position and promotion to Office Manager & Human Resources Assistant.
Twenty years and a Master of Science in Human Resource Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology later, Valissa powers through her day at Coral World with her get it done attitude and a contagious smile. Always a smile.
“I think that Coral World and UVI make a great team because it fosters local growth. It shows that students in the Virgin Islands can graduate from high school locally, attend UVI and are able to find jobs and gain experience in their area of interest, without having to leave the island.”
Thank you for your twenty years of dedication to Coral World, Valissa. We are proud to have you in the Coral World family.
Kristine Funk, Assistant Curator of Sea Lions
Eighty pounds soaking wet but don’t let that fool you! Kristine Funk, our Assistant Curator of Sea Lions, handles our huge animals with the utmost respect through years of earning their trust, tons of training and dedication. Even our big guy Freddie, who weighs in at a whopping 737 pounds, is completely under control at the hands of Kristine.
Kristine is from Mound, Minnesota where the population is 9,517. A small-town girl who, at six years old had very big dreams of becoming a marine mammal animal care specialist, and so she did. After graduating with a degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Kristine found herself accepting a job with Coral World in 2010. She lives on the island of St. Thomas where she is currently enrolled in the Master’s in Marine and Environmental Science program at the University of Virgin Islands.
“Coral World has prepared me for being a student at UVI. Coral World employs a very diverse group of highly passionate people. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about working with and learning from all of those different people. At UVI, I found that my interpersonal and communication skills highly contributed to my success as I returned to student life after almost 10 years of being out of academia.”
Kristine is a dedicated Coral World employee and UVI student. Our guests at Coral World certainly feel her love and passion for her animals, through each presentation she gives.
“As a student at UVI, I feel very immersed in the most up-to-date conservation science and I find that it’s really fun to share that new and exciting information with the guests who visit Coral World.”
Thank you for your eight years of hard work, Kristine. We are grateful that we have you to teach us and our guests about our marine mammals.
Logan Michelle Williams, Education and Research Coordinator
Orbicella annularis. Orbicella faveolata. Any ideas what these could possibly be?
Well let me introduce you to Logan Michelle Williams, Coral World’s in-house coral guru. A Coral Queen if you will. Logan not only knows what those words mean but she is probably growing some in her wet lab right now. That’s right, Logan is our on staff micro-fragmentation specialist. Boulder star coral (Orbicella annularis) and mountainous star coral (orbicella faveolata) are Logan’s favorite corals because they are two of the primary reef forming coral species in the USVI.
Logan was born and raised on St. Thomas and spent her childhood swimming and snorkeling in the beautiful local waters and visiting Coral World. “…I spent much of my childhood visiting Coral World Ocean Park, especially during the summer months where we would spend multiple days out of the week exploring each exhibit in the park. I remember the excitement we would feel when someone would host a slumber party at the park and how we would be mesmerized by the fish in the Caribbean Reef Encounter as we fell asleep. I believe that these experiences in part, drove me to pursue a career as a marine scientist and why I feel so privileged to work at the same facility that sparked my appreciate and love for the marine environment.”
After graduating from the University of the Virgin Islands in 2018 with her Master of Science in Marine and Environmental Science, Logan came “home” to Coral World to work as head of the Education and Research Department.
“Both Coral World and UVI are involved in marine education, conservation and research. In addition, I believe that both institutions provide necessary educational opportunities for the islands local community.”
Coral reefs around the world are dying due to plastic pollution, over fishing and climate change. Some scientists predict that all coral reefs could be dead by 2050. Thankfully, Logan is on the cutting edge of science and on a mission to save the corals here in St. Thomas.
Coral World is very fortunate to have Logan on our team.